Reflow Soldering with a Skillet

Some background

To help out a relative with a project, I acquired a bunch of surface-mount LEDs.

DotStar Addressable 5050 RGB LEDs. (Picture used under Fair Use from Adafruit.)

The only problem with surface-mount components is that soldering them is a pain.

The key issue is heating up all the little solder blobs simultaneously. A heat gun would blow away lighter components, and sans a reflow oven, how is one supposed to get all those solder blobs to liquefy simultaneously?

Some folks might repurpose an old toaster oven, but me, I went all-out skillet soldering.

Reflow soldering with a skillet

You can do reflow soldering on top of your stove with just an old non-stick skillet.

The general steps are:

If all goes well, the solder blobs will glom onto the component’s pads, and the component will “float” on top of the solder.

Flux is great

Solder bridges are nasty; multiple pads get gooed together with solder, and it’s fun times to try to clean up with just a soldering iron and no flux. Flux is your best friend when soldering.

Flux comes in several forms, from pastes, to wires, to flux pens that dispense an alcohol-based flux solution, like this guy:

Flux pen for rework.

Until this project, I didn’t understand what my electrical engineering friends were carrying on about regarding flux. After accidentally making four or five solder bridges–and fixing them with flux–I can attest that this stuff awesome.