Soldering iron recommendations?

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shamann
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Soldering iron recommendations?

Post by shamann » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:24 pm

The soldering iron I have now is this cheap thing I picked up at Active Surplus here in Toronto. I kind of hate it, seems there's only a few efficiently hot spots on the tip, the iron can be replaced but the enclosure is a bit wobbly at all times, etc.

So, can anyone recommend a decent soldering iron for budget DIY projects? I don't need anything fancy, just reliable, but know zero about soldering irons to make an informed choice.
Last edited by shamann on Sun May 10, 2009 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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cebec
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Post by cebec » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:29 pm

i know just a slight bit more than zero about irons but i'm guessing you could do a lot worse than the Weller WTCP series. They have analog and digitally controlled models. Weller's been around for ages.

http://www.all-spec.com/1/viewitem/WES5 ... 3path=vend

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Post by Kwote » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:46 pm

Weller WTCPT! all you need. seems this question pops up a lot. but yeah relatively affordable and strong as an ox. whatever that means.

i got one. practically every diy synth head has one. there's a reason.

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Post by whomper » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:53 pm

Mine is the HAKKO 936, which I picked up second hand.

Works great, is stable and produces clean and clear soldering joints.

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Post by shamann » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:58 pm

Kwote wrote:eems this question pops up a lot
Here? I searched but found nowt. Any old threads you remember offhand? I avoided googling the question since I figured it would bring up a lot of useless hits, being an obvious and open-ended query.

Thanks for the recommendations so far.

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Kwote
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Post by Kwote » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:34 pm

yeah. atleast a few offhand. not necessarily dedicated threads to it but within others.

anyways, i'm thinking we should just have a sticky with a basic outline of tools, Weller included. i'll let Muff make the call though.
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Post by sgnhh » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:35 pm

Here's what I use and I think it's great:

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Post by Kwote » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:37 pm

sgnhh wrote:Here's what I use and I think it's great:
wow that's cheap. glad it's workin out for you.
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Post by johnnymad » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:38 pm

sgnhh wrote:Here's what I use and I think it's great:
that's what i have. no complaints here.

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Post by wetterberg » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:39 pm

I believe mine is a Weller too, but it plugs directly into the socket, with a separate stand. I love it. Definitely go for a brand name, sort of not a "disposable" cheapie.

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Post by Kwote » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:46 pm

fuck it. i'm just gonna sticky this thread. that should be enough. :)
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Post by Kent » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:48 pm

Weller & Hakko are the only real answers. You'll need temperature control. All other add-ons are strictly 'bonus points'.

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Post by johnnymad » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:49 pm

do it. it's important for people just starting out in diy to have good quality tools. when i first starting circuit bending/building cmos synths, i had a crappy radio shack iron that fried more things than it finished.

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Post by wetterberg » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:55 pm

Kent wrote: You'll need temperature control.
yes and no, if you ask me - there are many many many MANY projects that don't need temp control. As long as it's an overall good iron then the heat should transfer nicely to the components, and noone will get hurt :)

caveat here though is that I have only done the most basic of SMD work - for soldering directly onto smd IC packages you definitely want to watch your temperature a lot AND have the sharpest tip in the universe. But that's not for starting out anyway.

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Post by shamann » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:18 pm

johnnymad wrote:do it. it's important for people just starting out in diy to have good quality tools. when i first starting circuit bending/building cmos synths, i had a crappy radio shack iron that fried more things than it finished.
I haven't fried anything yet, but I'd guess mine isn't much better than the one you got at Radioshack. Torture to get good results with it.

I have to see if I can find any local dealers for Weller or Hakko.

What's the deal with the sponge?

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Post by Kwote » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:05 pm

during soldering there will be times where the solder builds up on your iron. the sponge is good for wiping it off, keeping your iron tip clean. eases the build process.

you gotta make sure the sponge stays damp though so you don't burn it.
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Post by consumed » Fri Aug 15, 2008 5:43 pm

the weller WTCPT is what i use. its an excellent iron.
temperature control is determined by the tip you use in the iron.
the WTCPT uses magnetism to regulate the temperature (dont ask me how).

some form of temp control is important if you'll be working with leaded and ROHS solder.
leaded solder (no clean, organic) should be used with a 700F tip.
ROHS solder has a higher melting point and needs an 800F tip.

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Post by neandrewthal » Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:45 am

Just got my WTCPT from Digikey and I'm loving it. No more bulbous joints and out of control solder blobs. Just pure sex :sb:
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Post by Kwote » Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:58 am

neandrewthal wrote:Just got my WTCPT from Digikey and I'm loving it. No more bulbous joints and out of control solder blobs. Just pure sex :sb:
cool shit. i had a feelin digikey would come through. glad that panned out for you.
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Post by flts » Sat Aug 16, 2008 6:54 am

When I was starting out like two or three years ago, my ex workmate wholeheartedly recommended me to get a Weller. Back then she was putting together some construction kits, and basically soldering all the cables and talkback mics in their studio. She said that she'd had a moment of revelation after getting a Weller (probably one of the WTCP series) as a present from her husband to replace some cheapo iron.

Well, I didn't get one, since I got a Biltema (kind of IKEA for tools and car stuff) temp controlled soldering station for free as a present. It's some kind of rebranded product I've seen at about ten different places online, you can probably get the exact same unit from some US electronic shops too with another name. I don't really regret it since I didn't pay for it, and it has served me well, but the temp stability and durability isn't all that.

The only thing that irks me is that it doesn't work so well that I could praise it and be really happy with it, but it still does its job with only small occasional fuckups and problems so I really can't justify myself getting a Weller :bang:

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Post by Cybananna » Sat Aug 16, 2008 10:58 am

Kwote wrote:Weller WTCPT!
I second this!. I hated DIY and soldering until I took Kwote's advice and got one. they are well worth the price. :hail:

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Post by shamann » Sat Aug 16, 2008 11:24 am

Well, I certainly don't need much more convincing. I can sympathize perfectly with the the hating DIY thing for technical tedium.

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Post by Kwote » Sat Aug 16, 2008 3:46 pm

just glad i could sticky this thread for everyone and again really appreciate the guidance i got from Consumed and Plord.
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Post by BugBrand » Sun Aug 17, 2008 3:15 pm

Hehe, I'm in the middle of doing some DIY documentation for kits including an intro to soldering. For all the workshops I teach (granted, not that many) I use very cheap irons off ebay and, somewhat surprisingly, they work out fine.

I'd say the most important thing is keeping the tip clean!
Really, I can't stress that enough.
(damp sponge or those things that look like gold scouring pads)

My technique:
- clean tip when you pick up the iron
- melt a little solder on the tip (tin the tip)
- (repeat those steps if necessary - if the tip is still gunky)
- solder
- maybe clean the tip every few connections (depends on the work)
- when done with that bit of soldering, clean the iron again, then re-tin the tip and then put it back in the holder (ie don't leave the iron without any melted solder on the tip or the tip will oxidize)
- and another important thing - - turn it off if you're not soldering for a while! (or turn down the temp if you've got a controlled iron).

Following such steps I'd be just about happy to use a shitty iron for a day of work!

Anyways, I'll shout some details of my guide once I get things finalized. Anyone care to comment on what I've said?!

PS -- KEEP IT CLEAN!!! Hehe..

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Post by Cybananna » Sun Aug 17, 2008 7:16 pm

yea, proper care while soldering seems to be critical. The above is just about exactly what I do and have had very good results. Once I used some not so clean water wet the sponge with horrible results.

I'm addicted to Blacet kits now and am preparing to do some CGS PCB's :party:

I just revived an Ensoniq ESQ-1 that I had accidently killed a few years ago with my old crappy soldering iron. I had burnt some traces while trying to re-cap the PSU (probably was as much poor technique as much as poor equipment). I rebuilt it again a few days ago using good equipment and techniques and it works fine now!!

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