[hackspacebristol] Soldering iron recommendations?

Tom Gardner tggzzz+hs at gmail.com
Sat Jan 9 00:25:22 UTC 2016


I’d like to buy a decent soldering iron for soldering components onto
circuit boards and other bits and pieces. Does anyone have any
recommendations?

That will depend on what components you want to solder, and how much you
have to spend, and how long you are prepared to wait to get a bargain.

If you are not soldering professionally, then the requirements are far less
stringent that people would have you believe. The quality of your work will
be almost certainly limited by your skill, not by the tool.

OTOH, if you are soldering professionally, then familiarity with using your
tools is the most important factor, followed by an iron that allows you to
have repeatable results. What's your budget :)
Different classes of components:

   - through hole semiconductors and passives
   - surface mount devices
   - thermally big joints

For PTH on a 0.1" pitch, I managed without any problems for 40 years with a
25W Antex iron (and a red hot poker on a gas stove for thermally really big
stuff :) ). That is perfectly adequate.

For SMD, that is inadequate. For SMD you need a range of tips and a
variable temperature iron - which is much cheaper than a temperature
controlled iron. Get a small round tip (<=0.8mm) for fine work, and a
chisel tip for drag-soldering.

Note that if you need to use two different tips on components on one board,
then you will waste a lot of time swapping tips. Seriously consider getting
two cheaper irons, having a different tip on each; and you'll also have
higher availability because the probability of both irons failing
simultaneously is lower.

SMD boards are best fabricated using the sand-in-saucepan method (see the
hackspace wiki) or a reflow oven (Hackspace has one, but I haven't used it).

For SMD rework and/or soldering the odd component, you will eventually
benefit from having a hot air gun, but that's outside the scope of your
question.
If you are soldering things that are thermally large then you will need a
higher power tool (unsurprisingly), but equally important is the thermal
mass of the tool itself. You can - to a limited extent - use a smaller tool
if you run it at a higher temperature.

Be aware that there are a large number of Hakko clones sold on fleabay, and
some of them are apparently internally dangerous.
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