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Kids and soldering irons

Discussion in 'Hobby Electronics' started by bruce varley, May 21, 2005.

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  1. bruce varley

    bruce varley Guest

    Hi, My nephew is 10, mad keen on electronics. What minimum age do people
    think is appropriate for owning a soldering iron?
  2. Depends how careful he is and how worried his parents are...

    I got my first soldering iron when I was about 7, but only used it with a
    parent there at first. It is likely that at least minor burns will occur
    unless he is a very careful person. I thought I was pretty careful but still
    burned myself quite a few times (once right across 4 fingers). I think 10 is
    ok with an adult in the vicinity.

  3. Ken Taylor

    Ken Taylor Guest

    Agreed. We all learn how hot the tip is the hard way ("The man who never
    burnt his fingers never made anything!") so for a youngster supervision is
    really a must for some time.

  4. I got my first soldering iron when I was 10. Admittedly I've hever
    actually burned my fingers. But I did burn my foot when I accidentally
    knocked my soldering off the table.
  5. quietguy

    quietguy Guest

    I started with one heated on our gas stove when I was about 9 or so - at 10,
    if he is sensible, he should be OK but naturally supervised when he starts

  6. James

    James Guest

    Interesting topic this one. I think I first got a soldering iron at 9 or 10,
    but then again at the same time my brother (2years older) and I were also
    using lathes, welders, griders etc, and used to drive our go-kart that we
    re-built along the back street. My father owned a car dealership and the
    workshop was a matter of metres from our backdoor so we grew up with, and
    were taught, that all these things can be dangerous (That and I think we
    were too scared to injur ourselves because we knew dad would kick our asses
    and never let us in the workshop again). For the most part we were actually
    unsupervised, and never seriously injured ourselves. Just the occasional
    scratch, bruise, burn or small cut.

    That said I'm pretty sure I wont be so keen to let my kids loose
    unsupervised in my workshop when they're 9 & 10, but I'll certinally
    encourage supervised usage of power tools else are they going to
    learn the proper way to do it.

    Yeah I know I'm just rambling on but it really got me thinking.

  7. dmm

    dmm Guest

    I was about 8 years old when Dad taught me how to solder up a crystal set
    with a soldering iron. I also got one of the old Radio Shack 50-in-1kits
    when I was about 10. This had a panel which was loaded with all sorts
    of components, and had springs attached to the components. You just
    connected up the springs and made all sorts of projects. Jaycar has a
    similar kit called "Short Circuits Book and Project Kit" for $36.95. (KJ-8502).
    This eliminates the need for a soldering iron, and can lead the way for more
    complex circuits later on.
  8. I think I was about 9 or so too. I still remember I got a whole kit
    including multimeter and other stuff. That was great! I still have the tool
    box it came in.

    I had a close call when I was about 13 when I was installing an alarm system
    to my room. I was soldering two wires together at ceiling height and a blob
    of solder fell onto my face about 2cm away from my eye!! From then on dad
    made me wear eye protection every time I soldered. That lasted about a
    couple of months before I reverted back to no eye protection.

    One thing I am a little worried about is lead poisoning. For many years, my
    bedroom had all of my electronics in it and I would often not wash my hands
    after working with solder. Also, it wasn't an ideal place for solder fumes
    either. It must be stressed that lead is terrible for the health of
    especially younger people, so make sure the message gets across and stays
    that way. I'd recommend a designated area- not a bedroom and not the family
    table- for soldering.
  9. 10 should be plenty old enough, just teach them the basic safety rules.
    Eg, it's hot, solder splashes (wear eye protection), and don't sniff
    the fumes (use a fume extractor if possible). Purists will of course
    say that's all half the fun :->
    Although you don't need to solder to play around with electronics. The
    Tandy/DSE/Jaycar "100 in 1" type kits with the spring terminals are
    excellent, and you can do endless stuff with a breadboard.

    Dave :)
  10. budgie

    budgie Guest

    G'day Bruce.

    I'm with Daniel and Ken. That's a perfectly good age if he has the keen
    interest AND someone is going to supervise initially. Might also pay to explain
    how to make a decent joint and how to spot a dry joint. Sounds like Uncle Bruce
    has a bit of work there ...

    At ten I didn't have a soldering iron, but was busy melting lead and pouring it
    into all sorts of moulds. One was a concrete mould and was wet. The molten
    lead spat back at me in spades and left me with little splatter marks over
    face/arms/feet etc. You learn from these little life experiences. He WILL burn
    himself, but with that initial supervision and cautionary advice he'll be right.
    Shite, I probably still burn myself while soldering at least once a year.
  11. T.T.

    T.T. Guest

    He will burn himself (once)
    It will not threaten his life or limb, but will be a useful learning
    Insisting he wear glasses will be the best thing anyone can teach him.
  12. Mark Harriss

    Mark Harriss Guest

    My first irons at about 9 were a Wahl Clipper
    rechargable and a Scope iron. Both needed a
    finger on a button or level to operate them
    which would make it a bit safer as the power
    is cut if you drop them. The Wahl had such a
    tiny tip it cooled down almost immediately
    power was cut.
  13. Jim Gregory

    Jim Gregory Guest

    One has to get used to the burning curve, I'm afraid. Start him off with no
    more than 20W.
    Make sure supply cord is not clumsily kinked or hairpinned or, ugh!,
    heavier than the lightweght iron itself.
    A good, non-slip solder iron stand with a wet sponge tray, and remove any
    inverted-U hook on the waist of the iron so it has to be parked. A solder
    reel on a steady dispenser. Wear safety glasses and have good ventilation.
    Be aware of melting points or susceptibility of various plastics and
    coatings to direct heat when working inside a project.
  14. Mark Harriss

    Mark Harriss Guest

    My close call was unsoldering a jumper wire in a phone exchange:
    some clown was too lazy to replace a jumper and had stretched the wire
    string tight and then soldered it on, some years later I touch it with a
    hot iron and it lets go flicking molten solder into my eye: If I hadn't
    blinked at that moment it would have got me in the eye but as it was it
    flowed around the eyelashes and stuck the eyelid shut over the eye with
    a hiss.

    You'll find you are more likely to suffer from sinus problems from
    the flux fumes which condense into a dust on cooling, than from lead
    poisoning, I had a test recently done which showed nothing after 30
    years of soldering. You can take calcium tablets when working with lead
    which helps with heavy metal exposure somehow.
  15. Mark H

    Mark H Guest

    One has to get used to the burning curve, I'm afraid. Start him off with
    Cmon, start him out with an 80W iron and a roll of 1.6mm solder.

    Then tell him he has to *not* destroy the LED or rip tracks off PCBs =)

  16. Roger

    Roger Guest

    Rosin flux fumes gradually sensitise the lungs, eventually producing
    asthma at the faintest whiff of rosin fume. Once sensitised, a person
    basically cannot solder ever again, unless they have fantastically good
    extraction. TAFE and Uni and many workplaces use good extraction to
    prevent rosin sensitisation. You can get extraction at the iron,
    by a "funnel on a pipe" and extraction by fan with absorbent pad. I
    recommend low flux solder - not the stuff from your local retail shop -
    flux solder produces remarkably little fume and works OK provided you
    not soldering tarnished old component leads. Farnell and RS etc have a
    range of low fume solders.

    If you Google for *Solder Fume* you can find more.

    As far as lead exposure goes, always wash the hands after working with
    solder and before meals. I recommend plenty of soap and a scrubbing
    for the fingernails. If your nephew is a nailbiter, you will have to
    enforce nail scrubbing after soldering.

    I have been soldering since my childhood, and as a result I have
    asthma and basically cannot solder anymore. And I knew nothing about
    lead. In those days nobody gave safety a thought.

  17. These are valid points which are rarely given thought. I am only in my mid
    twenties and never had any safety lessons about lead smoke, lead contact and
    various fumes. Admittedly I only get the soldering iron out when its time to
    do some wiring or repair a PCB, but I've never been taught/told to wash
    hands after use and I started using the iron just under ten years of age.
  18. Great. Now I find this out. Blessed with a bad chest all my life, in the
    early 70's I accepted a PMG traineeship which was then at North Sydney,
    where the first four weeks were learning how to solder.

    Dropped out because I had a uni offer, but spent the first year at uni
    on asthma medication that basically left me with the shakes and any
    notes as crap.

    Still able to solder, if I sit over a fan, so can still do hobby stuff.
  19. Geoff C

    Geoff C Guest

    This link explains well the dangers of rosin flux
  20. They're also highly addictive. A whiff of rosin and the sight of bright
    molten solder are enough to make me build something.

    I'd especially agree that learning how to make a good solder joint is
    important. It's very encouraging when things work.
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