As a amateur radio operator, sooner or later the time will come when you need to install a PL259 connector on some coaxial cable. This need not be a daunting task. Assuming by this point, you have some basic soldering skills, let me show you some of the hints I have acquired over the years.
Use a good quality 60/40 .062 dia resin core solder. Some wish to use additional solder paste. If you do, make sure it is non-corrosive. Personally, I have found the resin core flux sufficient. I use a Weller model 8200 100/140 watt solder gun. Some prefer an iron. If you do as well, make sure it is no lower than 80 watts. When working with 100′ or so of cable, you will need that kind of heat.
Preparing the Cable
There are several sites where you can obtain physical details for this connector. Just do a Google search for “PL259 Dimensions”. You can also use a toothpick to slide in the connector in order to determine the various depths required.
First thing (this is important) remember to slide the outer shell piece onto the cable. After doing a lovely installation, you do not want to find this lonely shell sitting on the work bench. Using a sharp knife (at this point, it is a good idea to be wearing safety gloves) slice around the cable jacket, being careful not to knick the shield underneath. Then slice the jacket from the cut to the end of the cable. This way you won’t be disturbing the shield wires by twisting off the cut piece of jacket.
Remember I said not to disturb the shield wire? Well here is where you are going to save a lot of headache. You are now going to heat your soldering gun/iron and tin the entire exposed shield. Do not put an excessive amount of solder on the shield. You should be able to still see the braid pattern when finished. If you don’t, too much solder has been applied and the cable may not slide into the connector. Don’t overwork this step as you do not want to melt the jacket or the sleeve. If need be, take a break and let the applied solder cool. Once you are satisfied and the solder has cooled, it is time to cut the section out. Refer to your dimensions and mark the spot. Put on your work gloves and cut around the tinned braid, being careful not to knick the center conductor. Remove the cut piece. Avoid twisting. You do not want to disturb the center conductor either. Once you complete this step, you will see the advantage of this preparation. There will be no loose braid to short out the connection and you have a pre-tinned work surface.
The next step is to physically install the connector onto the cable. Check again for the outer shell. Is it correctly placed on the cable? You will see by the above image, I have allowed for the outer jacket to be threaded onto the connector. Too often I have seen braid showing at the end of an installed connector. This is incorrect. You want a strong physical assembly before we begin soldering. Now some cable jackets make twisting the connector by hand very difficult, especially LMR-400. To make this easier, take some electrical tape and wrap 6 – 8 turns around the connector as shown in the next image. You will now use a pair of vise-grip pliers to twist the connector onto the jacket. Just be sure to adjust the visegrips to just enough pressure to prevent slippage. The reason for the tape, is to prevent the jaws damaging the connector shell.
As you proceed with this step, you will see the center conductor appear at the tip and the shield will now be visible through the holes of the connector shell. Remove the vise grips and the tape. Your connector should now look like this.
I believe, following these steps will not only make the final soldering task much easier, but the connection will be sound.
I hope you find these hints helpful. If you have, please let me know by commenting. Good luck.