• WARNING: Tube/Valve amplifiers use potentially LETHAL HIGH VOLTAGES.
    Building, troubleshooting and testing of these amplifiers should only be
    performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with
    the safety precautions around high voltages.

Gun or Iron?

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As I prepare to embark on my first tube project (guitar amp) I feel that my soldering equipment is inadequate. I have a 25 or 30 watt iron that I have used and cursed for years. I have always had trouble getting the joint to heat up enough in a reasonable amount of time.

I am looking at getting something more powerful especially for use on larger items like tube sockets and ground connections. It appears that both irons and guns are available in the 60 watt range. The iron is of course more agile but the gun has the advantage of instant on/off.

My inclination is that although a gun would be handy to have the iron is probably more practical. What sayest thou?

I use a 25 watt Weller iron on all electronic projects, and it is hot enough and works well. Guns are better for heavy wire soldering, such as household wiring, etc.

A word of advice from my own experience; cheap, imported pencil irons are junk. Buy a Weller or Ungar , keep the tip clean, tight and well tinned and you won't have any problems. A soldering station with adjustable heat would be even better, but costs more.
Guns can be good for soldering chassis grounds where you need a lot of heat quickly to heat the area enough to take solder. Otherwise use a good iron of about 40 watts or so. I agree with the comment about rat shack irons, I gave up on those a long time ago A good tip is to use some large aligator clips on heat sensative parts as a sort of heat sink to protect the part.
I'm probably an exception to the rule because I use both types. For many years, and still to this day, I use the Weller 8200 dual heat gun (100/140 watt). In fact I own several of them. And one D550 (240/325W) for that industrial strenght job.

And for small work like PCBs I use the Weller WTCPN solder station. This is the one with the magnet on the tip to control the temperature. Different heat ranges are determined by the tip itself. This is the one I use the most.

And I agree with tubewade, Weller and Ungar are the ones to have. Everything else is second rate.

When it absolutely positively has to get melted... accept no substitutes...

Get something like a Weller WES51. It's temperature controlled. Most soldering irons are too hot, and can damage components (especially poly caps) or lift traces on printed circuit boards.

If you can't swallow the $99 price tag of the WES51, you might be able to get by with the cheaper WLC100 - but it isn't temperature controlled.
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