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soldering stations

12/21/1998 4:13 PM
Anthony Stauffer
soldering stations
Can anyone please tell me what is the preferred brand of soldering stations. Specifically, one that doesn't break, or have the iron burn out. Has any bought one of the ISOTIP cordless soldering irons, and if so, what did you think of it?  
12/21/1998 6:45 PM
Steve A.

re: ISOTIP cordless irons  
    I bought one of those about 15 years ago and was sorely disappointed because they didn't get very hot and the battery would go dead at the worst possible time. I then moved up to the Portasol butane iron (before Weller bought them out) and kept burning holes in the woven cataltyic convertor in the tip. I finally got a real cordless iron, the Weller Pyropen, which served me well for about 10 years at which time the butane filter/valve assy clogged up and I haven't tracked down parts to repair it yet. The price has gone up from $66 to $120 over the years so I picked up a cheap Radio Shack corded iron to keep on my HVAC service truck until I can get a reasonably priced replacement (like the Weller PSI-100 for $59.99, or as a kit for $89.99).  
    Other posts here have mentioned good results with the less expensive Weller cordless irons (the C1C for $24.99 and the P-1B for $32.99) but the P-1B looks identical to the old Portasol iron I used to have (with the tips that kept burning out).  
re: solering stations  
    On my workbench (well, dining room table if you want to get technical about it) I have a controlled heat Weller WT60 iron (700 tip) with a PanaVise soldering station/board holder. That iron is similar to the Weller WTCPT soldering station for $139.99 in that you must replace the tip to change the temperature. The Weller WCC100 has a dial to set the temperature and it's actually cheaper ($137.95). The professional version of that is the EC1002-1 for $259.99 (ouch!).  
    Hakko makes a nice looking variable temperature soldering station for about $120 that is on my wish list but I heard that you need to shut it off before changing the temperature setting (not necessarily a problem- just mentioning what I heard). If you can get by with variable power (not controlled by a thermostat) Weller has a WLC100 solder station ($49.99) that can be set for 5 to 40 watts- a definite step up from Radio Shack irons but not as well-built as the other Weller equipment. The Mouser catalog shows an ISOTIP adjustable temperature "microsoldering" station for $89.95 is probably better than the Wellers for intricate printed circuit boards.  
Steve Ahola  
P.S. Unless otherwise noted, prices listed are from Tech America catalog.
12/21/1998 10:04 PM
Anthony Stauffer

What I'm most concerned about is that it won't burn out as my cheap Radio Shack iron did today. I only bought it a year ago and it served me well but now it's gone. I don't necessarily care about heat up time or any of that jazz, I just want something that a year from now will still work, and if the iron breaks, it can be replaced. If I don't have to spend $100 to get it that would be nice. I had my eye on a Weller Station in the MCM catalog that was about 51.95. But if that's only a small step up from Radio Shack, I'm thinking I should maybe dig a little deeper into my pockets.
12/24/1998 1:39 AM
Steve A.

    Did the heating element burn out, or just the tip? It is normal for tips to wear out, but I've heard that the replacement tips from Radio Shack wear out after about two weeks of regular use!  
    When you mentioned "soldering station" I thought that you were ready to cough up the big bucks... (Me neither- that's why the Hakko station is on my wish list and not on my work bench!)  
    You might want to give the $50 Weller soldering station a whirl... The variable power control is better than no control at all (that is how the butane irons work, too). The one thing I hate about most of the Radio Shack irons is the phillips head screw that secures the tip- I forget that it is there and always end up branding myself with it! (I prefer an iron that uses a knurled bushing to secure the tip.)  
    BTW I've done HVAC work in "sweat shops" with the assembly line all using a cheap iron like the Weller Marksman line: SP23 for $11.88 or the SP40 for $15.87. There is a neat trick to cut the power of a 40 watt iron in half: make up a box with an AC receptacle and a switch to bypass a 1N4007 diode in line with the hot lead (the diode will basically cut the power in half). The diode trick also works great as a noise-free dimmer for any incandescent light.  
Steve Ahola
12/24/1998 7:42 AM
Dave Stork

The diode trick Steve mentions is an oldie but a goodie. It's a great way to add a "standby" or low power function to an inexpensive iron. Tips last a lot longer when you switch the iron to half-power when it's not being used.  
For this application, I prefer to use a diode rated at higher current. The large 600V 3A diodes sometimes used as rectifiers in big power amp power supplies are good for this purpose.
12/24/1998 9:52 AM

FWIW, Parts Express has the Weller WLC100 for $40.  
Merry Christmas,  
12/27/1998 9:06 PM
John S.

Just wanted to add on the Hakko irons. I bought one about a month ago and I am quite happy with it. The iron is nice and slim and I am able to adjust temp on the fly. I had to increase the temp trying to desolder a particularly large factory blob and it boosted the heat just fine. Nice unit. Tips are not as readily available as say, Weller of course but easy enough to find.  

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