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Old 24th March 2004, 03:59 PM   #1
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Default Soldering equipment recommendations?

I'm just beginning my first project - building a flexible, good sized dual-transformer power supply in it's own separate chassis, to allow me to select 25v or 50v DC output, to facilitate future experimentation with chip amps, solid state amps, and potentially other projects.
I have it laid out already, the componentry... and after the PS is built, it's on to a gainclone kit that I purchased here on DIYaudio, on a PCB... and later, moving on to some solid state stuff as I learn.

At any rate, I need some help selecting a good soldering iron, for performing this bench-technician sort of work.
My trigger-activated, large, high power soldering gun is no doubt not the right tool for this job.

I've taken a look at several guns available to me:

This Weller soldering station is adjustable from 5w-40w, and it's expensive. It doesn't look like a fine tip, either.

This Wahl cordless soldering iron, cordless is handy, design looks ergonomic. Cheaper than the soldering station, comes with two tips, one fine. Not adjustable, 25w.

This Radio Shack Butane powered soldering iron is also cordless obviously, looks small and lightweight, convenient, the tip looks fine, seems like butane would heat up predictably and quickly... but the concept of butane powered soldering irons is 100% foreign to me. Anyone use them? Its heat is adjustable, the equivalent of 5w-50w if I remember the packaging correctly.

Here is a pencil-tip adjustable soldering iron that seems to offer more flexibility than the Weller station, being adjustable from 0w-50w, but without the station itself (that can be bought for $6 at Radio Shack locally, anyway), at a fraction of the price of the station. Can't really tell how fine the tip is.

Here is a simple, cheap 30w soldering iron, no frills, and it's a fraction of the cost of the one I listed above. Granted, not adjustable... but what's the real trade off?

I've had a couple people tell me that "if you are going to get a simple iron, get the Weller brand 25w iron, because it's higher quality." I have no doubt that it is.. but what does that mean to me, right now? This iron is more than 10x the cost of the inexpensive one I posted above. Not adjustable.


The cordless models appeal to me, as I tend to end up working places I probably shouldn't... like in the living room, in front of the TV.. not exactly conveniently located by an outlet.
I do car audio work quite often also, cordless seems nice for that too.
But that's definitely in the "nice to have" category, not a "need", if there's strong enough reason to go with a different model.
Ease of use and the quality of the soldering job are the most important factors to me.

Can anyone offer any recommendations, of those that I've listed above?

Any recommendations of others? And "why?" of course..

Thanks in advance for the help, I'm looking forward to getting started on these projects, I want to make sure i've got a suitable tool for the job.
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:03 PM   #2
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I purchased Hakko soldering station from this thread: Hakko 929 Temp Controlled Soldering Stations

This guy seems to have soldering tools available from time to time and maybe it would be a good idea to contact him first.

The Hakko 929 station (at $60 shipped) was the best deal on this forum I've seen so far
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:11 PM   #3
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I got a recommendation for a Hakko station from someone at CarAudioForum as well...
I haven't heard of them.

To exaggerate (or illustrate?) my confusion...
What would the benefit of a station like this be over something like that $3 pencil tip 30w cheap iron?

Also, let's say I could get the Weller station I linked above for $45 - do you think it would be worth the extra money for me to get the Hakko for $60?
Is that Weller station comparable?

*edit* The Hakko station shipped for $60 isn't far off from the Weller at $45 + shipping actually...
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:16 PM   #4
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What I like about Hakko is the power it can supply. I had a similar station before, but I had trouble with suplying enough heat for soldering Cardas binding posts, for instance. With Hakko it doesn't seem like a problem. Also, it gets very quickly to a specified temp. (and I don't even mention digital display). The soldering iron is very ligh and fits your hand quite nicely. Having a separate stand is also convenient.

Paying $60 for something that normally costs $300 is an additional incentive.
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:18 PM   #5
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Ah, yep, that thread is pretty old.
Just saw the pics of that 929, that does look pretty high-end, digital keypad and display and all...

I can message him and see what he has available, if any.

What do you think of the other ones that I've listed above?

Have you ever used a butane soldering iron? It's certainly the most foreign in concept to me, I don't know how they compare, as a whole.
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:22 PM   #6
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I used small butane Weller soldering torch, and it is fine if you have to do some quick soldering on the speakers crossover, for instance, but I wouldn't recommend it as a serious stationary tool.

For me, when I find myself soldering for hours, a proper tool, with a nice feel and ergonomics is very important, and if chosen wisely, it makes the whole soldering affair a much more pleasurable experience. So don't try to save here, you will be enjoying it in the years to come

The Hakko station is certainly recommended.
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:29 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Daniel
What I like about Hakko is the power it can supply. I had a similar station before, but I had trouble with suplying enough heat for soldering Cardas binding posts, for instance. With Hakko it doesn't seem like a problem. Also, it gets very quickly to a specified temp. (and I don't even mention digital display). The soldering iron is very ligh and fits your hand quite nicely. Having a separate stand is also convenient.

Paying $60 for something that normally costs $300 is an additional incentive.
Yeah, I'm not concerned with bells and whistles, like a digital display, unless it actually has some benefit.

I'm most concerned with performance, and there lies the issue...
I don't have any experience soldering small-scale items like this, and in the course of my building power supplies, chip-amps on PCB's, chip-amps not using PCB's, solid state amps, other processors I might want to build - I don't know really what range of components, materials, and their effective gauges I might end up soldering along the way...

To me, that almost inherently says "you should get an adjustable iron", but I've had others (who have much experience) tell me just to get a 25w iron.

But certainly, my big 150/230 watt trigger gun is not the right tool for the job.
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Daniel
...a proper tool, with a nice feel and ergonomics is very important, and if chosen wisely, it makes the whole soldering affair a much more pleasurable experience. So don't try to save here, you will be enjoying it in the years to come

The Hakko station is certainly recommended.
Absolutely understood... I'm just trying to locate the best tool, on a budget. "bang for the buck".

How do you think that adjustable Weller station compares?
That seems the most comparable to the Hakko of the ones I listed...
And $45 + shipping is within my budget... $300 wouldn't be.

They do have two other stations at Parts Express that I can get for dealer cost as well, which gives me some savings:
http://www.partsexpress.com/webpage....ctGroup_ID=367
Both are Weller units, over $100 each.
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:39 PM   #9
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Depending on type of soldering you will mostly do, the adjustable power is most important IMO. Also, a proper tip is another thing of importance. The cheaper units might not proxide anything special in that department (tip).
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Old 24th March 2004, 04:54 PM   #10
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I definitely wouldn't recommend a butane-powered iron as your primary soldering tool. It might be nice to have one around for when you're working some place where you can't readily plug in a pencil iron or soldering station. However, using it for large projects would burn so much butane that you could probably purchase the Hakko station with what you payed for fuel refils alone.

All the radio shack irons have a tendency to die quite quickly. Therefore, I consider them to be "disposable" irons. Weller irons, stations, and tips will last much longer, which if you plan on using it for a few years would be good. Personally, I like having an adjustable temperature-controlled station so that I can set the tip temperature. I got my Pace station really cheap from a friend of mine, and they are another manufacturer of really good and really expensive soldering equipment. This particular station has been discontinued and replaced by the ST-25. However, unless you can get one virtually free like I did, I wouldn't really recommend a pace, as their tips have to be ordered from the manufacturer or distributer, and are only available in packs of 5 starting at $25 for the cheapest tips.

Unless you're only planning on using it for one project, or two really small ones, don't waste your money on a radio shack iron. Any weller iron should last a while, and the tips are readily available. Whether or not you want to spend big bucks for a temp-controlled station (I recommend a dial or digitally adjustable temp, not one that is determined by the tip) probably depends on where you think you might go from here. If you don't think that you'll be doing a lot of projects or projects that are much more complex than the gain clone, it's probably not worth the money, and I would recommend the weller station you linked to. If you want to have the maximum amount of flexibility for soldering different types of components or using different types of solder, a temperature-controlled station might be a good investment. It can come in handy when soldering really expensive, delicate components.
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