No too long ago, we talked about a great type of solder to use when you want a joint to form smoothly, without too much or too little flux. But today we’re going to talk about what to do when you need to get rid of a soldering joint. Depending on exactly what type of project you’re working on, you may need to disconnect a soldered-on cable connector, or maybe remove a solder bridge from a circuit board. Melting the joint back down is usually enough to break the connection, but how do you remove that little bead of molten solder that’s left over?
Some people like to use a solder suction device, which literally sucks up the solder as soon as you’ve melted a joint. But other people prefer a gentler approach, which involves gradually wicking solder away as it melts with a product known as desoldering braid. Desoldering braid is really pretty simple: it’s woven out of very fine copper strands, which, when held against a melting solder joint, “soak up” (or wick away) the liquified solder, to the point that the braid actually becomes so saturated that it loses its signature copper color, and picks up the color of the solder, instead.
MG Chemicals makes a nice desolderer known as Fine Braid Super Wick, which works as well with jewelry and plumbing as it does with circuit board work. Using Fine Braid Super Wick is easy – just match the diameter of the joint to be removed with braid that’s the same width (or a little bit wider than) it. From there, you fire up your soldering iron, lay the braid across the joint to be removed, and apply your soldering iron directly to the braid. This heats up the copper, which in turn transfers that heat to the solder, causes it to melt, and finally soak into the braid. When you lift away the braid, all of that old solder comes right along with it.