Soldering (pronounced SO-DDER-ING) guitar pickups have always been a task given to those with steady hands, a patient heart and a passion for surgical procedures on your beloved guitar.
Soldering is used not only on guitar pickups but for professional trades such as plumbing and electrical work as well as computer wiring and SMT circuit boards.
Soldering can be for anyone from a hobbyist to a professional but no matter what the application, soldering is a useful skill that solidifies the pickup wires to your volume and tone pots. This type of work challenges your dexterity and problem solving attributes and is a great tool to increase your knowledge and vocabulary of electrical wiring.
Here a few tips I will share on the basics of soldering as well as include a soldering equipment list for purchase in the end of my post once you feel you are ready to practice your skills and to step into physically applying your knowledge.
Step One- Understanding Soldering as an important LINK-TAKE YOUR TIME.
You must understand that the guitar cannot function without a secure and proper solder of the pickup wire to the tone and volume pot of your guitar (there are solder less pickups on the market now as well). A connection of this magnitude has to be clean and functioning because any frail or faulty solder attempt will cause the guitar to screech, skip and alter its tone beyond the intended sound it was made for. If you are however going for this type of sound as an artistic en-devour than all I can do is applaud your drive. Do not rush a job with the intention to hear your pickups like a kid at a candy store, patience is key with this modification.
Soldering is the process of heating and melting a metal alloy to join one piece of metal to another, generally for the purposes of connecting wires to interfaces and other metallic objects with the purpose of a solid uninterrupted connection as well as having an area that won't oxidize and rust. Links can be broken easily if you do not take the time needed to repair or improve their connection. Soldering Iron's are extremely hot so when applying your alloy, be gentle and quick. Taking too long and applying too much pressure will result in a damaged circuitry and pot which would require a new piece and wasted time. However saying that, experience is your best teacher and by messing up the job once, you tend to learn quickly what works and what doesn't.
HEAT YOUR IRON TO THE PROPER TEMPERATURE. Not too low and not too high.
As with any trade, the tools you use are as important as the knowledge in your head, in soldering for instance, you use a soldering iron to apply the alloy (stick with 60/40 lead/tin) like a pen to paper, which requires a strong concentrated mind and a steady hand. Making sure your equipment is the perfect temperature is key to doing an efficient job. Try and purchase a soldering iron that has a temperature adjustment knob and if you are looking for one that plugs in and heats to a certain degree, which is the basic form of a solder iron, then stick with a 30 watt iron. A 100 watt iron is usually reserved to people with hands on experience over years time and if not done right can seriously affect your tone and quality in your instrument. The best advice I can say is try to minimize heat and the amount of solder you use. You want that connection to shine, baby, shine!
CLEAN YOUR SOLDER IRON PROPERLY
With a new tip with solder, use a damp sponge to clean it. You will hear hissing and some smoke will protrude from it,but do not panic, do this a second time and your solder iron tip will be clean and ready for action. Do not use abrasives to clean your iron as it will lose the conductive coating that is critical in the linkage between solder and the metals you are attaching together.
Here is a list of equipment from another website that you may want to consider as you get better and better with your trade. HOWEVER, you don't need to go spending a chunk of money on gear since you won't be doing this as much as a professional tech in a store.
Quality Soldering iron
Spool of 60/40 (or 63/37) Rosin Core Solder
Spare Soldering iron tips
Soldering iron holder
Dampened Sponge on plate (to clean the tip with)
Screw driver to tighten tip with
Small vise to hold parts to be Soldered
Roll of electrical Tape
A small knife (for use as a scraper)
A small piece of fine grit sandpaper/Emery Cloth
Small wire cutter