Soldering the back of a pesky volume pot!

Have you ever had to wire up a guitar and struggled to solder those black wires onto the back of the volume pot?  Nation member, Jon Lesley posed the same question here and got some great responses.  Here's a few:

Scratch My Back Hack:  Use some 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper to sand the back of the pot. This will remove any oils that might keep the solder from sticking.  Then use tape to temporarily hold the wires in the spot that you want them. Solder the wires and remove the tape. Voila!  -Skeesix

Flux Hack:  My technique is to sand the back of the pot, as already suggested. Then, smear some flux on the spot you just sanded. (Just use a little teeny dab, you don't need much.)  Make sure you have a beefy enough iron and melt enough solder onto the tip of the iron until you have a blob of solder that is just about ready to drip off.  Very slowly touch just the bottom of the blob to the back of the pot, and just hold it there. As soon as the back of the pot is hot enough, the blob of solder will just flow off the tip of the iron and you should have a nice shiny solder joint.  -Dan Sleep

You never know what cool tips you'll find on The Nation.

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Here's my best experience for soldering pots so as not to burn them out:

*  Many newcomers to soldering believe (often because they're told by those who should know better) the item has to get hot and then add the solder.  The opposite is true.  Touch the solder to the iron and then apply both to the back of the pot.  The solder transfers heat extremely well and will allow the solder to flow to the pot without overheating the pot.

* Allow at least 30-60 seconds between each back-pot solder.  The pot still picks up heat very quickly and needs time to cool between solder points.  If you try to solder the entire pot quickly, even experienced folks can easily burn out a pot.

* You can choose to apply solder to the side of the pot instead of the back.  This allows you to mount the wire tips vertically and keeps them  out of the way of other wires.  (This one is a matter of personal preference.)

* If you are soldering several wires to ground on a pot, you may want to solder a single ground wire to the pot, then twist-solder the other grounds to that wire.  Again, a matter of personal preference that sometimes helps un-jumble the pot area itself.

* Do not toke it while soldering one.  Keep your mind clear around soldering irons.  ; )

3 tips I have

1. Use fresh solder. When I recently got back into repairing guitars and building CBG's I had some 10+ year old solder laying around I tried to use. It didn't work well.

2. Use thin solder. The thicker stuff like you'll find at Home Depot and other places doesn't work well for guitar electronics. Use a thinner jewelry solder and you'll get better results and less frustration.

3. Invest in a solder sucker. When you do mess something up, like the volume pot pictured above, you can use it to remove that nasty solder build up and start over fresh.

1. tin the items to solder before joining them (pre-coating contact points & wire ends with solder)

2.  Let the solder do the work, not the iron.  lay the solder on top of the point to solder, touch the iron to the solder and when it liquefies and the iron goes through and touches the part - add a little more solder and pay more attention to heating the solder than the part.  HOT solder will more than sufficiently heat the part(s) to get good contact & you will see it flow like water on a paper towel.  this is also how you fix a cold solder, heat the bubble of solder and keep it hot till you see it flow outward.

3. Keep the tip in shape.  the reason to always keep a coating of solder on the tip is to protect it from oxidizing and protect it from collecting a coating of trash from wire insulation, resin core residue, wood sap, plastic casings, skin & blood, burnt paper, burnt cat hair, motor oil, spray paint and lacquer, polyester sweaters, sneaker sole rubber, beer, paint thinner, nylon webbing handles on the tool bag, rubber mallet heads, screwdriver handles, ex-spouses, etc.

     If it isn't doing the job quick and easy like it used to, take a good metal file and file off the outer layer of gunk till you have  bright shiny metal again, or get a new tip.

P.S. I love the pic above, looks like a Halloween candle wax drip art project.

Tip for keeping the iron tip clean:

Empty and clean soup can, filled with two copper dish-cleaning pads.  Cleans a tip right up.  Always have a very wet sponge in a dish so you can run the tip across it 2 or 3 times to prepare the tip to re-tin itself when you solder.  When done soldering, before you turn the iron off:

1. Run the tip through the copper a couple of times to remove dirt and excess solder

2. Re-solder the tip

3. Run it through the copper again to remove excess solder

4. Wipe it on the sponge 2 or 3 times to finalize the tin

5. Immediately turn the iron off so the solder doesn't burn.

A piece of metal tape (aluminum works fine) put on the inside of the box will reduce the number of ground solder joints required. Since doing this, I only solder to the back of the tone pot.

Also a temperature regulated soldering station is the best investment I have made in a while. I have been solding for 30+ years, and this was the best $40 I have ever spent. No more burned tips! And yes, high quality solder is key...

Yes, bought me a Weller station and love it. Man what a deal compared to the hassle caused by the cheapo. The digital control allows perfect temp settings. and the iron mount with wet sponge to clean tips makes soldering a breeze. 

I use a file to rough up the back of the pot, flux and thin solder, keep it neat. No problems at all.

Shared to my Facebook......

For my most recent guitar instead of soldering the ground wires to the back of the pots. I mounted the pots thru a piece of flattened can and tied the wires together with a bolt thru the can section. According to my meter its a nice solid ground

Great idea. Thanks.

I scrub the backs of the pots with alcohol using a stiff acid brush and never have a problem getting a good solder joint. Scrub the contacts of the output jack and the pots too,


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