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Thread: Best soldering irons and solder to get?

  1. #1
    Reticulating Splines BetaWolf47's Avatar
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    Default Best soldering irons and solder to get?

    I'm trying to get into repairing my older stuff, such as replacing caps and batteries. All I have for the job is a soldering iron that was packed into a computer repair kit I own, and it's not doing a good job. What kind of solder, as well? Some people say that lead solder isn't the best.
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    ServBot (Level 11) jb143's Avatar
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    Lead free solder is hard to work with if you're not too experienced with it and also needs a higher temp/wattage iron. A good solder joint with lead free might actually look like a bad joint would with leaded solder. It can look like a cold solder joint for example. After working with it a lot I got the hang of it but for repairing old systems, I'd just stick with leaded solder.

    How nice of an iron are you talking about? You could probably get by with a $20 adjustable wattage iron from Radio Shack. For nicer ones...on the low end...when I was working in electronics we had some Hakko 936 soldering stations that were pretty nice. You could probably get one used for around $50 I would think.
    Last edited by jb143; 03-28-2012 at 11:49 AM.
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    Cherry (Level 1) Shulamana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BetaWolf47 View Post
    All I have for the job is a soldering iron that was packed into a computer repair kit I own, and it's not doing a good job.
    Do you own a metal file? When I first tried to use one of those ultra cheap ones I didn't realize it wasn't working after a while because the tip had become all rusted, you might want to try scraping the oxidation off the tip so it's shiny again, assuming you haven't already.

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    Reticulating Splines BetaWolf47's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shulamana View Post
    Do you own a metal file? When I first tried to use one of those ultra cheap ones I didn't realize it wasn't working after a while because the tip had become all rusted, you might want to try scraping the oxidation off the tip so it's shiny again, assuming you haven't already.
    I haven't done that, but this soldering iron was difficult to use from the start. The whole repair kit only cost about $40, so the iron may be very bottom of the barrel.
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  5. #5
    Cherry (Level 1)
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    A basic iron will do most jobs, but I upgraded to a Weller adjustable, which is good to have a lower power setting so you don't overheat components or solder pads on PCBs.

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    Pac-Man (Level 10) FABombjoy's Avatar
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    Temp controlled is the way to go if you can swing it. I just bought a new Hakko, before that was a garage sale find Weller. I like the Hakko quite a bit more (the iron is much lighter and holds temp better) but I haven't compared it to a modern Weller. A friend has a Tenma which he uses on occasion and it seems to work well for him.
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    Strawberry (Level 2) bust3dstr8's Avatar
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    Another vote here for Hakko.

    .032" 63/37 no clean core is good for most general use.
    Last edited by bust3dstr8; 03-29-2012 at 09:14 PM.
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    Jessica's Knight / SOFEL Fanboy InsaneDavid's Avatar
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    I used a rat shack iron for the longest time before upgrading to a yard sale adjustable Weller. Honestly I never had any issues with the Radio Shack iron but the Weller is far nicer. I will say the last time I peeked up at the irons at Radio Shack they were all some odd wattage compared to my old one. The old Radio Shack iron I have is a 30W iron and all the tips and irons they were stocking last I saw were 25W.

    Lead free solder is one of the stupidest inventions ever created. Packed with horrible chemicals to replace the nice, stable, safe, controllable lead. It's just personal preference but the 60/40 Radio Shack solder has been my favorite to use for years. Some swear by 63/37, depends on the application. There was a location closing up a couple years ago and I picked up a few of the larger spools at a discount - which was pretty surprising. I was also able to pick up a handful of tips for my older model iron at a discount.

    I do LOVE my Radio Shack desoldering iron however.
    Last edited by InsaneDavid; 03-29-2012 at 08:46 PM.
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    ServBot (Level 11) jb143's Avatar
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    Also, something to keep in mind since InsaneDavid brought it up...instead of investing in a great soldering iron, you might want to get just a decent soldering iron and a desoldering iron instead.
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    Reticulating Splines BetaWolf47's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jb143 View Post
    Also, something to keep in mind since InsaneDavid brought it up...instead of investing in a great soldering iron, you might want to get just a decent soldering iron and a desoldering iron instead.
    Why not a good soldering iron and a desoldering iron? I'll take a look at some Wellers.
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    Key (Level 9) Niku-Sama's Avatar
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    i've got an adjustable temp weller (the one with the knob) and it works ok. i would like something that i could set the temp on that has just more than 1-5 but for the time being i just needed something to get through some lead free solder.
    if your mostly working on older stuff though pretty much any old thing should work. i use a soldering iron for the lower temp (than lead free) that i bought at the good will as-is store for $1.

  12. #12
    ServBot (Level 11) jb143's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BetaWolf47 View Post
    Why not a good soldering iron and a desoldering iron? I'll take a look at some Wellers.
    Because if he had a particular budget in mind, then instead of blowing it all on a soldering iron he could spend less and get a get a de-soldering iron as well. Given what he said he'd be using it for this sounded like the best way to go to me.

    I've used $200+ soldering stations before that were amazing to use but I would never recommend them to someone just doing occasional repairs.
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    Jessica's Knight / SOFEL Fanboy InsaneDavid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jb143 View Post
    Because if he had a particular budget in mind, then instead of blowing it all on a soldering iron he could spend less and get a get a de-soldering iron as well. Given what he said he'd be using it for this sounded like the best way to go to me.

    I've used $200+ soldering stations before that were amazing to use but I would never recommend them to someone just doing occasional repairs.
    Exactly. If you're just doing a little repair work here and there, tossing in a region switch, building a couple JAMMA converter boards, etc. then a moderate quality iron is fine. If I still had my shop and bench area like at my previous residence and was still doing 4-6 mods a week as well as other repairs, I would invest in a nice soldering station. I was leaning toward that before moving. If at a later time I go full bore into the arcade scene then I'll probably make the jump for a nicer setup since repair is the order of the day on that side of the hobby.
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  14. #14
    Insert Coin (Level 0)
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    Here is what I have:
    http://www.amazon.com/Weller-WES51-A...3500110&sr=8-1

    Used to use a cheap radio shack one like most of you, the difference is night and day.

    Anyway, great iron. The price has gone up since a year ago mine cost me 80.00 from amazon, totally worth it if you plan to do lots of soldering.

  15. #15
    Strawberry (Level 2)
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    I have one of those Radioshack de-soldering irons and I personally feel it's a piece of shit. I prefer wick instead.

    With that being said, I have a Weller station and a few loose irons that I use. I still have the Radioshack brand I received as a teenager and there's a Weller meant for Plumbing but I've found it to be great for quick circuit board work.

    Like InsaneDavid, I'm in the 60/40 camp and I also agree that lead-free solder is terrible.

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    Pac-Man (Level 10) FABombjoy's Avatar
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    I use a Hakko 808 for desoldering. If I had to go back to a soldapult, rubber bulb-based tools, or solder wick I'd probably switch to collecting pogs or my little ponys.

    The Hakko FX-888 is the solder station that I just bought (as I mentioned above). So far, no complaints. It takes up a little less bench space than the Weller it replaces, too.
    Last edited by FABombjoy; 04-05-2012 at 09:24 AM.
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    ServBot (Level 11) jb143's Avatar
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    Yeah, after using a powered desoldering iron you'll never want to go back to a bulb or wick again. The secret to using desoldering irons though is to keep them clean and sometimes you need to add more solder first for there be enough to suck up.

    Also, when did Hakko stuff start looking like toys? They used to have a tough black industrial look, now they're blue and yellow plastic looking.
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  18. #18
    Insert Coin (Level 0)
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    I use a Hakko FX-888 and love it! Ive never had a job it didnt do well.

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    Pretzel (Level 4) APE992's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InsaneDavid View Post
    Lead free solder is one of the stupidest inventions ever created. Packed with horrible chemicals to replace the nice, stable, safe, controllable lead.
    Which is why lead doesn't leech into water supplies? And lead free is no worse than leaded solder unless you cringe at the thought of pocket change and what goes into making capacitors.

    Sounds to me like OP might want to investigate flux usage and how to keep the tip clean.
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