Do I need a soldering station ?

Hi,

I just read a post of an user asking for advice on selecting a cheap soldering station.
I'd like to ask if I really need to buy one.

I have two 220V JBC irons, both from the 80's. One is a 30W and another a 11W (pencil type). The 11W have an earthed plug, but the 30W only have the 2 prongs mains plug. In both cases the tips are in perfect state.
I totally have no idea of the temperature each one reaches but they should have some kind of internal regulation because even after one hour they do not became hotter than they were after 5 minutes.

I do not solder ICs directly but from time to time I solder headers on MCU boards and sensors, so I worry that somehow the 50Hz line noise could toast any sensitive component.

None of the tips have a flat side, and I know that sooner or later I'll need to solder some SMD component, so, I'm thinking about getting another iron, but, do I really need another one ? I think that there are no flat tips for the 11W pencil type iron, but I'm sure that I'll find some for the 30W one. In my country JBC tips are bellow 30 EUR, so that's about the limit I want to spend on a new one. Flashing LEDs and a temperature meter are nice and look good, but I really don't know if it makes sense to buy one cheap station from ebay or not.

I'd love to get an opinion, thanks.

Cheap should not be the only thing to focus on. Reliability and performance should be considered as well......these are obvious things. So, before you buy something.... should read up about it... or look for reviews and discussions about it.

Southpark:
Cheap should not be the only thing to focus on. Reliability and performance should be considered as well......these are obvious things. So, before you buy something.... should read up about it... or look for reviews and discussions about it.

That's correct, but if I set my limit at 40€, should I bother looking ?
Is a Hakko 936 clone better/safer than what I have now?
I'm not totally unhappy with my soldering quality, it would not win any prize but I've seen a lot worst on youtube, I'm only worried that using a 220V iron will someday toast some ESD sensitive component.

thanks for your reply.

If the tips are still in good shape, you have not been using lead-free solder and associated flux.

Paul

The 936 is a very good iron.

I do like the stations which have a hot air wand (where the air pressure is from an internal compressor rather than a fan in the handle).
Good for SMD rework, heat shrink and when making twisted cables etc.

.

Paul_KD7HB:
If the tips are still in good shape, you have not been using lead-free solder and associated flux.

Paul

No Sir, never touched the stuff... :slight_smile:
And the fact that they were not used for more than 25 years helps too :slight_smile: I bought them in the 80's, probably about 88 or 89 but quit electronics in 92 or so, until last year. So, not much use.

larryd:
The 936 is a very good iron.

I do like the stations which have a hot air wand (where the air pressure is from an internal compressor rather than a fan in the handle).
Good for SMD rework, heat shrink and when making twisted cables etc.

I'm sure it is, but I have some doubts about the clones. However complete spares look to be available on ebay so it might be an option. Banggod have 15 tips for 6.88€, just a wild guess, they wont last long...

I like the hot air wand too, but for the time being I don't have much use for it, and with standalone units available for 14 US$ there is no point.

I used regular irons for many many years. But solder stations are so cheap, the last one I bought was a solder station.

It's useful for so many more things. I can turn the temperature down to 200C to melt plastic without burning it. I can turn it up to 450C to solder with lead-free solder.

My purchase list for soldering equipment goes:

  1. Regular iron (portable, only melts solder)
  2. Solder station (lots of jobs like modifying plastic enclosures)
  3. Hot air station (heatshrink mostly, but can desolder SMD)
  4. Frying pan (new-build SMD boards)
  5. Hakko 808 desolder tool (I can pull any thru-hole component off any board without damaging either the board or the component. Chips with a dozen legs can be practically desoldered and re-used.)

Just work your way down that list as your budget allows.

Do you need one - maybe

Do you "want" one - Yes

:smiley:

MarkDerbyshire:
Do you need one - maybe

Do you "want" one - Yes

:smiley:

I think you nailed it. :sunglasses:
If I had the money I'd have something fancy that I'd never use correctly. Having a tight budget keeps you sane.
Too little and it limits you, but I don't think it's yet the case.

Thanks for the tips, I'm filling the soldering station just after a better DSO.

I too am now faced with this dilemma.

I've poked around the Interweb and read reviews and tutorials, but I can't find anything overwhelmingly convincing that a hobbyist needs a soldering station. Example after example/ tutorial after tutorial shows people twiddling the temperatures up and down to get things joined. Setting 250 degrees is essentially meaningless as the solder type, tip size, component size, ground plane size and the cat's disposition all seem to be influencing factors. Are you initially soldering or re-flowing? Extra flux?

I've used the venerable Antex XS25 plus a range of tips for hundreds of years. The heater is reliable and grounded against ESD. The tips contain enough thermal mass to join most things. If it can't, my 100 Watter will. And good old leaded solder plus extra flux.

I could understand if you set temp X and never needed to change it. But you do. It seems all the time. So unless you're going to production solder 100's joints/hr, the thermal recovery time seems kinda meaningless for a hobbyist. What's the rush? No one really seems to fully address this on You Tube. Station = good, and more power = better. Yet what's the hobbyist's benefit of a 150W Weller with +/- 2 degrees regulation when you're guessing the temperature anyway for that one all metal BNC connector with the really thick mounting prongs?

Penning this has proved cathartic. I now think not.

What’s the purpose of your rant to this very old thread?

Well, "I too am now faced with this dilemma." ::slight_smile:

And the thread remains unanswered...

I used to feel that way. My irons served me well for 40 yrs. why spend the dough?
But then I picked up an old radio shack station for a couple bucks at a yard sale and haven’t touched my irons since.

I could understand if you set temp X and never needed to change it.

You might be guessing the first couple of times, but it becomes natural very quickly.
Almost as quickly as you’ll start appreciating having that capability.

the thermal recovery time seems kinda meaningless for a hobbyist

This means that the joint heats ups faster not hotter, giving it less time to spread.

Do you need one? No, but it has improved my soldering experience enough that when this old radio shack unit craps out. It’s a sure bet I’ll be ponying up the bucks to replace it.

My thing that confuses me is the wonderful marketing "maintains a constant temperature" when obviously they don't.

60/40 solder melts at ~180 degrees C. So the iron temp should be set to a little over 180, no? Then the temperature controller adjusts power input to the tip to maintain that as heat flows to the components. It should also cater for the solder's heat of fusion.

The need for constant tailoring of an automatic device to the components/solder indicates that this doesn't happen. I don't know how the temperature is maintained - PI, PID or PID+LPF, but it seems inadequate. Perhaps a typical 75W is insufficient.

I'm trying to be objective, but it seems odd to spend £200 on a decent automatic station (and discard previous investments) yet have to constantly override the controller. Hand on heart, will my soldering be better than simply using a good quality fixed temperature iron and 1mm tip for the small stuff? And how would anyone objectively quantify "better" :confused: ?

Get a copy of IPC-A-610 and it will show you in color pictures how your solder results should look.

Paul

200 pounds is too much. I expect you can find it closer to 100, maybe less.

The temperature is set higher than the theoretical melting point for 2 reasons:

  1. you want the solder to melt thoroughly, not leave "ice cubes" of unmelted solder.

  2. the things that you are soldering suck heat out of the melt pool. You must get those surfaces hotter than the melt point so that the solder contacting the surface is melted. Without that, you have a "dry joint".

A HAKKO soldering iron should be more than sufficient for all you soldering needs.
A fine curved tip is my go to tip.

The hot air wand included in some soldering stations is a must have addition for SMD work and is great for hot air applications.

A small amount of flux makes things easy to solder.
Make yourself a pin point flux applicator bottle from a spent ‘Wite out’ bottle.

A ‘Gull Wing’ tip is very useful for fine pitch solder dragging situations.

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I have that Hakko. It is more difficult to change temperatures than other soldering stations, due to only having 2 buttons. (It doesn't even have up and down.)

larryd:
A HAKKO soldering iron should be more than sufficient for all you soldering needs.
A fine curved tip is my go to tip.

At the moment that is my go to tip too. Which was a surprise because I was never found of conic tips and this ones are not very different.
I only change when I need more thermal mass for things like dessoldering a dissipator support. It makes a surprising difference even with a cheap (about 40USD) hakko fake "station".
This fine tips are very good for trough hole and decent sized smd components, but not ideal for drag soldering an IC.
I still have to find a flux that perform as well as the 100's of you tube videos I have seen.