Recommend me a soldering iron

Discussion in 'DIY Discussion' started by mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    My Antek soldering iron just packed up after about one year of occasional (ab)use.

    Can anyone recommend a good soldering iron/station that will hopefully last a bit longer?
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  2. mjp200581

    Tenson Moderator

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    I recommend Antex ;) I have 3 - 15w, 18w and 25w. 15w has a point tip for SMD work.
     
    Tenson, Sep 25, 2013
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  3. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    My Antek is/was a 50w with temperature control.

    I got on very well with it and found it easy to use. However the lifespan seems disappointing. It cost me £50 and lasted just over 12 months which puts it out of warranty.

    I had a look inside and the temp control circuit has a few electrolytic caps which could be worth checking, the irony is that I can't de-solder them! My hunch is that the heating element would be the thing to go though.

    Maybe I was just unlucky, or is 12 months a reasonable lifespan for a soldering iron? Are my expectations too high?

    I haven't it all that much, just for a few D.I.Y upgrade projects, certainly no more than a couple of times per month on average.

    Weller seem to have a good name.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  4. mjp200581

    Tenson Moderator

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    I don't like most of the temp controlled stations I've used. The tips seem crap and the iron too bulky. I think I'd certianly struggle to solder tiny 1206 package SMD stuff with less than 1mm between pins.

    If you want a temp controlled station, Rob got a reasonably affordable one recently that seems to actually work quite well! Not sure what tips are available. I think it was this one - http://www.maplin.co.uk/60w-professional-lcd-solder-station-with-esd-protection-511927
     
    Tenson, Sep 25, 2013
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  5. mjp200581

    felix part-time Horta

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    I don't much care for the temp controlled ones, bulky /hassle to store and it's not really needed IMO for DIY use. I'd rather use a slightly-too-large/hot iron and get the job done instantly*; it's hanging-about with underpowered/too-cool irons that tend to lift tracks, damage components and otherwise make a mess.

    I like antex too - I've a ~17w one and a back-up, and a larger c.30w one for heavier work (rarely used). The slip-on tips for the small ones are neat and effective. My experience of these fixed-output irons is they really do last a long time - I cant recall buying one in the last 6-7years. You can actually buy the heater elements separately - but IME its usu. at that point the handle and mains lead covered in burns means buying a new iron is better value, at £12-15 ;)


    *A flux pen is your friend - wipe the work and pcb with it as well as using a flux cored solder and a only the tinned things will stick and the excess solder stay on the iron/roll away like magic; essential for otherwise-hateful little SOICs - on a cleaned pcb place the soic, wipe the pins/pcb pads with fluxpen, tin the iron, wipe off any excess solder, wipe tinned bit across the pins - and voila no solder bridges, it just wicks under the pins! Use a loupe to check, then re-tin bit, wipe bit clean, touch to any bridged pins to pull off the excess. Done quicker than it took to write down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2013
    felix, Sep 25, 2013
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  6. mjp200581

    RobHolt Moderator

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    That's the one and it's excellent.

    Maplin sell accessory bit packs for it.

    However, a 15-25w Antex works just as well for most jobs and the fixed temp versions do last decades if well treated.
    The one advantage of the Maplin model is the 400c heat option which I like, and it reaches the selected temp within about 10 seconds.
    ESD protection is handy too.
     
    RobHolt, Sep 25, 2013
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  7. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    Thanks for the advice folks.

    I think I'll go down the route of getting a couple of non adjustable Antek irons. It'll work out cheaper than an adjustable one and I already have a selection Antek tips.

    Tenson, which of your selection of 15w, 18w and 25w do you find most useful for general through hole PCB work? I sounds like Felix would go with 18w most of the time.

    There is a Maplin near my house and they do 15w, 18w, 25w and 30w options.

    My old Antek was rated at 50w and I tended to prefer to leave it on a pretty hot setting most of the time and work quickly.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  8. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    But on second thoughts do I need ESD protection?

    I will be working with IC's and possibly CD player lasers from time to time.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  9. mjp200581

    felix part-time Horta

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    Fixed-output mains-powered soldering irons exposed metalwork and tips are all earthed already, they have to be; so 'very, very probably not' is your answer to ESD protection. Certainly I've never had a problem with those items you propose and basic irons.
     
    felix, Sep 25, 2013
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  10. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    Cheers, two fixed power irons it is then.

    Off to Maplin's tomorrow.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  11. mjp200581

    felix part-time Horta

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    felix, Sep 25, 2013
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  12. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    You're right that is cheap!

    Thanks for the heads-up.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  13. mjp200581

    Tenson Moderator

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    For thru-hole I use 18w mostly. I only use the 25w iron for bulky parts like binding posts.
     
    Tenson, Sep 25, 2013
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  14. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    Thanks Tenson.

    I'll definitely be getting an 18w iron and either a 25w or 30w for heavier duty jobs.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 25, 2013
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  15. mjp200581

    pete693

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    Couple of points about Antex and I suspect about most other irons.
    Never ever remove the bit with the iron switched on.It's the quickest way to destroy the element.
    Also before you use the iron (if it's only used very intermittently) remove the bit and if possible apply a smear of copper based lubricant to the part of the iron that the bit slides over.
    Failure to remove the bit every so often will mean that when you do need to change it,it will be seized on and you will probably destroy the iron trying to remove it.
     
    pete693, Sep 26, 2013
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  16. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    Great advice Pete. Many thanks!

    I've ordered a 18w Antex from Farnell. I went with the optional upgrade of the silicon lead which is more temperature resistant and I suspect will also be much more supple than the standard PVC covered cord.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 26, 2013
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  17. mjp200581

    mjp200581

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    I've used my new 18w Antex a couple of times now and it's just the job for smaller PCB based components. I've also ordered a 25w for bigger stuff.

    The silicon lead is fabulous, it's so much more supple and flexible than a PVC lead and makes wrestling with your soldering iron a thing of the past. Well worth the few £'s extra.
     
    mjp200581, Sep 29, 2013
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