Soldering Pi Zero pHATs

For this short tutorial, you'll need the following:

  • A pHAT
  • A 40 pin header (a female one is supplied with the pHAT)
  • A soldering iron with a conical/pointed tip
  • Lead-free solder
  • A roll of masking tape
  • Panavise (recommended, but not essential)

Here, we'll be soldering a female 40 pin header to the Scroll pHAT, but the same rules apply whichever pHAT you have or if you're using a male, right-angle or extra long female header. The female header will allow you to mount the pHAT to a Pi Zero with male 40 pin header soldered on, or to a full-size Pi. An extra long female header will allow you to stack another pHAT on top, for instance a Scroll pHAT on top of a pHAT DAC.

 Preparing your soldering iron

Plug in your soldering iron and let it get nice and hot. I'd recommend leaving it for about 5 minutes, but keep a close eye on it and make sure that it's safely left in a soldering station or on a stand.

It's important to make sure that the tip of your iron is clean before you start. If the tip looks dull and oxidised, then you can use a piece of fine-grit sandpaper to remove that and expose the shiny metal tip again.

You should also tin your soldering iron tip before you start, by applying some solder to the tip until it is covered in a thin, shiny layer of solder. This will help the solder to melt and flow more easily.

Preparing the pHAT for soldering

I like to use some masking tape to hold the header in place while I solder the first couple of pins. It's important to use masking tape rather than Sellotape or electrical tape, since any plastic tape will melt when the soldering iron is near it or due to heat conducted through the PCB.

Stick the pins of the female header from the bottom of the pHAT, so that they stick through the top of the PCB. If you're using a male header, then use the shorter ends of the pins and leave the long ends sticking downwards.

Now, hold the header in place and wrap a piece of masking tape right around the header and pHAT to hold everything in place. Make sure that the header is sitting straight and not squint. It should look something like the picture below.

Step one

Anchoring the corner pins

So that you can remove the masking tape and solder all of the pins, you should solder the two opposite corner pins to anchor the header in place.

I like to use a Panavise to hold the PCB in place while I solder it, but if you don't have one, you can use another piece of masking tape to hold it in place on the surface on which you're working. The Panavise is great, because it completely frees both hands and can be screwed down securely to a desk.

Once your soldering iron is hot and you have everything prepared, you can begin to solder the corner pins. Hold the point of the iron so that it touches both the pin and the copper surrounding the through-hole, as in the picture below.

Step two

Hold it there for a second or so to heat the pin and the copper contact on the PCB. Now, with your other hand (I prefer to hold the iron in my right hand and the solder in my left) bring the solder in to touch the point where the iron meets the pin and let a blob of solder flow right round the pin and copper contact. You've soldered your first corner pin!

Step three

Now, do the same with the opposite corner pin.

Step four

 Soldering the rest of the pins

Having secured the corner pins and hence the header, we can now remove the masking tape and solder all of the other pins in the same way as above. When you've finished it should look something like the picture below, with neat blobs of solder on all 40 pins.

Step five

And that's it. Test your pHAT by installing its software and running an example. Assuming it all works properly, you're good to go. If not, then check the solder joints closely and re-solder any that look dodgy.

That's all folks!

Search above to find more great tutorials and guides.

Plasma 2040

Swathe everything in rainbows with this all-in-one, USB-C powered controller for WS2812/Neopixel and APA102/Dotstar addressable LED strip.