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Thread: Good soldering gun?

  1. #1

    Default Good soldering gun?

    Mod Rookie getting ready to try some mods. Whats a good soldering gun for me to pick up locally? Sears, Walmart, Harbor Freight...... Are there different types of solder? If so, which type to use? Will be mostly switching Luxeons to Cree and Seoul. Any good pointers would be great!!!

    Thanks, FishX65

  2. #2

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I am no expert, but my understanding is that any soldering 'gun' will be too big and have too many watts to be of much use in soldering the tiny LED's and circuit boards used in flashlights.

    Instead, you should look for a soldering 'pencil' or, if you want to spend more money, a soldering 'station', like the Weller WES51 (see www.coopertools.com). I think that 15 or 20 watts is plenty.

    Regarding solder, again you want very thin solder wire, rosin core, low melting. The stuff I have is 0.032" in diameter, and is 63% tin/27% led, melting point 351 deg F.

    Please don't consider my advice to be truth. I'm just trying to help.

    Frank

  3. #3

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    15 or 20 watts is far too small except for a garbage iron. I use a 60 watt thermostatically controlled iron. I've been extremely happy with Weller (Cooper Tools) products. If you get the type that is set with thermostat tips, you can stay in the $75 range with a W60P3. The grounded plug is important because it bleads off any accumulated static charge preventing ESD problems with your work. It will last a hobbiest a lifetime. I've left mine plugged in accidently for a week straight (yah, I know...) and it didn't burn out. Still working great.

    The thing with buying tools is that a good tool will be enjoyable to use while crummy tools will just cause frustration.

    As for solder, find a nice no-clean flux'ed silver bearing solder. Silver bearing solder is a bit sticker and prevents problems when soldering SMT components (if you ever end up doing that). The silver prevents the silver in the SMT end caps from leaching out into the solder and killing the joint. The no-clean flux means just that -- you don't have to clean the flux off. Over a period of 5-10 years, regular rosin core solder will cause your joints to corrode and go bad.

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* RCatR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I've gone through 4 Radioshack[Rat-sh*t if you ask me] Irons; it's worth the cost to go plunge in and buy a quality Weller iron instead of 4 crappy irons and then a good one.
    Click here If I owe you a light or if there are any complication(s)/complaints

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* matrixshaman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Yep - I've had Weller soldering guns/irons for 46 years and some one I've had since 1960 is still working fine.
    There is no important work, there are only a series of moments to demonstrate your mastery and impeccability. Almine

  6. #6
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I use one of these:

    http://www.emsco-usa.com/hakko/fp102.htm

    Not cheap but it works great and there's no need to worry about different tips for different temperatures. For some of the work I've done (handmade HO model railroad swiches/turnouts for example), it's handy having different temperature settings so you can do a first round of soldering with a high-heat solder (like silver-bearing for the frog) and then subsequent rounds with lower-heat stuff, without screwing up the first round (melting the frog while soldering the other rails).

    Randy
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  7. #7
    Flashaholic* Daekar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    ckthorp: Concerning the W60P3, for both soldering and possibly desoldering LEDs from a chip without hurting them (if possible) what kind of tip would you recommend? 600, 700, or 800 degrees?

  8. #8

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Thanks for the suggestions so far but can I get away with just using a cheapo? I know this is a dumb question but whats the best cheapo?

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* Long John's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by fishx65
    Thanks for the suggestions so far but can I get away with just using a cheapo? I know this is a dumb question but whats the best cheapo?
    The best cheapo is the expensivest cheapest one

    I use an soldering iron from "Ersa" Model: 30S, not too expensive and it works very well

    Best regards

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    Tom
    It's cheaper to get a high quality light than spending money for many cheap lights.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    There is a weller "hobbyist" soldering station for like ~$40.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by Daekar
    ckthorp: Concerning the W60P3, for both soldering and possibly desoldering LEDs from a chip without hurting them (if possible) what kind of tip would you recommend? 600, 700, or 800 degrees?
    Sorry for the delay. I recommend either a 600 or a 700. 650 is recommended for no-clean, 700 for rosin flux. 600 will work just fine, as will 700. The difference is pretty minor. It also partially depends on how well heatsunk the LED pads are. Higher temps will help desolder more heatsunk pads quicker. The thing that kills semiconductors (LEDs included) is heat*duration. Low heat for long durations and high heat for short durations are both bad. If you're desoldering to do a seoul upgrade, or some such, you don't really care about the part your removing so much. If I were to do an LED replacement, I'd do the following:

    Solderwick all of the old LED's connections.
    Heat (with the soldering iron) and bend the leads of the old LED one at a time to remove them.
    Remove the old LED.
    Clean the slug mounting point and resolderwick the pads
    Place thermal compound, thermal epoxy, etc and stick the LED down.
    Solder the leads quickly using silver bearing no-clean flux solder.
    Curse because I put the LED in backwards
    Repeat all steps but with the LED in correctly. :-)

    This might be helpful: http://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.gov/telescope/soldering.htm

    This is a bit dated, but it shows lots of examples of good and bad solder joints:
    http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~phylab...s/Soldered.pdf

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* Pellidon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I've used Weller soldering stations and stand alone irons for years. Hakko was never available locally in the pre internet days. I currently use the weller with digital conthol and the small irons that can use large or tiny surface mount tips. I have had to replace a SMD IC and it looked like it was wave soldered when done.

    The Weller is still on tip#1 despite 2 years and countless days on without use.
    My doctor says I am a paranoid narcissist. I have the feeling I am plotting against myself.
    Rule #9: Always carry a knife. Rule #9a: Always carry a flashlight.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I have bought a few cheapo ones and regretted every one. Then I bought a not very expensive one and have been uber happy since then.

    Most cheapo ones have no way of regulating temperature which causes major issues and have a voltage on the tip which can kill sensetive components (leds for eg)

    I now use a solderpro 50 and will never use another iron again.

    It is gas powered so no voltage on tip and no 'trickery running through it.
    The gas valve is adjustable so you can get the temp just right and there is no irritating cable to get in your way.

    Short of getting a really good temp controlled earth tipped iron the solder pro will work fine.

    not sure where you are but they are on offer at maplins at the moment if in the UK.
    The solderpro 50 is more than hot enough for any electronics task so don't get a hotter one.

    For soldering electronics when the gas tap is just 'on' will be the right temp.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Solderpro 50 sounds like what I'm looking for! Now I just gotta find one around here. Michigan

  15. #15

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    This one at Harbor Freight kinda looks like the pro50. Anyone ever try it?
    http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=94903

  16. #16
    Flashaholic* 65535's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Get the real deal with your tools.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    +1 on the Hakko. I'm using the 936 model shown here: http://www.emsco-usa.com/hakko/936.htm I love it. I've been through the pencil types and all the associated frustrations over the years, and can definitely say a station such as this will be a great investment. I don't know how I got along without it. I scoffed at the idea when someone suggested it to me a couple of years ago, now I understand.

  18. #18
    *Flashaholic* LuxLuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by FlashCrazy
    +1 on the Hakko. I'm using the 936 model shown here: http://www.emsco-usa.com/hakko/936.htm I love it. I've been through the pencil types and all the associated frustrations over the years, and can definitely say a station such as this will be a great investment. I don't know how I got along without it. I scoffed at the idea when someone suggested it to me a couple of years ago, now I understand.
    I asked almost the same question a while back after putting up with my RatShack "El Crappo" cheap soldering iron sticks. I got this same exact Hakko 936 model, and it is a wonderfully performing/temp-adjustable instrument that will last the rest of my life. I can't believe how much difference this makes, and what I had been putting up with previously.

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* chevrofreak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    It definately isn't high end but this iron has served me fairly well.

    http://www.radioshack.com/product/in...entPage=search

    I think I paid $13 for mine a couple years ago.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I have a cheap Weller soldering station. What would be a good noticeable, bang for the buck upgrade over that model?

  21. #21
    Flashaholic* Edwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Circuit Specialists make a decent Hakko knock off.

    http://www.web-tronics.com/cispdeesdsas.html


    I ended up with a Metcal SP200 I got off of eBay. I'm so spoiled by the 12 second heat up time. Makes SMD work easy.

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  22. #22

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by Minjin
    I have a cheap Weller soldering station. What would be a good noticeable, bang for the buck upgrade over that model?
    Go for a WES51. The heatup time is about 20 seconds. Literally. It's fast and accurate. I've got one in my lab at work and love the thing.

  23. #23
    Enlightened bobski's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by ckthorp
    Go for a WES51. The heatup time is about 20 seconds. Literally. It's fast and accurate. I've got one in my lab at work and love the thing.
    +1 for Weller.
    I used to have a WTCPN (the current incarnation of which is the WTCPT) station that I... uh, "borrowed" from my dad. Evidently he got it the same way from his dad (my grandfather). I had to replace the heater coil (probably the original) at one point and replace a few tips after foolishly sanding them down to get a finer point (Weller tips are multi-layered - sanding them makes them corrode), but it was otherwise trouble-free.
    The design's simplicity makes it pretty much bullet-proof. The tip undergoes some kind of mechanical or magnetic change depending on temperature, so the iron's temperature is set by what tip you have installed (I always used a 700° tip). A magnetic switch in the tube of the pencil picks up on that change and toggles the heater on and off. There's an audible click when the thermostat switches states, which lets you know the iron is up to temperature... It took less than a minute to go from stone cold to ready IIRC. All the base has in it is a fuse, switch, power light and transformer. There's not much to wear out or break.
    After discovering that he was using a cheapie plug-in pencil iron, I returned the WTCPN to my dad a little over a year ago and picked up a Weller WESD51 to replace it - It's the WES51 with a digital display. No complaints so far. According to the display, it heats up in under 30 secs and consistantly keeps the tip within 20°F (±3° while idle) of it's set temperature, no matter what I'm doing.
    [edit]
    Oh... I also carry a Weller Portasol 2 around in my car tool kit. Nothing but good experiences there as well, if you're looking for something butane powered. I wouldn't expect nearly the level of regulation you get from an electric soldering station, but it excells as a go-anywhere iron. I think I got it at lowes for $30 or $40 - just the basic iron, no case or extra tips.
    [/edit]
    Last edited by bobski; 04-16-2007 at 03:20 PM.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by ckthorp
    Go for a WES51. The heatup time is about 20 seconds. Literally. It's fast and accurate. I've got one in my lab at work and love the thing.
    I just took your advice. For anyone still deciding, there's a $20 rebate until the end of April. It's posted on HMCElectronics site.

    Phredd

  25. #25

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    From the what it's worth department I have seen them at the $1 stores. They may take a little time to heat up BUT some are not too bad for basic stuff.

    Good luck

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    I bought a Hakko temperature controlled one a while back. It was $69. Worth every penny. It is an 85 watt ceramic heater element thermostatically controlled iron. It is set to 800 degrees, non-adjustable. This is the best iron I have ever had. It has brute strength heat up as far as power, but will not get any hotter than 800 degrees because of the thermostat. It is great for soldering those wires onto components that are already attached to the heat sink. If the tip cools down, 85 watts is applied to it to bring it back up to 800 degrees. I have never had as good results.

    I have also been to the Nasa/USAF High Reliability Soldering and Connections school. I still have the manual from the course. This was a 2 week long VERY intense and demanding school. (It was 20 years ago, back when we still had to solder on flat packs). I will scan it in as a PDF and post it here if there is any interest. It is a VERY good how to book about materials, theory, and techniques.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by CodeOfLight
    I have also been to the Nasa/USAF High Reliability Soldering and Connections school. I still have the manual from the course. This was a 2 week long VERY intense and demanding school. (It was 20 years ago, back when we still had to solder on flat packs). I will scan it in as a PDF and post it here if there is any interest. It is a VERY good how to book about materials, theory, and techniques.
    I'd be very interested in seeing that. Anyone else? I wouldn't want him to take the time to do it just for a couple of people...

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    [never mind]

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* Derek Dean's Avatar
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    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by CodeOfLight
    I have also been to the Nasa/USAF High Reliability Soldering and Connections school. I still have the manual from the course. This was a 2 week long VERY intense and demanding school. (It was 20 years ago, back when we still had to solder on flat packs). I will scan it in as a PDF and post it here if there is any interest. It is a VERY good how to book about materials, theory, and techniques.
    Yep, I'd be very interested in seeing that also, if it's not to much trouble. BTW, great thread guys, thanks.

  30. #30

    Default Re: Good soldering gun?

    bit late but weller hands down, i have three, they all work, and the first one i've had for 22 years now. drop the money on it, the cost saving long run is well worth it if you are planning to use it often. if it's novelty and a decent one, find one with similar weller specs with variable temp gauge

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