Building a Gigatron: Trials and Tribulations

Progress has been slow recently. The weather was erratic, alternately rainy and windy, so I couldn't solder outside. As the weather settled down, I managed to destroy my soldering iron tip.

Severely corroded, twisted soldering iron tip.
Destroyed soldering iron tip.

Needless to say, I hadn't been taking care of the tip properly. I wasn't tinning it nearly enough and oxidisation built up. Not understanding what was going on, it seemed like the soldering iron wasn't working properly, so I turned up the temperature and made the oxidisation even worse. Trying to salvage the severely oxidised tip, I used some tip tinner. But the oxidisation was severe and the cleaning paste corrosive, so the tip pretty much dissolved.

The soldering iron came with another tip but it's wider. Although I managed to do a bit of soldering with it, the resulting joints were pretty bad. It was difficult to get the larger tip onto the pad without damaging the PCB. Being cautious meant the pad didn't heat enough and I had joints that only partially covered the metal ring. (Credit to the Adafruit Guide to Excellent Soldering which helped me understand what was going on. They describe this problem as "insufficient wetting of the pad").

More soldering iron tips have arrived, along with some brass wool to help keep the new tips clean, so soldering can resume.

Here's the current state of the Gigatron. I'm still a very slow solderer and the ICs have an incredible number of pins, but hopefully I'll get it done before the weather turns colder.

A Gigatron printed circuit board with about half of the integrated circuits soldered onto it.
Current state of the Gigatron.