Soldering Iron

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#1
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Hi everyone, I've been trolling this board for a while now. Trying to soak up as much information for this new field as I possibly can.

I've moved away from the breadboard and have started building my first "permanent" prototypes, and my soldering iron ($9 pos radio shat) is definitely NOT up to the job. I tried searching, but all of the posts I read were related to soldering small packages, and not necessarily the equipment used to do so.

Looking through my various catalogues, I'm bombarded with a ton of soldering stations, and have no idea what to buy...

What (style, brand, etc.) soldering station would you recommend?

BTW, I'm a value oriented person, but this is something I plan to have for a long time, so if something is worth the price, please suggest it!

I have too many hobbies.
s-conductor.com

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Why is the cheapy iron 'not up to the job?'. As to what is available in your area and what price range you're looking at is anyone's guess. Basically you get what you pay for! You would want something temperature controlled at about 60-80W approx. There's plenty of asian manufactured items that work well as well as items from Weller and Pace. Tell us what is available in your area and the price range - we might be able to guide you better.

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I use some very cheap Pro's Kit (a taiwanese company) "mini soldering station", it was about $25 methinks. It has really small conical tip, not unlike ERSA's Minitip I've been told. The wattage is within 15W I guess, it's regulated but no feedback. It's good for soldering discrete smd components. As for TQFP's, it doesn't matter a lot what tip you have as long as it's not too large, anything under 3mm is ok. I just get enough solder on tip and rake across the row of pins, then see what I get and do that again, or remove extra solder.

The Dark Boxes are coming.

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There is a fine line between hobbiest and professional. Investing in a good soldering iron is durable goods. Should last for years! I'm more sw than hw, but the Metcal stations seem to be preferred around here

Imagecraft compiler user

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Basically, I was hoping people would list what they use, and if they are happy/unhappy with the unit. Is there a better forum for this type of question? :oops:

I'm probably being really picky with my radio shack unit but, it seems to take forever to reach a decent temperature, and even then it flucuates wildly. For such a small item it's odd to handle and feels cheap to boot.

Here are two of the units I'm seriously considering:

http://www.hmcelectronics.com/cgi-bin/scripts/product/5635-0199
http://www.hmcelectronics.com/cgi-bin/scripts/product/1980-0441

Anyone own one of those? Something similar?

Bob: I'm a sw person myself, and have no formal training with embedded systems or even electronics, but I love to learn!

Thanks for the quick responses! 8)

I have too many hobbies.
s-conductor.com

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Well, the metcal looks like half the bux of the weller doesnt it!

Imagecraft compiler user

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I use some old stuff that isn't available any more, but if I get back in the market I'll use one of these:

http://www.howardelectronics.com/ - I buy their solderpaste syringes
http://www.sparkfun.com - has some hot air stations that look good. And a great tutorial on SMD with hotplates and toaster ovens.

Smiley

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I was using the radioshack POS, sometimes it felt too hot when sitting unused, but when in use it cools down. I bought the temp regulated iron from radioshack. They only carry the digital LCD one, and its slightly annoying because whenever you turn it on it starts at 350, I like to use it at 480 so I have to hold the up button until it gets there every time I use it.

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Hey,

If that cheaper Metcal is alything like their more expensive stations, the metcal is untouchable IMHO.

They heat instantly, perfect recovery, etc. I used a Metcal at work at it was great - only bad thing is no temp control.

-Colin

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My very short list is:

Weller

I have a WtCPT soldering station (fix temp, but controlled)
I also use several other Weller irons, ranging from 15 Watts to 60 Watts.

You defenetly want Iron-Clad tips if you expect tip performance.

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

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Radioshack tips turn to crap real fast but they sell this tin stuff you can dip the tip in to make it 'like new'

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outer_space wrote:
Radioshack tips turn to crap real fast but they sell this tin stuff you can dip the tip in to make it 'like new'

The first time you turn on a cheap soldering iron hold some rosin core solder to the tip and slather it on immediately when the temp gets high enough to melt, this leaves a shiny tip that gets re-tinned each time you use it. Better yet would be to coat it in flux if you have some when first turned on as you'll be able to coat even more of the tip with solder before the tip has a chance to oxidize.

Smiley

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I use this one, a Hakko, and I really like it. The tips are very good, great temperature control. Hard to beat for $80 IMHO. I think I paid more at Fry's several years ago.
http://www.hmcelectronics.com/cg...

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Hey,

Another tip - a lot of the time people wipe there tip on the sponge then put it back in the holder. What's better for the tip is to coat the tip in solder, then put in back in the holder. Wipe it right before use - the molton solder protects the tip and stops oxide from forming on the surface of the tip or from anything baking onto the tip.

-Colin

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I've owned a Weller WESD51 for 1 1/2 years and have been quite pleased with it:

http://www.hmcelectronics.com/cgi-bin/scripts/product/1980-0436

If you can live without the digital readout, the WES51 is US $31 cheaper.

Don

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ahank wrote:
I use this one, a Hakko, and I really like it. The tips are very good, great temperature control. Hard to beat for $80 IMHO. I think I paid more at Fry's several years ago.
http://www.hmcelectronics.com/cg...

Same here - I've used a large number of other irons - both low and high end wellers mostly, along with a Hakko knock-off and a couple other small brands, and the Hakk0 936 was definitely the best.

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Basically, I was hoping people would list what they use, and if they are happy/unhappy with the unit

Home: ~20 year old WtCPT(?), 50W, with curie tips.
Ork: Weller WES/WESD/WSL2 adjustable temp types. The 80W short-tip ones beat my home iron on heatsinking objects, but for normal SMD/TH work the 20 year old one is just as good.
We've tested Metcal, and I remember them as being 'different', but not bad. And as c_oflynn noted, no temp control (they're curie tipped like the old weller).
We have a 20W 'tiny' weller, and while they do well for 20W it's undersized even for SMT work on pcbs with plane layers.

I hope to get another 10-20 years out of my old WtCPT. I started out with just the soldering iron, not the station which is basically a transformer, and over the years I found a station and other accessories/spares for it.

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I'd put my hand up for the Hakko 936. Whilst I own a Pace, I've used many Hakkos at my various places of work. I'm picky about the tools I use. Definitely not a POS!

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Another vote for Metcal. We have different models, but it seems they all cost around $600 or so for the basic setup. Good flux and tinning the tips is also mandatory for professional results.

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I had puchased a Weller soldering station on ebay for about £55. This worked fine for a month, then stopped working. Unfortunately, Weller had stopped producing the spares for my iron....so that was a waste of money!!

Having learnt my lesson (i.e. don't buy second hand) I bought a brand new Weller soldering station WSP80 with digital temperature readout. I am very, very pleased with it (except for the dent in my wallet).

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Metcal is the best iron you can buy (the MX series version), for all uses - not just smal stuff - swap in a chunky tip and you can be soldering TO220 tabs to screening cans without damage within a few seconds.
Often available reasonably cheap on ebay, as are the tips. Don't let the relatively high price of the tips put you off - the plating lasts almost for ever, and if the heater dies before the plating they will replace them under warranty (not sure if this is still the case but I have had a few replaced over the years)
Apart from the fast heat-up and power delivery, their big advantage for small stuff is the very close handle-to-tip distance, giving very good handling for fine work

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c_oflynn wrote:
Hey,

Another tip - a lot of the time people wipe there tip on the sponge then put it back in the holder. What's better for the tip is to coat the tip in solder, then put in back in the holder. Wipe it right before use - the molton solder protects the tip and stops oxide from forming on the surface of the tip or from anything baking onto the tip.

-Colin

..and use de-ionised water to moisten the sponge.

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Hi

Very curious

Quote:
and use de-ionised water to moisten the sponge

Can you eleborate why this method of using the de-ionised water as compare to water out of the tap.
This is something I had not come across in the field of electronic.

I use the Weller WtCPT all the time.
For surface mount I just wrap tin copper wire around the tip & have a little bit of wire poking out. This get me out of trouble.
For Weller spare parts you can get them from Farnell or RS.
Did use Hakko at one place & like it.

Ken

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You can of course get weller spares from most places. I could not get spares for my original iron as Weller decided not to support my (older) product.

Weller were taken over by another company (I think it might be a German company) and they decided to change design of the (thermo-couple) temperature control system. The new system as WSP80 is much, much better than the old system. I can get spares from most places as the iron is pretty much an industry standard choice. I am very pleased with the new iron, it has precise temperature control, heats in seconds and is very comfortable to use.

Just be careful to ensure the availability of spares, if you buy a second hand soldering station on ebay.

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I ordered the weller WSD81 this morning.

Thanks for all of the quick feedback you freaks! 8)

I have too many hobbies.
s-conductor.com

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I use and love the Metcal soldering station, MX1 series
retails for around $600, but thanks to the dot com bust in 2000-2001 I picked mine up for a lot less :)

-Troy

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decker

JChristoff
Illinois

Last Edited: Fri. Jan 7, 2011 - 04:19 AM
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Hakko and Metcal are great but pricey. I bought an Edsyn 951sx Loner (temperature controlled no readout) new for $79 a few years ago and it has been very good. It will not win any design contests as it looks like a cold war era relic but it does not require the care and feeding of some of the other more delicate soldering irons. I have not had good luck with Weller. All the Weller irons I have bought stopped working after being left on over a long weekend. :)