I want to upgrade my soldering station, give me hand?

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
508
Hi, I've been using this soldering station for 5 years and it's been my first decent soldering station I've ever had. I am really happy with it but after a few years, a lot of practice and repairs and use, I've developed some taste and noticed a few flaws or things I'd like to improve.

1646949825787.png

It has these specs:
- 58W power
- Temperature knob from 150ºC to 450ºC
- ON/OFF switch

I really like that it is a "powerful" 58W station, that can go from 150ºC up to 450ºC, but I've noticed that most of today's soldering irons are rated 60W or even more, so no problem here. I like also the ON/OFF switch and I normally use between 250-350ºC, or that's the range the knob marks, who knows what the reality really is.

Now the important stuff, things I don't like or hate, that I would like the new soldering iron/station not to have:
1. The cable is quite sturdy and thick, not flexible, and it's not that comfortable to use, specially when I have to put the iron in angle as not always everything is spacious and clean. Also, the cable is plastic, that I have accidentally touched over the years with the iron and it has some heavy marks or melted plastic. The cable should have a coating (heat resistant cloth?) that resists heat, ideally.
2. The tips are not standard and I really hate that, indeed it is the main reason I'm upgrading it. So it must be compatible with aftermarket tips
3. The mechanism to hold the tip is not very well made, as you slide the tip in and then screw a piece to hold it. When the soldering iron heats up or cools down, the screw "gets slightly loose" and the tip rattles a bit, really hate that.
4. The station is quite "big", I mean, it occupies a lot of space with the cable and stuff considering its small size. I don't like object that you can't save in a nice rectangular shape (reason why I bought a DMM case so it does not have cables hanging and flying around)

So the new one should have a flexible not too thick cable, have a knob or something to vary its temperature from a wide range (if it displays the temp digitally it would be so cool), be compatible with standard soldering tips so I can buy a bunch of different shapes and can select quality ones, and of course the mechanism that holds the tip should be well designed so the tip does not rattle. Ideally a separate structure for the holder, that way it's easier to clean the sponge.

About the price, I don't know, I'd really like to buy from a known electronic brand, but $120 for example would be too much, I was thinking about $50 or so, may be a little higher if it's worth it.

May be something like this, and I have heard about Hakko, but that's $100, a bit higher than expected:
1646952025185.png
Actually I don't really like that button layout, a knob looks way faster and comfy.
 
Last edited:

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,857
That Hakko station is a workhorse. I have one and it's excellent. But the heater technology is old. Integral heater tips heat much faster and are far more efficient. My Hakko FX-951 uses them and its brilliant.

How often do you adjust the temperature, and why? I rarely do and then only if I am switching solder alloys.
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
508
I was gonna say I wanted an efficient device, but I assumed the efficiency of these solders are pretty much the same. So you are telling me it's not?

The temp knob is always at 320-350°C range, but I'm not sure how precise is that, it's just a sticker. I put it a bit higher when I'm desoldering something. I really don't care that much about the number but simply start using it and when I feel or see it's a bit low or high I change the know a bit. From experience that range in the sticker is the best to work fast.

I might buy Hakko, I like to support and spend my money in companies that care about things nicely done.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,857
I was gonna say I wanted an efficient device, but I assumed the efficiency of these solders are pretty much the same. So you are telling me it's not?

The temp knob is always at 320-350°C range, but I'm not sure how precise is that, it's just a sticker. I put it a bit higher when I'm desoldering something. I really don't care that much about the number but simply start using it and when I feel or see it's a bit low or high I change the know a bit. From experience that range in the sticker is the best to work fast.

I might buy Hakko, I like to support and spend my money in companies that care about things nicely done.
You will find that soldering equipment is a very controversial subject. Many people have their favorite. Some insist that JBC or Pace are best, others say the simple iron they bought 25 years ago is more than enough. I used Hakko stations when I was working at the university and liked them, so I stuck with them, but I am sure I would appreciate the qualities of a Pace or JBC station as well.

The real difference in the new irons is the integral heater, and it really does make a difference. A good integral heater iron doesn't need to be turned up, it just keeps the tip at the right temperature for the alloy, even for desoldering. WIth my Hakko FX-951, I can swap out tips hot (they provide a silicone pad to grip the unit and switch to a higher thermal mass tip if I really need to get an area hot, but I never touch the temperature unless the alloy calls for it.

Since I am almost always using 63/37 I almost never do change. When reworking ROHS boards, I just add a little 63/37 to drop the melting temperature.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
4,492
I bought one of these a few years ago and have been pleased with it. Mine did not have the "helping hands" (removeable) or the solder mat (junk). What I like about it is fast heat up (75W), PID heat control, easily changed tips, sleep after 10 minutes of inactivity, and a holder for brass sponge (I never use the wet sponge). The spool holder can be screwed to the side, but I keep mine loose on my left side with solder station on right (I'm right-handed). The price is right! Whoever thought that adding helping hands to it is an idiot! Who wants to solder on top of their station?!?! Probably available elsewhere cheaper...
1646957504977.png
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
508
You will find that soldering equipment is a very controversial subject. Many people have their favorite. Some insist that JBC or Pace are best, others say the simple iron they bought 25 years ago is more than enough. I used Hakko stations when I was working at the university and liked them, so I stuck with them, but I am sure I would appreciate the qualities of a Pace or JBC station as well.

The real difference in the new irons is the integral heater, and it really does make a difference. A good integral heater iron doesn't need to be turned up, it just keeps the tip at the right temperature for the alloy, even for desoldering. WIth my Hakko FX-951, I can swap out tips hot (they provide a silicone pad to grip the unit and switch to a higher thermal mass tip if I really need to get an area hot, but I never touch the temperature unless the alloy calls for it.

Since I am almost always using 63/37 I almost never do change. When reworking ROHS boards, I just add a little 63/37 to drop the melting temperature.
Jesus sweet lord!
I just saw a video about a JBC soldering station. What a beast!
Never heard of that brand neither those $500 prices. Amazing.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
15,462
I really like that it is a "powerful" 58W station, that can go from 150ºC up to 450ºC, but I've noticed that most of today's soldering irons are rated 60W or even more, so no problem here. I like also the ON/OFF switch and I normally use between 250-350ºC, or that's the range the knob marks, who knows what the reality really is.
I have a 48W Weller W-TCP from the 70's that can have tip temperatures of 600-800F. What's more important is the thermal mass of the tip.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
4,492
I use a fine chisel point for most work or a fine tip for delicate work. But when it comes to desoldering, the biggest, chunkiest, and heaviest tip that I have does its duty or my solder vacuum station if there is a lot to do. Haven't ever turned mine up to max so I don't know what it is. Mine also switches from °F to °C to make everyone happy. I do like the PID feature and having the ability to control the temp instead of ON/OFF. You don't need 75W to solder but it sure makes it get up to temp fast!
 
Last edited:

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,857
These are the four tips I regularly use. The largest is 5mm and the smallest 1mm. The three larger ones are all screwdriver tip, the smallest is a truncated cone. The largest has a lot of thermal mass and works very well for desoldering or soldering on Al PCBs or floods. The smallest is great under the microscope for SMD leads. These can be hot swapped (literally) in the FM-2027 hand piece on FX-951 station. That plug in, no screw collar to mess with.

tempImageQ2Edpb.gif
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
508
I thought I could buy a Hakko but I've just noticed yours is over $200, and the FX-888D is about $110. Still to expensive for my needs. I use these a lot for repairing a lot of stuff, but as I said I was thinking about the $50 price. How does the Hakko mechanism to hold the tip work? What kind of mechanism you recommend for holding the tips? (I hope we should avoid any kind threaded or screwed thing because the heat messes all the tightness)

About the tips, your smallest 1mm tip would still be way too big for the recent work I did repairing an in-ear headphone PCB. The whole component (resistor or cap, I still don't know) was less than 1mm in size, and the surrounding components were at 1mm distance, so the tip should be about 0.5mm in surface to do it correctly. I managed to do it with my 1mm conical tip, but I was touching other components and melting some leg solder (with a little flux managed to melt it but not disturb or mix it with other legs/spots).

Also, there must be a nice offer of after-market tips so I can replace them when I need. There are a lot of offer but I can't tell if the tips are standard or not:
1647004473347.png1647004492089.png1647004610436.png1647004761314.png1647004798481.png1647004865351.png1647005195374.png1647005251681.png
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
4,492
Buy quality tips! I bought some cheap fine point ones from Amazon, and they burned up, oxidized at soldering temperature. At least since it was Amazon, I was refunded for them. All of those shown are the tip type that I use. I have no problems with the barrel nut loosening. Functionally I like the 1st one shown. I don't want a combo unit since it takes up a lot of bench space. If I need a hot air gun, I use one and when I need to solder then I pull the iron out. Same with my solder vacuum rig.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,857
This one is $100 but it uses the Hakko T12 integral heater tips and has the hanpiece without the collar. It has full temperature control as well. It has an excellent reputation. My son owns one and is very happy with it. You'd need a stand, but you can get a nice one, Hakko style, pretty cheap.
 

Ya’akov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
6,857
This one is a copy of the KSGER above. It's quite a bit cheaper but I really don't know about the build quality. It has only one tip with it, but oyu can buy a set of 4 tips for about 17 bucks.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
27,695
Having two soldering irons is very useful in PCB rework or salvaging parts. They come in handy when removing SMD components. They also can be useful for heating solder joints from both sides of a multi-layer PCB.

My soldering stations are Weller WTCPT.
1647011464774.png

Temperature control is in the removable tip itself. My only reasons for changing the tip is to switch from 700°F to 800°F when using lead-free solder and when working with very fine pitch SMD components.

With multiple soldering stations I do not have to change tips as often.

The only additional feature I would ask for in a soldering station is adjustable temperature control with digital readout. This of course eliminates the problem of switching tips when using different solder formulations.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
15,462
Still to expensive for my needs. I use these a lot for repairing a lot of stuff, but as I said I was thinking about the $50 price.
All but 4 of my soldering irons were purchased used on eBay. The last two Weller TCP type (tip controls temperature) cost $30-$40. Just the heater sells for $20-25.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
7,199
OK, lots of input. You don't need more. Here's what I want to say about temperature control: A good solder technician should be able to use an iron that is set high enough or higher to do the job. Dwell time and thermal mass are the critical points of soldering. Tinning the iron before making the joint results in better and faster thermal transfer. IF you have too much mass (large tip or large blob of solder) then you risk thermal shock to the board. The RIGHT way to make a solder joint is to bring a tinned iron to the work piece and bring it up to temperature, the component and the pad or through hole. Add solder to the hot joint quickly to avoid excess heat buildup in the joint and then watch the joint as you fill it. Once properly and adequately filled you remove the heat and watch the solder freeze. You've made a perfect joint.

Thermal mass is controlled by two means: First you choose the right size tip for the job. You wouldn't use something so large that you can solder your radiator core on the car to do delicate work on surface mount. If you have heavy leads going through the board you'll want a heavier tip but for fine work like gull wing chips you'll want a smaller tip. The second thing you do is to tin the iron with the right amount of solder. Remember, the amount of mass heated to molten temperatures brings heat energy to the joint. The more mass the more heat energy and the more you shock the component and the board.

I generally keep my heat setting on my radio shack solder station around 725˚F (385˚C). If that's not getting the job done I then go up to max heat of 840˚F. Watching how the solder reacts is a major part of how I maintain the proper soldering temperature. Dwell time is another factor I forgot to mention. Even a cooler set iron can cause problems if the dwell time is excessive. The data sheet lists the temperature AND dwell time for soldering and recommends these parameters are not exceeded. For instance a component may be rated for 350˚C for 10 seconds max. One could imagine 800˚C for 5 seconds should have a similar effect on a component. It shouldn't take more than 3 seconds to make a solder joint. So if the iron is set higher but you watch the bonding of the solder then you should be good to go. The worst thing you can do is use an iron who's temperature is too low. You'll spend a lot of time heating a joint and putting a lot of thermal energy into the board. But some boards have ground and power planes which DO demand a lot of heat. That's why some PCB's need to be pre-warmed prior to soldering, so the otherwise cold board doesn't draw all the heat away from the solder joint to be made.

Lots to discuss on soldering, and I know you're only asking for advice on a better iron. My take is that a cheaper iron can be just as effective as an expensive iron. Bells and whistles aside, the business end of a soldering iron is the hot tip. And the types of tips is critical. Size, shape and even metallic chemistry play a part.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
15,462
A good solder technician should be able to use an iron that is set high enough or higher to do the job. Dwell time and thermal mass are the critical points of soldering.
+1 for that.

I use a 700F 1/32" conical tip for almost all of my soldering; even for making "boxes" with copper clad.
copperCladBox.jpg
 

Thread Starter

rambomhtri

Joined Nov 9, 2015
508
Never scrimp on your tools.

If you do decide on a Hakko...beware of the clones.
Yeah, I realized yesterday that there are Hakko rip offs, but they are really easy to identify as they don't have the HAKKO brand printed or anywhere. My soldering station looks like a Weller rip off as well, although it has a brand and is made in Germany :/

I am disregarding Hakko because it's still a bit expensive for my needs.
 
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