I will be discussing how the choose the correct tip for the project that you are soldering. There are many different tips by many different manufactureres, some are even patented by certain manufacturers such as the z wave tip by Pace. I will be using my home setup as reference.
Guidelines for choosing a tip
Choose a tip compatible with you iron
Determine the style of tip, some tips work better than others I explain a bit more below
Determine the correct size tip, too small and heat will not be transfered well too large and you could over hang the pad and damage the board.
Tips that I use
I am not a fan of conical tips especially for beginners. Most people, when learning to solder, think that applying pressure will help the solder flow and end up damaging the board. Also any tip with a point will have a shorter life due to the amount of metal at the tip, the sharper the point the shorter the lifespan.
I prefer chisel tips, the one pictured is over 3years old. I like them especially for surface mount applicationss. The idea is to have the tip be 60% the width of the pad, this will allow the soldering process to take place as quickly as possible with the least amount of thermal stress on the compoent. Chisel tips are thicker at the tip which will store more heat. I have differnt sized chisel tips for different applications
Chisel tips are ideal for:
desoldering w/ solder braid
I also use a "Hoof" tip or gullwing tip. I use this for drag soldering multi lead SMT IC packages. Drag soldering is a thing of beauty. You can solder a 120 pin flat pack in minutes. This technique can be tricky because you need to have the right amount of solder applied to the tip or you will bridge the leads. I also use this tip for "blue wiring" circuits using small gauge wire.
Hoof Tips are ideal for:
soldering small gauge wires
As I stated there are many styles and sizes of tips these are just a few that I use. I will conclude this instrucable with a few tips.
Always treat tips as thought they are hot, even if you know that it isn't
Do not use excessive preassure when soldering , you can damage your tip and your project.
when you are finished soldering apply a thin layer of solder to the tip, this will help prevent oxidation
Never use the tip as a pry bar or screwdriver
Use the lowest temperature possible, this will prevent premature wear tot he tip and damage to the components
Always use a tip appropriate for the application, you can use the advice in bold as a guideline.
Turn the system off when not in use, if you aren't going to be usin the iron in the next 10 minutes turn the station off.
Keep your tip clean, I wipe my tip on a damp sponge after every solder joint is completed.
I hope that you found this informative. If you should have any questions feel free to ask.