So you want to build a keyboard, but are unsure of exactly what you'll need? Don't worry, here's a list of suggested tools for soldering. Some of these items with have a star (★) next to them, as these are the ones that Keebio has.
Here's a video we put together talking about the tools we like:
At the minimum, you'll need these items to build the keyboards that Keebio offers:
- Soldering Iron
- Flush Cutters
A temperature-controlled soldering iron is recommended. Even though you can get by with using a non-temperature-controlled one, for a beginner, it's very easy to burn pads on a PCB due to inconsistent temperatures and the iron getting too hot. A decent temperature-controlled soldering iron is not much more expensive than a regular one.
Here's a list of some suggested ones:
- ★ TS100 Pocket-size Soldering Iron ($$) - Nice little soldering iron with a digitial readout of the temperature. Really portable and quick warm up time.
- ★ KSGER T12 Soldering Iron Station ($$) - Recommended mid-tier option. Tips heat up to the right temperature fairly quickly and are hotswappable without needing to turn off the station. Handles soldering to ground planes well due to good thermal mass. Pro tip: Only thing to note is that when changing the tip, to get the station to recognize it properly, press in the control knob and turn it to select the correct tip.
- PINECIL – Smart Mini Portable Soldering Iron, Small ($) - Nice option if you've already got a USB-C power supply compatible with it
- Aoyue 469 60W Soldering Station ($) - Decent budget option
- ★ Yihua 937D+ SMD Soldering Iron Rework Station LED Display ($) - Easy to adjust temperature using the knob, and having a digital readout is very nice to have so you know what temperature the iron is at
- Hakko FX888D ($$$) - You'll see a lot of recommendations out there for this iron, and rightly so, as this is a quality soldering iron
- ★ Weller WE1010NA Digital Soldering Station ($$$) - The temperature control
- ★★ PACE ADS200 Professional Soldering Station ($$$) - By far Keebio's favorite soldering iron! Tips heat up in 2-3 seconds, and they are hotswappable. Handles soldering to ground planes very easily. Highly recommended.
Integrated soldering iron and hot air stations
If you plan on doing some work with SMD components in the future, having a hot air station is great to have and sometimes doesn't cost that much more than a regular iron.
- ★ 2in1 862D+ SMD Soldering Iron Hot Air Rework Station LED Display ($$)
- Yihua 862BD+ 2in1 SMD Soldering Station ($$)
- 2 in 1 898D+ Hot Air and Iron Gun Soldering Station ($$)
Avoid lead-free solder unless you are more experienced. Lead-free solder requires high temperatures, and for someone starting out with soldering, using it often leads to cold joints and/or overheating of pads. Leaded solder is fine, and that's what most people use anyway. Don't cheap out on solder!
Diameter: 0.031" solder is good for general usage. For SMD components which are smaller, 0.020" is recommended.
Tin/Lead Ratio: 63/37 or 60/40 are good ratios to go with. 63/37 stands for 63% tin, 37% lead.
- ★ Kester 24-6337-0027 Solder Roll, Core Size 66, 63/37 Alloy, 0.031" Diameter
- ★ Kester 24-6337-0010 44 Rosin Core Solder 63/37 .020" Diameter
- Kester 83-4000-0000 SN60PB40 Solder Pocket Pack, 0.031" Wire Diameter - Good for if you don't need so much solder
- MG Chemicals 63/37 Rosin Core Leaded Solder, 0.025" Diameter
You'll need flush cutters for clipping diode legs, resistor legs, and Pro Micro header pins.
- Hakko CHP-170 Micro Cutter
- ★ Plato 170 Flush Cutter - A bit cheaper and our cutter of choice, since the cuts are a bit more flush than the Hakko ones
Here's some additional items you might find to be handy during builds:
- Soldering Iron Tip Cleaner
- Solder Sucker and Wick
- Hookup Wire
- Helping hands/PCB holder
- Solder Spool Holder
Using a wet sponge to clean your tip is okay, but using a brass wire ball cleans better and doesn't reduce the temperature of the soldering iron tip. Highly recommended.
- Hakko 599B-02 Wire-type soldering iron tip cleaner
- ★ Aoyue Soldering Iron Tip Cleaner - A bit easier to swipe the iron tip across than the Hakko one, also has an iron holder arm on it
- Hakko 633-01 Iron Holder - Soldering iron holder with cleaning ball combo
Tip Tinner: Good to use once at the beginning of a soldering session instead of tinning with solder and helps restore tips
Solder Sucker and Wick
You're bound to screw up a build at some point, and you're going to need some way to remove that solder. Highly recommended to buy a solder sucker of some sort, wick is not that important to have.
★ Blue and Metal Solder Sucker ($) - There's a bunch of these cheap suckers sold under various listings and despite the price, they get the job done.
Engineer SS-02 Solder Sucker ($$) - A favorite among many people
- ★ Velleman VTDESOL3U Vacuum Desoldering Pump With Heater 30W ($) - Careful with this one as you depress the pump, as hot solder will come flying out of it. But you can desolder a whole board quickly with this
- Hakko FR301-03/P Desoldering Tool ($$$) - If you're going to be desoldering whole boards
- ★ ZD-915 Desoldering Station ($$) - If you're going to be desoldering whole boards
If you're going to be doing any kind of SMD work, you'll need some tweezers to handle all those small parts.
Needed for attaching an RGB LED strip, using as jumper wires, or handwiring. Recommended wire gauge is 22 AWG to 28 AWG, make sure it's solid core and not stranded. Having multiple colors is also recommended.
- 24 AWG
- 22 AWG
Helping hands/PCB holder
- ★ Aven 17010 Adjustable Circuit Board Holder
- ★ Adjustable Helping Hand With Magnifying Glass
- Pro'sKit 900-015 Helping Hands Soldering Aid
- QuadHands Helping Hands
Solder Fume Extractor
No specific recommendations, main thing you'll probably use it for is checking for continuity, so having one that beeps is nice (most multimeters have beep option). The free/cheap ones from Harbor Freight will do the job.
Nice for protecting the surface that you're working on.
- ★ Kaisi Heat Insulation Silicone Repair Mat - 13.7 x 9.8 Inches
- ★ Kaisi Heat Insulation Silicone Repair Mat - 17.7 x 11.8 Inches
Solder Spool Holder
Better than just leaving the solder spool sitting on its side.
- ★ Delcast SL-RL Solder Dispenser Reel
- ★ Hakko 611-2 Dual Solder Reel Stand - Handy for holding two reels at once, like one for soldering switches and one for SMT soldering
Helps solder stick better. Usually the flux in solder will do just fine, but this can help sometimes.
- ★ SRA Rosin Flux Pen
- Kester 186 Soldering Flux Pen
- MG Chemicals 8341 No Clean Flux Paste
- ★ Kester 186 Soldering Flux Bottle
- Kester 959T Soldering Flux Bottle
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