How to Pick the Best Soldering Iron

Intro: How to Pick the Best Soldering Iron

A soldering iron is a hand tool used in soldering. There are many soldering irons available on the market. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Which soldering iron to choose for yourself depends on the soldering projects you are planning to do, as well as how often you are planning on using it. This Instructable will cover choosing a soldering iron that will be used for projects in electronics for soldering and de-soldering work on the circuit boards.

The four main factors to consider when choosing a soldering iron are:
1) wattage
2) type of the soldering iron
3)temperature control
4) tip size and shape

Wattage
The wattage of the soldering iron is one of the most important factor of a soldering iron. Most of soldering irons used in the electronics are in range 20 – 60 Watts. Soldering iron with wattage 50W is very common these days and it will provide sufficient heat for most of soldering projects on the circuit boards.  Soldering irons with higher wattage (40W -60W) are better. It does not mean that soldering irons with higher wattage apply more heat to the solder joint- it means that soldering irons with higher wattage has more power available. Since most of soldering stations comes with knob on power station for setting iron’s temperature, it is possible to regulate amount of the heat on iron tip. On the other hand, soldering iron with low wattage (20W - 30W) can lose heat faster than it can re-heat itself - this results in bad solder joints.

Types of soldering irons
Generally, there are 4 different types of soldering irons:
-Soldering pencil
-Soldering station
-Soldering systems (rework /repair stations)
-Soldering guns

Step 1:

Soldering pencils

Soldering pencils are very simple (and very cheap) soldering tool that can be used only for simple do-it-yourself projects. The price of the soldering pencils is in the range $10-30. I do not recommend soldering pencil for fine soldering projects since they do not provide any control of the temperature on the iron tip. Too much heat applied during soldering can damage components and peel off tracks on the circuit board.

Step 2:

Soldering stations

Soldering station consists of soldering pencil attached to a power station. The power station has controls for setting the desired temperature on the tip of soldering iron. Some of soldering stations come with electronic temperature control - that means you can very precisely set and maintain the temperature of the iron. The power station automatically keeps the iron tip at an appropriate temperature. The price of the soldering stations is in the range $ 40-150. Soldering station can cover most of soldering projects including soldering of through-hole components, and very fine surface-mount components as small as 0603 and 0805. Weller is most popular brand for soldering stations followed by Hakko. On the other hand, Aoyue soldering station is good combination of quality and price. The most popular models of soldering stations are the Weller WESD51 (read review of WESD51), Weller WES51, Hakko FX-888 and Aoyue 937.

Step 3:

Rework/repair systems

Rework/repair systems are complex soldering systems which are mostly used in industry or in the high-volume manufacturing facilities. Soldering systems usually consists of several hand pieces including soldering iron, hot-air gun, de-soldering gun, thermo-tweezers, etc. The price of the soldering systems is in the wide range $250 - $2500. Pace is the most popular brand for these soldering systems. Popular models of rework/repair systems are Pace MBT-250 SDPT, Pace MBT-350, and Aoyue 2702.

Step 4:

Soldering guns

Main part of a soldering gun is a transformer which converts 110 V AC to a lower voltage. A secondary winding of transformer has only one turn. This way the secondary of transformer produces very low voltage and several hundred amperes of current since primary of transformer is connected to 110 V AC and the secondary winding of transformer has only one turn. This high current is routed through copper tip of soldering gun and as result the tip of soldering gun is quickly heated by the high current flowing through it.
Soldering guns can be quickly and easily turned on and off and they have very short worm up time. However, I do not recommend soldering gun for fine work on circuit boards since they can generate too much heat and can therefore damage circuit board or components on it. The price of soldering guns is in the range $20-70.

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    52 Discussions

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    Pcman123

    1 year ago

    Great post and useful were the people can learn much more about soldering iron, Here is a different kinds of solder iron where the people can manage with various projects. Also on this article i find good information may will be good for you how to choose the best Soldering iron for you, have a good explanation of soldering irons and Soldering irons Tips.

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    slanwar

    3 years ago on Introduction

    If people are interesting in do repair in motherboards or any board with IC's or any other chip then the hot gun is a must and they sale really cheap ones on ebay (chinese made).

    2015-03-26 13.22.18.jpg2015-03-26 13.22.07.jpg
    14 replies
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    caperniusslanwar

    Reply 2 years ago on Introduction

    99% of the electronics we buy/use/depend on here in America, comes from China...the other 1% comes from all them other oriental countries.

    There is not one electronic thing sold in America, that is made in America. 99% of everything we buy(except for the food) comes from over seas...That other 1% is the food.

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    MicheleL20capernius

    Reply 2 years ago

    That is very sad! :( I did some soldering in my time, why can't Americans sit on at a workbench and solder all day? I did. WE need those jobs in the US.

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    DeaghlanFMicheleL20

    Reply 1 year ago

    I remember here in the UK sitting at a bench soldering boards for electric blankets, I enjoyed the work so much I was sad to go, (it was gov training scheme) the skills that I learnt meant that I can repair boards should I need to,

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    staticMicheleL20

    Reply 2 years ago

    First contruction processes have changed significantly. Where don't seem to understand that I have to question your clam you sat at a work station and soldered all day. Modern circuit boards are constructed automated processes. A machine place solder past on the appropriate pads another machine place the parts on the bord, then the board is then sent to an oven where the past is heated to where the paste flows thereby soldering the component to the board

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    phoulihanMicheleL20

    Reply 2 years ago

    Americans can (and do) sit at a workbench and solder all day. The trouble is that the very minimum an American is permitted to work for is significantly higher than what many other countries work for. Your government priced you out of the market a long time ago.

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    caperniusphoulihan

    Reply 2 years ago

    Because our (American) gov't is so greedy & corrupt, is why all the American jobs went overseas.

    The U.S.A. that I have come to know & love is slowly becoming a 3rd world nation.

    Our gov't does not give a rip about its own people, they are only concerned with themselves, hence why all the jobs we used to have here are now in the middle & far east.

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    adamw145capernius

    Reply 2 years ago

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adafruit_Industries

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    MultiRotorManiacslanwar

    Reply 3 years ago

    Nice station. Can you give me the model number of it? Also, what is the heat gun used for when soldering? I've been soldering for many years for RC applications mostly but find that the Weller heat gun and tips to be too large for many of the smaller projects as u cannot be precise in any way due to their size. What would you recommend? I am a big eBayer and do not mind purchasing items overseas if they are worth it. Thanks for your help

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    slanwarMultiRotorManiac

    Reply 2 years ago

    The heat gun is used for the IC's and if you go to youtube and search for repairing motherboards then you will see how that works, I use it besides computer/laptop boards for playstations (3,4) which I buy on ebay.

    You can see on this youtube video one of the uses:

    https://youtu.be/AxYhF6Ab2CU

    yihua 898d 
    Really good station and is about the same as my weller.


    On the right is a Weller WES51 and I use that one for soldering only, the black one with a heat gun is a Chinese brand I got on ebay, Yihua 898D. See this youtube video I found on the net:

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    MultiRotorManiacslanwar

    Reply 3 years ago

    Nevermind, I see that the Yahua 898D comes in a 2in1 which the blues older ingredients station is a part of. Would that 2in1 unit suffice or did you purchase the WES51 because it was inadequate? Thanks

    I use the black one only to desolder but the iron side works really good when I tested soldering a few caps but I always had a Weller and I updated to the 51 a few months ago.

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    MultiRotorManiacslanwar

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks for the reply and video. It was VERY helpful. What is the blue block with the yellow handle in between th hot gun and weller? Thanks

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    rearnold

    1 year ago

    Great advice. Really explains the wattage vs tip temp issue clearly. Many kit instructions confuse this for the beginner.

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    thegrendel

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting introduction to soldering tools. Thanks.

    As for a specific recommendation, I've been using a Goot ks-20r iron for a couple
    of decades. It's a simple tool -- no temp control -- but reliable and it does what I
    need it to do. Replacement tips are hard to find, but I'm still using the original tip,
    which shows no sign of damage or wear.

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    caperniusPrateekM1

    Reply 2 years ago on Introduction

    "...A small square of damp cellulose sponge works..." this is true, but I have a brass scrubber, like what you might use for washing dishes, that I use for cleaning the tip. it lasts longer & in my opinion, it cleans better. For about $1.50 I get 3 of them per package.