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Soldering Iron Recommendations


AtariLeaf

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I think poor AtariLeaf is figuring out through annoying trial and error why it's probably worth it to just skip the bullshit, save up another couple weeks or a month, and just buy a good temperature-controlled station and a bottle of liquid flux from Amazon or another reputable online vendor. Getting some piece of crap just because you buy local isn't worth it.

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those things are all about the same, I destroyed one today removing several 40 pin chips out of my atari, tip melted so I cut it down then the rod stuck out too far so I cut it down, finished the job and in the trash it went with another one bought on ebay,

 

they are disposable so dont spend too much

Edited by Osgeld
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I think poor AtariLeaf is figuring out through annoying trial and error why it's probably worth it to just skip the bullshit, save up another couple weeks or a month, and just buy a good temperature-controlled station and a bottle of liquid flux from Amazon or another reputable online vendor. Getting some piece of crap just because you buy local isn't worth it.

 

I think I agree. At least I did successfully solder one switch. That's something I couldn't say yesterday. My problem with buying an expensive unit is my use is limited. I have a couple of things now but after that it will probably sit for extended periods of time. I'm not like many here in this thread or Albert or CPUWiz who solder extensively for the hobby or perhaps professionally. I'm just a once in while solderer which is why I thought I'd be ok with the cheaper ones.

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I think I agree. At least I did successfully solder one switch. That's something I couldn't say yesterday. My problem with buying an expensive unit is my use is limited. I have a couple of things now but after that it will probably sit for extended periods of time. I'm not like many here in this thread or Albert or CPUWiz who solder extensively for the hobby or perhaps professionally. I'm just a once in while solderer which is why I thought I'd be ok with the cheaper ones.

 

Yeah, I totally get that. My view is, I'd rather buy something that will last for 10 or 20 years of occasional use, knowing it's likely to be there for as long as I need it, every time I need it.

 

The real problem with cheap tools, in my opinion, is they can die at any time. Specifically, non-temp controlled irons just keep dissipating heat into the tip whether you're trying to dump that heat into solder or not. So once you plug them in, it takes at least a couple minutes to heat up, then it gets into the good range for working for a little while, and then it gets too hot and risks burning the board - and itself! - up in the process. And if you're not attuned to the signs of imminent overheating you might not realize it until you've ruined a board or destroyed the iron.

 

I have a cheap little Tenma desoldering iron - $15 or so, fixed 30W iron with an integral spring loaded suction pump, and it's got this problem exactly - you plug it in and wait 3 or 4 minutes for it to get to operating temp. Once it starts melting solder and sucking it away easily, you have about 10 minutes to work as it heats up slowly. After that, you can let it rest over the vias for just a couple seconds before you risk damage. And after another couple minutes, you need to unplug it and let it cool down for 5 - 10 minutes. So long as you're mindful of that, you're okay.

 

​Assuming the cheap heating element doesn't just decide to die anyway ... :P

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yea I have a radio shack soldering ion solder sucker, and I hardly use it, by the time it warms up its only a short amount of time before its too hot and lifting pads

 

for many many many years I used a 15/30 watt switchable radio shack iron, my dad gave it to me for my 12th birthday, still have it, but I spent a lot of time, oh its too hot flip it to 15, oh its too cool 30, lol manually pwming it to maintain temp

 

i bought my xytronic and never looked back (though I wont suggest it, cause at its heart its a hakko 937 clone, a very well made one by a actual brand name ... but it doesnt use hakko tips like most of the other generic ones which sucks, but I bought 3 tips and in decade I have had it, I have only replaced the one it came with a few years ago)

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yea its identical to a 50$ china model, we have one in our lab, no one uses it cause in our lab its too low powered, for a couple bucks more

 

https://www.amazon.ca/FX888D-29BY-Digital-Soldering-Station-FX-888D/dp/B00NF2Q8N8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505002323&sr=8-1&keywords=hakko

 

which is what we use most in our electronics lab (outside of a few pace irons) cause they are reasonably priced, parts are dirt cheap, and its 20 watts more powerful (about my only complaint is they dont come pre-calibrated from the factory)

 

with non regulated irons more power means its going to get hotter, and thus too hot much quicker, with temp controlled models more power means you can hit a big heat slug, like a thermal pad or the can of a rf modulator and it will compensate better

Edited by Osgeld
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Even better. Yes I think this is the way to go. Interesting to read that there a lot of fake look-a-likes for some of these irons out there. I'm going to keep the link and save my pennies and get one of these.

 

The more I think of it I agree with Dr. Venkman that the savings from cheap irons is not worth it. It also seems to me that I'll enjoy learning with a quality iron where the cheap ones were just frustrating and made we want to give up. Considering what it costs to have a local game store owner do repairs for me I'm better off learning myself and there's a peace of mind knowing that if some piece of my collection fails down the road that I have the tools to fix them.

 

Thanks everyone. I'll keep you posted about my journey into soldering :)

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I dunno, my xytronic cost 49.99 (us) and is over a decade old and is on par with that weller .... but ya if I had to replace it today, 90$ (us) for a hakko 888 is the way I would go (or take out a loan and get a pace or a jbc, those things cost more than my car is worth lol)

Edited by Osgeld
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Looks like both the amazon and ebay ones are sold by the same company - Electro 5

 

There seems to be a lot of videos about fakes. How do I know if a company like this Electro 5 is selling the genuine article. I see some on Aliexpress for half the price and I'm sure those are cheap knockoffs. Hate to spend all that money and not get the genuine article.

 

EDIT - Checked Hakko's site and Electro 5 is an authorized distributor.

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Looks like both the amazon and ebay ones are sold by the same company - Electro 5

 

There seems to be a lot of videos about fakes. How do I know if a company like this Electro 5 is selling the genuine article. I see some on Aliexpress for half the price and I'm sure those are cheap knockoffs. Hate to spend all that money and not get the genuine article.

 

EDIT - Checked Hakko's site and Electro 5 is an authorized distributor.

 

Yeah, I was about to suggest that - check with Hakko for a list of authorized sellers/distributors. Generally speaking, I've found that when a place affirmatively states they're authorized sellers or distributors, they are. Their prices will all be within a few bucks of one another, maybe varying by whether they toss in some chip cutters or a couple extra tips, etc. The ones who DON'T say that will have more varying prices and be more likely to be rather shady in verifying if their goods are genuine.

 

Anyway, my FX-888D has been fantastic - I've since bought one smaller tip to work on discrete components in tighter spaces (like rows of resistors and tiny caps) and one larger tip for heating up the lugs on RF modulators when I remove them. I'm currently wishing for an extra couple hundred bucks to buy this for chip removal:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Hakko-FR300-05-P-Desoldering-Tool/dp/B00KWM69C4/ref=sr_1_3?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1505060884&sr=1-3&keywords=hakko+desoldering+station

 

(Hakko USA's site show these guys are authorized sellers).

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Do you guys recommend I get a small container of tip tinner? Also how important is liquid flux for soldering and desoldering?

 

Flux isn't particularly necessary for soldering, but for desoldering, the stuff like magic. Solder, especially stuff that's been in place 30 - 40 years, doesn't always melt as easily, or flow as smoothly as you'd like. I used to use gel flux in a felt pen type thing but it was hard to control how much I was using, it wasn't super-precise as to location, and the tip of the pen got chewed up with use too easily. At a friend's suggestion, I bought a small bottle of mgChem brand liquid flux. He uses a fine paint brush but I adapted an idea I saw in some YouTube videos and got a pair of plastic syringe bottles. I use one bottle for flux, the other for isopropyl alcohol. It's fantastic - I can put one or two drops EXACTLY where I need it to desolder IC pins or the legs of components I'm removing, no waste, easy clean up ... and using so little, the bottle of liquid flux I've bought will last a very long time.

 

post-30400-0-32665000-1505089181_thumb.jpg

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Sounds good. I did struggle when practicing on some of those old pc boards and even the xegs console switches gave me some fits. Is tip tinner necessary too? If I'm going to spend big money on that hakko I want to make sure the tips stay pristine. Any other tips (no pun intended) on keeping the tips clean?

 

I haven't bothered with it. I apply fresh solder after each session, run the tip through a bronze sponge, wipe clean with a wet sponge to clean off old solder and flux along with the solder I've just applied, then apply a last coat of clean solder to protect the tip until I use the iron again a few days or weeks later.

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Well I bit the bullet and ordered the FX888D. Should be here in a week or so. If anyone has any tips for keeping this in as pristine condition as possible let me know. What temp is good for working on old atari and similarly aged boards? Should I turn it off if I'm not using it for say 20 minutes or half an hour? I'm thinking the reason I burnt out my cheap $25 Weller iron is that I had it on for a couple of hours without unplugging it

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I left one on in our lab over a 3 day weekend, took some tip tinner to clean it up but otherwise its not even phased

 

it comes with a stand with a sponge and a brass flux wire ball thingie, the combination of those two and keeping crap like plastic and skin off the tip should keep it tip top

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Well I bit the bullet and ordered the FX888D. Should be here in a week or so. If anyone has any tips for keeping this in as pristine condition as possible let me know. What temp is good for working on old atari and similarly aged boards? Should I turn it off if I'm not using it for say 20 minutes or half an hour? I'm thinking the reason I burnt out my cheap $25 Weller iron is that I had it on for a couple of hours without unplugging it

 

I leave mine on for several hours at a stretch without an issue. The tip that came with it is still in great shape after a couple years of regular use. I do have one smaller and one larger tip but they don't get used much at all really. As Osgeld says, the combo of the wet sponge and the brass wire "flux ball" keep tips good and clean. Just remember to coat the tip with a drop or two of fresh clean solder before you turn off the iron (to protect the tip itself from oxidation). Tips should last for years. :)

 

I think you asked about operating temps earlier and it may have gotten lost in the discussion - I have never calibrated mine to verify that the temp settings match the actual temperature of the iron, but I've found that about 785 F (418 C) works best for me with leaded solder on old boards. I know that's hotter than a lot of folks recommend. However, I have found that FOR ME, this high heat, applied to very small places for short times of a couple seconds, works much better than lower temps applied for longer periods. I also work with a pair of cheap ($8 ) head-mounted full view magnifiers. They're a bit weird to get used to but my middle-aged eyes find that I can be a lot more precise - when removing components, I can literally see the bubbles forming in the flux, and the instant the old, oxidized solder glistens silver as it melts.

 

Anyway, just my tuppence. YMMV of course.

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785 is pretty hot, but I have found out of the box unless you measure it against something and change the display offset, 100F difference on a 888 is not that uncommon, we use 680 for lead free, and even on my home station (which I calibrated with a grill thermometer) on a nitoriously fragile 65/130 xe motherboard I was 625 ish

 

shit radio shack perf board no more than 400! lol

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Great advice guys thanks. I'm still trying to track down some liquid flux. I also haven't been too enamored with the solder suckers out there. Again it looks like I may have to spend more than I intended for something decent. I tried one of those blue and silver cheapo ones last weekend and it broke after about a half dozen uses. Couldn't push the plunger down anymore. Took it apart and looked fine, nothing stuck or caught. It did work the couple of times it did work though.

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