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Bought a cheap soldering iron - should I be concerned about this?

Discussion in 'Troubleshooting and Repair' started by Dzamija, Jun 20, 2016.

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  1. Dzamija


    Jun 20, 2016
    Alright, so I desperately wanted to learn to solder my guitar cables, so I went out and bought a $3 soldering iron and it did the job fine. You could tell that it's built pretty cheaply and probably won't last that long, but I'ma bit broke at the moment so I couldn't afford anything better. However, sometime during the process, this happened.

    As you can see from the image, the iron got all blackened in the middle, the first time it was used. It didn't seem to affect anything else and I'm absolutely aware that it's pretty much garbage, I'm just concerned whether or not this is a sign that the next time I use it, it'll explode in my face or effin' electrocute me or something. Since I have no idea how these things work and only have a basic understanding of electronics, I'd like it if someone could give me some advice.


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  2. 73's de Edd

    73's de Edd

    Aug 21, 2015
    Sir Dzamija . . . . . .

    Mine cost 10 to 30 times the price of yours, and guess what . . . .they are doing the SAME THING !

    They just RUN HOT, so expect some degree of metal discoloration near the area that the heating element is under.

    To keep mine looking as nice as possible and to keep that oxidized area in control, I use a
    brass wire grill brush to knock most of the oxidized area down, to where it looks decent again.
    Seems like that is required about every 5 uses, and I put it away cleaned.
    Only time will tell, on the long time life of your units internal heating element.

    I will tell you one thing , those L o o o o ng tips that the iron comes with, loose heat RAPIDLY out towards the end of the tip.
    I cut off the tips other ends blunt end, inside of the heating element tube, to then to make the outer tip length unit about 1/2 to 1/3 shorter.
    If I need to reshape a tips end, I chuck the tips blunt end into a drill motor and then place it in my lap and use it "lathe" style to then take a mill file and slope file and dress up the outer tips point to a conical shape again..
    I then place a small 45-60 degree slope on the very end 2--3 mm of the tip.


    Then I tin it VERY-VERY-VERY well.

    When I wear out a tip down to the no longer usable length I buy a BRASS 1/4 inch ( you will have
    to convert that to mm) machine screw of 4 inches length and do the same tip shaping after you
    figure the length needed to initially cut it off to.

    The BRASS conducts heat well and the MAIN thing is, with those spaced out threading ringlets, you will never have to worry about an oxidizing and a hard SEIZING of a tip within the barrel of the heating element . . . . . thereby leaving you with a non fixable.

    (This mainly pertains to my $ 60-80 Ungars, Wellers, American Beautys, etc )

    ADD ON :

    I just now remembered my favorite .. . . .the turquoise handled . . .60 watt Hexacons.
    I ran it through a series configured triac controller for establishing its max temp setting . . .PLUS . . .a series inserted 1N4007 .
    The clamshell iron holder, closed upon the weight of the iron being placed in it. That iron removal action engaged a micro switch so that the diode was shorted across and it's voltage reduction was then negated.
    If I happened to be doing repetitive soldering actions, I used a second coil spring holder, mounted just above the primary holder, for resting the iron. At the end, of sequential uses, the main holder
    was used
    The idling / standby iron temperature just happened to fall, such that the tip was just BARELY able to melt solder.
    So o o o it took minimal initial wait time to get up to normal solder operational temperature.
    BOY. . . .did I ever have long tip life's, since that changeover.

    In prior times, it was just burned out tip time, should I forget and leave the iron on for ma a a a any
    hours . . . . .or . . . .shudder . . . .OVERNIGHT!

    Thaaaaasit . . . . .

    73's de Edd
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2016
    hevans1944 and davenn like this.
  3. davenn

    davenn Moderator

    Sep 5, 2009
    hi ya
    welcome to EP :)

    Edd's comments are correct on the heat discolouration

  4. hevans1944

    hevans1944 Hop - AC8NS

    Jun 21, 2012
    If it works for you I wouldn't say it's garbage. Inexpensive, sure, and maybe of questionable quality, but the question you should ask yourself is: does it solder? You can add lots of fancy bells and whistles to a soldering iron, but if it doesn't get too hot or too cool and you can tin the tip... what more do you need? The discoloration is normal and AFAIK does no harm. You might try plugging it into a cheap light dimmer to elicit some control over the temperature.
  5. duke37


    Jan 9, 2011
    Soldering iron bits are often iron plated which should not be removed so treat with care.
    If the iron plating is damaged, you will need to reshape the tip with a file and retin the tip often as the solder dissolves it.
  6. shrtrnd


    Jan 15, 2010
    My input is that the solder tip is held in place by that set-screw. Most of the ones I have like that have a tendency
    to loosen-up over repeated use (maybe I have cheap ones too). I'm just mentioning this because if you ever experience
    a problem with the iron tip not heating-up to the full potential, the first thing to check, is to make sure that set-screw
    holding the tip in place is tight.
    (*steve*) and hevans1944 like this.
  7. dante_clericuzzio


    Mar 28, 2016
    I always use cheap soldering iron it's the wattage matters most to me...everything else work normally...just like the expensive one. The only problem is none-regulated voltage meaning you cannot control the heat...sometimes it can go overheat beyond the temperature you need and cause the tips to oxidize fast...when it does just turn off the current for a while and usually i use flux to clean the tips
    73's de Edd likes this.
  8. bigone5500


    Apr 9, 2014
  9. dante_clericuzzio


    Mar 28, 2016
    Yes same here and personally i think whether you are beginner or experience electronic enthusiast the minimum wattage 60w would the best...because i have a few solder iron that ranges from 30w, 40w, 50w, 60w, and 80w...don't get me wrong these are real cheap to me that's why i tried to experience the soldering result..

    30w simply too low, even at 50w is still not enough especially soldering motherboard so the best i always use is 60w...and 80w simply too hot -- too much heat makes the tip oxidize very very very fast...
  10. Colin Mitchell

    Colin Mitchell

    Aug 31, 2014
    Simply add a diode in line with the soldering iron and a switch across the diode.
    This will give you 2 temperatures.
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