Illuminated Magnifying Glass

I was soldering something last night, which was small and fiddly. I don’t have the best eyesight and was using one of those cheap magnifying glasses with the croc clip “helping hands”; you know the type, you can never tighten them enough, so they just flop all over the place. I think part of the issue is that I use a basic Antex 25W iron and unleaded solder, so struggle to get decent flow etc; so am always pushing the iron and moving the bit I’m trying to solder so I can no longer see it under the magnifying glass bit.

I figured I’d get one of those fancy Hakko soldeting stations for Xmas, along with a stickvise. Which just leaves being able to see what I’m doing. So I’d like to buy one of those massive magnifying glasses that come with a built in ring light. Does anyone use one…? If so, are they any good…? Are they all much of a muchness, or is there a particular brand / type I should be looking at…?

I think, someone recommended these magnifying googles you put on your head which come with illumination… @popflier maybe?
And yeah, a better soldering iron helps a lot! Something like the ts100 or pinecil (pine64) is relatively cheap.

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I wear glasses as it is, so those things aren’t for me…

I have a magnifying glass with a led ring around it. I recently also got an electronic magnifier that charges off USB and can take a Micro SD card.

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I see! I meant something like this though

image

Could this work?

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I hadn’t considered a digital microscope. How do you find the disconnect between trying to do something, while looking in a different direction…?

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That’s what I thought you meant! I was more thinking about his kind of thing:

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I wear glasses and use the head mounted magnifier all the time. Can’t point you to the exact one, I got it secondhand, it’s less star wars looking than what @sebastian posted but probably works similarly. I like it. Has built in lights which along with the magnifier are always pointing in the direction you’re looking so “always pushing the iron and moving the bit I’m trying to solder so I can no longer see it under the magnifying glass bit” doesn’t happen. Actually it’s my second one, the first didn’t have the lights and had a Velcro fastening on the band which didn’t work well.

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At least regarding the soldering iron I’d highly recommend the TS-100 (50 Euro). It heats to 350degC in around 20 seconds and uses the modern technology where the heater and the temperature sensor are in the tip itself, which gives instant feedback. I have two of them in operation for at least 3 years, almost every day.

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As for the helping hands I’ve had a couple versions of those and never found them to be helping much, especially for PCBs of any size. I got one of these

and while I could wish for better materials and build quality, it’s cheap and works well, you can stuff parts and then flip the board and solder, repeat.

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I have the FX-888D in the shop which is really nice, but for home use(ie fixing the synth) I got one of these for £30 for sale on Amazon.

Having used expensive professional soldering microscopes for through hole work I find it a bit pointless (YMMV depending on eyesight).

For SMD work I set up camera streaming on my phone, put it on a stack of books pointed ~10cm away at the board, enable zoomed in macro mode and stream the video to my laptop. It works quite well so long as the board doesn’t move very much.

For lighting I use an old USB bike light I have lying around. It’s great for soldering fine pitch SMD stuff. Up close it’s nice and bright, and it can shine through PCBs to check for any accidental bridging.

For PCB holding I 3D printed a plastic “machine vice” that lets the PCB slide securely in and out.
That works fine when I have access to it, but when I don’t I use a big blob of Blu Tack. I don’t know what they call it across the pond but it’s the reusable putty you use to stick posters up with.

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I’ve mentioned it before but this is what I use for headers and sockets which can’t be done very well on the vise:

The one caveat is that it sticks like crazy, as in permanently, to other silicone things, like soldering mats and silicone insulated hookup wire.

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For male headers I stick the pins into a breadboard and place the PCB horizontally on top. That only works when there are no tall components nearby.

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I have one of these I use , found it in the trash bin for free . hot glued led lights in place of the florescent light . I like that when soldering it deflects the smoke away from my face but it is kind of a pain that you have to move it around all the time .

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You do have to get used to it. Hand eye co-ordination and all that stuff.

Yeah, my eyes are not so good. Or I should say “eye” since only one of them works. I have started using Glue Pad sticky pads to hold down items if it is a complicated build. These are the washable ones probably like Alien Tape or dash board holders. They are reusable and have made temporary set ups very easy. I have a 10X stereo microscope with like, 23cm of working distance. Why stereo you ask? Then I have a spare. KSGER has a nice inexpensive temperature controlled solder station for cheap that takes T12 heaters. It works well. The T12 tips are easy to find and they heat up quickly and can deliver a lot of heat to the work if needed. This is an 80 power system and it holds temperature well, has lots of setting and has automatic shut off with shut off warnings. In my experience it holds up well compared to some units cost 4x as much.

Oh, and get one of those large silicone baking sheets for your work desk. They are very heat resistant and will not melt even with direct molten solder contact.

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I’m a lifelong glasses wearer, and even with them, I have no idea what a solder joint looks like. I prefer the headband variety, and use them with my glasses on. They took a couple of days to get used to, but now I can identify IC’s and see resistor color codes, without having to keep moving everything under a magnifying glass. Soldering has become so much easier now I can see the flow, and bad joints and bridges that I used to be plagued by are now rare.

These are the ones I have been using for the past few months, and fit over my glasses with ease, and no scratches on the lenses.

image

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