19 Replies Latest reply on Apr 9, 2019 10:22 AM by rsjsouza

    Inexpensive Soldering Iron?

    keno

      Hi,

       

      As a poor student am looking for an inexpensive soldering iron for small infrequent projects.

       

      Have done some searching and the least expensive I have found is Harbor Freight 30 Watt Lightweight Soldering Iron ($3.99 Compare to $9.99, Ironton 43985).  https://www.harborfreight.com/30-watt-lightweight-soldering-iron-69060.html

       

      Appreciate any comments and other recommendations.

       

      Thanks

       

      Ken

        • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
          fmilburn

          Hi Ken,

           

          I doubt anyone here will recommend a cheap soldering irons without temperature control for electronics.  Better to spend  a bit more if you can.  Look for on that has adjustable temperature and changeable tips.   It is possible to get a useable iron in the $20 to $30 range that is suitable for electronics. 

           

          https://www.newark.com/tenma/21-19160/adjustable-temperature-50w-soldering/dp/96Y0391

          https://www.adafruit.com/?q=soldering%20iron

           

          I used one of the Adafruit irons for a while and liked it.

           

          Frank

          4 of 4 people found this helpful
            • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
              dougw

              Frank is right, temperature control is important as soon as you can afford it. However I used a cheap uncontrolled iron for several decades before I could afford a temperature controlled iron. To use a cheap iron, you need to figure out how to prevent overheating delicate components while still supplying enough heat to make a good solder joint. I ended up with 2 uncontrolled irons before getting a controlled one. (one iron had double the power rating of the other so it could heat up larger metal pieces in a shorter time)

              The iron you linked looks as good as the one I had - actually I still have it.

              4 of 4 people found this helpful
            • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
              fmilburn

              I have one of the Harbor Freight soldering iron that looks like the one you linked to which I kept for some reason.  Here is the tip that came with it (top) next to the Hakko (bottom) I normally use.  It looks like they cut off a nail and stuck it in .  The Tenma irons will almost certainly be better than the Harbor Freight and the 25W non-adjustable linked above by rsjsouza appears to come with multiple tips and a decent way to remove them.

              Soldering Tips

              4 of 4 people found this helpful
                • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
                  rsjsouza

                  fmilburn  wrote:

                   

                  (...) The Tenma irons will almost certainly be better than the Harbor Freight and the 25W non-adjustable linked above by rsjsouza appears to come with multiple tips and a decent way to remove them.

                  I missed that. It is certainly a much better offer than the HF or the other model.

                   

                  lui_gough, the unregulated irons take some time to heat up initially, but they are always operating at full power and therefore the recovery only becomes dependent on the thermal capacity of the iron. I can tell that even my FX888 has terrible recovery depending on the copper area I subject it to, but that is par for the course. I can compensate by cranking its temperature to 450°C but that can bring terrible consequences for the things being soldered.

                   

                  At any rate, one additional comment I would make is to be careful with capacitive coupling between the heating element inside the iron tip and the metallic housing. Depending on the construction, this may leak enough current to damage semiconductor devices. This is usually much reduced when dealing with low voltage controlled soldering stations.

                  2 of 2 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
                      lui_gough

                      Actually, the thing may well be operating at full power all the time, but due to the lousy loose fit between the tip and the heater barrel in these cheap irons, I found my 60W cheap iron to have worse recovery characteristics and longer warm up time than my 50-or-so watt soldering station. I'll even admit to buying a 35W rated cheap iron thinking that 60W would be too much for fine electronic work only to find that took absurdly long to bring joints up to temperature resulting in some casualties. As a result, I'd have to say the coupling between the tip (related to tip design) and heater does matter.

                       

                      I do agree with capacitive coupling comment - in Earthed countries (like AU), I have had less issues with irons that have an Earth pin as they should have some connection/resistance to ground to dissipate ESD and stray charges

                       

                      - Gough

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                        • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
                          rsjsouza

                          lui_gough  wrote:

                           

                          Actually, the thing may well be operating at full power all the time, but due to the lousy loose fit between the tip and the heater barrel in these cheap irons, I found my 60W cheap iron to have worse recovery characteristics and longer warm up time than my 50-or-so watt soldering station. I'll even admit to buying a 35W rated cheap iron thinking that 60W would be too much for fine electronic work only to find that took absurdly long to bring joints up to temperature resulting in some casualties. As a result, I'd have to say the coupling between the tip (related to tip design) and heater does matter.

                          I agree with you; thermal coupling is king. My old soldering irons had a very tight fit when hot, but I imagine the degradation of the material that was in close contact with the heating element probably reduced its efficiency - they quickly got a dark crust. Unfortunately I had no other reference to know how significant the degradation was.

                          1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
                      lui_gough

                      I started my electronics endeavours with such cheap irons and needless to say, I'd never turn back. A lot of them have plated copper tips which are a pain in the butt, as once the coating breaks through, the bit erodes to nothing almost immediately as the solder leeches the copper. The shape of the bit is poor making fine work very problematic, the nichrome wire often gives off some unpleasant smells and they take absolutely ages to heat up to temperature and are "thermally balanced" aka unregulated, so you need to add in waiting time for heat to recover post-joint and watch the solder closely. I would attribute it to the cause of many lifted tracks from PCBs in my early days of building kits. Over long projects, the handle which is often hard plastic gets uncomfortably hot and often the temperature they come set for is hot enough to cause flux spatter.

                       

                      I've done many successful projects with such irons, which even included mounting the tip into a cordless drill and using a file to grind it back. But since then, I had graduated to better thermally-regulated irons and there is no looking back. The superior fine tip of such irons and feedback regulation means less heat, less flux spatter, less stress on components, less waiting between joints. I suppose it boils down to how much your patience, time, frustration and parts are worth! Aside from absolute apocalyptic circumstances, I wouldn't go back.

                       

                      At the least, get an iron from a proper brand - even a Hakko FX-888FX-888 can be had at a good price and isn't a bad iron if your budget stretches. I have a Metcal PS-900PS-900 which I keep safe, instead using a Tenma combination hot-air/soldering station which is fairly inexpensive but also much better. For those who need much cheaper, I've had decent experiences with Goot plug-in irons - better tips, faster warm-up and more comfort, but still with most of the downsides of the thermally balanced iron.

                       

                      - Gough

                      2 of 2 people found this helpful
                      • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
                        keno

                        Hi Everyone,

                         

                        Thanks for all your comments!

                         

                        Since reading them have been searching for more info concerning each of the products mentioned.

                         

                        An unexpected finding was the new tech like the Hakko 951.

                         

                        To keep things clear decided to post Info and Experience with Hakko 951 Clones?  https://www.element14.com/community/message/273824/l/info-and-experience-with-hakko-951-clones#273824

                         

                        Appreciate any comments!

                         

                        Thanks

                         

                        Ken

                        • Re: Inexpensive Soldering Iron?
                          gsgill112

                          Hi I am personally using Pulse 936 Gold Soldering kit for past year which can be found from china for as cheep as 1200/- (Approx <15$) It can be found under many names but all are same. Personally I found it to be the cheapest and most useful Highly recommend it due to the following reasons:-

                           

                          1.     Soldering Iron is detachable and is a ripoff of HAKO 936.

                          2.     Soldering tips used are also HAKO 936 compliant i.e. easy repairs and videly available replacements.

                           

                          It is a good bargain if you get these for about 12-15$

                           

                          Happy Soldering.

                           

                          Regards,

                          GS Gill