Why you need a (or at least, should want) $100 soldering iron

Discussion in 'Modding' started by iandh, Jun 30, 2010.

  1. iandh

    iandh Member

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    I 'd never used a full blown professional soldering station until I started at my work (an electronics manufacturer) about ten years ago. At first, I didn't really understand what all the fuss was, this big clunky box connected to what looked like every other corded iron I'd used previously.

    I did notice though, that everything I soldered with them seemed to come out better. Now that I know why, it's hard for me to ever go back to a standard corded iron. I figured that maybe if I shared my experience here, others who haven't used a quality soldering station could share in my enjoyment.

    There are many soldering stations available, but only one that makes sense for most of us, IMO... is the Hakko 936 ESD. Weller makes a unit for about $60, that is pretty decent, but nothing like this one, which can be had for only $30 more. There are also some indian and chinese made 936 clones, also in the same range, but once again, not worth the savings.

    Once you get in to higher price ranges, you can get more features, but not much more functionality for most general purpose use.

    The advantages of a soldering station over a corded iron:

    -Variable temperature, and highly responsive current control (variable wattage)
    -Interchangable irons and tips
    -Durability, you can replace the ceramic heating elements in the irons
    -More power in a smaller package, the irons are smaller diameter and more comfortable than traditional irons
    -Cooler in hand, because they use a small high power ceramic element out at the tip of the iron, the handle stays cooler during extended use

    When using traditional corded irons, you have to keep several different wattage irons on hand for different size jobs. On top of that, you're stuck to a single temperature, and therefore a single type of solder. When you apply the iron to a part that sinks a lot of heat away, it cools the iron, and you have to wait for the iron to recover at its fixed wattage... all the while pumping unneccesary heat into your part.

    With a soldering station, as soon as the electronics detect the iron cooling, they crank the current to recover the iron quickly... this means you bring your part up to temperature quickly, with as little excess heat as possible. All you need is a single iron (usually medium size for most work) and several tips, you can safely and successfully solder anything from tiny IC's, to large battery terminals without worry of damaging your parts or cold solder joints.

    Here is my Hakko 936 ESD, this is the RC version so it comes with a skin, but normally they're just black. I got this one because it was on clearance for $75. Normally the 936 runs about $95, but you can find them as cheap as $85 (USD). They can be had even cheaper on ebay, a used unit costs as little as a couple of the horrible corded irons.
    [​IMG]

    Here is the medium iron, with standard and large chisel tips, and a fine point tip for electronics work. Each extra tip costs a few dollars, and is made from machined solid copper and nickel plated. As I said before, replacement ceramic heating elements can be had for cheap as well, if your iron ever goes out.
    [​IMG]


    With the variable temperature control and high speed recovery, you are now open to doing all kinds of work that would have been very iffy before. You can use low melt solders with delicate parts and heat them quickly and efficiently without damage, standard solder for general repair work, or high melt solder for strength in non-heat sensitive parts.

    You'll never have to worry about having too much, or too little iron.

    Obviously these don't work for all situations, as it isn't practical to drag the big box everywhere, but in general I find the 936 and a cheap butane soldering torch should cover 99% of all situations.

    If you do any notable amount of soldering, I would STRONGLY suggest treating yourself to a soldering station.

    When you take cost into account, this setup isn't a whole lot more expensive than a few decent traditional irons, and is superior in almost every concievable way. Everyone knows how frustrating it can be to hold an underpowered iron for minutes, only to end up with a crappy cold joint and a hot part. A $100 investement will cure you of that problem for most of your working lifetime. These stations are built like tanks, and last forever.

    If you're serious about modding, you really should find a way to put one of these on your workbench.
     
  2. ShadoX

    ShadoX Member

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    I don't think i'd ever be sold on a "soldering station" like this. I can certainly see the reasons for having a good one (and i certainly do do alot of soldering in my line of work, everything from circuit boards up to obnoxiously thick cabling - at that point i usually switch to a blow torch lol)

    i'll stick to my snap-on butane iron though, after all its like that whole station rolled into an iron physically shorter than a standard iron, with no worry of "hot handles" (lot unless the butane somehow explodes in your hand), many different sized tips (my biggest is bigger than the big one in the picture, the smallest is about the same as the smallest one, except with a slightly flat on the end, rather than pointed), gas regulated (for controlling tip temperature) and completely portable/lightweight

    ....then again it wasn't exactly cheap, i got it on special for $170ish, but it was worth every bit
     
  3. Life_Essence

    Life_Essence Member

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    "i'll stick to my snap-on butane iron though"

    Hell yeah and you can take the top off and use it as a blow torch. I agree though on the price but that's snap on for you ($5000 for a 3/4" Drive set :O). I paid $208 for mine (YAKS32A) but when your in the middle of a paddock, not needing electricity is bloody useful.
     
  4. ShadoX

    ShadoX Member

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    Well you get what you pay for, in this case, damn great quality and life-time warranty (and a better life-time warranty than other brands that play 20 questions every time you claim something). I'd be poor if i had to keep paying for new posi-torque screwdriver tips :D lol

    you can always save a little and get bluepoint, i find the quality is just as good and its still a lifetime warranty, just cheaper :) all my socket sets and spanners are bluepoint (both 1/4 and 3/8 drive full general duty sets)

    but thats getting off topic. but yeah i spose on those off times i do use a wired iron (mainly for big/long jobs where i don't want to burn up all my gas) one those would be good purely for a temperature standpoint. So i don't have to mix and match irons, maybe even get rid of the 10 or so irons hung up on the wall (ranging from little pin-top irons to giant log shaped bastards that i swear put out more heat at times than the blow torch :D)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2010
  5. OP
    OP
    iandh

    iandh Member

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    If you do enough soldering work, eventually you'll find that nothing beats a quality soldering station.

    The butane irons are nice for spot work and occasional jobs, but try soldering up a wiring harness for 30 minutes or more, and you'll start to feel the heat... I've seen a butane soldering torch turn into a puddle of plastic. ;)

    As I mentioned above, if you're serious about having the right equipment, you need a station on your bench, and then a butane iron for spot work.

    Generally, you'll find a Hakko (or equivalent) on the workbench of every electronics tech worth his salt. Nothing compares as far as temperature control and flexibility.

    The butane torches only have a a few settings... hot, really hot, and really really hot. That doesn't work on delicate electronics and when using low-melt solders, such as doing repairs on SMT. You can definitely pull it off, but eventually it will catch up with you, and when Murphy's law has its way, its when you're working on something expensive. :D

    Don't get me wrong, the butane iron is my go-to for most general work... very convenient, portable, and effective. I keep one in my shop and one in my portable toolkit.


    edit: I'm not trying to be a soldering iron snob or anything, just hoping that anyone that's in the market might spring for this instead of those terrible corded wood-burner with a nail sticking out things :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2010
  6. Life_Essence

    Life_Essence Member

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    "...those terrible corded wood-burner with a nail sticking out things."

    Or even better the clip on ones for 12V batteries. My GOD do they get super mega hot in half a second.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    iandh

    iandh Member

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    Oh god, those things should be outlawed... that's an accident waiting to happen.
     
  8. TMM

    TMM Member

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    Soldering stations ftw :thumbup: I have a Goot one, the only thing i find it lacking is outright power for heavy gauge wire, but the "wood-burner with a nail" ones do too...
     
  9. mtma

    mtma Member

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    I am a believer in the turbo iron for the on-the go kit. Fast initial heat-up, doesn't overheat when you're not using it, has heaps of reserve power if you really need it.
     
  10. Seith

    Seith R.I.P.

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    I've always bought the cheapest one I could find and always did a horrible job. Went to Tafe and used theirs and couldn't believe the difference, definitely worth it.
     
  11. heller44

    heller44 Member

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    Weller temp controlled station.. used them for years reliably..
     
  12. dreamaxx

    dreamaxx (Banned or Deleted)

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    That is such an awesome soldering iron I want one :) Not that expensive either especially if it actually WORKS properly.
     
  13. NanoDuke

    NanoDuke Member

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    Where do you get the Hakkos? I couldn't find a 936 when I was looking for my first soldering station. I know they come highly recommended. I gave up looking and opted for a DSE clone when I saw it for 50% off. I'm happy with it. I'm just a hobby electronicist, though. I have been soldering a lot more recently, and am thinking of upgrading.
     
  14. ICEW0LF

    ICEW0LF Member

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    yeah i have been thinking about getting a decent one for a while. Where is the best place to pick one up? there seems to be a lack of decent ones on ebay...
     
  15. Akh-Horus

    Akh-Horus Member

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    I agree - I just checked for hakko on fleabay and theres just some old clunkers listed there. Are there any recommended brands from you gents in the know? Models? Vale for money for low end users who want a quality unit at the right price?
     
  16. tek_01

    tek_01 Member

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    The DSE ones are not half bad TBH, i have one at my work right now and its ok, T2200 i believe the model is. The cable on it is nice silicon type
    Dare i say its comparable to the hakko lower end stations.
     
  17. qwake

    qwake Member

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    Nice post, I like that station! Years ago I started with a $15 corded, then moved to the DSE T2200 but within a year it had failed, the stem (not sure the correct term) has separated from the handle (from heat) and I’ve have some heat resistant tape holding it steady :Paranoid:. Looks like I have found my replacement! Where did you get this one from?
     
  18. rockofclay

    rockofclay Member

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    I've been looking for one of these too.

    Anyone?
     
  19. OP
    OP
    iandh

    iandh Member

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    Yeah, if you start adding up the cost of getting a few different sizes of those nasty corded ones, this isn't even all that bad. It's a joy to use as well.

    I bought mine from a supplier here in the US. Hakko also sells direct here.

    I'm not sure if they ship international, but if anyone is really jones-ing for one, I could probably send a few down south with the next batch of reservoirs or something.

    The place is called tequipment.net, but I don't know if they ship international.

    The clones are pretty workable, but I've found that these Hakko 936's are just bulletproof... I've put them through all kinds of abuse and they just keep taking it.
     
  20. Kitler

    Kitler Member

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    I've never had a problem with mine. :)
     

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