Soldering Option help

westfw: It’s important, IMO, to get a “temperature controlled” iron, rather than just an “adjustable” iron.

It might require some digging to figure out which is which, when looking at an iron with a dial...

That's a good point. I'm gonna have to keep that in mind when I shop for a more permanent iron. For now I went with this $4 ebay iron to get me through the first couple projects.

I dont have much in the way of expectations when it comes to this thing, I figured if it's junk I'm out less than five dollars, and I can go grab one from harbor freight instead.

The last two are garbage. They are just a lamp dimmer (phase control PWM) with no temperature feedback.

Just because an iron is labeled in degrees, does not mean it has feedback. Just because it says "adjustable temperature", does not mean it has feedback.

The Circuit Specialist iron says "A front panel led will blink while the system is heating and then once the set temperature has been acquired, it will stop blinking and stay on." That indicates temperature feedback.

I would not trust the Robot Shop iron. It only says "Adjustable Temperature", and in one place it says 30W, in two other places it says 60W.

polymorph:
The last two are garbage. They are just a lamp dimmer (phase control PWM) with no temperature feedback.

Just because an iron is labeled in degrees, does not mean it has feedback. Just because it says “adjustable temperature”, does not mean it has feedback.

The Circuit Specialist iron says “A front panel led will blink while the system is heating and then once the set temperature has been acquired, it will stop blinking and stay on.” That indicates temperature feedback.

I would not trust the Robot Shop iron. It only says “Adjustable Temperature”, and in one place it says 30W, in two other places it says 60W.

So the circuit specialist would be the best option of the 4 in the OP?

SaintSkinny: So the circuit specialist would be the best option of the 4 in the OP?

I would say so.

I have a nº 2, with some other branding and it is ok, there are very cheap compatible tips on ebay so you can order what you need for a few bucks.

Just stay away from the very cheap 220V (or 110V in your case) AC irons where the tip is just a cooper(ish) rod, most of the times they will just burn the pads out from the PCB, an iron like the nº 2 will not.

About solder, choose something with about 0.6 - 0.8 mm with rosin core (no acid flux core), any 60/40 (60% lead, 40% tin) will do, but if you can spare just a bit more go for a 63/37, they look to be a bit better. But if you're buying solder from china remember that you'll get what you're paying for... not much :-(

If you're using a wet sponge, distilled/deionized water is just a bit better but, really, for you or me it is not important. But grab a brass "sponge" it is much better and will not cool your iron.

SaintSkinny: I dont have much in the way of expectations when it comes to this thing, I figured if it's junk I'm out less than five dollars, and I can go grab one from harbor freight instead.

I have a few of those. I mean that exact shape, but with two different brand names on them. They are just a lamp dimmer. Temperature takes a long time to stabilize, then it drops very quickly when you start soldering, and takes a long time to recover.

It is literally just a triac, diac, and the resistors and capacitors for a lamp dimmer.

$4 is too much.

polymorph: I have a few of those. I mean that exact shape, but with two different brand names on them. They are just a lamp dimmer. Temperature takes a long time to stabilize, then it drops very quickly when you start soldering, and takes a long time to recover.

It is literally just a triac, diac, and the resistors and capacitors for a lamp dimmer.

$4 is too much.

I can't say I'm surprised, that's about all I expected for the price.... But luckily I won't have to use it for long :) ... I was talking with my Dad the other day and at some point I mentioned something about the iron I got from ebay. Yesterday I got an email saying he was sending me a decent iron and that it'd be here Saturday. YAY! :sunglasses:

My 1st iron, back in 1988 was 220V job with a hood handle, without any kind of regulation it heated like crazy, the point was a cooper(ish) cylinder about 3 or 4mm thick without any kind of coating, that I had to file almost every day because it become pitted and corroded after a few hours of use. Maybe the electronic solder (as it was called here) back then had acid flux inside instead of rosin or maybe it was just the heat... I only used it for about 3 months, when I was able to buy a much better one that I still have today. But in a fix, it would do the job, but you risk the pads and traces specially when trying to remove a component.

It wasn't the rosin or flux, it was the solder. Copper is soluble in molten solder. That is why tips are iron plated, now, and why you should never file or sand an iron plated soldering iron tip.

I did a teardown of a Tenma branded copy of the Weller WLC100, another lamp dimmer soldering station I would not buy on a dare. Just like the one pictured above, there are dozens of them with different brands printed on them, but all the same.

https://youtu.be/HJynLwsqnts

Having a threaded ring to hold in the tip was a terrible idea, as the heat/cool cycles while using it cause it to unscrew itself, sometimes literally in minutes. The three little dents used to hold in the bit the collar threads onto, similarly loosens itself from heat/cool cycles.

It takes a long time to get to equilibrium temperature, then drops 100F or more while soldering one connection. Then takes around 10 minutes to get back to equilibrium. I find that if I turn it up enough to stay hot enough to solder, it will heat until the tip burns black when back in the holder. So I had to turn it up to use it, turn it back down to put it back in the holder. And keep pliers handy to keep tightening the collar. And watch out for the entire tip/collar/retaining ring falling out. I'm not exaggerating.

polymorph:
It wasn’t the rosin or flux, it was the solder. Copper is soluble in molten solder. That is why tips are iron plated, now, and why you should never file or sand an iron plated soldering iron tip.

At the time that ‘new’ tips were called ‘long duration’ and here (in Portugal) were only available (for the public, it could have been different in the pro market) in fancy brands like JBC. All the cheaper irons just had the cooper rod.
The one I still have is only marked DAHER 30W 220V, the original box is gone, but I am quite sure that I bought it as being a JBC (I can’t find any info about but the tips do look like the JBCs, with that small spring on the top), the tip is not the original because I changed it to a smaller one in the 90’s but it is still very very shiny.
daher_30w_tip.jpg

polymorph: I did a teardown of a Tenma branded copy of the Weller WLC100, another lamp dimmer soldering station I would not buy on a dare. Just like the one pictured above, there are dozens of them with different brands printed on them, but all the same.

Is the WLC100 a 'lamp-dimmer' too? Or were the clones just putting a rheostat in a similar looking enclosure? the WLC100 is what my Dad sent me, it just came in this afternoon. Either way it's better than the ebay piece I was going to use

I think we can presume that a real Weller will do it properly.

Correct.

I have an ancient magnetostat Weller TCP, and it still works fine.

For modern stuff I use Metcal irons . Good, but not cheap.

Allan

allanhurst:
I have an ancient magnetostat Weller TCP, and it still works fine.

I suspect most of us “oldies” do, but spare parts are the killer. :astonished:

Yep - the day it irrevocably dies I shall be sorry. A good workhorse for many years. You could get pretty much any part till about 10 years ago.

I wonder if the modern kit will last as long? Or will be so well supported in spares?

But this is pro stuff - $5 would never buy a Weller. If you're going to take electronics seriously a good iron is essential in my view. Don't cheapskate here.

The big advance is to put the heating element in the tip - more heat efficient and very fast response. Metcal did this years ago.

The TS100 has many good reviews - I'm tempted.

Allan

My Weller TCP cost something like $70 when I bought it in 1981 (got it at the Heathkit Store!), and it lasted till just a couple of years ago (although it didn't really get used very much, software geek that I became...) Replaced it with one of those Hakko irons from Adafruit (for quite a bit less than the ~$200 that $70 would be worth now, according to inflation calculators.)

I exclusively use Weller irons with the ugly green housing (they switched to other colored housing at around the same time that they were bought out and became only a brand name). I would recommend a used Weller iron over any of the new production crap that seems to dominate the market now.

Paul__B: I think we can presume that a real Weller will do it properly.

Good to hear! :) I googled the model and it had good reviews on most places I checked, and they seemed to be legitimate, but then again it is the internet.... It's not always easy to tell who's got real reviews and who's paid to have them written. That's actually one of the main reasons I posted this, I've trusted the wrong reviews a couple times and ended up with junk. But alot of people are surprised that you can find decent items for decent prices if you put some work into it.

polymorph: Having a threaded ring to hold in the tip was a terrible idea, as the heat/cool cycles while using it cause it to unscrew itself, sometimes literally in minutes. The three little dents used to hold in the bit the collar threads onto, similarly loosens itself from heat/cool cycles.

It takes a long time to get to equilibrium temperature, then drops 100F or more while soldering one connection. Then takes around 10 minutes to get back to equilibrium. I find that if I turn it up enough to stay hot enough to solder, it will heat until the tip burns black when back in the holder. So I had to turn it up to use it, turn it back down to put it back in the holder. And keep pliers handy to keep tightening the collar. And watch out for the entire tip/collar/retaining ring falling out. I'm not exaggerating.

Sounds just like the way my Ebay Iron was built! the tip screws into the end of the collar, and the retaining ring holds the collar to the body (I think I used the right terminology, I honestly know more about names of the parts of a plant or flower than I do about the names of the pieces of a soldering Iron lol.

I showed Momma Saint (my Mom) my new iron and even she could tell the difference, the weller has a bit more weight and a more 'solid feel'... By solid feel, I mean I'm not worried about anything falling into my lap when I'm working! :o Not to mention if that happens I'll have to explain the oddly placed scars to every girlfriend I ever have again lol

After looking at the Tenma and comparing it to the Weller, it seems like they just used the cheapest parts they could find and built a movie prop version of the WLC100. I can't tell for sure, but is the Tenma iron attached to the base permanently? One of the first things I noticed about the WLC is that it's Iron doesn't require the station to work, which I could see coming in handy in certain situations.

Hi,
My field work soldering iron;
wellertc202_zps9708323e.jpg

My work soldering iron;
CD-1BE.gif

My home soldering iron;
tmt-9000s-small.jpg

I like the Weller for field work as its simple and field repairable, and the tips are compact to store.

Tom… :slight_smile: