Picking a Hakko soldering station

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So I think that I have decided upon buying Hakko for my soldering station. I am now left with the dilemma on what station to buy. I was wondering if I should go for the "pedestrian" 936 for $80 or the top of the line FX-951 for $225. The digital version of the 936, the 937, is just a few dollars cheaper than the fancier FX-951.

From what I can tell, the FX-951 has more accurate temperature control because the sensor and heating element are all contained inside the tip and it comes to heat in about 10 seconds versus about 30 for the 936. I probably don't care too much about the digital temperature control, what difference does a few degrees make? Of course, the time to recover from cooling is important to me. The 951's tip tray is nicer than the 936's sponge and the iron holder seems really neat - it cools the iron to 200C when you place it in the holder to extend the tip life. The 951's most common tips are about $5-$10 more than the 936's tips.

I guess what I'm asking is, is the FX-951 worth the $145 premium over the 936?

-Jevin

Math is cool.
jevinskie.com

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I recently purchased a Hakko FX-951 soldering iron. I have to tell you that I am very pleased with it. At the time of purchase, I also bought a hefty variety of heating elements covering a wide range of tip sizes. I leave the control at 700 degrees F and simply go to a higher wattage (read, more mass but same temperature) tip.

Also be advised, no tips come with the FX-951, as it should be. There are so many tips, Hakko simply can't anticipate the end-users needs.

Things I like about the Hakko FX-951 are: the soldering handle is very light, the tips are super simple to swap out, the iron heats up very fast, you can put the thing in sleep mode - conserving the tip.

With the Weller soldering station, to replace a tip, you need to unscrew the sleeve that covers the heating element. Well, you could wait until the thing cools down. But in a production environment, you cant afford that luxury. It's just so simple with the Hakko - unplug the heating element from the handle and plug a different heating element back in. In 15 seconds (or less) your iron is hot and your ready to go back to work.

As for temperature control... I used Weller soldering pencils most of my life. The issue is that I never knew what the tip temperature was - only the overall wattage rating if the device. I've destroyed several PCBs over the years as a result of too much heat. Having the temperature display lets me see that I am within a safe temperature range, preventing me from lifting pads and traces.

I can't tell you what the absolute temperature of my FX-951 soldering tip is. But I'd say that it's within +/-5 degrees F of what the display says it is. At work we use digitally controlled Hakko and Weller soldering stations. One of my responsibilities is to ensure the calibration of those soldering stations. When the Weller stations were new, they were found to be displaying about 150 to 200 degrees F lower then what the tip temperature actually was. We damaged quite a few PCBs before I recommended that we chek the calibration. On the other hand, all of the Hakko soldering stations were delivered from the factory within the specified +/-5 degrees F. And to boot, the Weller soldering stations require periodic (read, about once per month) calibration. The Hakko soldering stations, on the other hand, never seem to need any calibration at all - ever.

I had originally considered purchasing a Weller soldering station. But, I was forced to use a Weller soldering station at work for a while. I disliked that thing so much, I demanded that my employer give me my Hakko back that I used for the first 6 months that I worked there.

I sure am glad I purchased a Hakko, rather then the equivalent Weller model.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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I have a Weller WD1002 at work, and a Hakko 936 at home. The WD1002 runs laps around the 936. The handle is much lighter, doesn't heat up as much (the 936's handle gets fairly warm after a couple hours of continuous usage), and somehow it just feels better in my hands. I've actually put more time in with the 936, so that's not just time speaking. The WD1002 heats up nearly instantly which is wonderful.

I'm not sure what Carl is talking about with not being able to swap tips on Wellers. That is wrong. The proper tip changing method is to turn off the iron, unscrew sort of hood thing that holds the tip on, put it on your stand, grab another hood that already has a tip in it, and screw that on, then turn on the iron again. Very easy.

We've had no calibration problems with our Wellers either - I'm wondering if Carl was using a cheap line of irons? It sure sounds like he was using a bottom of the line Weller - and you can't expect anything out of those.

I've also used pretty much the full range of Wellers, from the lower end ones to the middle to what I have. I think if you're going lower end I'd go with the Hakko 936 - it just feels better than the equivalent Weller.

However with the high end models - I doubt it matters much. My Weller iron is wonderful - perfect, even. I have no complaints whatsoever about it. I bet the high end Hakko is equivalent - but I haven't compared the two.

One thing to note: Digi-Key sells Weller tips, but not Hakko tips. Same for Newark and Mouser. I've always found it to be a pain to buy tips for my Hakko.

Sorry I'm not giving conclusive advice here - but I think when it comes down to it they're probably pretty darned similar.

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nleahcim wrote:
I've always found it to be a pain to buy tips for my Hakko.
The ones from Aoyue should fit, too. I think they even use the same naming schema for the tips. SRA Solder offers them in the US.

Aoyue also has a soldering station called 936. It looks similar, but not identical to the Hakko 936. There was a recent discussion that Harbor Freight offered a "Chicago Electric Power Tools" soldering station also looking remarkably similar. I don't know if it is a clone and if yes, who cloned whom. Maybe the 936 is just another Chinese standard design, manufactured by several Chinese companies.

Stealing Proteus doesn't make you an engineer.

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I'd go for a second-hand Metcal STSS unit. They take all the current MX-500 accessories. More expensive than a new Weller or Hakko but a much better tool. Hakko actually copied the design and got sued.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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ArnoldB wrote:
nleahcim wrote:
I've always found it to be a pain to buy tips for my Hakko.
The ones from Aoyue should fit, too. I think they even use the same naming schema for the tips. SRA Solder offers them in the US.

Aoyue also has a soldering station called 936. It looks similar, but not identical to the Hakko 936. There was a recent discussion that Harbor Freight offered a "Chicago Electric Power Tools" soldering station also looking remarkably similar. I don't know if it is a clone and if yes, who cloned whom. Maybe the 936 is just another Chinese standard design, manufactured by several Chinese companies.

The Hakko 936 has a Chinese knock off sold under many brand names. The knock off is of significantly lower quality than the real 936. A friend of mine has one and we did a side by side comparison. The knock off was worse in every way but price.

Still - if you feel like saving a couple bucks in the short term, buying a replacement every couple years, and supporting people who steal other people's work and sell it as their own - the Chinese knock off is a great choice.

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nleahcim wrote:
Still - if you feel like saving a couple bucks in the short term, buying a replacement every couple years, and supporting people who steal other people's work and sell it as their own - the Chinese knock off is a great choice.
Sorry for trying to be helpful with obtaining tips.

Stealing Proteus doesn't make you an engineer.

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I would look at the new Weller WD1002 before you look at the Hakko. The tips for the Hakko are $15.00 each. The Weller are under $4. Look at the attached comparison.

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Quote:
(the 936's handle gets fairly warm after a couple hours of continuous usage)

I have a Hakko 936 and the handle temp stays quite comfortable even after a few hours of constant use. I'm usually running at about 650F. What temp are you usually running at?

I get tips from mcmelectronics.com by the way. Most cost about $6 - $10

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Quote:

Still - if you feel like saving a couple bucks in the short term, buying a replacement every couple years, and supporting people who steal other people's work and sell it as their own - the Chinese knock off is a great choice.

I'm not so sure they've stolen anyones design. It's quite common for others to imitate popular designs because people are familiar with them. I think most people in the field as a profession would normally opt for the brand just for the peace of mind.

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ArnoldB wrote:
nleahcim wrote:
Still - if you feel like saving a couple bucks in the short term, buying a replacement every couple years, and supporting people who steal other people's work and sell it as their own - the Chinese knock off is a great choice.
Sorry for trying to be helpful with obtaining tips.

I wasn't trying to put you down. Don't be a drama queen.

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CirMicro wrote:
Quote:
(the 936's handle gets fairly warm after a couple hours of continuous usage)

I have a Hakko 936 and the handle temp stays quite comfortable even after a few hours of constant use. I'm usually running at about 650F. What temp are you usually running at?

I get tips from mcmelectronics.com by the way. Most cost about $6 - $10


Sometimes I run it at 720 for long periods. Typically I'm at 660 though. Depends on what I'm soldering. It never has gotten too hot to handle - it's just that it does get noticeably warm.

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CirMicro wrote:
Quote:

Still - if you feel like saving a couple bucks in the short term, buying a replacement every couple years, and supporting people who steal other people's work and sell it as their own - the Chinese knock off is a great choice.

I'm not so sure they've stolen anyones design. It's quite common for others to imitate popular designs because people are familiar with them. I think most people in the field as a profession would normally opt for the brand just for the peace of mind.


So if a Chinese company starts selling cars labeled as Toyotas, you see no problem?

They apparently are similar enough that their tips are compatible. They have nearly identical model names. They look identical physically, aside from some markings. It's a blatant rip off - and it's the kind of sleazy business practice that I refuse to support.

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Hakko can't really complain about it. As I said previously, they infringed Metcal's patent and had to pay out a lot of money.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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nleahcim wrote:
I wasn't trying to put you down. Don't be a drama queen.
Idiot, you just wanted to do a nationalistic rant. I bet you only use original American printer ink in your printer, and don't use any non-original spare parts on your all-American car.

Stealing Proteus doesn't make you an engineer.

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ArnoldB wrote:
nleahcim wrote:
I wasn't trying to put you down. Don't be a drama queen.
Idiot, you just wanted to do a nationalistic rant. I bet you only use original American printer ink in your printer, and don't use any non-original spare parts on your all-American car.

Sorry but I'm not going to continue this conversation with you.

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leon_heller wrote:
Hakko can't really complain about it. As I said previously, they infringed Metcal's patent and had to pay out a lot of money.

Leon


Two wrongs don't make a right.

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Meh, if all you folks would stop caring about patent infrigement for a while (these are just CONVERSATIONS, no one is actually infringing on any patent HERE!), maybe a lot of threads wouldn't go to the pooper like this one did int he last few posts.

I think this subject really is the center of a lot of obsessions around here, and somehow it always looks as this crap is posted just to make one look more politically-correct to the public. No one is a saint folks, and nobody cares about what you think is right or not in this subject. So why don't we just all just STFU about it, or post this crap in the OFF-TOPIC section?

Anyways, I have a 937 I bought used (but excellent condition) off of ebay for 100$ and for me it's the best thing since butter. Mind you my last "station" was mostly a variety of rat shack irons of different wattage using a set of cheap screw-on tips of different sizes and shapes I found on ebay as well, and some custom suspended holders made from coat hangers. Needless to say, night and day... ;)

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nleahcim wrote:
I'm not sure what Carl is talking about with not being able to swap tips on Wellers. That is wrong. The proper tip changing method is to turn off the iron, unscrew sort of hood thing that holds the tip on, put it on your stand, grab another hood that already has a tip in it, and screw that on, then turn on the iron again. Very easy.
I never said that the tip couldn't be changed on the WD1002 solder iron. Don't be putting words into my mouth.

What I said was:

microcarl wrote:
With the Weller soldering station, to replace a tip, you need to unscrew the sleeve that covers the heating element. Well, you could wait until the thing cools down. But in a production environment, you cant afford that luxury. It's just so simple with the Hakko - unplug the heating element from the handle and plug a different heating element back in. In 15 seconds (or less) your iron is hot and your ready to go back to work.
The Hakko method of changing tips is far superior to the WD1002.

Let me also add, the handle on the WD1002 kept coming loose, and the heat transfer from the heating element to the tip is dependent on the handle being tight. The heat that transfers into the handle is so much that I couldn't hold the iron for very long without having to put it down.

nleahcim wrote:
We've had no calibration problems with our Wellers either - I'm wondering if Carl was using a cheap line of irons? It sure sounds like he was using a bottom of the line Weller - and you can't expect anything out of those.

The following Weller, the WD1002HPT, is what I'm referring to. Any Hakko soldering station will beat the hell out of this sub-standard system. The WD1002 sure looks pretty, but it lacks the refinement found in all of the Hakko soldering stations.
http://www.cooperhandtools.com/weller/index.cfm

And I'll up the anti... We originally had some older model Hakko soldering stations that were just worn out. We purchased three Hakko FM-203 and three Weller WD1002 soldering stations. We became so dissatisfied with the Weller WD1002 soldering stations, they were placed on a shelf and eventually be put on ebay to the highest bidder. We replaced those WD1002 soldering stations with the Hakko FM-203 model.

nleahcim wrote:
One thing to note: Digi-Key sells Weller tips, but not Hakko tips. Same for Newark and Mouser. I've always found it to be a pain to buy tips for my Hakko.
I ordered my Hakko FX-931 soldering station from Techni-tool, along with a good assortment of tips, for the same cost that Hakko sells them - and it was no more difficult then ordering stuff from Digi-Key, Mouser or Circuit Specialist, and just as fast on delivery.

And speaking of tips, while Weller soldering tips are only 1/3 the cost of the Hakko tips, they need to be replaces 3 to 4 times more often in a production setting. So, which is less expensive.

nleahcim wrote:
Sorry I'm not giving conclusive advice here - but I think when it comes down to it they're probably pretty darned similar.
No,they aren't similar. From a heavy production point of view, Hakko out performs Weller. And that is from the experience of having used both, the WD1002 and the FM-302 in a very heavy repair/rework environment.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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microcarl wrote:
nleahcim wrote:
I'm not sure what Carl is talking about with not being able to swap tips on Wellers. That is wrong. The proper tip changing method is to turn off the iron, unscrew sort of hood thing that holds the tip on, put it on your stand, grab another hood that already has a tip in it, and screw that on, then turn on the iron again. Very easy.
I never said that the tip couldn't be changed on the WD1002 solder iron. Don't be putting words into my mouth.

What I said was:

microcarl wrote:
With the Weller soldering station, to replace a tip, you need to unscrew the sleeve that covers the heating element. Well, you could wait until the thing cools down. But in a production environment, you cant afford that luxury. It's just so simple with the Hakko - unplug the heating element from the handle and plug a different heating element back in. In 15 seconds (or less) your iron is hot and your ready to go back to work.
The Hakko method of changing tips is far superior to the WD1002.

Let me also add, the handle on the WD1002 kept coming loose, and the heat transfer from the heating element to the tip is dependent on the handle being tight. The heat that transfers into the handle is so much that I couldn't hold the iron for very long without having to put it down.

nleahcim wrote:
We've had no calibration problems with our Wellers either - I'm wondering if Carl was using a cheap line of irons? It sure sounds like he was using a bottom of the line Weller - and you can't expect anything out of those.

The following Weller, the WD1002HPT, is what I'm referring to. Any Hakko soldering station will beat the hell out of this sub-standard system. The WD1002 sure looks pretty, but it lacks the refinement found in all of the Hakko soldering stations.
http://www.cooperhandtools.com/weller/index.cfm

And I'll up the anti... We originally had some older model Hakko soldering stations that were just worn out. We purchased three Hakko FM-203 and three Weller WD1002 soldering stations. We became so dissatisfied with the Weller WD1002 soldering stations, they were placed on a shelf and eventually be put on ebay to the highest bidder. We replaced those WD1002 soldering stations with the Hakko FM-203 model.

nleahcim wrote:
One thing to note: Digi-Key sells Weller tips, but not Hakko tips. Same for Newark and Mouser. I've always found it to be a pain to buy tips for my Hakko.
I ordered my Hakko FX-931 soldering station from Techni-tool, along with a good assortment of tips, for the same cost that Hakko sells them - and it was no more difficult then ordering stuff from Digi-Key, Mouser or Circuit Specialist, and just as fast on delivery.

And speaking of tips, while Weller soldering tips are only 1/3 the cost of the Hakko tips, they need to be replaces 3 to 4 times more often in a production setting. So, which is less expensive.

nleahcim wrote:
Sorry I'm not giving conclusive advice here - but I think when it comes down to it they're probably pretty darned similar.
No,they aren't similar. From a heavy production point of view, Hakko out performs Weller. And that is from the experience of having used both, the WD1002 and the FM-302 in a very heavy repair/rework environment.

About tip changing - with the Weller you unscrew something and screw a new one in. You don't wait for anything to cool off. Takes 15 seconds. Sounds like with the Weller you have to buy multiple heating elements? Sounds spendy. But either way - 15 seconds is fine.

As for the handle heating up - I don't know what you're talking about. That simply isn't the case with mine. I have left it on for a solid work day before and it never became even uncomfortable to hold. I'm wondering if you had a faulty unit.

Where are you getting this statistic regarding the Hakko tips lasting longer? Being that you supposedly got rid of your WD1002s almost as soon as you got them - you surely couldn't have learned that from experience (unless you were severely mistreating the tips). Keep in mind that tip care is very important. If you treat your tip wrong it'll last a fraction of how long a properly maintained tip will last. One common mistake: sponges. Not good for tips. My standard tip that I use is a year old and I put maybe 5 or so hours of use on it every week. So tip longevity is a pretty silly selling factor either way when they're lasting that long.

To be clear - I'm still not promoting the Weller over the Hakko - but Carl you're making it sound like there's no competition and I simply don't think you're right. No offense - but your post reeks of fanboyism. I say that because you're claiming many things as facts without backing them up or giving any indication that you didn't pull them out of thin air.

I have zero complaints about my Weller - and the things you're saying that are wrong with it simply are not problems that anybody at my company has come across.

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nleahcim wrote:
Where are you getting this statistic regarding the Hakko tips lasting longer? Being that you supposedly got rid of your WD1002s almost as soon as you got them - you surely couldn't have learned that from experience (unless you were severely mistreating the tips).

When I first started with this company, I used a Hakko FM-203 soldering station. Then my employer forced me to use the WD1002, when they took away my Hakko, giving it to one of the production solders because of her complaints. Why??? Because the production solders using the WD1002 soldering stations complained about them so much, that the production manager got tired of hearing the complaints and finally replaced them with Hakko FM-203s. But I was forced to use one of the production solders WD1002 soldering stations, for about six months, until I could convince my supervisor the WD1002 was not worth the trouble.

I finally got a Hakko FM-203 and the stupid issues like tip problems, the thing going into sleep mode ( even when the sleep mode was disabled), loose handles, temperatures 100 to 150 degrees above the set-point, etc, went away.

I would tell you that I have something like 45 years experience at soldering - but that will simply fly over your head, I'm sure. I know about soldering tip care. No, it's not my abuse of soldering tips! No, it's not my lack of understanding of the system. No, it's not my lack of experience at soldering. The same issues were prevalent on all of the WD1002 soldering stations that we purchased - by experienced production solders, and myself.

And then I have to ask, why is it that when I went back to the Hakko Fm-203 soldering station, I stopped having to replace soldering tips. Don't you think I would be equally abusive of the soldering tips with both soldering station systems?

We even had a local rep come into the facility, and he couldn't rectify the problems - with any of them. So the rep exchanged a couple of the WD1002 soldering stations for new units, and the same issues existed in the new replacements. The WD1002 has definite problems. While those problems might be tolerated in light use, the WD1002 is not yet up to speed for an aggressive production environment. And those problems are what convinced me that I should select the Hakko brand over the Weller brand.

I have no statistics - only the facts of my experience, and that of my co-workers experience. I think that six months of daily production use is long enough to have a well formed opinion of the WD1002.

When we got rid of the WD1002 soldering stations, the production issues disappeared, as well.

And you are correct. There I am biased toward the Hakko FM-203 over the WD1002. But that bias is based on my experience with the WD1002 soldering station.

The OP asked for advice. I offered up my personal experience with the WD1002 and the problems that I and my employer have experienced. I called out specific examples of problems that I/we have experienced with the Weller WD1002 soldering station. Yet, you challenge my/our experience, suggesting that those experiences are some sort of hallucination or illusion.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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microcarl wrote:
nleahcim wrote:
Where are you getting this statistic regarding the Hakko tips lasting longer? Being that you supposedly got rid of your WD1002s almost as soon as you got them - you surely couldn't have learned that from experience (unless you were severely mistreating the tips).

When I first started with this company, I used a Hakko FM-203 soldering station. Then my employer forced me to use the WD1002, when they took away my Hakko, giving it to one of the production solders because of her complaints. Why??? Because the production solders using the WD1002 soldering stations complained about them so much, that the production manager got tired of hearing the complaints and finally replaced them with Hakko FM-203s. But I was forced to use one of the production solders WD1002 soldering stations, for about six months, until I could convince my supervisor the WD1002 was not worth the trouble.

I finally got a Hakko FM-203 and the stupid issues like tip problems, the thing going into sleep mode ( even when the sleep mode was disabled), loose handles, temperatures 100 to 150 degrees above the set-point, etc, went away.

I would tell you that I have something like 45 years experience at soldering - but that will simply fly over your head, I'm sure. I know about soldering tip care. No, it's not my abuse of soldering tips! No, it's not my lack of understanding of the system. No, it's not my lack of experience at soldering. The same issues were prevalent on all of the WD1002 soldering stations that we purchased - by experienced production solders, and myself.

And then I have to ask, why is it that when I went back to the Hakko Fm-203 soldering station, I stopped having to replace soldering tips. Don't you think I would be equally abusive of the soldering tips with both soldering station systems?

We even had a local rep come into the facility, and he couldn't rectify the problems - with any of them. So the rep exchanged a couple of the WD1002 soldering stations for new units, and the same issues existed in the new replacements. The WD1002 has definite problems. While those problems might be tolerated in light use, the WD1002 is not yet up to speed for an aggressive production environment. And those problems are what convinced me that I should select the Hakko brand over the Weller brand.

I have no statistics - only the facts of my experience, and that of my co-workers experience. I think that six months of daily production use is long enough to have a well formed opinion of the WD1002.

When we got rid of the WD1002 soldering stations, the production issues disappeared, as well.

And you are correct. There I am biased toward the Hakko FM-203 over the WD1002. But that bias is based on my experience with the WD1002 soldering station.

The OP asked for advice. I offered up my personal experience with the WD1002 and the problems that I and my employer have experienced. I called out specific examples of problems that I/we have experienced with the Weller WD1002 soldering station. Yet, you challenge my/our experience, suggesting that those experiences are some sort of hallucination or illusion.


I'm saying your advice is clouded by personal preference + brand loyalty. It's like how if somebody buys a Ford they suddenly think Fords are the greatest thing since sliced bread, whereas if they had bought a Chevy they'd be ripping on fords and saying that Chevies are the best.

What's more - the problems that you are saying are so prevalent have never, ever surfaced at my company. That's why your posts are bugging me so much. It'd be like if somebody came on here and started saying that AVRs have memory corruption issues, or started spouting some other nonsense that we all know is not true. Thus something is clearly off here. I'm not saying you're lying - I highly doubt you are - I'm just saying that something's not adding up. It's like your company and my company got irons from entirely separate batches - and that your all's batch was completely botched. Highly unlikely, obviously.

And to be clear - I never called into question your knowledge, nor did I imply anything of that nature. If my post sounded like that than my apologies. I'm not in the habit of insulting people over the Internets.

I've stated my peace and I'll be exiting this thread before it turns ugly :)

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I ended up ordering the FX-951. Nobody gets yelled at for spending a bit more on often-used equipment! I tried it out the other day and it was fantastic! It came to heat in 10 seconds - something my old iron took 2 minutes to do. Changing tips was a breeze. I didn't get to test out the sleep functionality because I forgot the cable to connect the station to the holder. Thanks everyone for their input!

-Jevin

Math is cool.
jevinskie.com

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You should have a look for Goot soldering stations. They are Japanese made and are great, i brought one a couple of years ago and i can do pretty much anything if taken care of.

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First off just let me state that MicroCarl is the man.

I've yet to get into the higher end for irons myself as I've yet to need them, but I've owned 2 Wellers, 2 Goots, and have used a set of Hakko tools at a dev house I was at a few years ago. My first iron was a Weller, and it was a cheapo hand iron. My next Iron was another cheapo hand iron, but this time it was a Goot. I still have that iron in a box on the side of my desk in Japan. I ended up in America for a short time about two summers ago and made a Digikey order, adding in a little Weller station to the order (the WLC100). I figured it would be nice, seeing as to how it cost something like 4 times the amount of my cheapo Goot iron and had adjustable temperature control and everything. It was, however, a massive disappointment. I found myself constantly fiddling with the temperature control so I could stop burning my fingers from the heat coming off the iron and still actually get the solder to melt. I honestly missed my cheapo Goot iron and regretted purchasing the Weller. When I got back to Japan I purchased the Goot PX-201, a hand iron with adjustable temperature on the handle. It easily outperformed the Weller, was way more comfortable, and has never given me any problems. Both were basically the same price by the way.

About the time I got the PX-201 I had access to a small electronics development room at the place I was working, and they had a nice Hakko rig. It was impressively nice, and the thin pen style of the iron and obstructiveness of the cord, along with the great performance of the iron made it undeniably the best I have ever used. Perhaps I am biased because I have not used one of the high end Weller irons, but thus far my experiences with Wellers is they have been crap compared to Goot irons, and I doubt you'll find many people who say Goot irons are better than Hakko, so it's a simple matter of Weller < Goot < Hakko.

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Kagetsuki wrote:
First off just let me state that MicroCarl is the man.

Thanks, Kagetsuki!

Let me clarify just a bit...

Early in in my electronics experience I use to buy the el-cheapo Radio Shack soldering irons. While they did sport Iron-Clad tips, they were useless, unless maybe you were working with Vacuum Tubes.

I eventually purchased a Weller WP 25, fixed temperature soldering iron for what was then my fine soldering work - thru-hole components. A Weller W60p did the heavy stuff.

Currently, I have two WP25 pencil style soldering irons, one that's never been plugged in to a wall socket, a well as a used W60P that has been around for many, many years. I also have a WTCPT fixed temperature soldering station.

Now, these aren't bad soldering irons for the casual electronics hobbyist.

In fact, I use to have two WTCPT soldering stations, the second of which I sent to Chuck Baird (zbaird). I do believe that Chuck is pleased with the WTCPT soldering station. But I wonder if he had a Hakko FT931 soldering station, which one would he prefer to use?

The issue with these irons is that, in addition to being bulky, and not being able to control temperature, very fine tips use to be difficult to come by, until a few years ago. And incidentally, I don't ever recall needing to replace a soldering tip, with regular use - other then to simply change the tip size or temperature rating.

All of this class soldering iron has a foam insulator that helps shield excessive heat from reaching the operators fingers.

These are not bad soldering irons for light to moderate use.

Stepping up to the hi-end soldering irons...

I'm sure that Metcal, Pace and a couple of other high end soldering stations are fine instruments. But I have no personal experience with them.

I do have enough experience with both Hakko and Weller high-end soldering stations to form a reasonable and rational opinion.

A high end Weller 1002 soldering station might be fine for many individuals. But having been forced to give up my Hakko FM203 for a Weller 1002 soldering station was not a pleasurable experience for me.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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A second-hand Metcal like the one I use costs about the same as a new Hakko or Weller, and is much better value. Cartridges only take a few seconds to swap, heat up very rapidly, and never need adjustment or calibration. As they use RF heating (at about 14 MHz), they have a very high heat capacity and the heat is delivered directly to the tip, giving instant recovery between solder joints. The handpiece is very light and easy to hold and stays very cool.

The older STSS power unit is the one to get, it takes the current MX-500 handpiece and cartridges. I paid £120 for one complete with a new handpiece and a selection of new cartridges. I subsequently bought another STSS unit for £75 on Ebay.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Ok, I really don't want to derail the thread or anything, but I've just brought out my Weller soldering station to give it another go. I figured perhaps I just had a freak bad experience and re-evaluating the performance by giving it another try would be a good idea.

So, this iron has not been used in at least a year at this point. I went ahead and made sure it was clean, fired it up, and waited for it to get hot. Everything looks good so far, so I attempt to prime up the tip. I can feel heat coming back off the guard and hitting my fingers, which I recall getting uncomfortable quickly and is one of the reasons I did not like the iron to begin with. But that heat I figure is a sign it is hot enough. Solder to tip... nothing happens. The iron is cranked up to maximum heat, and it's been about 5 minutes now, the solder should be melting. I continue to apply solder to the tip, and it does in fact melt just a bit, but balls up and rolls off. At this point the tip is visibly becoming black and I start to smell an unpleasant burning/smokey smell. I figure there must be residue on the tip or something, and proceed to get my tip-cleaning stuff out. Then I notice the smoke flowing from the heating element area out where the tip is inserted. I shut off the iron, let it cool down, and pull the tip out. Out comes what I can only describe as burnt rust. After cleaning this burnt rust off the top and outside of the heating element area as best I can I'm not heating the iron up again, and hoping whatever that was was just preventing the tip from getting hot enough. Keep in mind I've used this iron only a handful of times, and have used it to the best of my knowledge properly and taken care to keep it in proper working order. It was never stored in a humid environment, so I have no idea how that much rust got in there in the first place. The heating element looks fine, and so does the tip... so where did it come from? Ok, giving it another shot now.

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Second try was just as much of a failure as the first. I can not for the life of me get the tip clean, nor can I get solder to stick to it. This is honestly aggravating. I've attempted to make a joint and due to the poor transfer of heat from the tip from it not being primed (or prime-able) I just get solder rolling off and occasionally sticking in messy blobs. Perhaps this unit was just defective from the start and only now am I realizing this. Perhaps it was stored in a warehouse next to the ocean where humidity ate away it the insides. I'm not sure and I don't think I even care. I've just changed the tip to a brand new one (I purchased a few tips with the unit of various shapes and sizes). Let's see how this goes.

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New tip worked gorgeously! That was actually quite pleasant. The iron performed as I would expect an iron to perform, but I still don't like the clumsy cord and the heat coming back off the iron. I'm thinking my poor experience may have been because I received the iron in poor condition. I did purchase it new mind you, it's not second hand, but whatever was rusted around the tip must have been impeding the performance of the unit from the start. I'll use the Weller some more and hopefully its performance will not be as disappointing as before. I honestly don't think it will replace my Goots, and if this new head gets messed up any time soon I'll be giving it away to anyone who wants it. Goot heads have never failed me, and never gotten gunked up like this Weller one did.

nleahcim:

Quote:

It's like your company and my company got irons from entirely separate batches - and that your all's batch was completely botched. Highly unlikely, obviously.

What I'm about to say I don't mean in any offensive manner, but I'd just like to respond to that statement. I never changed the tip on this iron, nor have I ever immersed it or improperly stored it. The heating was always off, and I guess it was my bad for not checking the tip before I ever used it. But it is obvious to me something was botched in the unit from the point I received it. After cleaning it and changing the tip I can say the iron worked fine, but that's the first time it worked fine. The iron seems to have been in bad condition directly after receiving it, which leads me to conclude it was either stored improperly or manufactured improperly. Was I supposed to disassemble and clean the iron somehow before use? Is this in fact a manufacturing blooper or am I an idiot who doesn't know the proper way to start using a new iron?

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I use a Weller WES51 at home and have been quite pleased with it. It fitted my budget. Selecting the correct tip for fine work was not as obvious as it seems. Tinning the tip and keeping it in good condition is as important as it has always been. Familiarisation is necessary for all tools.
At work we have a metcal, and a ridiculously expensive, but beautiful, workstation from JBC tools.
Choosing a soldering iron for personal or production use have rather different criteria IMHO.

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Broxbourne wrote:
I use a Weller WES51 at home and have been quite pleased with it. It fitted my budget. Selecting the correct tip for fine work was not as obvious as it seems. Tinning the tip and keeping it in good condition is as important as it has always been. Familiarisation is necessary for all tools.
At work we have a metcal, and a ridiculously expensive, but beautiful, workstation from JBC tools.
Choosing a soldering iron for personal or production use have rather different criteria IMHO.

For what I know I've been properly tinning, wiping, cleaning, and storing my tips. I've never had a problem with any Goot tips, despite several years of use now. I know I've not used some of those tips for months at a time, and after changing back to them they have always performed properly. What's most amazing to me at this point is the fact I can't get the blackish residue looking stuff off the front of this tip, which is what I believe is preventing it from being properly tinned/primed. I don't want to just scrape it off either, as I know that's not a good idea, but this is the first time I've ever experienced anything like this.

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Sorry, I wasn't intending to be critical. It only takes a little patina build up to make using an iron a miserable experience.
The brass shaving cleaning pads are good, but like you I worry about wear, although this is not a big issue for hobby work.

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Broxbourne wrote:
Sorry, I wasn't intending to be critical. It only takes a little patina build up to make using an iron a miserable experience.
The brass shaving cleaning pads are good, but like you I worry about wear, although this is not a big issue for hobby work.

I've always been told to stay away from those, but in this case I think I'll try one. I have a chemical tip cleaner I tried, but that didn't touch it. The Hakko stations seem to use the brass shaving pads as a default rather than sponges, which always surprised me. Thank you very much for the advice, and I'll report on weather or not it worked.

As for the rust on the inside do you have any idea on that? When I took out the tip and noticed a bunch of what looked like burnt rust I was dumbfounded, especially since there seems to be no visible wear on that part of the tip nor on the heating element contact area (what I can see of it at least). I really wish I had removed the tip immediately before use, because I have no idea when this rust like stuff formed.

EDIT: Oh, and I didn't take any offense to your comment. No need to apologize! If read the wrong way my response did seem a bit self-assured, though I did not intend for it to come off that way. I'm most definitely no expert in soldering, but I wouldn't consider myself an armature either.

FURTHER EDIT: I have now used the Weller a lot more, and can report that the heat coming off the tip toward the handle is noticeably less. If you are wondering how much was coming toward the handle before I'd just like to note the end of the foam grip nearest the heating element is partially melted. I suppose the heat is actually going to the top now, not insulated away from it. The actual tip itself is nice, but the behavior of solder on the tip is different than on my Goot. Even with relatively the same shape and size tip on the Weller I can not make as clean joints as my Goot will. I believe this mainly has to do with the temperature, which to this point I can not seem to find a good setting for on the Weller (the Goot I simply found a sweet spot and barely ever adjust it from there). The Weller tip does seem to maintain heat a bit better, but the lack of an indicator like on the Goot makes actual use feel like a cheap iron. The grip, despite having a foam portion, is less comfortable than the ergonomic shape of the Goot. My last criticism would be the holder on the base station; despite firmly inserting the iron into it the iron ended up sliding out twice today. The holder I use with my Goot is actually a cast-iron thing by Hakko, and the holder design is quite different, but insertion is much easier and I have never had the iron just kind of fall out backwards. So while my initial dislike of the Weller irons was due to poor condition, I would still take a cheap Goot over a cheap Weller. And one day, I hope to own a not-so-cheap Hakko!