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Soldering iron upgrade - how far to go?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
(to those of you who read headwize.com as well, i've posted the same thing in the DIY section over there, in hopes of getting some good advice. sorry for the clutter. )


i'm looking to upgrade from my high-class, $8.99, 15W ratshack iron to something a (good) bit more capable. i've just recently gotten into audio DIY, but after having built a CMoy and a couple of other basic circuits, i'm confident that i'll be doing a lot more soldering. my Mini^3 parts will be coming in soon, and i want to have an iron that won't make my introduction to SMD soldering painful and destructive.

so that brings me to my question - how far is far enough? how much of an upgrade should i make? i'd very much like the next iron i buy to be the last one i have to buy, at least for a very long time. i also definitely want it to be versatile enough to handle SMD soldering well (my next project will probably be an Alien DAC).


here are a few irons that i've been looking at - as you can see, my price point hasn't really been set yet, but if i can keep it under $100 and still get a solid performer, that would be ideal.

*Weller WLC100: ~$47 - the cheapest i'm looking at. some question as to whether or not small enough tips are available for SMD work.

*Hakko 936-12: ~$85 - has gotten a lot of good reviews, and less than twice as expensive as the WLC100.

*Weller WES51: ~$100 - seemingly a big step up from the WLC100. how does the hakko compare to this?


other suggestions are welcome, of course. in general, which of the above (if any) would be an iron that i'd be able to use for years and years without lusting after another upgrade? i've gleaned that Weller is a very well-respected brand... how is Hakko? seems that a lot of people use the 936, so it must perform pretty well. my last question is this: tangent says on his website that there are few irons worth looking at between $25 and $100. do the hakko and/or the weller i listed above fall into this category?

thanks in advance for any advice you can give.
post #2 of 48
I own a Hakko 936-12 after using RS irons forever. The upgrade is significant. I'll never go back. Everything about soldering gets better and easier with this upgrade. I can't recommend it enough.

GAD
post #3 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by xmokshax View Post
(to those of you who read headwize.com as well, i've posted the same thing in the DIY section over there, in hopes of getting some good advice. sorry for the clutter. )
You could have done a search first. We just did this thread a few weeks ago:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=249024
post #4 of 48
My advice, as always, is to troll ebay for a used Weller WTCP series iron (WTCPT, WTCPS, etc).

It'll come in the form of a power supply and a pencil. They are constant temperature rather than variable temperature. The lack of variance is a good thing. One 700f conical tip will do 99% of the soldering you need to do.

I got my WTCPT for $30, you should be able to get one for $50 any day of the week.
post #5 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezkcdude View Post
You could have done a search first. We just did this thread a few weeks ago:

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=249024
right you are... sorry. this thread actually started out as a quick "which Hakko tips should i buy to handle a good range of through-hole and SMD soldering" question, but ended up evolving into a whole set of questions on which iron to buy instead.

in any case, thanks to everyone for the input.
post #6 of 48
I am on a ham radio reflector with about 2-3000 members. Many are active builders, both homebrew and kits. A station often mentioned is a Solomon temperature controlled one (http://www.circuitspecialists.com/prod.itml/icOid/6438). While the Wellers and Hakkos have their supporters, many feel this $39 model compares favorably with any sub $100 station. I have not personally used it (8 year old Weller is doing fine), just passing on what I have heard.
post #7 of 48
go for the hakko. i upgraded from the weller and never looked back. the tips last so much longer.
post #8 of 48
Hakko 936 or a Hakko clone. Decent and affordable tip selection makes the bang for buck best. Grab a 10 pack of assorted tips off ebay for about $20 for best value, if you can't find such an assorted set right now then check back later.
post #9 of 48
Thread Starter 
hakko it is.

i also ordered a 900M-T-LB tip. has anyone here used this tip to solder SMD components? will it be well-suited to that task?
post #10 of 48
I have one of those tips.
I used it once, took it out and threw it in the junk parts box.
(the stock tip works much better IMO)
post #11 of 48
How long do tips last on the Hakko's? I need to upgrade badly.
post #12 of 48
It might depend on your technique, which tip works best for any particular SMD. I tend to prefer a thin chisel or 45-60' bevel tip for SMD, but I could see the longer thin conical being handy if you were trying to individually solder pins on a semi-high density IC.

How long a tip lasts depends on many factors including flux activity, running time and temp, how you clean it (best to use low if not non-abrasive methods but not a cold wet sponge which can fracture the plating). Given reasonable care, you should get many uses out of the tips, it's not that expensive to buy another once in a while considering how much we spend on audio parts? They certainly last many times longer than the plated nail tip type as found on a Ratshack iron.
post #13 of 48
good source that delivers quickly(in the states), anyone? for a hacko.. I.. need to too!
edit: nevermind, I need 240V version. unless its selectable.. in which case, mind again. thanks

-ruZZ
post #14 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterX View Post
I have one of those tips.
I used it once, took it out and threw it in the junk parts box.
(the stock tip works much better IMO)
....damn. $6 down the tubes. well, maybe i'll like it better than you did.

have you found the stock tip to be adequate for soldering smaller SMD parts?
post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by ericj View Post
My advice, as always, is to troll ebay for a used Weller WTCP series iron (WTCPT, WTCPS, etc).

It'll come in the form of a power supply and a pencil. They are constant temperature rather than variable temperature. The lack of variance is a good thing. One 700f conical tip will do 99% of the soldering you need to do.

I got my WTCPT for $30, you should be able to get one for $50 any day of the week.

Ill second that, I got mine for free from my old workplace and its is super great
The tips are available for almoust everything, atleast for all my needs, SMD to through hole.

/Erik
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