One of the things I’ve been most grateful to my first teacher for
was that he made me hold the torch in my left (non-dominant) hand.
The quote was “Save your good hand for the delicate stuff. The torch
Now I always solder left handed, and it’s been much easier. It’s
also one of the contributing factors to me growing up more-or-less
ambidextrous, which has really helped over the years.
I always make my students run the torch in their non-dominant hands
unless there’s some major reason not to. After the initial grousing,
most of them eventually see the light.
Just to follow up Richard’s post, yes you can make a very nice
solder pick out of a standard #2 pencil. Just keep in mind that the
’lead’ is actually a stick of compressed carbon. Basically a
miniature carbon stirring rod, with a nice wooden heat shield around
Step 1: sharpen pencil as normal.
step 2: use a knife and whittle down the wooden part of the pencil
until it’s just a bit larger than the carbon rod core. Do this for
1.5 inches back from the tip. (or so)
Step 3: Use a torch to burn the wood off of the carbon rod core. (If
you try to carve it off, you’ll snap the core. So carve most of it
away, then burn the rest.)
You do need to use safety glasses during this step. Sometimes the
cores have a bit of water or other stuff in them that cause them to
shatter when they’re first heated. Once you get it red, and it
survives the first time, you’re OK.
Step 4: Use it as a soldering pick. Solder won’t bond to it (but
will stick for pickup) and it won’t rob heat from your piece.
In use, they do eventually burn back, or break. But they’re pencils.
Get a new one, and keep going.