Soldering Pencil Recommendations

Thread Starter

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
8,575
I have a 50+ year old Radio Shack soldering pencil that I’m trying to replace. I don’t do massive amounts of soldering, which you probably know from the fact that my primary iron is 50+ years old. But I do use it continually. I build several one-off circuits every month.

But I need to replace it soon. I’m not having much luck. I’ve spent ~ $30 each on a couple of irons. The first was a noname which had variable heat control. But it didn’t work unless it was set to the max. When I bought the second, I got a Weller, figuring it was a well known brand. It lasted about 15 minutes before the element burned out (that’s when I found out Weller was bought out by a Chinese company).

So do you have any recommendations? I have a limited household budget (retired and living mainly on Social Security) and my hobby money is spent on parts. I don’t want nor need bells and whistles. Just a basic utilitarian tool.

Thanks
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
15,117
I buy my soldering irons used on eBay. My go to iron is an old school Weller W-TCP acquired in the mid-70's that I modified to be a W-TCP-L (power switch with indicator). After more than 40 years, all I've had to do is replace the heater. Temperature is set by the tips which can be 600F, 700F, or 800F.

I bought some spare Weller irons on eBay a few years ago for around $30 and picked up one at a swap meet with a spare heater for almost nothing.
 

bassbindevil

Joined Jan 23, 2014
563
A soldering iron from a discount tool place like Harbor Freight might be just fine, and comparable to the irons we bought at Radio Shack many years ago. But I've grown accustomed to temperature-controlled soldering stations since then, and now there are some ridiculously cheap but good options, sometimes under $20 including shipping.
Quoting my reply to another thread:
Build a kit T12 station into your own case? I took that route, reasoning that if the clone tips were junk I could install a real Hakko tip and get all the benefits of the real thing. The T12 tip combines tip, heater and temperature sensor in one unit, so costs more, but should be more accurate and consistent. (So far, the clone tips seem to work just fine.) I built mine to use an external supply, so I can run it from a battery pack or a 19V Dell laptop power brick. (Wattage at 12V seems just fine for most purposes, though.)

These LED versions may not have an accurate temperature display, but I just set mine to a number that works and don't worry about what it is in real degrees.
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32803671016.html
OLED versions cost more, but have a better UI.
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32845526592.html

Or, there are versions with an OLED controller built into the handle:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/294499213317
This is more convenient for portable use, cheaper, and no assembly required.
 

Thread Starter

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
8,575
I agree with Ya’akov. Plus, the review has confusing contradictory reporting. Did this soldering iron have a mica or ceramic heater? Does it matter?
This soldering iron comes with a 50 watts tip that gets heated up to 842-896 degrees within a few seconds using the mica heater. The heat that has been generated quickly dissipates so as to ensure the longevity of the soldering iron. Furthermore, this soldering iron uses ceramic heater as the heating element that generally has a long lifespan.
 

bassbindevil

Joined Jan 23, 2014
563
The "review" overlooks the facts that the Weller PES51 requires a WES51 soldering station, and the "Baitaihem" needs some kind of Hakko clone station. Also that the Baitaihem is overpriced, and there's some uncertainty about which exact stations it works with (check the reviews).
 
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