A quote from Ask Dr. Solder sums things up quite well:
Q: How long should it take to make a “good” solder joint on a common solder pad?
A: Tricky question! The time spent on the pad is called “dwell time.” A dwell time of 4 seconds at 700 degrees-F might be considered destructive for some components – however, a dwell time of 2 seconds with an 1100 degree-F unregulated soldering iron can be much more destructive. A 700 degree-F dwell time of 3-4 seconds is not uncommon, to allow for “filling the pocket” – that's the volume of the thru-plated hole, flush to the component side and properly “feathered” evenly to the circumference of the solder pad – on the solder side. The “pocket” should be filled – but not over-filled – and the solder in the center of the pad should rise evenly to the component lead that will be trimmed. Never have a solder pad with an under-filled “dimple” on the pad. The solder level at the component lead should be higher than the edges of the pad. A soldered pad should never look like a “round BLOB of solder *sitting* on the pad.” Wire soldering is more of an art than a science, and with practice – 1 to 3 second dwell times can be achieved, while safely meeting all of the above criteria.
They also have an excellent soldering PDF tutorial there, with pictures, suggested solder, warning to *not use lead free or no clean solder* on thier kits, etc….
Here is an in-depth soldering How-To from Hackaday.com. It covers equipment, soldering and desoldering and is also accompanied by some decent photos. http://www.hackaday.com/2007/10/26/how-to-introduction-to-soldering/
More pics and another tutorial are here http://www.aaroncake.net/electronics/solder.htm
This primer on soldering covers different types of solder, what solder is and details which metals can be soldered amongst other things. http://et.nmsu.edu/~etti/fall97/electronics/solder.html
i have had a few peeling pads when doing these boards, it seems that the recoil from the pump hitting the hot pad/trace can strip it off sometimes… (it's certainly also bent some very thick wires) i'm going to get some desoldering braid instead
Bingo! This is the very reason why I tend to recommend solder wick or similar stuff for desoldering instead of using desoldering pump if you are not being experienced in soldering. Applying a lot (well, too much) of heat will cause the pads to detach from PCB, especially if there is any force applied on pad. Yes, you can get the pads off with solder wick as well if you start rubbing it against the joint, but in my opinion it is still safer way that using a pump.
Thus a trick for using solder wick that may not be so obvious: Solder the tip of the wick strip. May sound stupid, but the wick works best when there's some solder and extra resin in it. Apply only gentle force over the wick and joint and let the wick do the magic. Never start to stir around the soldering iron! If you are able to control the temperature of your soldering iron you may also increase the temperature little for this operation. Otherwise the temperature may not spread wide enough. — SmashTV 2006/03/13 10:44
Hopefully these tips will come in handy. My work sent me on a 6-day soldering course covering thru-hole and surface mount rework and repair a few years ago, and I found it incredibly useful! Happy soldering! -nebula
Black Light - The best and easiest way I've found for checking if there are any bad solders or shorts on my boards is to look at the boards under a black light (I'm using a screw in fluorescent bulb). The resin board comes out bright green and the solder, which I find a pain to see clearly sometimes, comes out dark purple. You can easily see any missed pins or anything else that may cause problems later on. -MOG151;)
see → Bad Solderings Gallery