News:

Forum may be experiencing issues.

Main Menu

Soldering iron suggestions? Time to upgrade?

Started by greysun, May 15, 2024, 12:46:00 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

greysun

Hey everyone! Glad to see the forum back in order.

in a deep, echo-y voice: "THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO..." (or roughly 12 years ago) I bought a soldering starter kit from Small Bear (I think). It had a cheap, but viable/usable soldering iron, a few tools for clipping leads and everything needed to start pedal building. And I used it to build a lot of pedals, and I use it to this day.

HOWEVER - I went to find a new tip, and nothing I buy fits. No brand name or specs came with it, and nothing on the iron itself. These days, the tip loosens/unscrews itself often, the cord from the base to the iron has seen better days, and I don't know if it's my latest spool of solder or what but it doesn't melt as quickly anymore and I'm not convinced it's getting good connections. (I run it at the same temp I always have - 375 to 400, and got the same solder I always get - 60/40 rosin core)

I see folks online with way nicer setups than mine, and I'm working on a project that has some VERY fine soldering needs. I'm wondering if the time for upgrade has finally come...

Anyone have any advice for a soldering iron/station that won't totally break the bank, but is perhaps enough of a step up from beginner to make it worth the while?

Let me know your thoughts! As always, thank you in advance!


jimilee

I started out the same way, with a no name iron / station I paid 14 for from BYOC. Used it for 10 years. The Hakko FX-888D is a popular iron used by a lot of builders, my self included. It affordable and tips are abundant.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Pedal building is like the opposite of sex.  All the fun stuff happens before you get in the box.

jessenator

IME, totally agree with Jimmy

Hakko is expensive (there are two German makes that go even higher...), but it's a worthy investment.

Several types to choose from. I chose the T-15 tip type: FX-951 as it's super easy to change hot tips, but they're much more expensive. Need to get a new workhorse tip, actually, but it's had several years good work.

I tried the KSGR or whatever clone, and it lasted less than a week, with yhe suggested action from yhe seller being "here's a repair solution"—which required a soldering iron...

Others have had better luck, but it's a gamble/wasted time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


greysun

Quote from: jimilee on May 15, 2024, 01:04:28 AMI started out the same way, with a no name iron / station I paid 14 for from BYOC. Used it for 10 years. The Hakko FX-888D is a popular iron used by a lot of builders, my self included. It affordable and tips are abundant.


BYOC!!! that's where I got it... It's served me well, but I like the notion of something that at least has a brand on it, hehe. The latest version of the FX-888D is the FX-888DX - it comes in 3 colors!

Quote from: jessenator on May 15, 2024, 05:07:01 AMSeveral types to choose from. I chose the T-15 tip type: FX-951 as it's super easy to change hot tips, but they're much more expensive. Need to get a new workhorse tip, actually, but it's had several years good work.

The FX-951 is a little more than I was hoping to spend (I don't build THAT many things needing solder in a given year), so I think I'm in the FX-888 camp.

The question becomes - what tip to get? it comes with the T18-D16 (a chisel-style tip), but I'm soldering up some NeoPixel LEDs that have some VERY tight pads. Thinking maybe the T18-I, T18-BL or the T18-CF1 (not sure what the advantage is of a bevel tip, but could do a little research).

Another question is one of FLUX - this is something I've never used, but this latest batch of goopy solder has me overthinking everything. Any tips in regard to using this? Pretty sure I'd only need for the LEDs, but hoping I can salvage what I've got (or at the very least, never buy solder from microcenter again - who knew the giant RadioShack solder spool I got years ago would be superior to... well, anything! hehe).

REALLY appreciate the help and advice - let me know what you all think!

jessenator

#4
Quote from: greysun on May 15, 2024, 12:45:39 PMThe FX-951 is a little more than I was hoping to spend (I don't build THAT many things needing solder in a given year), so I think I'm in the FX-888 camp.
oh wow, I didn't pay nearly that much... on top of inflation, I looked it up in my email and it seems I got it open-box, too.


Quote from: greysun on May 15, 2024, 12:45:39 PMThe question becomes - what tip to get?
Thankfully the actual tip end shapes are the same, which is nice. My workhorse is the D12 (just a tad narrower than the D16 it comes with), but 0.4 mm isn't going to hurt. It's a good one.

For SMD work I have the BC1, which has a shallower angle of 45* vs the 60* of the CF1, which in theory means you can keep the handle a bit more vertical/closer to comfortable position.


Quote from: greysun on May 15, 2024, 12:45:39 PMAnother question is one of FLUX - this is something I've never used, but this latest batch of goopy solder has me overthinking everything. Any tips in regard to using this?
Depending on who you ask, the answer to "how much flux do I need?" is simply "yes." I've learned a lesson of trying to rely on the flux core of a given solder, and I don't trust it. If done carefully (soldering TH components on the side of the board we don't show off in build reports :P ) using "enough" flux won't leave nasty, dark-amber rosin residue.

Here's a review I've found somewhat helpful, with nice SMD demonstration.


I've tried genuine Amtech stuff as well as counterfeit, and the counterfeit stuff sputters like mad—hate it. Amtech is just way too expensive, though the syringe is nice.

I've got a tub of something similar to the Weller brand he shows, but I'm going to use one with a lower concentration of rosin next time. As he mentions, it's a trade off between the consistency of the flux and trouble you go to to apply it. IME, in warmer weather paste flux is rather easy to apply with a cheap, narrow, hobby/model paintbrush.

As far as solder, I'm still getting by on an old spool of Kester 66/44  .020 for most things. Haven't had to look for a replacement yet, thankfully.


Anyhow, hope that's helpful.

derevaun

D16 is great for general work, IMHO. I've used it on dozens of neopixel strip connections, including the narrow strips, with no discomfort. I'm still using the original stock tip (I also use a D16 on a T12 knock-off iron).

Conventional wisdom is that pointier tips give less heat transfer, though sometimes a necessary trade-off. I like the BC1.5 for SMD, and I'm interested to try the BC1, as soon as this BC1.5 stops looking brand new.


People seem to like the Aoyue 936, which is a little cheaper.

jessenator

Quote from: derevaun on May 16, 2024, 09:33:55 AM(I also use a D16 on a T12 knock-off iron).

Glad yours is still working. I think I was driven by emotion to jump right into Hakkoland. My hot air and suction desolderer are both knock-offs. Bought them from Circuit Specialists, who seem to guarantee their wares—maybe I should've bought that first T12/15 iron from them...

derevaun

I think it's definitely an "if it works it works" thing with the cheap T12 stations. I grabbed it as a backup for the FX888D, though I primarily use it nowadays and moved the FX888D to my work office. I prefer the sleep timing, and the single knob control. But I still wouldn't call it 100% dependable.

I'm not going to make a big deal of the FX888D's button control scheme, but I did notice that the new FX888DX went back to a single knob.  8)

jessenator

I hear ya. Knob control temp is preferable. In addition to buttons, the 951 also has that key lock arrangement, which is weird, and frustrating sometimes if you forget which keys do what. Do like the sleep timer.

jwin615

Had a aoyue 936(the older, bigger one) for 15ish years. It has no bells and whistles but works fine. Takes 90-120 seconds to get to full heat but maintains really well.
Auto off is a good function to have though and would recommend it in any new purchase scenario. I like the S7 tip. Only use genuine Hakko tips. Never had a knockoff T18 that was half the weight of a Hakko.