Soldering Iron Buying Advice for a Novice

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by TheLaw, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    Hello,

    I have a el cheapo RadioShack iron that I think cost me about $10. It's good for doing some plumbing work and such but when it comes to electronics, it's atrocious.

    So, I've decided to get a new iron. I have around a $50 budget. I have two in mind but I am not sure what features would be most helpful etc.


    The two are:

    Weller WP25 Soldering Iron

    &

    Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

    One is temperature controlled while the other isn't. One has wattage adjustment and the other does not. One comes with a stand, the other does not.

    Any advice?

    Thanks.
     
  2. sceadwian

    New Member

    Jun 1, 2009
    499
    37
    You can't have a temperature control without a wattage control... That's how it adjusts the temperature. Temperature control is a HUGE benefit for tip life and overall soldering repeatability.
     
  3. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    Okay but on the WP25, how does temperature control work? I don't see any switches or knobs for adjustment...
     
  4. retched

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 5, 2009
    5,201
    312
    It is temperature controlled.. To one temperature.

    It is not variable temperature.

    It heats to a point, then cuts off, drops a few degrees then heats back to the set point and continues the cycle.

    It does this with a built in thermistor.
     
  5. Jaguarjoe

    Active Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    770
    90
    Its obvious the Cooper hand tools catalog lies.

    These look like rebadged Ungar irons. For my money, I'd go with a temperature controlled Ungar iron.
     
  6. maxpower097

    Well-Known Member

    Feb 20, 2009
    795
    388
    Hakko 936 is a standard good soldering iron. You can find them in that price range too but be careful there's a lot of clones out there.
     
  7. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    I'm feeling the WLC100 as of now because it uses the ST tips which are pretty good as far as I am concerned. The main reason is that it has some sort of adjustable wattage control and a stand which I don't have...

    Any reasons not to go with it? Why go with the Ungar unit instead?
     
  8. Jaguarjoe

    Active Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    770
    90
    I've had 45 years of success with Ungar products. I'd probably have my first Ungar iron today if it didn't get ripped off.
     
  9. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    So is Ungar technically Weller/Cooper?
     
  10. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    2,358
    201
    I've got two of the WLC100 stations I've used for around 17 years each and in all that time I've only had to replace one tip due to a co-worker at a previous location severely mechanically abusing it.

    I think they're a great iron for the money and I do use the temp control depending on what I'm soldering. It normally sits around 3-1/2 but if I've got thick or somewhat delicate stuff to deal with I'll turn it up or down beforehand.
     
  11. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    Wow so they are a bit old? Oldie but a goodie! Thanks.
     
  12. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
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    I guess there was little room for improvement and there's a variety of tips avalable. I've used a lot of different irons in my life but with the exception of dealing with tiny pitch surface mount stuff I've never seen any reason to replace these old WLC100s.

    In other words I don't think you'll go wrong buying one of these. If you turn it all the way up it almost goes into an overkill mode but I've found that handy when having to deal with large metal shields.
     
  13. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    Thanks. It's not terribly pricey, so I guess I'll be going for one of those.

    By the way, speaking of solder. What has anyone found to be the best solder diameter for general electronics work? Like protoboards and circuit boards. Is 0.031 too small. Is 0.050 too big?

    Thanks alot.
     
  14. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    2,358
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    .031 is perfect for most anything, it's actually a bit bigger than it sounds.
     
  15. TheLaw

    Thread Starter Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    228
    2
    Okay thanks!
     
  16. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
    5,939
    1,222
    Not to be picky The WTCPx models use a magnet and a bit of iron which has its Curie point at the set temp. When the Curie temp is exceeded the magnet is no longer attracted to the alloy piece and the magnet is pulled back by a spring. This motion opens a mechanical switch. These irons will only regulate at the temp labeled on the back of the tip. If listen with care you can hear the sound of the magnet moving back and forth.
     
  17. marshallf3

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 26, 2010
    2,358
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    Those might be good in a production environment where you've got people that might tend to tinker with the heat setting, personally I like having my own control over matters. Although my official title was "final test engineer" at a place I worked at decades ago I served more as the interface between a production team of around 75 people in different areas and the actual engineering department. As problems would arise it was my job to try and figure out a solution, document it then get it incorporated into the engineering documentation. While most of the components on our PCB assemblies were wave soldered this was back in the days a lot of things weren't sealed for washing thus there was a fair amount of hand soldering involved before the boards could go to the testing techs. I had the same problem with some people turning their irons up too high, mainly because they weren't the best at soldering. We eventually had to change irons over to ones that were preset temp models.

    Absolutely amazing some of the things I'd run into like one time when we ran out of 6-32 x 1/2" screws but had boatloads of 5/8" ones. Totally non-critical application of mounting a transformer to a chassis box and I ordered an "on the fly" change to the mech assembly team. Their team leader had an absolute fit about it; she wouldn't do it until I had stepped all the paerwork through engineering and had them issue updated documentation listing it as an approved alternate part. It didn't take too many incidents like this until the engineers got tired of having to drop what they were working on to please this one girl and finaly issued a memo that if I instituted a change they were to just do it and the paperwork would catch up in time.

    I later worked as an actual design engineer for them solving problems at an earlier level but that's another long story.
     
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