MSuggestions on models? Something in the <$50 range
In my experience, with a cheap (usually chrome plated tip) iron like they sell at radio shack, the solder tends to stick to the iron, beading on the tip, and will not properly flow into the joint. Anything that makes it onto the joint is overflow from the tip. Heating the joint and applying solder directly to it as you're supposed to just don't work because the heat doesn't flow right. Also, with an unregulated iron, either you don't have enough power, or the iron runs too hot so you lift off solder pads or risk damaging components.
I have the WESD51- it means you have a very stable temp-controlled soldering setup at the flick of a switch. Worth the money if you are doing a lot of soldering. It has a cool function that's not really advertised: if the tip temperature is stable for a half hour it turns off. During normal soldering the tip temp would vary five or ten degrees when you touch the cold part with a hot iron, so it watches this value as an indication of inactivity and shuts off if there's no activity. I was totally perplexed by this initially, as i would go for coffee and when I got back it would be off!
Lololol, Looks like that's where I'm savin up for.Only problem is that my local store sells it for $179, Digikey is 159, not sure about Mouser, but the shipping is $15 :/And I can't use amazon, no credit card, and 'rents won't let me use theirs(Mom says right after I hit "Submit" online to 3 Cirque du Soleil tix XD) And Amazon don't ship to Canada anyways.
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