Matt's Build Log

Hello World! I have worked in IT for 15+ years, but always kept an interest in electronics. I want to really take things to the next level, enough to (soon) get a project on the market. Wish me luck, and if I can help you also, please drop me a line!


Excellent, good luck and welcome to the forum! Do already have a project started or do you have one in mind?

No I don’t have any projects in mind yet. That’s not to say I won’t very soon, however. Do you have any suggestions?

I really want a “starter” project that gets me out of my comfort zone, so I can gauge what’s easy and what’s hard. I’m soldering my first Arduino Nano headers this morning before I go in to work, to give you an idea of where I’m starting from. I’ve only ever done breadboard examples so far.

Hi Matt- Welcome! Have you checked out the Getting to Blinky tutorial yet? If not, here’s a link to it: It’s a great little tutorial that @ChrisGammell put together to aid in getting your first printed circuit board project manufactured and built. That’s the project that got me started so I always try to recommend it to people when I can. If you have a Raspberry Pi, you may also enjoy this newer video series called “Shine On You Crazy Kicad”, which is a project similar to the Getting to Blinky project, but in this one you’re programming a Raspberry Pi to blink an LED in a board that you design. Here’s the link to that project: Hope this helps to answer your question.

It does indeed! I actually made it through GTB and am awaiting parts and boards from Oshpark. Soldering SMD looks challenging, but I’ll definitely want that skill moving forward!!! Thanks for the suggestions!

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Thank you both for welcoming me into this community. I failed my attempt for the Nano headers soldering this morning before work. Second attempt seems right. Testing it now… Pretty excited!

I thought it was me. After I soldered my Arduino Nano headers, I put on the Nano IO shield and ran ReadASCIIString from the Arduino examples, and the red LED wouldn’t light up. I re-soldered pin D3 and gave it another go. Same result. So I removed the shield, re-wired the breadboard, and guess what? Bad shield!!! Tomorrow I’ll continuity test, and if necessary, re-solder the shield.

Good job getting through the GTB course and soldering up the Nano! So it sounds like the Arduino sketch is working with the Nano connected to the breadboard, but it’s failing when the shield is installed and running the same sketch? I’m not familiar with the Nano IO Shield, is the LED one that is built into the shield, or is it one you installed on the shield?

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It might be useful to document your troubleshooting steps and your thoughts on how you came to the conclusion that the problem is with the shield. We may be able to help or at the very least you may provide useful information for someone else experiencing similar issues.

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I misdiagnosed the poor shield. It was a bad jumper wire, as it turns out. I tested with a multimeter and the D3 pin was solid. Thanks for the input – I might have junked a perfectly good board.

I’m going to document and retire this project and start in on something more fun, now that I’m emboldened by some success. My next post might have pictures.

Oh bummer :frowning: I’ve had that happen before too. I used to use these jumper wires that had crimped on terminations at the end. I would sometimes have intermittent failure, where the circuit would work if I jiggled the wires etc. I finally figured out the problem was the jumper wires I was using. I experimented around for a bit, and finally found something that seems to be working for me so far. I had a bit of cat5 cable lying around and took it apart, unwound the wires, and cut them to use as jumper wires. They have worked well for me so far. Also another thing I’ve figured out is if I take some pliers and slightly bend the end of the wire, it puts a bit more tension on the contacts of the breadboard and seems to make a stronger connection.

Don’t be discouraged, this type of thing happens to everyone. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

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For my first soldering project, I put headers on an Arduino Nano. The Nano comes with no pins, in case you want a low profile in your project. I got a good deal on a Nano IO shield and went to work.

Here is the result of about an hour of work. I used lead-free solder wire, and would have sworn there was something wrong with it. The tip of the iron was as the sharpest one I had, so I thought that would be best for finer work. In reality, however, it did not heat both the pin and the pad evenly, so the wire wouldn’t melt. I started to get some clues from other posts here, and I used a chisel tip instead. It worked well. I was still a little shaky, but I started getting into a grove by the end of it. One small step for man…


Here is a shot of the Nano inserted into the IO shield. This was after troubleshooting, and as you can see, the LED’s were good to go.

In the web IDE at there is an example called ReadASCIIString in the Communication section in the examples. It was geared toward a common-anode RGB LED, so I modified it slightly to work with 3 conventional LED’s connected to a common cathode, and when I ran it, the blue and green LED’s ran with no trouble, but the red one was off. I suspected my soldering skills at first, so I unplugged from the shield, and dropped the Nano into the breadboard. Everything worked. So my thinking was that the shield was bad. Sometimes, it can be harder to spot the most obvious problems. As it turned out, the jumper wire was the issue. I used my Extech multimeter on its Continuity setting to determine this. In case you have one, it’s the one marked “CAP” and has an Omega symbol, along with a diode symbol and what looks to be a sound icon. I put a jumper wire into the sixth female pin on the right (where the D3 pin from the Nano should go), and I touched the red wire from the meter to it. I touched the black wire to the “S” (signal) pin marked D3, and the meter read nonzero numbers. So that proved to me there was a problem with the jumper wire. Plugging everything back in verified that was indeed the case.

@jonthomasson and @ALeggeUp thank you very much for the guidance. I’m liking this!

(Nano with headers soldered.)


Awesome progress so far!

Could you give a close up of those solder joints? Looks like they have the same issues I had when I was getting started soldering (not enough heat and/or flux)

Thanks Chris. Yes D12 is where I started, and there was much rework in D10-D12. I’m starting to understand what a cold joint is and how to prevent it. I wonder if a flux pen might help.

I think as Chris mentioned, some flux would definitely help. It’s really effective in distributing the heat around the pad and the pin being soldered. You’ve already discovered the secret with chisel tips, that seems to be half the battle right there.

The other technique that’s really helped me is something called tip tinning. Basically, it’s just the process of coating the tip of your soldering iron with a bit of solder and then wiping off the excess. That extra little bit of solder surrounding the tip really helps to transfer the heat from the iron to the solder joint more efficiently.

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Good tips (heh) all around.

Really the way to think about it is in terms of heat flow…and yes, I actually mean flow. If you think about the heat flowing onto the pin and “filling it up” with heat, you should wait until it’s “full” before applying the solder. Once it’s full and ready to go, touching the smallest amount of solder to the pin will test whether your hypothesis is correct. If it flows onto the pin, then it has enough heat. Keep the tip there until you see the solder flowing and then slowly remove the heat source.

One other question: what kind of solder are you using? Does it have a rosin core?

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