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Old 18th July 2006, 01:27 AM   #1
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Default New tools

I've been apart of this hobby for a couple of years now and have been using cheap tools. I've been using a 45watt RS soldering iron and a $20 multimeter from Home Depot. I'm going to NC State next year for EE and as I'm building more and more things. I've had to buy multiple soldering irons and new tips all the time. Along with the the really high temp silver solder from RS and I figure its time to move up.

I've read the other threads about soldering stations and which people prefer. Most answers were any Hakko or a Weller WES51. My AP physics teacher along with BrianGT have recomended the WTCPT to me.

Multimeters... mine does very little, but it is so useful. Therefore, I would like a more accurate and more useful one. I think it is a good idea. Anyway, as a mechanic we kept a Fluke in the shop and a friend has a Fluke as well, but the Flukes are very expensive, so I was looking at this Extech 310


My overall budget is around $200, but I will splurge for something much better.

Also, I'd like to stop buying RS solder, the melting temp is very high and my desoldering iron can do its job only half the time. HMC Electronics sells lead-free solder. Which melting temp is good and which is best for these purposes?

Any suggestestions about these products,
Which is best for me?
Which I should or shouldn't buy?
What other products I should look at?

Thanks,

Josh
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Old 18th July 2006, 10:25 PM   #2
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Thanks,

Josh
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Old 18th July 2006, 10:45 PM   #3
lndm is offline lndm  Australia
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Hi edjosh23,

You may be buying into the solder station at an opportune time. Lead free solder is on its way in and it takes more heat to melt. My solder station will get that hot but I don't like the idea of running it high all the time. New lead free solder stations are still a little high in price where I'm from, but these things don't tend to last. Or you could do as I did and bought a few pounds of conventional solder, for a rainy day
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Old 18th July 2006, 11:03 PM   #4
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lndm,

I was looking at lead-free solder like this . I have no clue what temp the RS lead-free silver solder melts at, but if the RS desoldering iron has trouble melting it, and 425degrees F doesn't look very high, I'm guessing the RS desoldering iron gets that hot.

Do you have any suggestions on what solder and equipment I should buy?

Thanks,

Josh
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Old 18th July 2006, 11:19 PM   #5
EC8010 is offline EC8010  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally posted by lndm
Or you could do as I did and bought a few pounds of conventional solder, for a rainy day
It's a strange thing, but every engineer I know has bought a lifetime supply of solder with lead in it...

PS The Extech meter looks like rubbish to me. I have a couple of Fluke 89mkIV that I bought for their accuracy. They also do true RMS, but that's very rarely useful for audio. I've occassionally used their logging function. Think carefully before you buy a meter. Basic accuracy costs and is probably worth paying for. Gimmicks aren't. To be honest, most of the time, you don't need accuracy. But you do need speed and dependability (not suddenly giving a funny answer because there's lots of AC on the DC, or vice versa). I don't reckon it's worth spending more than 20 on a meter unless you're getting a real meter.
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Old 18th July 2006, 11:26 PM   #6
lndm is offline lndm  Australia
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I believe that tin/lead solder melts at 190C/374F, but I run my iron at 330C because at lower temperatures I'd need to hold the iron on the joint to melt it and meanwhile the heat spreads into the components.

This is a quote from a wave soldering tute. Just included it for interest.
Quote:
www.indium.com
* Solder temperatures for Pb-free wave soldering is typically 260-275C (500-527F).
* The higher soldering temperatures of Pb-free alloys could damage components, warp the boards or stress solder mask and board finish.
* Tin pest can form in Sn/Cu alloys.
Normal solder has a tin/lead mix of 60/40. One quality of this that is useful is that it goes from liquid to solid over a small range of temperature. If you've ever bumped a joint while it is 'drying' you'll know that it ruins the joint and it needs reheating. Any alloy that solidifies gradually may be more difficult to work with when hand soldering.
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Old 18th July 2006, 11:36 PM   #7
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Well, I do half a 1lb roll of "regular" solder, but I live about 5 minutes away from 2 Radio Shacks and I always buy lots of solder.
I'm less worried about the solder if the irons that I'm looking at go to about 800' . But its just desoldering, I'll try to desolder a joint and I end up pulling up PCB traces.
I don't believe I've actually damaged any components, sure it could happen, but if the melting temp of these lead-free solders are even lower, than thats good.

So do you think an iron that has variable temp that I can change by turning a knob is better than the WTCPT?

EC8010,
what do you consiver a real meter? I'm starting college in a couple weeks to become an EE and I'm sure the meter and iron will be used quite often, and since this is my hobby they are used all the time, so durability is important, and persionally if I'm going to spend money on something I want it to last and work well.

Thanks,

Josh
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Old 18th July 2006, 11:37 PM   #8
EC8010 is offline EC8010  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally posted by lndm
I believe that tin/lead solder melts at 190C/374F, but I run my iron at 330C because at lower temperatures I'd need to hold the iron on the joint to melt it
That suggests that you're using a tip that is too small and that has a sufficiently small thermal mass that it can be appreciably cooled by the joint. Use a tip that matches the joint...

I've used a Weller TCP for twenty years. No6 tips.
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Old 18th July 2006, 11:55 PM   #9
lndm is offline lndm  Australia
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Quote:
Originally posted by edjosh23
if the melting temp of these lead-free solders are even lower, than thats good.
I don't think they are.

Quote:
Originally posted by EC8010
Use a tip that matches the joint...
I use a 0.5mm tip on mostly point to point. I have a preference for quick melting (right or wrong), but I'll take your word for it and try something larger, tips are cheap. Ta.
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Old 19th July 2006, 12:08 AM   #10
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PTP generally needs a 2mm wide tip, or 3mm wide if it's older stuff. I keep a selection of tips and change them for each joint if necessary. It makes all the difference in the world to have the right tip. But you're right to want it to melt quickly. If it doesn't melt quickly you're risking adjacent components.
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