Senior member
Am I the only one here who just cannot solder? I've done it a few times before but it is a miracle if I can get the damn job done. I am so pissed off right now. :tard:
Man! I could made the PRS's birds inlay but I couldn't solder the pickups of the guitar I had built!!!! this is f*%&$*# strange!
No, lots of folks can not solder, but few are as emotionally distressed.

How about some details or a picture... and we can help ya, instead of ranting....?
Well every time I solder I can't get the bead of solder to stick to the pot. I took some sandpaper and went over the back of the pot and got the bead to stick to the pot and wires finally. I just have such a hard time controlling the solder when it gets to liquid form. Most of my solder joints look like shit.
i had the same trouble. I suck at it. I think a lot of it is experience.

we had this big scuffle over what solder/wattage/flux/method to use over at my post of my LP project.

I got best results using solid solder. not the flux core stuff.
I actually havent tried solid core solder, so I can't chime in there.

But I hear ya CD... the CTS pots I got from warmoth have been especially prude with the solder. My main wiring issue has just been that I'll be soldering and then I'll think, oh I should use pot ___ or this certain switch, that'll make more sense! ANd then I'll order the new parts and wait two weeks before I can continue soldering.

I'mm gonna throw an arrrghhhhh back at you. We can do it we can do it
I used to hate soldering as well, then I talked to a friend who used to do it for a living and he recommended a few tools that made all of the difference

for starters, use a good soldering iron and keep your tip clean. if you are going to build more than one guitar it's worth the expense to get a good soldering workstation with adjustable heat control. I really like the 40W Weller WLC100 I now use


another key is to use good solder. AVOID using acid core wire as it will be nothing but problems in the long run unless you clean up after soldering to remove the acid. I use and recommend a flux core solder. For guitar building I prefer a really thin solder wire, and have used Alphametals .032" dia 60SN/40PB wire for several years now. it heats well, flows well, and sticks well ... and it stays stuck even if I miss a little annodizing on the back of a pot. Be sure to heat the connection tab and apply solder to the reverse side from where you are heating so that the solder flows to the heat source. It is better to be a little hot than a little cold - this allows you to get the heat on and off quicker, and you can solder delicate parts as you become more proficient

if you need to remove solder, use a fine braided wick like the Super Wick by MG Chemicals. I prefer the .075" width for its ease in working with most of the standard parts you'll encounter in a guitar.

use shrink tubing (instead of electrical tape) when you connect two wires together after the solder has cooled ... and remember to put the tubing over the wire before you solder it! slide it over, tuck it to the side away from the heat source, solder the wires together, and slide it back in place - then use a heat gun or match to shrink it into a tight fit that will provide support to the solder joint and reduce the chances of it developing a crack or shorting to ground

the only other thing I can recommend is to practice soldering as much as you can ... and shielding control cavities with copper foil and soldering the seams is a good place to practice that also lets you be productive with something usable.

all the best,

The pots from Warmoth are indeed VERY hard to solder to.

The CTS pots I get from are easier to solder too... like "buttah" as they say.  But, the Warmoth pots do well - IF you brighten up the metal.

Me personally.... I'm not big on SANDING, and the next ones I try I'm gonna wirewheel to avoid getting grit in the pot (it can happen, maybe tape the pots openings).

What I DO like about the Warmoth pots is they're very close to the right value, and they have a really nice taper.  So, there's no free lunch, and a bit of cleanup on the metal gets them soldering well.
I like to tin everything before I solder i.e. before I make a connection to a pot i'd melt a little solder onto the pot. That works nicely. Sanding with say 800 grade paper works nicely too.

I usually find 50w irons work best with pots & guitar electronics.

Since, I reacquianted myself with soldering by making BYOC effects pedals, soldering pickups and guitar electronics has been relatively straight forward. However, I DO NOT like grounding vintage braided wire on the pots, I always struggle with that!!!
Ted, so a good hot iron is the way to go?  Hotter = better?  heat it, get solder flowing and remove heat?

Seems I have heard this somewhere else before.........I agree with you
From my experience:

Most pots need some cleaning to solder to them.  The most important thing is that you are soldering a clean surface.  Sanding/scuffing the area you are soldering is usually enough, flux will also help burn off impurities/oxidation so using flux will also help.  NOTE: Never user acid flux for electronics.

Next make sure to heat both surfaces you are soldering, the solder will flow to the heat.  Just because the solder melts does not mean the joint is hot enough.  If you can, use the heat in the part you are soldering to melt the solder, not the heat of the soldering iron, that way you know the part is hot.  This can be hard with a pot because is has so much mass and can act as a heat sink. Tinning a part will help get the heat to flow into it, and usually makes the job easer. 

Clean your soldering tip often, keep it tinned.  This will help with heat transfer, and help keep the parts clean.

The type of solder will make a difference as well.  Lead solder is easer to work with then lead free solder (sorry if you live in Europe).  I would recommend 63/37 solder.  Although it has some advantages for other reasons (fewer tin whiskers, etc), the main reason here is it melts closer to the temperature it solidifies at, that way you don't have to hold a wire in place as long while the solder solidifies (less burnt fingers).  It really sucks to have a pool of hot solder and have the wire you are trying to attach move, I have had this happen on more then a few attempts at soldering pots. 

Hotter is not always better.  Have a hotter iron is good to heat up the area of the pot you are soldering to faster, but if you get the pot too hot it will damage it (I know it is not likely, but I have done it).  You may also end up with hot pools of solder or burnt finger (see above).  To little heat and you may heat the whole pot before you get enough heat in the area you are soldering to get a good solder joint, damaging the pot, what ever it is attached to, you fingers, etc.  Solid state devices (diodes, transistors, IC chips, etc.) are often heat sensitive, if you are working with them you will need to watch your heat/use a heat sink. 

Never use a soldering gun (i.e. near guitar pickups.  The transformer used may demagnetize the pickups.  I would recommend a soldering station, but wand type soldering irons should be OK. 
forgot to add this in my previous post ...

I would also HIGHLY recommend purchasing this $5ish gadget - a 'helping hands' for soldering


I can't tell you how many times this has been an absolute frustration eliminator when working on a tight fitting wiring harness. It also comes in handy for holding grounding leads to the copper shielding foil while making that connection

I will be adding two more of these to my collection next time I visit Fry's Electronics - they are absolutely cheap and well worth the $5. I do toss the useless 'always in the way' lens, as my positionable bench light includes a magnifying lens

all the best,

When you melt a substrate (wafer) on a pot, or cook one on a switch, you'll wish you used the smaller iron.....

The use of excessive heat, tends to be a "makeup" maneuver for failing to have other things properly accounted for.  That is - a clean part, and good tip.

Likewise when you cook a pot because you had too little heat on it for too long, you'll wish you'd have used a larger iron


But then who ever said anything about excessive heat? I did mention having the right tools available to produce the right amount of heat quickly so you can get on and off the connection. Nothing excessive about that

All of the guys I know who have soldered military type gear recommend an adjustable larger iron and practice to build solid skill with the right tools. I trust these guys who take a hot iron to multi-million $ equipment to give me the real deal. After all, if they mess up a solder joint or cook a circuit board it's a whole lot more expensive than replacing a $5 pot. That’s their experience talking to me

CB ... I'm curious what experiences you draw upon to form your comments on this subject. Not picking a fight, just wanting to know the experience you have that has brought you to your preferences

all the best,

SkuttleFunk said:
CB ... I'm curious what experiences you draw upon to form your comments on this subject. Not picking a fight, just wanting to know the experience you have that has brought you to your preferences

... counts the years....

24 years of direct hands on component level board repair in the industrial control and communications fields, 18 of which were at the management level of a rework/repair department that saw about 40 boards per day at times.  I have direct hands on experience with technologies ranging from eyelets and turrets to through-hole to surface mount, on single and multiple layer boards.  I have attended the excellent PACE schools (should add, some of that was USN based, but I was civilian there), and have taught a similarly structured school for my employees.  I have set up now, three rework shops, each with multiple workstations, filtration and ventilation, board washers, shop air, chem dispensing, you name it... the only thing we don't generally do is have high voltage DC on demand.  Thats usually done via variac feeding a transformer and rectifier, as each situation demands.... and I don't see to much of that in the controls - its all 24vac or 120vac, plus logic at low DC.  (sure, I set up the shops so I can.....tinker there as well!~)

As far as burning up pots, never seen one burn up on the case from too little heat, but have toasted a few substrates in my day.  Gibson pots are by far the worst in that category.  But... if you try you can melt just about any of the newer non-fibre substrates.  Pretty easily too.  I see CTS using fibre and non-fibre.  I see Clarostat (now THERE's a good pot, but at $18 each... whoababy!!) using only glass substrate.

Same thing on those CRL type switches.  Some are ok (the brown wafers not too bad) but even then, the rotor is usually plastic.  The tan wafers are.. less than ok if you get them hot.  The whitish creme color ones just melt to pieces. 

Most components we see in guitars - capacitors, the occasional resistor are ok for the heat.  FWIW, most of the nasty looking "overheated" pots are just that, just nasty looking and work ok, not melted inside or such... they just have burnt flux on them. 

I had a run of tube sockets I imported from "mother russia" and they all had some nasty crap on them, made me think of the "black oil" thing in "The X Files".  Was a mother and a half to clean up, but once it was, they did ok.  Also had some gold plated sockets from same source - Novosibesrk - and they were a pure joy, and I've still got some of those left.  Ran into some "bad" supposedly "vintage" black fibre board from a well known speaker blowhard, that melted as you tried to do anything with it.  The real stuff does not do that.  Similarly, I've seen so-called G10 board that is not.  G10 only comes from Westinghouse, is not yellow but a very light creme color and is impossible to overheat with any sort of normal soldering iron, and... is nasty as hell to drill, quickly wearing out the points.  I found a local source from a buddy at MCI, that sells solid carbide board drills and stocks them in .125 and .1325 for eyelets (or at least I use them for eyelets).  I had to finagle to get an account with them, but hopefully... we'll be good friends in the future.  I have... about two cut up 4x10 foot sheets of Westinghouse board left in my garage, all set up in widths for replacement into Fender chassis (tweed through silverface).

In addition, I do what I call "ghost-soldering" for several local shops, taking in only eyelet board Fenders and older Marshall, and... the guitars. 

Gotta say, the only thing I pull out the "big iron" for is those Fender chassis grounds which I reflow whenever in there.  And I'm serious when I say, gimme a clean pot, and soldering to it is a no brainer with 18w or 15w.  I have a good selection of older Ungar stuff, and .... keep those around for that sort of thing (the PACE stuff is all at the shop).

I know that folks have different techniques... but also know the industry accepted practices, especially when if comes to beginners needing to learn the right way, before they go off on their own to make their own mistakes <gggg>.  The old "Elmers" of this world take educated, experienced shortcuts... and get by with few mistakes, but... thats experience hard earned and long learned. 

To that last statement, when I put the do-nothing, all thumbs, draws pictures of boats all day long, son of the company owner's son through class and had him doing rework that afternoon... I know the methodology works if presented well, and applied correctly.  For a real fuckup, the kid did ok (kid still at 24, never really "earned" a cent in his life).

Sort of stuff I do

8 channel 24v control board - check out the burnt ones behind it!~


wireless network node, used in local data telemetry

Parts Dept

we have lots of parts!

The old test fixtures (no pics of new yet)

This stuff is viable, but... not very organized for workflow... thats being corrected

Old workstation #1 (its gettin redone, and a royal mess right now)

This... is an abortion of a workstation, and its worse now, but.. I have a plan to get it right.

Just a shot of my two LPs for the hell of it....

Alfang said:
Ted, so a good hot iron is the way to go?  Hotter = better?   heat it, get solder flowing and remove heat?

Seems I have heard this somewhere else before.........I agree with you

Alfang - I wouldn't say hotter is better. Larger wattage irons tend to heat solder & components quicker so you spend less time heating up parts & solder to make the connection.

I've only ever soldered effects pedals and guitar electronics and found 18w is excellent for PCB's/effects and found it much easier to flow solder with 50w iron when soldering on pots. I use the 18w to solder other wires to tabs etc. I should really buy a solder station, where you can regulate temperature.  :icon_scratch:
CB maybe it's just the photo, but that's one hell of a burst top on the right LP there. Damn.
Ted, I agree, we should all have nice soldering work stations, especially if your soldering skills suck.

But if , like most people, you have the choice of 1 iron, it better be a 40 watt iron.  That's all I'm saying.

Until you understand that heat travels through a metal component. you will never understand the concept of apply heat and solder quick and move on.
If you burn up a pot using a 40 watt iron, you need to find another hobby. let someone else do your soldering.