I would like to know what people usually do when trying to solder wires together, and hold small things in place while you fasten them together, etc. I can picture one or more vices attached to a swivel such that I can hold something in place at any orientation, perhaps with an array of alligator clips attached to stiff wires to hold things in place. Does anything like this exist? And if not, what do people usually do to hold two things together while busying your hands with wielding a tool? (considering us poor humans have but two hands.)
Electronic – What do people use to hold an object in place while being worked on
I've got one of the square ones on my desk at work, and I can't get used to looking through the magnifier. For me, the magnification benefit is cancelled out by the distortion. Moving my head moves the view and focus far too much to be useful, and my hands aren't where I see them, and, because I can see my wrists, my arms get confused. Maybe I'm just dumb, but it doesn't work for me - Some of my coworkers do all of their work under one of those.The light, however, is very nice - The color doesn't make my eyes tired, and I always have it on when soldering. Sometimes, I tolerate the distortion because placing the light between me and the soldering iron redirects the fumes out of my face.
Since you asked, the best magnifier is a stereo boom microscope, and they're priced accordingly (Think $1000-2000 for an industry-grade model). Think of the question "What is the best power supply." The answer is the $1500 Agilent, but a modded computer PSU will also work. That's the contrast between the stereo scope and the boom light.. We have models like this in the labs at my school and work; if you need the best, and can afford it, this is what you want. Maybe you're starting a business or something, I don't know. It's got to be stereo, because that's what gives you depth perception. A ring light around the lens is also a necessity; at high zoom, the ratio of the lens to your pupil diameter divided by the magnification means that a lot less light is going to your eyes. Something in the range of 8-40x zoom is good for soldering, you won't need more unless you're a magician with your soldering iron. Most of the time, 8 to 10x is adequate, and I just zoom in for inspection.
Scienscope carries more reasonably priced ones than the name-brand Luxo (Reasonable being $600+light source), and other stereo boom scopes run for around $500 on eBay. You can also get the traditional microscope style instead of of the boom, like the National Optical 400TL that you used to look at frog livers in high school for as cheap as $175 new, or look on eBay.
Before I start, this is a lot of questions in one question. Please try to break it up a little more next time.
One: Do you use a watchmakers lens or some other type of magnifying glass while soldering these miniature components? What would be most optimum to see a larger picture?
This question discussed optics in further detail. I have a 10x loupe that I use to inspect solder joints when I'm not at the microscope workstation at school or work, but there is no doubt that the stereo microscope is the best tool. Stereo gives you depth perception.
As far as seeing the larger picture, zooming out (microscopes I've used go from ~3x to 40x) gives you plenty of room to find your place if you're concerned about that. Zooming in, however, is when a scope shines. You will burn tall plastic parts (like connector shrouds) for a while, but eventually you get a feel for where your iron is outside of the field of view. A good microscope will give you about a 3" focal length (contrast with a cheap loupe, mine is probably about 1.5" for 1/4 the magnification), so you can wave your soldering iron halfway between the two until you see a fuzzy brown cloud moving through your field of view. Move the iron back until you see the tip, and only then lower it to the pad you're soldering. A lighted diopter lens doesn't provide enough magnification, in my opinion, to justify the obtrusiveness of having the lens in the way. Same with the magnifiers on helping hands.
Two: How do you solder components where pads lie beneath the package, I don't own a reflow oven and have tried to ignore these packages but can't do that anymore. Are there any techniques to manually solder BGA, iLCC, CSP amongst others.
If at all possible, stay away from BGA type packages for hand soldering. In a pinch, iLCC (and the more common QFN) packages can be done by placing small domes of solder on the pad (which must extend outside of the chip boundaries), fluxing the bottom of the component, and heating the solder. If all goes well, the solder will melt, heat the contact on the chip, and the surface tension will pull the joint together. For low pin count devices, this works quite well, including crystal oscillators. If the contacts extend up the side of the chip, just heat those. Another option is hot air guns or hot air soldering stations. Steinel makes good air guns, and many soldering stations have air attachments. I've found that air guns are more effective than solder stations for applying/reflowing chips, they just seem to apply the heat more evenly and sustainably. Pay attention to the reflow profiles: You want to start heating it up slowly, over a period of a minute or two, and only then actually apply the real heat. Thermal stress is a real concern here. Note that I've only ever used this method for rework; I haven't tried it for assembly runs.
Three: What tools do you use, apart from tweezers, soldering iron, solder wire, and a bright/ illuminated workplace. Any suitable "third hand" that you have found that makes a monster of a difference?
Solder wick. Miles and miles of the stuff. For most work, even fine pitches, normal .11" stuff is fine, but the smaller stuff (.05" or .03") is helpful. Most tutorials will have you apply it rather indiscriminately. For fine work, you want to lay it parallel to the edge of the chip, poke the edge nearest the pad with the tip of your soldering iron, and slide it over the PCB until it contacts the edge of the chip. Be wary of allowing little shreds to break off and cause shorts.
For helping hands, I've used a Panavise 301 with the 312 tray base. It holds the work 10" off the table, which lets you steady your elbows. However, some people like to put the work on the table (on an antistatic pad, of course), so you can steady the heel of your hand instead.
Last, and probably most importantly, you'll want flux. Flux pens are cheap and easy to find, but I have a little dropper bottle that I like better - You don't have to worry about damaging anything if you drip the flux onto the PCB. This, of course, mandates keeping some isopropyl alcohol and cotton blotters on hand to remove the residue intermittently. Oh, and you'll also want a spool of 30-gauge wire-wrap wire to fix mistakes.
Four: Is there a specific tip thickness to use for the soldering iron, what about the solder wire guage?
This depends completely on what you're doing. I have a 1/32" cone that I use for most everything, and I use standard .031" solder for connectors, through-hole, and wiring work, and .01" Kester 44 for fine work. You'll just have to experiment.
Five: For prototyping if would not always be feasible to make a pcb, do you solder these components on a veroboard or do you buy a breakout board?
I usually dead-bug tiny components: Superglue the top, attach to protoboard (like Twin Industries 8200-45-LF), and then run 30-gauge wire to each of the pads, like this, and connect to headers or whatever you need to do. (Note: Pic of someone else's work, not mine). Then, after verifying that everything's in the right places, put a blob of hot glue over the whole thing to give the wires some strain relief.
There are a few zillion devices available that are just as you describe.
This is commonly known as a 3rd hand tool
In my experience, such tools are less useful than they appear they may be. They have their place, but experience usually leads to more normal tools being as easy or easier to use.
"Quite a few" more examples can be seen here - click images to see related web page
When soldering wires that are not mechanically connected or stabilised I may lie one on the work surface and place something suitably weighty on it to keep it in position. As I hold the soldering iron in my right hand (usually) having the weighted down wire entering from the right usually is best, and I hold the other wire in my left hand or also lay it on the work surface - see below.
This still ideally requires 3 arms for iron , 2nd wire and solder. Often I tin the 1st wire and then add copious extra solder in a mini-blob. The 2nd wires is then "offered up" and the excess solder used to complete the joint.
Where necessary I will also lay the 2nd wire on the work surface, wieght it as well and slide it against the first wire. Now only two arms are needed ! :-). This is easier to do that to describe.
In many cases, making some sort of mechanical join between two wires before soldering is advisable. Using solder alone is frowned on in some circles. Solder is not known for its superb mechanical properties but will in fact usually make an adequately mechanically strong join.
Be aware that a join that relies on mechanical strength WILL break if subject to enough vibration cycles.
Unlike ferrous metals, which have a lower limit below which they are not susceptible to vibration, non-ferrous metals are subject to creep failure regardless of vibration strength. Enough vibration cycles will break a solder join, no matter how low the amplitude - it just takes more cycles as magnitude decreases.
Related only: When inserting multistrand wires in a screw down connector never tin the whole exposed wire end - if done the solder will creep with time and the connector will release the wire. At most, the extreme wire bundle tip may be tinned to keep the strands together. Note that this is a legal requirement for mains wiring in any administration that has its act together.