Welcome to my guide for working with LEDs and toy soldiers. In this tutorial I’m going to discuss basic soldering techniques for wiring up LEDs. If you’re already an accomplished soldering then I’d suggest going directly to the Advanced Tutorials.
1. Secure the LED
First you’ll need something to hold the LED (or the model component that it’s mounted in) steady. Purpose built clamps and armatures are available, but I find you can’t beat a big lump of blu tack.
2. Prepare the Wire
Strip some of the insulation from the wire and then twist it around the leg of the LED. You may need to use tweezers or needle-nosed pliers to help you with this. It’s much easier to solder together two wires that are intertwined rather than simply resting on each other or touching. Depending on how the electronics are laid out in your model and how much space you have to work with, you may wish to bend the legs to different angles at this point or trim them so that they are shorter. Note that there are little ‘tags’ or ‘bulges’ at the top of each leg. Where possible, keep the legs straight above these points to reduce the risk of damage to the LED.
3. Heat the Solder Joint
Apply your hot soldering iron to the joint for approximately five seconds. Your solder will flow much better if both components are pre-heated. Again, do not solder above the tags as you may damage the LED. Additionally, most manufacturers will specify a heat tolerance for the LED during soldering (often on their websites). Do not set your soldering iron above this temperature. If no temperature is specified then set your soldering iron to around 300°C just to be safe. Having said that, heat damage to LEDs can only come from prolonged exposure, so as long as you’re fairly quick when soldering you shouldn’t have a problem.
4. Apply Solder
Apply your solder to the flat part of the heated joint. If the wire and the LED leg are sufficiently heated then the solder should flow smoothly along the join.
5. Trim Then Repeat
The other end of the wire can now be cut to the correct length, and the process repeated for the other leg.
If you are brand new to soldering and you feel you need further info on operating a soldering iron, then there are many excellent tutorials made by other people on YouTube, such as this one.
All these tutorials are entirely free; the only payment I really need is seeing everyone’s awesome LED armies on the battlefield! Having said that, if you found these tutorials useful and you’d like to buy me a coffee to say thank you (or help keep my supplied with LEDs and website fees so I can post even more tutorials) then please click the button above. Thanks very much in advance.