After helping hundreds of people make this stuff, I’ve learned that soldering is one of those skills that anyone can learn. My projects are mostly aimed at beginners who are up for a challenge. All of these things can be built pretty easily by anyone that has a tiny bit of experience, and there’s nothing here that I haven’t seen an absolute beginner build in half a day. Some of this stuff is on the “difficult for beginners” end of things, but it’s all reasonable.
Most of the parts I choose are pretty resilient, and other than the switches, you probably won’t kill anything by overheating it. That said, hammering on a single pad with a soldering iron for more than 15 or 20 seconds could possibly cause some damage to the PCB. With some decent quality solder (I use 60/40) and a nice hot iron, each solder joint should only take 2-3 seconds to make, which gives you plenty of time to get in and get out without any rush.
60/40 solder contains lead, but as long as you don’t eat any and you wash your hands when you’re finished, the chances of it harming you in any way are probably infinitesimal. Leaded solder is much, much easier to use than lead-free (that has its own toxicity issues), and the jury’s out on whether or not it’s any worse anyway. Again, don’t eat it and you should be good.
If you’re struggling with a particular step, take a break, take a breath, and come back to it later. Take your time, stay positive, and email me if you’ve given it your best effort but you’re really stuck. We’ll get through it. Soldering DIY kits is a great stress reliever, and it feels relaxing and meditative once you get the hang of it.
Reminder: Don’t eat the solder.
Tools I constantly use (not endorsing, I just get asked a lot, so here you go)
Solder: Kester 24-6040-0027
Soldering Station: Weller Wes51, ETCC tip
Flush Cutters: Crescent 4″ Shear Cutters
Tweezers: Tweezerman 1241-BR
Tip Cleaner: Hakko 599B
Desoldering Wick: NTE SW02-25
Desoldering Pump: Weller 7874b
I also sometimes use one of those $20 blue and black circuit board holders that can be found on your choice of evil online shopping websites.
One final tip: This might seem obvious, but be vigilant about keeping the parts in the little labeled bags to help you stay organized. You’ll prevent lots of wasted time looking up color codes and trying to identify parts. If you have some leftover parts, put them back in the bags right away. You’ll thank yourself later.