How do you solder your strips? I am fairly new to soldering,

How do you solder your strips? I am fairly new to soldering, and have struggled a bit with soldering wires to the ends of APA102 strips as well as splicing and re-soldering (needed to remove bad leds) portions of strips back together. I dislike using helping hands or soldering stations with clips. I have tried laying two spliced strips together to solder them to each other on various surfaces. Some dissipate heat too quickly and other surfaces just melt.

What is a good surface to place strips on when soldering them to each other or to wiring? Are soldering mats good for this?

My process is usually: Tin wire tips. When soldering wires to strips work on a flat surface. Put some sort of weight across strip near the end where soldering to hold the strip down flat and from moving around. Tin each pad on led strip. (Using a flux pen can help a lot with getting solder onto the strip pads if it’s not going well.) Hold wire end onto pad (tweezers are useful) and heat wire end with iron until it melts into place.

Some strips have much larger and easier to solder to pads. It might actually be something to consider when purchasing. Many led strips also have solder pads on the back so you can use those too. Just pay attention to which pad is which, (+ vs - and DI vs CI) if flipping the strip over.

For a solder surface I have used a wood surface but often use various sorts of shop rags. (Things don’t slide around on the cloth as much). You shouldn’t need to be applying so much heat on the strip for so long that it’s going to burn the surface you’re working on.

Have a look at this it was for silicon covered strips but the process is pretty much the same

Thank you Marc, i’ll try some wood. I have a good piece of oak I can try. I melted the paint off of my MLTOOLS Helping hands soldering base to the point the metal is exposed.

Thanks Leon for the video, but I am mainly interested in pressing the strips flat on a surface to solder them. Curious if anyone uses those silicon mats?

Seems a nice hardened fiberglass plate would come in handy.

@Roger_Guess Use Bluetac! like I do!

I use the bit of high temperature foam that came with my soldering iron stand…

Look at the kitchen section of any store, there are a load of mats and whatnot designed to handle hot things, you’ll find something. BUT, learn to solder first you’ll destroy the strips if you heat them so much that you burn or melt what’s around.

Yeah as @marmil ​ stated. Tin your wires and your pads. After tinning them with solder i put a little dab of no clean solder flux on the wires to help join them and hold the wire to the pad steady then touch it with the soldering iron tip to melt them together. Remove the soldering tip but keep holding the wire steady for a couple of seconds to let the solder harden then youre good to go :slight_smile:

Tinning both the wires and the pads is the trick. And the 144 leds/m strips are a right bastard to solder in any case so avoid those if you can :slight_smile:

Heck ive hand soldered the LEDs without a PCB just wire straight to the LED pads lol

Tinning and using solder with lead works well. Also, if you have the third hands soldering tool, that helps too.

As to your surface… get a small thin teflon mat, staple it to a piece of wood. If your creative it’s easy enough to use some flat headed screws , washers, wingnuts and a wood strip to fashion clamps on the working surface. You said you were new to soldering. Have a good iron … 35w - 50w … have damp sponge available … if you can find it you’d prefer 60/40 rosin core … the smaller the gauge … easier the melt … start by testing the iron by applying the solder to the iron … if it beads … your iron is not properly prepared … continue to melt solder on
various points on the tip of the iron till it drips … wipe the tip on the damp sponge and repeat … the goal is to get an thin even coverage of solder on the tip … once there … when you solder, you heat the part … AND apply solder to the part NOT the iron. Tinning as mentioned is the process of getting wire to absorb solder … or solder coating a surface … in the case of a wire and a LED strip … heat and and apply solder to the end of as freshly clipped/stripped wire end … for this application I’d think 3/16 of exposed wire would suit … perhaps less … let the wire absorb solder to the point where you can just perceive the individual strands of wire … if you apply to much … it will wick up the wire, stiffening it and making the wire a lever arm which could tear the LED pad connection off the strip … at the LED end ensure the connection solder pads are exposed and clean (the copper should be shiny, if needed a fine abrasive pad should do it, BUT do it gently … apply the tip of the iron to the LED pad such that the iron tip surface conical/flat rests on the LED pad AT THE SAME apply solder to the tip pad interface. Apply just enough solder to form a bead. The intent is to use the solder bead to aid in heat transfer. When the bead begins to wick across the pad surface the pad is hot enough, apply solder to the pad until you have an even to modestly beaded coat of solder. The trick / potential issue here is you cannot apply heat to the solder pad to long … if you do the adhesive securing the copper pad to the strip will fail and the pad will lift off the strip … to weld the wire to the strip … place the wire on the pad and press down on the wire with the iron tip … the intent is to melt the solder in the wire and in turn have it melt the solder bead on the pad … once the melt occurs remove heat and keep both parts steady till cool … I’d experiment soldering wires together before taking on a LED strip … sorry for the book …

Get a flux pen. apply to the LED pads first, then apply a small blob of solder to the pad (“tinning”). Tin the leads first, as well. From there, soldering will be quite pleasant.