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Author Topic: Soldering Irons  (Read 2390 times)
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London
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What one should I buy?

Just kidding - I think there are enough of the open-ended "which iron" questions on here already.

I am in the market for a new iron though, and I'm moving from the primitive £10 nasty to something a bit more reliable.

My main problems I've experienced so far are:
A) mangled disapearing tips - this is my fault smiley
B) lack of heat - seems to take ages to warm up, and after a couple of joints the iron is too cool

So I figure I want a temperature-controlled soldering station, but don't want to spend more than about £50 for one.

I've heard the Maplin ones aren't complete shite, but can't seem to work out the difference between these two, both called "48W LCD Display Solder Station":


Or I could go the extra bit and get the 60W Professional LCD Solder Station with ESD Protection for £60.


So, for basic hobby prototyping style of soldering, what are the key metrics to look for? 
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Availability of tips and other spares is important, but that you would already know.

With soldering irons it is as with everything, you get what you pay for.
I had the luck of running into a free Weller Magnastat and it is the best thing ever. They are expensive new, but if I where you I'd rather go for a second hand Weller or Esra instead of a cheap pro-looking station.

But, if you really want to get one of the stations mentioned, get the last one.

Important to look at is the amount of watt's (the higher, the faster it warms up and is able to hold the temperature), the grip of the iron (is it isolated? is it comfortable? not too light or too heavy?) and one of the things most people don't think about when buying their first stations: How flexible is the cord! It is so annoying to have your cord twisted around everything or taking up a large part of your workbench.

Good luck in picking!
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London
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Apparently they are all in stock locally, so I'll see if I can have a hands-on look at them.  Good tip about the cable - I think one of the reviews on the Maplin site actually said it had a nice rubbery cable, not a stiff tangly one smiley
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They all have temperature control, sponge holder, adequate power, low-voltage iron (so it you melt the cable no mains voltage to worry about).  Some of the reviews are negative, note.  Years ago I bought a similar iron from Maplin, still going strong today... 

Make sure you get a selection of spare bits - in 5 years time they might not be available in the right size so get a dozen or so.
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London
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I went for the 60W one.  I'll keep you posted as to it's utility... smiley
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I've heard the Maplin ones aren't complete shite, but can't seem to work out the difference between these two, both called "48W LCD Display Solder Station":

I have the one on the left, and I don't recommend it. It has a problem (software bug?) whereby when I turn it on, sometimes either immediately or after a few seconds, the temperature display reads 1 degree C and stays there. If I leave it on, the iron heats up to maximum temperature and ruins the bit. If I turn it off and on again, it normally works.
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I don't think you connected the grounds, Dave.
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One of my irons is the one on the right (grey one).
It's ok, but the choice of tips is limited.
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There only seemed to be three tips available in-store for the 60W one, but the back of the manual implies there are loads - I assume online somewhere, although the entire manual is a bit auto-translate-fail.  

There is a 0.8mm fine tip, a 2.4mm general tip and a wicked-looking pointed tip for "precision work".
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All I've ever needed is a wide screwdriver tip(for the serious baking), a narrow screwdriver tip(general work) and a 0.5mm round pointy tip (for those small IC's that just won't stick otherwise).
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Okay, so I gave the new iron a bit of a workout last night, building a new controller for my Rodentometer*, so nothing fancy, just lots of pin headers, stripboard links and some resistors.

I tried both the chisel-tip, which is about 2mm too wide - it basically covers one whole track on a strip-board and just touches the next track too, and the standard non-viscious pointed one.

I'm a bit confused as to the correct temperature to use - perhaps the unit needs calibrating (a feature available on a button) - but at the recommended 300C setting, it takes quite some time to melt and solder, even when just tinning the tip, and struggles when touching an actual component.  At the 400C setting it rocks, and solder just melts and whets and flows like I've seen in the YouTube videos - but I'm worried it's too high a setting.

The temperature is adjustable in 1C increments, so I could just start at "not hot enough" and work up one degree at a time until it's just right, so my question is: "how do I determine just right"?  I don't want to be frying all my components - so far I've just done fairly hardy links, resistors and a LM317 power regulator.

(*pending-patent-pending hamster wheel'o'speed'o'meter - you heard it here first)
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I'm a bit confused as to the correct temperature to use - perhaps the unit needs calibrating (a feature available on a button) - but at the recommended 300C setting, it takes quite some time to melt and solder, even when just tinning the tip, and struggles when touching an actual component.  At the 400C setting it rocks, and solder just melts and whets and flows like I've seen in the YouTube videos - but I'm worried it's too high a setting.

I generally use 330C for lead/tin solder and 350C for lead free.
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Ah, that's good then - sounds about right, as I'm using lead-free, and 300 was too cool, and 400 too hot.  I'll try the goldilocks settings of 350 smiley

I had inserted all the components on one side, flipped the board and soldered them all in - I was half expecting to find a molten mass of components and wire-insulation on the flip-side smiley-grin
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Hey just randomly found this topic and though it's been a month figured I'd give you some info on that soldering iron and replacements.

It's basically a Hakko clone, the Maplin model is actually the Atten AT938D - which is just an upgraded digital version of their Hakko 936 clone.

So there are a bunch of Hakko 936 clones out there, and derivative models based on those clones (digital versions, 2in1's w/ hot air stations, double handle) all slightly different except they all use the same soldering handle, all use the same heating element and design and all use the same tips.

So you can get cheap and decent quality (not great, but reasonable) tips on ebay for almost nothing.

Official Hakko tips should fit, as would tips for the Ayoue, Saike, Atten, Gordak and more (almost all of their models are based on the same 936 base).
Replacement wands cost about £7 from hongkong.

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Wow, great info. Thanks smiley
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Why is there no love the the Weller WES51?  You can get the analog version for under $100 US, tip options galore, and great quality!  I would marry this iron lol
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