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Shrimpy
02-15-2008, 01:29 PM
I've decided it's time to move up from burning through radio shack brand soldering pencils which last about a month, and having to do all my precision work on a station at my high school. I'm willing to spend from about $50 to $100 (this can probably stretch a bit), I'm thinking a serious investment now would be useful for years. I do purely soldering on through hole boards (nothing surface mount), but I do make a lot of double sided boards which required getting underneath the components. Theres so much out there I really have no idea where to start looking... Do any of you with some experience have some recommendations on what I should buy?

P-K
02-15-2008, 02:37 PM
I use the Weller wlc100 its a soldering station for 45 bucks. You can get a couple of different tips to suit your needs. I use it for thru hole to surface mount with a small chisel type tip.
Works great.
I've had mine for 3 yrs now.
paul

JonHylands
02-15-2008, 03:05 PM
The Weller WES51 is one of the best hobby-level soldering stations you can get. Temperature controlled tip, and it heats up to full temperature in a matter of a few seconds, which is a joy compared to the old Rat Shack irons.

You can also get tips for it from many places... I have the standard one it came with, plus a tiny one I use for surface mount and fine work.

http://www.amazon.com/WELLER-WES51-Weller-Soldering-Station/dp/B0002BSQS0

- Jon

Dave
02-15-2008, 03:06 PM
I use an Aoyue 2900. It cost me about $70, and it's just as good as some $200 solder stations I've used. The tip is really short, the body is thin, and the handle doesn't get hot; so you can actually hold it like a pen. You set the temperature digitally, and it seems pretty accurate. It only takes about 20 seconds to heat up. I have one at work, I have one at home, and I've recommended it to my friends. It's good.

[edit] link: https://store.sra-solder.com/product.php?xProd=6363&xSec=22

Aparently it's only $60 now.

[double edit] Tips are replaceable, and there's a good variety of them available.

srobot
02-15-2008, 03:15 PM
Jon - What solder do you use?

Dave
02-15-2008, 03:16 PM
The Weller WES51 is one of the best hobby-level soldering stations you can get.

That's a good one, too.


a joy compared to the old Rat Shack irons.

Ha. Seriously, man. By the time the tip heats up on an RS iron, the handle is cooking your hand.

srobot
02-15-2008, 03:28 PM
Ha. Seriously, man. By the time the tip heats up on an RS iron, the handle is cooking your hand.

I have an old Rat Shack iron from about 15 years ago, the tip is cracking, I can eat dinner while it heats up (I've done this about 4 times...), the temp goes all over the place, my hand shakes because the handle is hot. Oh, did I say I don't use it anymore (oops)?

--Scotty

Dave
02-15-2008, 03:36 PM
I have an old Rat Shack iron from about 15 years ago, the tip is cracking, I can eat dinner while it heats up (I've done this about 4 times...), the temp goes all over the place, my hand shakes because the handle is hot. Oh, did I say I don't use it anymore (oops)?

"How to buy tools that don't suck" should be part of every 101 class in any technical field. It seems like everybody goes through a few crappy irons before they figure it out. Oh man, here's another bit of advice: that digital solder station that the Shack sells is a piece of garbage too. I realize this should have been a no brainer, but.. well I guess my brain wasn't working that day. Live and learn.

Shrimpy
02-15-2008, 03:46 PM
Somehow I knew you guys would line up to talk about your irons,
I think I'm going to go with the Aoyue 2900, it probably won't last forever like a weller would but I doubt I'll be using my own soldering iron in college,
Thanks for your input

JonHylands
02-15-2008, 03:48 PM
Jon - What solder do you use?

I have two rolls of solder - one from Radio Shack, NexxTech 0.032" rosin core, and another roll I ordered from Digikey for really fine work, Kester 0.020" rosin core. Both are 1/2 lb rolls, so it will be years before I run out.

Note that I also have a bottle of liquid flux with a brush applicator that I use when I have to have three arms (put solder on the tip, which dissolves all the rosin, so you need some brushed on the parts).

I also recently picked up a flux pen, which I use mainly for doing the BGA package 1-axis gyros that Analog sells (http://www.huv.com/blog/2008/02/new-imu.html).

Having a decent vice really helps as well - I use the Panavise (suction base) mainly, although I have an ancient PCB-holder vise I use when soldering larger boards.

- Jon

srobot
02-15-2008, 04:03 PM
Thanks Jon!

Speaking of 3 arms, I picked up a $12 grip from Menards about a year ago.

It works great for the price.

--Scotty

tom_chang79
02-15-2008, 07:58 PM
I have a pair of Hakko 936s. I've used these irons at my previous employer and they work great for a sub-100 dollar iron.

As for solder, I use 60/40 solder. Sn60 Pb40 (Sn being the atomic symbol for Tin and Pb being the atomic symbol for lead).

You can also use the Ag (silver) based solder if you want to go lead-free in your work, but don't expect a good luster out of those. Properly soldered, the color still looks dull after you finish. These melt at a higher temperature, so take care not to burn your components while using this type of solder.

Rosin (flux) core solder is pure preference. Most hobbyists who does minimal soldering does not need to have a bottle flux if you have a rosin-core. I solder alot for work so I can attest that a bottle of flux is quite handy to have to get a good solder joint. Even with rosin-core solder, I still use some flux to aid in soldering.

Of course, if you are Richie Rich out there, you can go for Metcal brand of soldering irons. These are the Cadillacs of Soldering Irons. I've used them in college and use them currrently for work. It's hard to pick up other soldering irons after you use some Metcals!

Don't forget to get some solvents to clean the rosin-based flux from your solder joints after soldering. They aren't resistive, but they are organic so they will mold after a while... Besides, cleaning the flux off of joints makes your properly soldered joints shiny... if you used 60/40 blend of solder.

ROHS-compliant flux and solder? My $0.02, AVOID THEM AT ALL COST. They are great for the fact that they are lead-free, but the fluxes are designed for reflow type of an assembly so that the flux can gas out. The residues still needs to be cleaned off with some harsh solvents which is problematic for personal use. If you do not clean these water-based (ROHS compliant) flux, they become resistive, so you'll be scratching your head why your electronic is malfunctioning or shorting out...

:D

Semicton
04-13-2008, 01:31 AM
I picked up my first iron at radio shack and for only 8 dollars, it works great for me :)

Adrenalynn
04-13-2008, 02:02 AM
The Weller WES51 is one of the best hobby-level soldering stations you can get. Temperature controlled tip, and it heats up to full temperature in a matter of a few seconds, which is a joy compared to the old Rat Shack irons.

You can also get tips for it from many places... I have the standard one it came with, plus a tiny one I use for surface mount and fine work.

http://www.amazon.com/WELLER-WES51-Weller-Soldering-Station/dp/B0002BSQS0

- Jon


Great Choice, imho. I have two WES51's that I don't even want to think how old they are. Definitely "mod1" irons. My first one is still on its first heating element, and they probably get used an average 10hrs/wk. They're serious continuous production tools. Life's too short for sucky soldering irons. Did anyone mention they're also ESD shielded? My newer one will heat to 850deg +/- 10deg in less than five seconds... They also put out an amazing ~55wts. They'll even solder capacitors onto small motor casings.

I also have a WRS3000x rework station, but believe it or not, it's not as temperature accurate as the little WES51's. For original work, I don't use it nearly as often as the WES51's.

[Edit: Correction - my older station is a WS80, with a date of manufacture of 12-1989. My WES51 has a date of manufacture of 3-1998 - so it just had its tenth birthday... The WES51 is on its second element, the WS80 is still on its first (!) and that includes 7 years of doing board prototyping and rapid development professionally, probably an average of four hours a day of constant soldering. They've both been through handfuls of tips, though...]

LinuxGuy
04-13-2008, 02:50 AM
The Weller WES51 is one of the best hobby-level soldering stations you can get. Temperature controlled tip, and it heats up to full temperature in a matter of a few seconds, which is a joy compared to the old Rat Shack irons.
I have the WES51 and it works great. Other than wishing I had paid a bit more and gotten the digital version, I don't have any complaints.


You can also get tips for it from many places... I have the standard one it came with, plus a tiny one I use for surface mount and fine work.
I have the standard tip and a 0.4mm tip for close in work. I thought I could do surface mount stuff, but I don't think that's going to happen. I am not sure I have the patience for it and am having enough trouble trying to do what should be simple prototyping - I don't have a vice at present.

8-Dale

Adrenalynn
04-13-2008, 03:06 AM
It's technique, which is just practice. I suggest getting either some really cheap SMT quadpacks (maybe even just sockets) or some "pre-blown" ;) chips. Get a couple protoboards and just develop your own style and technique for both soldering and desoldering. For example - I don't like air for desoldering smt, but most people swear by it.

Adrenalynn
04-30-2008, 11:44 AM
Heya Dave,

I have a chance to pick up an Aoyue 2702 SMD rework station pretty cheaply. (under $200 new) Desolder gun, hot air gun, iron, IC popper, fume reclamation, etc.

Any thoughts on those? I'm thinking the iron snaps into the desolder gun, but I'm not certain. If it doesn't have a pencil to it (ie snapping out of the gun), I'm much less interested...