Questions about soldering irons

Thread Starter

Macnerd

Joined May 22, 2014
67
I've retired & I want to dabble in electronics.

One of the items that I need to get is a soldering iron. My dad had a soldering gun & I found that heavy & not easy to use. So, I need to get a soldering pencil. Digital & temperature controlled soldering pencils are expensive. I've seen the Weller soldering pencil with LEDs on the Home Depot & Lowe's websites. I like that. It comes in different wattages from 15 to 80. What wattage do I need for soldering ICs, etc? I watched YouTube videos on surface mount soldering & I really don't want to do that. I don't have steady hands & I don't have the patience. I'd rather stick with the old-fashion soldering. There are 2 kinds of solder aren't there - acid core & rosin core. Isn't acid-core used for soldering pipes & stuff like that? Wouldn't I use rosin-core solder?
 

ian field

Joined Oct 27, 2012
6,539
I've retired & I want to dabble in electronics.

One of the items that I need to get is a soldering iron. My dad had a soldering gun & I found that heavy & not easy to use. So, I need to get a soldering pencil. Digital & temperature controlled soldering pencils are expensive. I've seen the Weller soldering pencil with LEDs on the Home Depot & Lowe's websites. I like that. It comes in different wattages from 15 to 80. What wattage do I need for soldering ICs, etc? I watched YouTube videos on surface mount soldering & I really don't want to do that. I don't have steady hands & I don't have the patience. I'd rather stick with the old-fashion soldering. There are 2 kinds of solder aren't there - acid core & rosin core. Isn't acid-core used for soldering pipes & stuff like that? Wouldn't I use rosin-core solder?
My experiences with Weller (Cooper Tools) have not been good - I opted for an Antex just so I had an iron that worked, and they're cheap enough to regard as expendable - and never looked back.

If you have one of those solder guns with a transformer in the pistol grip that heats a loop of copper - another reason for not using it is the loop of copper can induce destructive currents into low impedance circuitry.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
20,875
I have found the Weller solder stations pretty good, I have one of the simple self regulating depending on what tip you put in it automatically controls the temp based on the type type.
It uses a ferromagnetic system in the swappable tip to sense.
There a various models available.
Max.
 

ian field

Joined Oct 27, 2012
6,539
I have found the Weller solder stations pretty good, I have one of the simple self regulating depending on what tip you put in it automatically controls the temp based on the type type.
It uses a ferromagnetic system in the swappable tip to sense.
There a various models available.
Max.
They *WERE* the best - until Cooper Tools bean counters decided quality and reliability were an unnecessary extravagance. A TV shop I worked for bought a brand new Weller iron so I'd have something to use when I got there - I couldn't believe my luck when it was the boss that broke the extremely fragile instrument.

I kept going for a couple of decades rebuilding from a big box of pre Cooper irons that someone took to bits - it all went tits up when I was forced to start buying new spares.
 

#12

Joined Nov 30, 2010
18,210
I use a 33 watt heater on an old Weller "pencil" handle with "iron-clad" tips, all day, every day.
An exotic digital controller with lots of sensors and displays can't fix a lack of skill.
If you have skills, anything that doesn't corrode or de-laminate will work.

I use 63/37 or 60/40 rosin core solder.
When I need more heat, I have a Weller 140 watt gun and a Weller 240 Watt gun, but it is rare that I need to solder directly to the chassis.
Usually, a chassis connection is a bolt, a crimp connector, and a piece of wire.
 

GopherT

Joined Nov 23, 2012
8,012
I've retired & I want to dabble in electronics.

One of the items that I need to get is a soldering iron. My dad had a soldering gun & I found that heavy & not easy to use. So, I need to get a soldering pencil. Digital & temperature controlled soldering pencils are expensive. I've seen the Weller soldering pencil with LEDs on the Home Depot & Lowe's websites. I like that. It comes in different wattages from 15 to 80. What wattage do I need for soldering ICs, etc? I watched YouTube videos on surface mount soldering & I really don't want to do that. I don't have steady hands & I don't have the patience. I'd rather stick with the old-fashion soldering. There are 2 kinds of solder aren't there - acid core & rosin core. Isn't acid-core used for soldering pipes & stuff like that? Wouldn't I use rosin-core solder?

A 15 watt will work but it cools down when you touch the solder to it so it can take some time (and burn your part if it takes too long)

A 25 watt unregulated will heat solder instantly but if you take your time trying to make your joint look nice, you can burn your part or melt the adhesive holding the solder pad to the fiberglass board because they just get so hot.

A 45 W regulated, gets up to temperature quickly, and stops heating and holds the temp as needed (thermostat control), then starts quickly heating again when it dips below set point or when you touch it with cold solder. This highest wattage model is safest for your parts but the most expensive.

The old-school thermostat control used an iron alloy tip with a Curie temp at 600F, 700F or 800F (Depending on the model selected). the newer ones measure resistance of the tip (which changes with temperature), a thermocouple or any other temp sensing technologies. My kids swear by 310C on their digital displays as the perfect temp for soldering. I just use a 600F tip most of the time.
 

Thread Starter

Macnerd

Joined May 22, 2014
67
A 15 watt will work but it cools down when you touch the solder to it so it can take some time (and burn your part if it takes too long)

A 25 watt unregulated will heat solder instantly but if you take your time trying to make your joint look nice, you can burn your part or melt the adhesive holding the solder pad to the fiberglass board because they just get so hot.

A 45 W regulated, gets up to temperature quickly, and stops heating and holds the temp as needed (thermostat control), then starts quickly heating again when it dips below set point or when you touch it with cold solder. This highest wattage model is safest for your parts but the most expensive.

The old-school thermostat control used an iron alloy tip with a Curie temp at 600F, 700F or 800F (Depending on the model selected). the newer ones measure resistance of the tip (which changes with temperature), a thermocouple or any other temp sensing technologies. My kids swear by 310C on their digital displays as the perfect temp for soldering. I just use a 600F tip most of the time.
I watched a Youtube video that said the same thing. The 15 watt kept cooling down & it wouldn't solder thick stranded wire. No matter what is reviewed, there will always be both good & bad reviews of a given product. Some of the responders to this thread like Weller soldering irons & some don't. I like that LEDs are on the Weller soldering iron. So, I'd get either the 25 watt or the 40 watt.
 

mcgyvr

Joined Oct 15, 2009
5,394
We have a bunch of Hakko FX-888D at work and I really like them.. Its like 65 or 70W something like that and can solder whatever you want with it.. We have lots of heavy copper/large traces and it works just fine..
Using K100LD "lead free" solder now.. Damn ROHS crap..

The switch from leaded solder was quite a big change for the soldering staff here..
Quite a difference in just about everything..
 

Thread Starter

Macnerd

Joined May 22, 2014
67
I looked at what Home Depot has to offer.
If you are on a budget, a fixed wattage such as the Weller 25W or Aven 40W would be fine.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Aven-40-Watt-Soldering-Iron-with-Fine-Tip-17521/206311976

Otherwise a temperature controlled iron such as the Weller WLC100 or WES51 would be desirable but cost more.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Weller-5-Watt-to-40-Watt-Soldering-Station-WLC100/100130478
I'm looking around the Home Depot website & checked out the butane micro soldering irons. What is your opinion of those?

I like the Weller with the LED, but it occurred to me that I could get a LED headband which would perform the same function as the LEDs on the Weller.

I want something with interchangeable tips. I want a fine tip iron. I watched a YouTube video where the narrator explained how to solder SMDs to a perfboard with metal ring around each hole. Intriguing!
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
10,933
checked out the butane micro soldering irons. What is your opinion of those?
I bought one years ago for use when power wasn't conveniently available (e.g. working on cars); haven't used it yet.

I'd stick with one that runs off line voltage.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,703
While others have made some good recommendations please allow me to shed some light on what to stay away from: RadioShack irons (with the screw in tips) are a poor choice. I have a RadioShack Digital Soldering Station because back when RadioShack was closing down a bunch of stores I got some FANTASTIC buys on stuff.

Avoid cheap irons as they can leave you struggling to make a good solder joint - and I fancy myself pretty good at slinging solder. Now; on that subject, solder comes in various forms. For electronics you want something with a flux core. Rosin is most common but they also have "No-Clean" flux core solders as well as "Water Soluble". I'd opt for the "No-Clean" over Rosin because it doesn't introduce contaminants that can act like conductors where as Rosin flux can, if enough is left on the board, affect how sensitive circuits work. As for Water Soluble, that MUST be cleaned off. Good thing about it is you don't need chemicals to clean it. Bad news is that if you don't clean it off then it can continue to etch away at your electronics until parts start falling off and circuit traces begin to fail. Though extreme, that IS the possibility with water soluble flux's.

Solder also comes in different chemistries. #12 likes 60/40 or 63/37. That's tin/lead percentages. 60 (or 63) % tin to 40 (or 37) & lead. Most electronics manufacturers have gotten away from lead based solders. You may have seen the term RoHS, which stands for Removal of Hazardous Substances. Stuff they don't want going into the landfill anymore. So they've come out with silver solders, and I can't give you any specific numbers or flavors of that stuff off hand. I'm sure someone here can fill you in on that, but silver solder (as it's referred to) takes more heat to melt. Which can be harder on your circuit boards - especially multi-layer boards, and harder on your electronics.

There's a lot to learn about selecting solders and flux's. As for my RadioShack Digital soldering station, it has three presentable temperatures. I keep one setting at 650, one at 700 and one at 800˚ F. I also have an assortment of tips that can be placed into the iron. Very fine point tips are good for soldering SMD's but for something with a heavier lead I go for a chisel tip, one with greater mass and heat storage and delivery energy. When you solder on something that is going to suck the heat away from the iron you need a heavier tip. But I also have some standard irons, 15 watt and 40 watt, depending on the need. The 15 watt for soldering (before I got my digital) and the 40 watt for soldering the snot out of some huge chunk of metal.

It's worth it to have some choices as you sit and experiment or repair stuff. But keep in mind that tip management is also very important. Clean, no buildup, no flaking of the plated tip and you're going to be well enough off for learning. But remember that cheap is cheap for a reason - none of us experienced guys want that cheap stuff on our benches.

[edit] My RadioShack digital normally cost around $90 but I got it for $27. Can't go wrong for that price. 70% off. Also got a TON of batteries. And that was BEFORE they went as low as - as much as you could fit into a bag for $5.00 on the last day of closing. Wish I would have been there for that. I DID get a digital camera for $7.00. Takes nice pictures too. Nuff bout that.
 
Last edited:

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
21,304
I'm looking around the Home Depot website & checked out the butane micro soldering irons. What is your opinion of those?

I like the Weller with the LED, but it occurred to me that I could get a LED headband which would perform the same function as the LEDs on the Weller.

I want something with interchangeable tips. I want a fine tip iron. I watched a YouTube video where the narrator explained how to solder SMDs to a perfboard with metal ring around each hole. Intriguing!
Butane soldering irons are ok when you don't have access to electrical power. It may also be handy for soldering jewelry at higher temperatures.
For electronic work at home, stick with an electrically powered soldering iron.
 

ian field

Joined Oct 27, 2012
6,539
I bought one years ago for use when power wasn't conveniently available (e.g. working on cars); haven't used it yet.

I'd stick with one that runs off line voltage.
The butane irons have a platinum wire catalyst in the burner - it doesn't last long.
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
16,398
I have one of these and like it a lot. Found a similar (identical?) one on Amazon for a Christmas present.

I won't pretend it's a great unit, but it is nice for the price. Lot's of favorable reviews. I chose it for the replaceable tips because I was tired of throwing out cheapo irons that were cheaper than a replacement tip. Ironically, this station lets tips last a much longer time if you set the temperature right.

It's very cheap, has nice replacement tips available, and so far has held up well for several years now. All my old pencil irons - cheap crap from RS or wherever - failed due to dead tips, and I bought a bunch of replacement tips along with this station. My first tip lasted longer than any of the old ones ever did.

Get some solder to go with it. Like this. (The soldering station and solder are both available elsewhere, and you might not need that much solder but that's the kind you want, 60/40 tin:lead.)
 

Thread Starter

Macnerd

Joined May 22, 2014
67
Butane soldering irons are ok when you don't have access to electrical power. It may also be handy for soldering jewelry at higher temperatures.
For electronic work at home, stick with an electrically powered soldering iron.
I watched some YouTube videos on butane soldering irons. One was about a Radio Shack iron that kept flaming up. Another one stated that one needs to wait until the flame turns orange before using it. That one took a while for the flame to turn orange. Plus the added expense of refills. The thought of using a butane iron in my apartment makes me nervous. The flame probably produces carbon monoxide. I'll stick with corded or cordless.
 
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