Soldering irons: all created equal?

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Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby Matt on Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:22 am

Getting the hang of soldering. Wondering though if the iron can make any difference. Do any of them stay hot a fraction longer than other ones?

I've got the cheapest one from jaycar - a 25 watt electric. It comes in higher wattages too - what's the diff?

What are the butane irons good for?
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby Clym5 on Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:37 am

Since most of my soldering is on larger connections, such as valve equipment, I use a larger soldering iron of 65 watts. If I use a smaller one, the bigger metal traces, or metal chassis absorb the heat, and my solder doesn't melt.

It is a temperature variable one, so I can dial it back for SMD soldering and such. I've had it since I was 10, so I don't know any better than this one. There could be better ones out there!

Also, keep the tip of the iron clean! Get a damp sponge to brush the tip on when you're done.

YouTube should have plenty of informative tutorials to help too.
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby kevman3d on Sun Jan 04, 2015 12:35 pm

For small PCB stuff, 25W should be fine. I have a cheap 20W one from Jaycar - for soldering the bits-n-pieces in the ZX Speccy, its worked great. It has a 'turbo' button that will take it to 130W - it doesn't recommend that however, so I've been pretty careful about avoiding pressing that (its on the handle, which means being relatively careful how I hold it). It was painful enough when I accidentally pressed my finger on the tip at 20W - skin seems to 'stick' quite well to hot surfaces - I don't recommend doing that mind you. :lol:

I did spot a very nice Goot branded 20W one at Surplustronics that had a very fine tip which would be great for electronics - that said, its $29 vs. my el-cheapo one - but I believe Groot is a pretty good brand in terms of quality. Maybe one day...
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby SeanKennedy on Thu Jan 08, 2015 1:26 pm

I bit the bullet and brought in a sight unseen one from AliExpress last month - at $114US including shipping it was a fantastic deal.

Not just a 5-pin standard connection iron, but a SMD heat gun and mini benchtop power supply.

The deal was sealed with the bag of extras that are thrown in the box - two spools of Goot braid, tweezers, spare sponges, tips, scraping tools, brushes, flux resin, a spool of solder, two mini spools of ultra fine hookup wire... I forget the rest.

Anyway, as a hobbyist benchtop solder station (with temperature controls for both the iron and the air gun) I thought it was pretty good. Search AliExpress (or your favourite Chinese reseller) for "Saike 909D 3 in 1 Hot air gun Soldering station". But shop around - many suppliers don't do free shipping, or do and bump the price up. Now that I look back, $114 was a very good price, although you can see them now for $85 + shipping of around $50.
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby SpidersWeb on Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:07 pm

I'd get something with temperature control. They heat / reheat up faster and you know what the tip temperature actually is.

I did what Sean mentioned above, got a Saike 909 kit off AliExpress. Great thing is it uses the commonly available Hako tips - making it easy and cheap to get quality tips for it.
I don't use the hot air gun much, every time I went to use it the results of that project went badly, but it is handy for heat-shrinking wires in a few seconds. For SMD I prefer solder paste, and gliding the iron down the pins.
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby RonTurner on Thu Jan 08, 2015 5:59 pm

Bigger wattage for bigger joint, I have a range to select from uncluding a gas powered one, if your going to solder big cables I have used a microjet and it does a great job. Temperature controlled has got to be better but soldering is a black art that requires practice or tracks can be burnt off, short circuits and more.....
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby Clym5 on Thu Jan 08, 2015 6:31 pm

I know someone who does PCB repairs on things like the insides of LCD TVs with a 100w iron with the biggest tip you could possible imagine. It's shaped like a V, and he uses the corner of it. Even seen him do SMD successfully. It's crazy!

I second getting a temperature controlled one.
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby LilJoe on Thu Jan 08, 2015 7:20 pm

I have two cheapies with big tips, I don't know the wattage (and I'm too lazy to walk to my garage to check). Still I take good care of them cleaning,tinning ect. and I have used them quite a bit without too much drama. A more sophisticated iron is on the wishlist :D better start saving
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby RonTurner on Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:02 pm

Grandad had one of those ones with a wooden handle and a 1 inch tip.
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Re: Soldering irons: all created equal?

Postby Clym5 on Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:08 pm

RonTurner wrote:Grandad had one of those ones with a wooden handle and a 1 inch tip.


I think I know the ones. I know (yet another) person who uses a wood burning tool as a soldering iron. It's got two screw terminals on the bottom of the wood handle, with a bit of bent wire between it. He's had it since the 50's or something.

Also, has anyone tried using a lighter as a soldering iron? It's saved my bacon a few times! I find the gas ones to be better, because you can angle it.
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