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Everything You Wanted to Know About Microsoldering (But Were Afraid to Ask)

The box arrived at our office early one morning—nondescript, heavy, and unmarked. Its very ordinariness obscuring the splendor of its contents. iFixit is in the business of tools, tech, and teardowns, so cool stuff regularly shows up on our doorstep. But this was different.

Two days earlier, we’d put in an order for a Simul-Focal Stereo Zoom Microscope on a Dual Arm Boom from AmScope. It had just showed up—somewhat earlier than expected—in all of its highly-magnified glory. And we were excited.

We got a new toy! Any guesses?

A photo posted by iFixit (@ifixit) on Jul 3, 2015 at 11:37am PDT

So, what do a bunch of repair nerds want with a giant microscope? In the last couple of years, iFixit has gotten a lot of requests for information about microsoldering. Questions like: “Where can I learn some basic microsoldering techniques?”, “What sort of equipment should I buy?”, and “I just accidentally popped a connector off my motherboard. How can I fix it?”

We’re experts at component-replacement repairs (we’ve swapped out more broken screens and replaced more batteries than you can shake a stick at), but component-level repairs are a whole different ballgame. We have plenty of repair guides on how to replace your motherboard, but not on how to repair the board itself. Board repair usually requires microsoldering—which is similar to regular soldering in the way flight is similar to space flight. The process shares a common lineage, but the scale is radically different. In the case of microsoldering, the scale is literally microscopic; components on a board can be smaller than a grain of rice (hence the microscope). It’s a specialized skill that requires specialized equipment. There’s not a ton of information out there for people who want to learn how to microsolder on their own. And good online tutorials can get lost in a sea of bad ones. We wanted to help change that.

So, we called up our friend Jessa Jones—mother of four, PhD, repairer extraordinaire, and the coolest micro solderer we know. A couple of years ago, Jessa’s kids flushed her iPhone down the toilet; the charging coil shorted out. In an effort to fix the fritzed phone, Jessa taught herself how to microsolder, fell in love with repairing electronics, and started a repair business called iPad Rehab in Mendon, New York. Now she does board-level repairs for a living and teaches microsoldering to other repair techs. (You can check out our article on her here.) We asked her out to our home office in San Luis Obispo to teach us how to use our fancy new microscope. And to teach our community some basic microsoldering techniques.

Jessa spent almost a week with us, filming a new series on microsoldering that we’ll post on iFixit’s YouTube channel. As part of the week-long series, Jessa walks us through the microsoldering basics, the hardware you need to get started, troubleshooting, common mistakes, common repairs, and more.

We are incredibly excited to showcase Jessa’s talent and to bring a brand new repair skill to our online repair manual. Keep your eyes on our YouTube channel this week; we’ll be releasing a new video every day for the next week—starting today.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and you won’t miss a single video! And check out the microsoldering series here.