ATS-V5 Surface Mount Question

Dave - W2DAB

Okay, so if I am lucky enough to get an ATS-V5 I am wondering if I can handle it as my first surface mount project. My question is, can I do it with an iron or do I have to have a solder flux, hot air station setup?

Thanks for any thoughts...



Hi Dave:

I’ve built about 10 surface mount kits and I use a soldering iron. The method I use is as follows:

1) Melt a tiny amount of solder on one of the surface mount pads
2) Hold the part with a tweezer with my left hand, and touch the iron to the tinned pad with the iron in my right hand. You always have to be gentle when picking up a part with a tweezer so it doesn’t squirt away.
2A) Another risk for losing a part is the spring-like nature of the parts carrier tape. If I have 10 resistors on tape, I firmly hold the tape down and gently use an x-Acto knife to lift a corner of the plastic film. Then, holding the tape firmly against my work space I peel back the plastic tape. I then solder in ALL of the parts with that component before going to the next component value. 
3) At this point, the part might not be properly seated. So I place the tweezer on top of the part to gently push it down, and touch the iron again to the pad. Now it’s seated. I’ve never had the part squirt away in this step. The iron guards the part on the right and is smothered by the tweezers. The solder also seems to have quite a lot of surface tension. 
4) If the part needs further alignment, I gently grasp it with the tweezers, and again touch the iron to the pad
5) When I’m happy with the part alignment, I finish the remaining pads. That could be one more pad for a diode, cap or resistor, or another 39 pads for a microprocessor
6) Finally, if there is excess solder, I remove it with the iron and copper braid

Two of Steve’s IC’s have pins that are so close together that I don’t think the pads can be individually soldered by anybody. So I solder the IC as carefully as I can, and then remove the excess solder with the braid. Two things about this technique:

1) Be mindful of the heat on the component. Get on and off the pads with the braid very quickly. If it’s a 4-sided IC, for example, I let the part cool after desoldering each side
2) Amazingly, the braid technique works very well, There’s always enough solder left to make a good, clean looking connection.

I found a headset magnifier/lamp on eBay for about $10, and have been using it for years. It’s been invaluable for surface mount construction. 

My first kit was the super-simple transceiver offered by That’s showing as still in production but is out of stock. But I’m not sure it’s going to be available. The second kit was dummy load, which had 25 surface mount resistors. Unfortunately, the dummy load is listed as “retired” and was replaced with a through hole kit. But I’d look around the Internet for other simple projects.

Finally, I wouldn’t discourage anybody from doing the ATS-V5 as your first surface mount kit, especially if you’ve built 2-3 through-hole transceivers. But if you’ve never, ever built a transceiver kit and are lucky enough to get one of Steve’s kits, I’d set the ATS-V5 aside for a month or so, and build a couple of through hole kits before graduating to surface mount.


Rob, W3DX

Dave - W2DAB

Thanks Rob!  73

Norm. N7NSD

I am almost done installing all the individual components and am taking a break before doing the ICs. I am using a Hakko 936 iron, 0.15” 2% silver solder, tweezers and magnifying visor. Go slow, double check each part and reinspect everything. No soldering until after reading the instructions at least twice. The challenge is to stay calm and slow down. Steve’s instructions are some of the best. 

Dave - W2DAB

Thanks Norm, encouraging from an 'official builder' of ATS-V5's!  I'm gonna do it.  That is after I refresh may browser a couple of thousand more times. LOL.  


Norm. N7NSD

Make that 0.015” solder.