Jump to content

Soldering station recommendation


Recommended Posts

I've been thinking about upgrading to a better soldering station. I am just a hobbyst so the tool is mostly for DIY work. 

I started out wanting to limit my budget to $200 US. As always the case, once I started reading stuff on the web, I am more and more tempted by those that are way over my budget.

Right now, I am looking seriously at:

1. A JBC CD-1BD for around $400 

2. A Hakko FX951-66 for around $260 

I would love to hear your experience, experience and recommendations. 

Thanks! 

Edited by mwl168
Link to post
Share on other sites

I use the Aoyue 968A+ SMD Digital Hot Air Rework Station.

It has worked flawlessly for 3 years of hobbyist DIY, and has the hot air gun for smd (but I use it for heatshrink, which is convenient). Has a smoke sucker too, which works well, but you have to clean the filter out every once in a while. Probably not the same long-term quality as OKI/Metcal or Hakko if you are cranking out an amp or two every day of the year, but more than good enough for our purposes.

Amazon has it for $175, shipped - http://www.amazon.com/Aoyue-968A-Digital-Rework-Station/dp/B006FA481G

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, GeorgeP said:

I use the Aoyue 968A+ SMD Digital Hot Air Rework Station.

I have the same, George.  I adore it.  I recently tried to use the hot air gun to clean snow off the deck of my project room, to no avail.  First thing it has been unable to do.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, mwl168 said:

1. A JBC CD-1BD for around $400 

 

I have the model before this, CD-1BC, very quick heat up times (4-6 seconds max from idle, about 15 seconds from dead cold).

Heat capacity is mainly dependent on the type of tip chosen and you get a fine tip and wide tip as part of the package.

This soldering station allows you to change tips on the fly, that is, without waiting for it to completely cool, very useful when you need to switch from fine soldering like SMD to big jobs like tabs on a tube socket.

( I was a little concerned about wearing out the barrel but has not happened yet).

System is modular and the barrel and tips are reasonably priced.

 

Edited by b0bb
Link to post
Share on other sites

Saw a great post on this on DIYA a few weeks ago: 1215

Think this guy's recommendation is similar to Spritzers...

Quote

There are two features that are absolute must-haves for me:

  1. Temperature control
  2. Replaceable tips

In addition, an auto shut-off feature can be nice to have. That's pretty easily implemented by a timer switch (available at your hardware store). Long-life soldering tips oxidize when they just sit at operating temperature. Tinning them periodically - as you would when soldering - takes care of the oxidation, but if you forget to turn the iron off, it could be a while before it sees fresh tin and the tip is now destroyed.

The temperature control does not need to be continuously variable or even adjustable on the fly. I just want the temperature to be relatively constant when I'm working. I tend to use 600 ºF (315 ºC) or 700 ºF (375 ºC) tips.

The replaceable tips are a must-have. Being able to install a 1.0 mm chisel tip for SMD work, a 1.6 mm chisel for leaded, and 6.3 mm chisel for when you really need the thermal mass and contact area is priceless.
Yes. I prefer chisel tips. That's my personal preference. I find they're the ones that can provide enough contact area without overheating the components.

I have personal experience with two brands that I will recommend: METCAL and Weller.

My current soldering station is a METCAL MX-500 that I picked up in practically brand new condition for dimes on the dollar during the 2008 recession. I have both the regular hand wand and hot tweezers (nice for SMD rework!). 
In the METCAL, the temperature is controlled by the tip and the heater is all the way down by the tip. This means nearly instant heat. I absolutely love it. Tips are changed by pulling them out of the wand and the soldering station comes with silicone pads so you can do this even when the tips are hot. 

My previous soldering iron (still works, and I use it on occasion if I need something a bit more portable than the METCAL) was a Weller TCP, which I purchased in 1988. That's the workhorse soldering iron of many European electronics labs in the 1980ies and beyond. The TCP is practically indestructible. Changing the tip involves undoing a nut and removing the tube holding the tip. It's recommended that you allow the iron to cool before swapping the tip, so in that respect it's not as flexible as the METCAL. The temperature is controlled by the tip via the curie effect. 

In the US, I've noticed a Weller WTCP, which is slightly different but functionally equivalent to the TCP.

The Weller WES-51 is interesting as well. That's more of a soldering pencil. That one has a knob on the front for adjusting the temperature and the heater is pretty far down into the tip, though the heating element is part of the wand and not the tip. For SMD and leaded parts, the WES-51 is great. For larger parts, such as connectors, power pads (exposed DAPs), etc. you may want to have more heat capacity (more tip metal) available than the WES-51 has to offer.

If you're pretty serious about building electronics and expect to keep going for years to come, I'd get a METCAL. I believe they're owned by OKI now, so look for that name as well.
If you don't want to spend that much money, get a Weller WTCP.

Those are my recommendations based on my own personal experience with the products. 

Tom

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Metcal is great station to solder with.

I bought my SP200 years ago and still works like new. The tip/cartridges are expensive for the SP200 at around $15, but my employer has a good supply. :D

The PS 800 uses less expensive tips and is just as good. 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just another datapoint. I picked up a Metcal PS-800 about a year ago when they were selling refurbished units at a discount, and haven't enjoyed using it as much as the Hakko 936. I find the build quality of the pen to be a step down from Hakko, and, more importantly, the tips keep slipping out since they don't seem to have a locking mechanism. I also miss the Hakko's temperature control, as the default setting is a bit too cool to solder the joint on things like RCA jacks without heating up the entire jack. For day-to-day stuff it's perfectly fine.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, PretentiousFood said:

Just another datapoint. I picked up a Metcal PS-800 about a year ago when they were selling refurbished units at a discount, and haven't enjoyed using it as much as the Hakko 936. I find the build quality of the pen to be a step down from Hakko, and, more importantly, the tips keep slipping out since they don't seem to have a locking mechanism. I also miss the Hakko's temperature control, as the default setting is a bit too cool to solder the joint on things like RCA jacks without heating up the entire jack. For day-to-day stuff it's perfectly fine.

I have a PS-800 as well and I've never had a tip become loose.  It is the PS-800e (or something like that) so they could have updated the pen for that model. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks all for your help.

I decided to pull the trigger on the JBC. I know I cannot go wrong with either the Metcal or the JBC. Both, and many others, will be a major step up from my entry level Weller station which has served me well for a decade or so. 

At the end, it comes down to my personal preference for the ergonomics of the JBC and the fact I found a store offering a nice discount for it (it's being replaced by a new model).

Link to post
Share on other sites

I still like my Hakko 936, but haven't used most others mentioned here. The Hakko does what I need it to. +3 on multiple tips as it makes a big difference in using the right tool for the job.

EDIT: Are you still doing any building Naaman? I used to love seeing what you did in Iraq :)

Edited by Pars
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

Bought my first real soldering station after my latest one died, just a lowly Hakko FX-888D but it's better than the junk I've been using so far. I don't really need anything fancy now that I'm switching to mostly SMT. Possibly too late to ask, but is everyone still happy with their stations?

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, mypasswordis said:

Bought my first real soldering station after my latest one died, just a lowly Hakko FX-888D but it's better than the junk I've been using so far. I don't really need anything fancy now that I'm switching to mostly SMT. Possibly too late to ask, but is everyone still happy with their stations?

I've been using a Radioshack one that I picked up on their going out of business sale for $30. It's similar to a Hakko 937 and uses the same tips but a little fancier in presets and stuff. I really like it a lot, especially the nice cheap variety of tips you can get from china for next to nothing. Best part is the quick heating and ability to keep a consistent temp on the tip even when soldering some larger stuff. It doesn't really bog down unless you're desoldering a big heatsink or something.

 

Though I guess anything compared to my old plain twenty year old iron would be a pretty big improvement.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice, glad to see a few others using Hakkos as well!

8 hours ago, Tinkerer said:

I've been using a Radioshack one that I picked up on their going out of business sale for $30. It's similar to a Hakko 937 and uses the same tips but a little fancier in presets and stuff. I really like it a lot, especially the nice cheap variety of tips you can get from china for next to nothing. Best part is the quick heating and ability to keep a consistent temp on the tip even when soldering some larger stuff. It doesn't really bog down unless you're desoldering a big heatsink or something.

 

Though I guess anything compared to my old plain twenty year old iron would be a pretty big improvement.

Nice! I find that the tips you get for next to nothing also don't last very long, but then again the soldering station itself didn't last very long so it was probably killing the tips faster as well. I've only been using Hakko clones since the start, figured it might be cool to finally get the real thing but now thinking maybe a 937 clone would have been enough. :P 

Wow, so Radioshack finally bit the bullet. I made a fair amount of last minute Ratshack electronics runs, paying  > 10x normal prices for bog standard parts. The last time I was there (last year), I was just trying to find a simple 2n2222 or 2n3904. They were selling them for around $2 each and you could buy 100 of them for like $4 online so I just walked out. :/ Met a mech engineer doing a Ratshack run at the same time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...