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soldering iron what do I want?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by bvanevery, Mar 25, 2014.

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  1. bvanevery


    Mar 19, 2014
    I've had a few days to think about a project I'm currently working on, the results of previous projects I've undertaken that have been failures, and what I'm most likely to do in the future. I'm finding myself willing to spend "more money" than the $10 I spent on a Walmart 30W soldering iron, which totally doesn't do the job on the circuit board I have in front of me. It simply won't melt the solder on the board, I'm guessing because it's a higher temperature solder. The solder on the board is in teeny tiny quantities of precision applied amounts. I figure it was machined, not done by hand. My iron probably isn't broken, it handles "regular" solder just fine. But it was really slow when trying to deal with thicker parts on another project, and it doesn't handle this project at all.

    So what do I want? Whose temperature controlled soldering station? What wattage? Where to get it from in the USA? Assuming I'm willing to spend some money but am poor and do not want to gold plate this? I'm sure I could web search for hours and hours and hours and eventually make my own conclusions, but perhaps you folks can speed it up by telling me what you like in the real world, or what you hate and wish you hadn't bought.
  2. Supercap2F


    Mar 22, 2014
  3. shrtrnd


    Jan 15, 2010
    Weller is probably the best-known.
    You want something with adjustable temperature and ability to interchange different
    types of tips.
    Wellers are expensive new, you can probably find a usable one on ebay, but you never
    know for sure what shape it might be in.
  4. bvanevery


    Mar 19, 2014
    I started to do web searching anyways because I didn't get notification about your replies for some reason. Not sure why. Some things I've started to wonder about:

    * can it be that all 30W fixed temp soldering irons are not created equal? My Walmart one is a piece of crap, there are better ones out there? I seem to have found posts of people who have used very simple tools for decades, although I'm not sure they were doing electronics. Need to pay more attention.

    * my main problem seems to be desoldering possibly lead-free higher temp solder, on a circuit board that's been factory soldered. Anyone know anything about Chip Quick? Seems to be a chemical approach to the problem.
  5. shumifan50


    Jan 16, 2014
    You pretty much get what you pay for as soldering irons go. The problem is that the wattage determines how long, if at all, it takes to melt existing solder, especially when connected to thicker wire. So then you need a high wattage iron. The same high wattage iron will damage a PCB, if not temperature controlled.
    Ideally you want a higher wattage iron with temp control which will enable you to do most jobs. It also helps if you can get interchangeable/replacement tips to suit each job.

    Another possibility is a gas soldering iron. These are quite good for de-soldering jobs, but again it should allow temperature control. They are inherently more dangerous as they blow very hot air that can damage unintended parts. Dremel make these, but I have no idea of the quality. The advantage of gas irons is that they do not need a power point and are quite portable.
  6. bvanevery


    Mar 19, 2014
    For the desoldering problem I was facing, I somewhat solved it by turning my cone tip backwards, leaving a large circle of metal as my "tip". This greatly increased the heat delivered. It was sufficient to push pins partway through from the backside of the board. I switched back to cone tip to scrape out the pins from the board, having moved them some. The back was now a recess and I'd heat that with the cone tip. Then I'd rapidly flip it and scrape from the front while the solder was still tacky.

    This suggests that more versatility of tip types might help me get more mileage out of my $10 30W iron.

    Also I think the tips that came with this iron are too long. There's almost 1 cm extra length sticking out of the heating element, before the tip starts to taper to a cone. I figure that's 1 cm of additional heat loss before the iron does any work. I'm going to try cutting one of the tips by 1 cm at the base, so that when it's fitted into the heating element, the tip is closer to the heating element.

    It would still be better to have some kind of better iron, but on a low budget I think I just saved myself $70+ for now. The deciding factor will be whether this board still works after my crude methods and rough handling. If it doesn't, well, I don't really need an expensive iron for *this* job because the damage is done. Maybe next time around, and I don't know when that will be.
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