Best Solder Iron for beginner

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by electron_prince, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. electron_prince

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 19, 2012
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    Hi,

    i bought a cheap solder iron and it did not last long. Now I am planning to buy an expensive one so that it can last for many years. Which iron you use? While searching on ebay, i found so many different types of solder iron, some with soldering gun, some are "cold heat solder" and many more. They come is different watt rating. I am looking for something that can work for several years, and is there any solder iron where i can control the temperature because i am not very experienced and i am always worried about temperature.
     
  2. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
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    All depends what you expect the tool to do for you. What size wire are you going to be working with most.
    Soldering tools are rated in watts.
    If you will work consistently on electric motor hookup and switches / overloads, you will want something like a Weller gun @ over 300 watts.
    For work on 35mm SLR Film cameras, I used the like of an "Unger Princess" for 32ga wiring.
    You must develop good judgment so far as adequate heat is concerned.
    When your joint is set up to solder, your tool must just melt the solder, and have enough heat left to heat your job so that your dwell time on any given joint is under one second..........Chip work, far less.
     
  3. Dodgydave

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jun 22, 2012
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  4. Dyslexicbloke

    Active Member

    Sep 4, 2010
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    I would go for a higher wattage temperature controlled iron.
    It will not overheat, oxidising solder and damaging small components, but it but will also be be capable of handling larger components and wires.

    I struggled with multiple different sized cheep irons for years, because I did not appreciate just how much easier and better temperature controlled ones were.
     
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  5. KJ6EAD

    Senior Member

    Apr 30, 2011
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  6. BMorse

    Senior Member

    Sep 26, 2009
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    I had recently purchased several of these for the shop and they are really good for the price >> http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/21-10115, Quickly heats to operating temperature and stability is excellent, I personally like the lightweight soldering iron, easy to handle and I use it for long periods of time without too much hand fatigue unlike some of the bulky weller irons that I have used, Temperature readout is right on the money, so I ended up getting one to replace my weller at home :)
     
  7. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
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    In general, the best soldering iron for a beginner is the best one he/she can afford. I sometimes buy cheap tools if I know I won't use them often, but my soldering iron doesn't fall into that category. I bought a Hakko 936 and have never regretted it.
     
  8. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    I bought a $7 RadioShack special--a 15W pencil-type iron--several years ago, and it still works very well. tracecom is absolutely right--the best beginner tool is the one that is most affordable for him/her.

    Usually when soldering irons don't last long, it's because the user doesn't take care of it. The most common problem I've seen is that he/she does not tin the tip each time it's used, and it quickly burns up. Tinning can make the difference between a working iron and a not-working iron. You should ALWAYS tin your tip when you first use it each time, and throughout the use, if it's looking burnt at all, and ALWAYS clean it at the end. They make special sponges for this purpose. I highly recommend getting a soldering iron with a stand that has one of these sponges. Otherwise you're more likely to destroy it without knowing it. I have a feeling that tinning and cleaning is at least part of your problem.

    I also recommend an iron with a replaceable tip. That way if one tip burns up by accident, you can replace it and start anew.

    That's my 2 cents. Good luck--I wish you the best!

    Regards,
    Matt
     
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  9. kubeek

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 20, 2005
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    I found that the brass-turnings type cleaner is much better than the wet sponge, my tips seem to last longer. Also if you have the nasty habit of striping wires using the soldering iron, clean the tip immediately after, and use plenty of flux afterwards and tin it properly, or the plating on the tip will be gone in no time.
     
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  10. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    For that matter, I've even used fine steel wool. I do recommend the brass type though. I tend to prefer that over a wet sponge, as it does not cool down the tip when you clean it. It allows for a much faster turnaround so you can get more work done in less time.

    I would encourage you to NEVER strip wires with soldering irons. It will easily destroy your tip, AND cause harmful fumes. Avoid it whenever possible! :eek::p
     
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  11. sbixby

    Active Member

    May 8, 2010
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    Oh, Jeez.... it never occurred to me I could do that. Now you've exposed me to the endless possibilities of soldering iron abuse!

    What a dastardly deed!

    :D
     
  12. Stuntman

    Active Member

    Mar 28, 2011
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    I will second this recommendation. At the lab I used to work at they had this in the digital display flavor. Worked great.

    I will tell you, however, that I recently purchased one of these:

    http://www.amazon.com/Weller-WES51-Analog-Soldering-Station/dp/B000BRC2XU

    I have one where I work now, and it solders everything from 12ga stranded wire to 0603 SMT devices on a regular basis. One of the best features is it has an Auto-Off feature... which is what pulled me away from Hakko's new 936 replacement.

    Again, the unit from circuit specialists is a good choice too.
     
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  13. electron_prince

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 19, 2012
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  14. mlog

    Member

    Feb 11, 2012
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    I have several soldering irons, a soldering gun, a propane torch, and a small butane powered soldering iron. What I find most useful for indoor work is a modular iron with interchangeable heaters and tips. An example is the Weller SL325,which has a 7400 handle, a 23 Watt (700F) heater, and a PL111 pencil tip. Make sure you get a holder for the iron with a sponge. Using a wet sponge is a good practice. Buy a spare sponge.

    What is just as important as the choice of iron is how you "season" the tip before use and during each use. The first time you use the iron, you should "tin" it with solder. As soon as it is hot enough to melt solder, apply a liberal amount of solder to thoroughly coat the tip. Let it set for a few minutes with this coating of solder. Any part of the tip that doesn't get coated will soon oxidize and will never bond with solder. This is a mistake a lot of people will make.

    When you are heating the iron but not actively soldering, keep plenty of solder on the tip to prevent oxidation. You can wipe off the excess solder with the wet sponge when you are ready to solder again. Also, when you are finished with the job and before you unplug the iron, melt a liberal amount of solder on the tip to protect it during storage from oxidation. When the tip cools, it will protected by a coating of solder. Remember than any part of the tip that isn't coated with solder is prone to oxidation, and oxidation will limit the heat transfer.
     
  15. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
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    Most of the ebay electronic control irons use Hakko size tips and elements, so you should be able to get parts for many years.

    Personally I like a 60W iron, it's exactly the same temperature for small parts (being temp controlled) but is able to move a lot more heat at the times when needed like on large wires or soldering onto ground planes etc.
     
  16. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    My 15W iron works that way for me. It always does whatever I need it to, and there's more than enough heat.
     
  17. mogwopjr

    New Member

    Sep 20, 2012
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    I used Radio Shack irons for years and it did the job just fine. I could manage surface mount jobs and it was o.k. I was used to working with them so I was happy enough.

    Then I picked up a Hakko 939 station on one of the auction sites for $40. It uses a Hakko 907 iron with replaceable tips just like the inexpensive copies from overseas. Most of the parts are interchangable and very easy to get for cheap.

    I use it for almost everything now. Everything from thick transformer leads down to SMD work is a breeze.

    I have to echo some previous comments.
    Keep the tip tinned.
    Get a good brass tip cleaner.
    Don't use it as a plastic fusor (I have a seperate 15W iron for that)
    Let the iron cool with a good glob of solder on the tip and it'll last for a long time no matter what iron you choose.
     
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  18. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
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    I'm surprised you have never found it to be underpowered! Even with the 60W iron sometimes working with copper ground planes it takes a few seconds for a large joint to flow, to me getting it to flow in 2 seconds is much better work than being forced to wait 4 or 6 seconds. It's more of an issue on power PCBs with 2oz copper, especially if connecting a large wire etc.

    Personally I'd prefer 1000W iron with a temperature control, then it would flow in 0.3 seconds. ;)
     
  19. DerStrom8

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    If the tip is clean and well-tinned, and the iron has had a chance to heat up completely, the solder flows almost instantly. Usually less than a second. However, these joints generally aren't that large, so I guess that could make a difference.
     
  20. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
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    At home I use a Weller WTCPT station.
    At work I have two WTCPT stations on the same workbench, one with a PTA7 (.062") tip and the second with a PTS7 (.015") tip. The second iron comes in handy when I need to unsolder SMD resistors and capacitors. I always have spare tips handy as well as PTA8 tips for higher temperatures when needed.
     
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