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Soldering Iron


toddtmw
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I'm looking to add a soldering iron to my christmas list.

 

Looking for recommendations. The one I have seems to have a tip that is too big and the dial doesn't list temperatures on it.

 

I'm not sure if my problems soldering are because of a lack of skill or a lack of quality instruments (I know, a poor musician blames his instruments, but I would argue a poor musician can do better with a good instrument than a poor one. :) )

 

Anyway, what are some of the "best" solderers on this board using?

 

Thanks!

 

-Todd

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I would highly recommend the Weller WESD51, which has been my main workhorse for nearly two years now. It includes a temperature indicator, and the conical tip that comes with it is durable—I'm still using the original, in fact—and is a good size and shape for general small electronics work.

 

If you need a good desoldering tool, you should consider the Hakko FR-300. I used to do most of my desoldering with copper braid and those little rubber Radio Shack bulbs, but getting the FR-300 has changed my life (no exaggeration).

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I got the Hakko Fx-888d. Found it new under $100. It's very nice but didn't have much success with motherboards with large ground plains like new motherboards have but the guy who was able to solder my motherboard had a very expensive station and even he had issues. My only complaint but might just be too much for most stations.

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I got the Hakko Fx-888d. Found it new under $100. It's very nice but didn't have much success with motherboards with large ground plains like new motherboards have but the guy who was able to solder my motherboard had a very expensive station and even he had issues. My only complaint but might just be too much for most stations.

 

Get a larger tip if you need help soldering larger things with more thermal mass.

 

That said, I've had a Hakko FX-888D for several years and it's the bee's knees for working on old Atari stuff. I've used mine for everything from installing Ultimate 1MB boards to removing RF modulators to removing and replacing sockets ... Works a treat. Next up will be assembling my 1088XEL kit in a few weeks.

 

Easily the best $100 I've spent on a hobby tool, ever.

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I have two soldering irons. The main one is an old (at least 15 years) XTronics with a analogue meter in the front to show the

temp and the other is a digital iron from Marlin P. Jones that I use for SMT components. It has a tweezer type iron that you can

order separately that works really good with SMT components. Ever since I left Compaq I've wanted a desoldering station, but

I'm too cheap to buy myself one, so I've been using solder braid and lots of liquid flux for many years. I just found out yesterday

that my wife is getting me a ZD-915 desoldering station for Christmas. When I first looked on ebay I saw one from China for

$1100 dollars (almost had a heart attack!). Since then I have found that you can get then for about $110 dollars. There is a

video on You Tube of the desoldering station being tested. Seems to work fine. Since I won't be using so much flux anymore

I'll be saving on alcohol too!

Whatever type you get make sure that you can change out the tips (for finer or heavier work). And for the love of God don't

press down hard when you use the iron. It's the fastest way to damage a circuit board other than flinging the circuit board across

the room in disgust!

 

DavidMil

Edited by DavidMil
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Great topic. I've been soldering and de-soldering frequently for about 20 years, took actual soldering classes back in 2001 while going to school for electronics. But in all that time I have been getting buy with $20 soldering and de-soldering tools from Radio Shack, and have gone through dozens and dozens of tips on both in that time.

 

Just yesterday I was de-soldering a socket on a 1200XL and wore out another tip. and it took me hours going over it again and again due to the bad tip. But instead of just ordering new tips, because of this thread, I think it's time for me to move up to real quality tools. Thanks for the suggestions guys!

 

Like was said, a bad musician blames the instrument, in my world the saying was a bad artist blames the brush. While this is true for those looking for an excuse besides themselves, I am a good artist, and last Christmas I received a bunch of new supplies and tools for that, and the better tools make me a better artist. I'm a good technician too, with my electronics tools, but it's time for me to get better tools and become even better...with a lot less headaches for de-soldering projects.

 

By the way, even with my current bad tools, I did finally replace that bad ram socket and after a LOT of pain-staking work, that 1200XL is up and running again. I'm about to finish my PBI mod, but I will be waiting for my new tools to arrive before doing that. Off to find and order my new tools!

Edited by Gunstar
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It's much like playing the guitar. Pointless buying a $2,000 instrument before you know whether you have any talent, but on the other hand a good player won't get far with a $50 guitar. That said, it's possible to get lucky with cheap kit from the Far-East. At the beginning of the year, wishing to move up from one of those awful plug-straight-into-the-wall 25W irons, I purchased a Kaleep 8586 2-in-1 soldering iron and hot air station from a dealer in Germany. Expectations were very low and the device was intended as a temporary solution until I could afford discreet hot air and soldering equipment. Aside from the fact the element died in the original iron a few weeks after purchase (the replacement, which is essentially the same Hakko FX888D part, cost only a few pounds), the station has been reliable and performance is impressive. All work shown in the live YouTube streams has been completed with this kit and I feel no need to replace it until it dies. With a larger tip, the iron makes easy work of RF modulator removal and the like, and the hot air gun can safely remove a 16-pin thru-hole DRAM safely in a minute or so. It's worth bearing in mind that the iron, as already mentioned, is almost identical to that of a Hakko FX-888D, so whether it's worth me paying £100 or more for the same iron powered by a Hakko base station is moot. This is why I recommended the FX-951, since the heating element is in the tip and the iron is therefore able to deliver constant temperatures even when soldering parts with high thermal mass. But it costs, and the user interface is arcane (rather like that of an alarm clock).

 

For Atari work, doubtless the FX-888D is quite adequate, and although it's at the budget end of the scale, at least you don't risk buying a Kaleep which is dead out of the box. :)

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I wonder where all those Hakko's came from the last years. I had never heard about them until a year or 2 ago. Probably a regional thing.

 

I grew up with that Weller was "the" standard soldering station, just like Fluke was "the" standard multi-meter.

 

And I own and use a very simple magna-stat Weller station now. It was give to me by a friend around the time my Atari 600XL was new, and it was already an old station then. But it simply keeps working fine. I actually recently got a new tip for it (used the one in it until now) and also a converter that allowed me to use a bit more modern tips like a gullwing-tip for SMD purposes.

 

I had another (Ersa) station "in between". It was temperature controlled and was OK, but I hated the cable on the iron because it wasn't the "floppy" silicon type cable like the good old Weller has. Oh, and it broke down when it was about 3 years old and I switched back to the Weller and never felt the urge to fix the Ersa.

 

However.....if I would live in the US, I would DEFINITELY get me one of those used Metcal's. They use a very different principal to heat up the tip and I've read only good things about it. But they are rare in Europe.

 

I think you'd be better of with buying something like a Weller or other pro-brand used station than a cheap Chinese one. It's not that I dislike Chinese stuff, I actually love the very cheap hot-air station that I bought recently through Aliexpress, it works great, but good quality tips from known brands are going to be the difference between good and fun soldering and poor and irritated soldering....

Edited by Level42
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Another possibly O/T tip: consider "Quick" hot air stations. These are keenly priced and found to be the equal performance-wise of more expensive Hakko, Weller and JBC tools.

 

Note: regarding iron tips. Hakko FX888D tips all fit the Kaleep stations, if one is so inclined.

Edited by flashjazzcat
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I wonder where all those Hakko's came from the last years. I had never heard about them until a year or 2 ago. Probably a regional thing.

 

they have been around since the 50's, maybe the 90's they got real popular when weller decided all their stuff should be 10x the price ...without adding anything

 

However.....if I would live in the US, I would DEFINITELY get me one of those used Metcal's. They use a very different principal to heat up the tip and I've read only good things about it. But they are rare in Europe.

 

 

I mean they do the job, I have used several, but I am not exactly sure where their god like status comes from, I actually find them a bit annoying, bulky and not all that special ... other than being able to dump a shit ton of power when its needed. That you can do with many other brands, and a current fad is to take a JBC iron, which is very good and home brew a power supply for it, making a 800$ iron for like 80

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Great topic. I've been soldering and de-soldering frequently for about 20 years, took actual soldering classes back in 2001 while going to school for electronics. But in all that time I have been getting buy with $20 soldering and de-soldering tools from Radio Shack, and have gone through dozens and dozens of tips on both in that time.

 

Just yesterday I was de-soldering a socket on a 1200XL and wore out another tip. and it took me hours going over it again and again due to the bad tip. But instead of just ordering new tips, because of this thread, I think it's time for me to move up to real quality tools. Thanks for the suggestions guys!

 

Like was said, a bad musician blames the instrument, in my world the saying was a bad artist blames the brush. While this is true for those looking for an excuse besides themselves, I am a good artist, and last Christmas I received a bunch of new supplies and tools for that, and the better tools make me a better artist. I'm a good technician too, with my electronics tools, but it's time for me to get better tools and become even better...with a lot less headaches for de-soldering projects.

 

By the way, even with my current bad tools, I did finally replace that bad ram socket and after a LOT of pain-staking work, that 1200XL is up and running again. I'm about to finish my PBI mod, but I will be waiting for my new tools to arrive before doing that. Off to find and order my new tools!

I've been in the same train with Walmart quality iron. But last week I got an Weller wlc100 and it was a huge improvement. Even though it is a entry level soldering station.
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The first time I tried soldering many years ago, I damaged things a lot in an astonishingly short amount of time. Really itching to to some upgrades/mods, I figured time to try again. Bought a el'cheapo Ace Hardware iron and mechanical pump (less than 15 for the both) and practice on an old board for an hour or so.

 

Then proceeded to do install a UAV into a 130XE and remove its RF box.

 

My work looks a little rough (being generous :-) ), but I didn't fry anything. I certainly don't have the money ATM for a Hakko set, but would love to see if my "work" can look a little better with a step up in tool quality.

 

I'll watch this thread with great interest for recommendations that are on the cheaper side, possibly including additional tools, like the whole kits (not just an iron).

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A lot of the Chinese clones are copies of the hakko 936, and my only thing with those is make sure it works with hakko tips and other parts like heaters and whatnot, cause you may not know if that company is going to be around but you know you can get hakko or compatible / clone parts all day long

 

and for 30-50 bucks they are actually pretty good for even heavy hobby use

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Best quality Chinese Hakko clones I've found are the Aoyue ones:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Aoyue-AO936-AOYUE-Soldering-Station/dp/B000VINMRO

https://www.sra-solder.com/aoyue-digital-soldering-station-937

 

I have an Aoyue (no idea how to pronounce it - oi-yoo-ee?) rework station that works really well.

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Best quality Chinese Hakko clones I've found are the Aoyue ones:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Aoyue-AO936-AOYUE-Soldering-Station/dp/B000VINMRO

https://www.sra-solder.com/aoyue-digital-soldering-station-937

 

I have an Aoyue (no idea how to pronounce it - oi-yoo-ee?) rework station that works really well.

 

I have used a few of theirs and they seem perfectly fine the 937 model seems closer to the original hakko (45 watts vs 35 of the Aoyue 936, also I think the A 936 uses a 120 volt heater vs the 24 of the hakko and the 937, which shouldnt be a big deal unless you like to melt though the cable or the heater core breaks loose and hits the grounded case, then you might get a good pop bang shit!)

 

TBH I use a Chinese 45 watt 120 volt heater core iron now at home, a xytronic, and its been super ... though it does not use hakko compatible parts so buying a new tip from jameco is a pain in the ass with their minimum order, but on the other hand, I have had it since 2009 maybe 10 and I am only on my second tip with 2 in the parts bin ... it was 50 bucks new then and its still every bit as good as the hakko's and pace's we have at work, though hitting a big heat slug those JBC stations we got last year are quite tasty, until you see the price

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Whatever you do, DO NOT just buy a free-standing iron. Soldering stations cost more, but you need the temperature control... Iron too hot = rosin burns away and your solder no longer flows (it starts to rapidly oxidize) (which is why in the days before soldering stations, we would keep a damp sponge nearby, but that's not exact, at all.)

 

-Thom

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