Instructables

Picking a Soldering Iron

This is for the people out there who aren't sure how to get started on soldering. I know this may not please everybody, but if you need somewhere to start, here you go. You can learn from my mistakes and save money by my example.
 
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Step 1: So you want to Solder?

First you will need to decide what you will be needing to do with this iron. There are different irons for different purposes, however if you decide you need it portable, DO NOT get a Cold Heat
New Cold Heat soldering iron for Easter 2 years ago. Sadly, within the first 5 minutes of use, the thing burnt its tip off and i never bought a new one. I would strongly advise anybody against getting one of these due to the fact tips cost little less than a new ColdHeat. These are little more than glorified LED flashlights.
If you decide on portability, Weller makes a butane powered one. I have never used a butane iron, but i would imagine that it would have to be better than a Cold Heat.
UPDATE: Today i decided to give the ColdHeat one more go (even in its already dehabilitated state) and one entire half of the tip broke off this time. Picture below.

Step 2: Non-Portable

My first soldering iron was from Big Lots and it set my mother back a whole $2. Definitely not the best, but it did make things burn and melt. I would recommend getting a slightly better one from Radio Shack, which I sadly still use due to the backorder of my new Weller station. If it wasn't for Ibanezfoo, i would have totally forgot to mention wattage. I would recommend no less than 20w and probably wouldn't go much above 30w. That is why adjustable stations are so nice.
UPDATE: I have finally received my Weller and man is it nice. Heats up to 550 F in less than a minute. After using that Radio Crap one for so long and waiting 5 min for it to get close to heating up, this is like heaven.
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venerao3 years ago
such a lier
joshrizzo4 years ago
 I had the exact same experience!  The tip consists of 2 heating elements separated by a layer of insulation so they don't contact each other.  The insulating layer melts almost immediately, rendering the tip useless.  I think this is a big design flaw that should have been caught by ANY level of product testing, but I think they were just counting on Billy Mays to sell this POS.
so why the frak did cold heat go with graphite tips?!?!?!?!? couldnt somone make one out of two peices of metal (whatever metal is usually used for tips) with a piece of rubber as an insulator in the middle?!?! so like  /      /
                                                                                                                  /   _/
                                                                                                                  /  _ /
where '/' is the metal and '_' is the rubber? just a thought let me know if you think it will work and what metal cuz i wanna try it

ok so my diagram didnt work....so heres a crappy paint image of what im thinking:

where gray is the metal and black is the rubber

cold heat tip.png
Solderguy4 years ago
I do all my soldering with a $9 soldering iron from Radioshack that I bought 2 years ago. It helped me in many projects.
Vspec4 years ago
you can buy a descent weller soldering iron at radioshack for $17.
trebuchet037 years ago
hehe - I had a Cold Heat. I guess I am one of those lucky few that got a good one? It never gave me any trouble but it was a bit clumsy. Now I use a 20W wood burning knife which came with a variety of copper plated tips (which means don't sand them ;) ). One day I'll splurge on a station :D
I use a 45W wood burning needle, I'm just getting started, it seems to be able to reflow pretty well, haven't tried much else, though.
i got a good one also...now the led wont go off... and duct tape and hitting doesnt work!!!
i had one to but it was a piece of $#*!
I have one..... it would have been nice if it told me on the packaging instead of the instruction manual that you needed thin solder..... it feels stupid to find out you bought the wrong solder.
yeah that is what i got... by chance did you have acid core solder?
no.... and also, the tip broke and I got an even cheaper working one from radio shack for 9 dollars. RADIO SHACK FTW!
Same here...
LOL, I also use a wood burning iron. Mine's 23W, but I don't have copper tips :P
E D E N5 years ago
I'm considering buying a Soldering Iron, preferably one under 30$. I'm really only going to do basic tasks, i.e circuitry and basic circuit board(ing). Do you guys have any suggestions? Preferably from RadioShack or .. yeah. And I know I've been pretty specific, but also, how many wats should it be?
R4Man185 years ago
the cold heat is a good SI as long as you know how to solder.
shadymilkman (author)  R4Man185 years ago
I STRONGLY disagree. If you know how to solder with a regular iron and then try a cold heat, none of the same stuff really works. You can't tin a cold heat tip, and you of course cannot do any light soldering (PCBs are challenging as well as surface mount components). If you think cold heat is good, you may want to try a real iron, such as my WES51and see if they compare.
I have a few real irons who in the world would use a cold heat for a pcb I use a cold heat on the road (butane ones scare me) with no problems to tin a wire solder a few things together but nothing on a small scale. If I want to do something that requires a good job ill say it again a cold heat is good if you know how to solder just because its inferior doesnt mean its worthless.
I would have to throw my lot in with the others that feel that Cold Heat is a waste. I mean the idea is a neat thought, but in the out working of it... it just loses something. Once you've tried using a sold iron you will never go back. I love my CL1080, it's never given me problems.
butane irons aren't exactly the best. i have this one: http://www.hardwareandtools.com/invt/u246652?ref=gbase

cheap 10$ one, but it gets the job done. the worst part was trying to get used to it.
ya NEVER buy the cold heat the tips break real easy and there 10.00$ a tip!!! I got mine and it doesnt really turn on when i put solder on its tip!!!! If you get the connection somehow it is inpossible to do anything.!!! REPEATING... NEVER BUY THE ((COLD HEAT))

also use acid free,lead free solder (radio shack or dutchboy brand is good :-) )(lead, and its fumes can cause cancer!! ..eek!)
crap....i have the archer brand and been using the same spool since i got the soldering iron (big spool) and it has a warning you can barely see that says it contains lead
aww. that sux man. :-(. When i buy my solder, i go to the pluming section in The Home Depot, and i buy either Aluminum electrical solder, or more often 'safe pluming solder', because the safe stuff, you can use it in your pipe so its chem free ;-)
every once in a while it will put off a little smoke but i just kinda lay back on breathing kinda and try not to breath it in
ya, really ANY solder you use is bad to breath in, but lead is worse. And really i just dont use lead cause when ever i touch the soldered on item i have to wash my hands, but when i use aluminum solder i can just touch it and not worry about washing my hands ;-)
That sounds really serious... I'd look in to a little fume fan or something, they aren't all that expensive and they will save you lots of trouble, just check the link that shadymilk posted. I mean you can get a decent one that will not only recirculate the air, but clean it and cool you and your board off for like $75.
don't worry too much all solder does that and it's not that bad for you... Also lead is not an all killing metal, I had lived in a house with lead pipes for years with my family and all I can say is that the water tasted better there... Lead paint on the other hand should be avoided like an std, my dad and I didn't realise the paint in the house was lead, we went at it with a haet gun and as a result we were coughing and spluttering for weeks afterwards... Lead solder aint too bad on it, just not every day of your life...
Quotes: * Lead is a soft, heavy, toxic metal* *Like mercury, another heavy metal, lead is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues and bone over time.* *Lead is a poisonous metal that can damage nervous connections* There are just a couple of quotes from random sites, plus here is a Lead Safety Sheet: http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/l2347.htm and on a 5 or 6 point safety scale this is a 3 (cancer causing, witch yes killjackalope cancer can kill you...). So wile you probably will not be affected soon, you probably will get something bad later down the road.
Oh crud, great to know, though i don't live there any more so all damage is done if ya know what I mean, being accumulative... By the way my dad died of cancer I know damn well that it can kill you... On the upside I'm likely to dies long before anything like that gets me, my luck has to run out sooner or later and considering the simply incredible number of near misses I've had I'm running out faster than many... I'm now wondering is that the reason for some of the strange bad nerves i have..., got one that's just trapped in each shoulder, and one on my upper thigh that make my voice jump up three octaves and knee to kick out... it's irregular and only in one leg so my guess is it aint the natural plan...
lol ya that might b why. um honestly if that is really happening to you, you should go on a week detox diet. it will get rid of most of the heavy metals in your system (plus make you feel better).
No it was more a joke they're long standing things from various injuries, but it's very annoying when a girl finds the one on my leg, lol not cool, my friend and I were messing about one night in the bar and she found it... I'm talking away to the barman, though I'm good at dealing with distractions, that always gets me, she found it and he was sitting laughing away because I'm good friends with him and we had had a discussion about amusing injuries so he just kept the conversation going so I couldn't stop her... After about ten minutes he turned round and said 'that's just mean' by which point my voice was hitting mika territory when she poked the nerve. It doesn't help that I have a naturally low and gravelly voice but very large range... any change is bovious and very ridiculous, being eleven and going from really low to normal eleven year old wasn't fun... Anyway back to point, yes i know it's bad and have went on a detox, when i went back to normal life it was wierd, I was nearly knocked out by my version of a cup of coffee... Apparently caffeine tolerances are quick to diminish and mine is usually very high. I have a pretty high metabolism though so no real worries of lower amounts of toxins... The heavy metal poisoning was clear at one point as I got the bads on my nails, turned out that a combinations of an old kettle, high dose vitamins and lead pipes were contributing (iron can give you the poisoning at high does, the vitamins contained a high dose of Iron and the kettle added.)
the first part, i have no idea wtf ur talking about xD lol. Second part, ya after detox you whole body should be more regulated and normal, and ya actually anything in high consentration is very bad for you (really any metal in your system is bad, other than needed iron, just that lead easily can get in to you and lead can cause cancer + baaaaad other things) glad to see detox has worked for you in the past, honestly if you solder a lot do a detox once every 2 months or so.
it wasn't lead it was overdosage of iron apparently or something, I never really found out but even iron can poison you and I had very slight poisoning, eg not dying just not good. I used to solder a hell of a lot with dirty cheap lead based solder due to my schools tight fistedness (they had loads of money and wouldn't buy lead free solder!) that was fairly rough on me, at the same time my dad and I attacked the house with paint strippers and hit some previously unknown lead paint. Those things together mess your lungs completely for months, it damages the lining epethilials or something and it's horrible. The first bit I was saying the bad nerves weren't really from heavy metal poisoning, sorry I sometimes make jokes with out explaining then I explain and people are confused. I no longer solder much at all any more but I do it outside because I had a permanent chesty cough when i soldered every day in school. One of my projects was a highly complicated intercom...
ya :-\ . the best for health conserns would b plumbers solder. but i use non toxic electrical aluminum silver bearing solder :-). ...and u soldered at school???
shadymilkman (author)  killerjackalope6 years ago
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_poisoning
check out the symptoms, its bad stuff.
The flux is currently classified as a "unknown carcinogen" The fumes are not cancer causing, but if you inhale it for Extended periods of time, like 8+ hours, it can cause the following in order of badness:
Headache
Light headedness
Problem breathing
ruptured lung
death

The death part happens after 48hours of constant inhalation. USE A MINI COMPUTER FAN WORKS WELL =)
ok i bought a coldheat and i have found that you need to buy a new tip and not press as hard... just keep moving it around till that led lights up...
Hi I am about to buy a soldering iron but don't know whether i should get the portable kind or the heat-adjustable ones, which are much bigger. I will be soldering SMDs and components no larger than the ones found in computer's power supply. I like the soldering pen because of its smallness. But I also like the heat-adjustable one (cuz, of course, its heat adjustable) any suggestions? oh and also, what other brands do ya'll think is good besides Weller? thanks
shadymilkman (author)  J50Nunlimited6 years ago
People seem to like their portable ones just fine but I wouldn't pick one as my only iron because they run on butane. Butane is available pretty much anywhere but where will you get it when you run out in the middle of a project at 3 in the morning? I liked my old Radio Shack one well enough but the my Weller heats up in less than a minute (probably 30 seconds) and has a light so you don't forget to turn it off, and even if you do it says it will turn itself off after a given length of time if non use. Can't really tell you too much about other brands because the Weller is only my third iron. (Big Lots fire starter, Radio Shack, now Weller.)
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