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'[EE]: Soldering iron recommendations'
2003\08\03@132915 by Picdude

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In the recent discussion of soldering stations, I saw nothing about tip life.  But I've noticed on some soldering irons, that the tips don't last as long as with other irons.  They "erode" at the very tip, rendering them unuseable.

I really like the Weller SP12 iron for example -- super lightweight, only 12W (works for everything I do), and super low-cost (~$11 IIRC), but the tips don't last too long, and worse, the tips are not replaceable.  A true case of "you get what you pay for".  So it's time to move up, and perhaps I should also get something with a bit of temp control.  
I'm considering this one...
  http://web-tronics.com/cispdeesdsas.html

However, this Weller temp controller seems like it would work with any iron, so I'm thinking of getting a Weller WM12 (which is a tip-replaceable version of the SP12) for ~$35, and later I could add on a temp controller like this one...
  http://www.action-electronics.com/weller.htm#Stained

But I'm guessing that weller's tips are going to all be of the same quality, so perhaps I should switch brands.  How do I determine which ones will last though?  Are there some tip specs (or material) I should look for?  Also, keeping it to a popular brand (so I can find and actually see the tips locally) would be nice.

BTW, can old tips be re-ground, or is there some coating on the outside that makes this idea useless?

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2003\08\03@134201 by Dave VanHorn

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>
>BTW, can old tips be re-ground, or is there some coating on the outside that
>makes this idea useless?

Good tips are iron plated copper.
Once the iron is holed, the copper oxidizes FAST and the tip is shot.

Check out the low end Metcal irons, <$200 on ebay.
The Weller irons are nice.

Lower temperature makes tips last longer.

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2003\08\03@135439 by Rob Peacock

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On Sun, 2003-08-03 at 11:33, Picdude wrote:
> In the recent discussion of soldering stations, I saw nothing about tip life.
> But I've noticed on some soldering irons, that the tips don't last as long as
> with other irons.  They "erode" at the very tip, rendering them unuseable.

I found that the tips on my soldering irons eroded much faster if I
didn't put a big glob on them before I either left them burning without
using them, or before I shut them down.

> BTW, can old tips be re-ground, or is there some coating on the outside that
> makes this idea useless?

It depends on the tip. Some that I have used have what looks like a
copper plating over a steel core. If you grind thses down, they won't
work well after you get into the core. OTOH, the replacable tips on the
Radio Shack irons can be reground on a bench grinder and they works as
well afterwards, as they did before hand. (I'm not saying they are good
to start with but they don't get any worse :) Since the tips are about
an inch long, you can regrind/shape them quite a few times before you
have to replace them.

Just my experience...

--->Rob

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2003\08\03@141926 by Picdude

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On Sunday 03 August 2003 12:41, Dave VanHorn scribbled:
> >BTW, can old tips be re-ground, or is there some coating on the outside
> > that makes this idea useless?
>
> Good tips are iron plated copper.
> Once the iron is holed, the copper oxidizes FAST and the tip is shot.

Ahhh.


> Check out the low end Metcal irons, <$200 on ebay.

A bit (okay a lot) more than I want to spend.  Yes, I do understand the value in good tools, but there must be some good options between $11 and $200.


> The Weller irons are nice.
>
> Lower temperature makes tips last longer.

Hmmm... this is useful info.  Is there any stations that can cool down and heat up rapidly (between uses).  In other words, stay cool(er) in the stand, but rapidly com back up to temp when taken out of the stand?

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2003\08\03@142134 by Picdude

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On Sunday 03 August 2003 12:54, Rob Peacock scribbled:
> I found that the tips on my soldering irons eroded much faster if I
> didn't put a big glob on them before I either left them burning without
> using them, or before I shut them down.

Will need to experiment with this.


> It depends on the tip. Some that I have used have what looks like a
> copper plating over a steel core.

Interesting.  Dave VH mentioned the reverse -- iron plated copper.


>  If you grind thses down, they won't
> work well after you get into the core. OTOH, the replacable tips on the
> Radio Shack irons can be reground on a bench grinder and they works as
> well afterwards, as they did before hand. (I'm not saying they are good
> to start with but they don't get any worse :) Since the tips are about
> an inch long, you can regrind/shape them quite a few times before you
> have to replace them.

I have used Radio Shack irons for one-off stuff (such as visiting someone outside of my home-city and needed an iron to help them fix something).  I HATE the way the handles get very hot.


> Just my experience...

W/o formal specs for this stuff, experiences are what I need.

Thanks,
-Neil.

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2003\08\03@145539 by Dave VanHorn

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>
>It depends on the tip. Some that I have used have what looks like a
>copper plating over a steel core. If you grind thses down, they won't
>work well after you get into the core. OTOH, the replacable tips on the
>Radio Shack irons can be reground on a bench grinder and they works as
>well afterwards, as they did before hand. (I'm not saying they are good
>to start with but they don't get any worse :) Since the tips are about
>an inch long, you can regrind/shape them quite a few times before you
>have to replace them.

Tinned copper tips are regrindable, but corrode very fast, making regrinds
necessary.
Iron plated copper isn't regrindable, (not really) but also last a LONG
time, and therefore don't need it.
Copper plated iron is what I would call USELESS from the start. :)

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2003\08\03@145954 by Brian Kraut

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I have oftern thought of bringing one of my Weller tips to a jewler and
having it platinum plated.  Anyone ever tried that?

Dave VanHorn wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2003\08\03@152730 by ?q?Debbie=20Hynes?=

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Ur right about copper corroding fast. Before I turn on the iron, I take out the
tip hold it in a vise and brush it like hell with a wire brush (brass wires).
Then, soon as it's hot, i flow solder all over the tip - it wets really good
after the brush up - & flick off the excess. Seems to minimise the rate of
corrosion by protecting the core somewhat.
My 20c worth - Debbie :)

--- Dave VanHorn <RemoveMEdvanhornTakeThisOuTspamCEDAR.NET> Tinned copper tips are regrindable, but
corrode very fast, making regrinds
> necessary.
> Iron plated copper isn't regrindable, (not really) but also last a LONG
> time, and therefore don't need it.
> Copper plated iron is what I would call USELESS from the start. :)
>

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2003\08\03@160332 by Picdude

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What's the point behind wire brushing?  I always tin it with fresh solder as soon as it comes up to temp, and also just before switching it off.  Not sure why at the end, but it's just a habit.

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Sunday 03 August 2003 14:26, Debbie Hynes scribbled:
> Ur right about copper corroding fast. Before I turn on the iron, I take out
> the tip hold it in a vise and brush it like hell with a wire brush (brass
> wires). Then, soon as it's hot, i flow solder all over the tip - it wets
> really good after the brush up - & flick off the excess. Seems to minimise
> the rate of corrosion by protecting the core somewhat.
> My 20c worth - Debbie :)
>

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2003\08\03@160950 by John N. Power

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> Ur right about copper corroding fast. Before I turn on the iron, I take out the
> tip hold it in a vise and brush it like hell with a wire brush (brass wires).
> Then, soon as it's hot, i flow solder all over the tip - it wets really good
> after the brush up - & flick off the excess. Seems to minimise the rate of
> corrosion by protecting the core somewhat.
> My 20c worth - Debbie :)

       The black color on the tip is corrosion, but if you are talking about
       the tip shrinking in size (appears to be eaten away), you are
       actually seeing the copper dissolve in the liquid solder. Just as the
       solder alloys into a copper connection when you solder, the copper
       tip alloys into the hot liquid solder. Once the iron tip plating (if any)
       develops a hole, the solder enters through the hole and dissolves
       the tip body. The tip becomes useless when the plated shell fills
       up with solder rather than copper.

       John Power

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2003\08\03@171257 by Rob Peacock

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On Sun, 2003-08-03 at 12:54, Dave VanHorn wrote:
> Tinned copper tips are regrindable, but corrode very fast, making regrinds
> necessary.
> Iron plated copper isn't regrindable, (not really) but also last a LONG
> time, and therefore don't need it.
> Copper plated iron is what I would call USELESS from the start. :)

I always assumed the tips were copper clad steel because they had a
reddish color cladding over a silvery metal. I figured the core was just
soft because it was low grade steel being from Radio Shack :) I guess
I'm doing the right thing if I'm learning something new everyday!

I have reused the RS tips quite a few times before they either erode or
are ground down to nothing. When I was building boards in the early
80's, we had a water-based flux that would tin about anything because it
was so corrosive. Our wire solder used it, and we also had squirt
bottles of it for hard to tin PCB's and component leads. You had to
clean it up right after wards though because it would etch the pads and
traces if you left it on over night.

--->Rob

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2003\08\03@172752 by Josh Koffman

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I use a couple of irons. I have a couple of Radio Shack irons I keep in
some of my toolkits for emergencies. I actually prefer my little Weller
portasol butane one to those though. I use two irons regularly. One is a
Weller WP25 I got at the Dayton Hamvention for $10, including a stand.
Works great, and I picked up some super small tips for it from DigiKey
so I can use it for SMT. The other one I have on my bench at work is a
Weller WTCPT station. It's not controllable temp-wise, but I've always
been amazed at how quickly it heats up when I turn it on.

Anyway, I wish I could afford a Metcal station, they seem really
amazing. I haven't actually soldered with one, but the size of the irons
vs. their power levels seems impressive.

In any case, I think the WP25 isn't too bad. I haven't had it for long
enough to wear out the tips, so I can't comment on longevity.

Hope that helps.

Josh
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Picdude wrote:
>
> Hmmm... this is useful info.  Is there any stations that can cool down and
> heat up rapidly (between uses).  In other words, stay cool(er) in the stand,
> but rapidly com back up to temp when taken out of the stand?

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2003\08\03@173129 by Olin Lathrop

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> I always assumed the tips were copper clad steel because they had a
> reddish color cladding over a silvery metal.

That sounds backwards.  You would want copper on the inside because it
conducts heat very well.  But, you don't want the soldering surface to be
copper because it will get eaten away very quickly.

I have a Weller WES50 and just looked at an unused tip.  The main body
must be made of steel because it sticks to a magnet very nicely.  It
appears all but the last 5mm are chrome(?) plated to make it essentially
inert.  The last 5mm are plated with a different metal that solder can
wick on well, but definitely not copper.  It looks dull gray compared to
the chrome.  I don't think its iron because it doesn't look rusty or
corroded.  Bare iron sitting around my office would have a thin layer of
rust on it by now.  I think nickel would make a good surface, but it
doesn't look like nickel either.


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2003\08\03@174204 by Picdude

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Righto!  So the question morphs to .... which brands of soldering irons/tips have a "quality" level of plating on them?

Cheers,
-Neil.


On Monday 04 August 2003 04:07, John N. Power scribbled:
>         The black color on the tip is corrosion, but if you are talking
> about the tip shrinking in size (appears to be eaten away), you are
> actually seeing the copper dissolve in the liquid solder. Just as the
> solder alloys into a copper connection when you solder, the copper tip
> alloys into the hot liquid solder. Once the iron tip plating (if any)
> develops a hole, the solder enters through the hole and dissolves the tip
> body. The tip becomes useless when the plated shell fills up with solder
> rather than copper.

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2003\08\03@175450 by Dave VanHorn

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At 04:46 PM 8/3/2003 -0500, Picdude wrote:
>Righto!  So the question morphs to .... which brands of soldering irons/tips
>have a "quality" level of plating on them?

The metcal and weller are great.
I replaced weller tips very infrequently.

Weller stations (the magnetic kind) will trigger any scope within a
light-year, when they trip.
The metcal dosen't.

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2003\08\03@181602 by Picdude

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On Sunday 03 August 2003 16:54, Dave VanHorn scribbled:
> At 04:46 PM 8/3/2003 -0500, Picdude wrote:
> >Righto!  So the question morphs to .... which brands of soldering
> > irons/tips have a "quality" level of plating on them?
>
> The metcal and weller are great.
> I replaced weller tips very infrequently.

Which is somewhat contradictory to my findings, though mine is based on only one model, and perhaps their very lowest-cost model at that -- the SP12.  I might have to take the plunge with one of their upper products.  I like the Weller due to availability just about anywhere.


> Weller stations (the magnetic kind) will trigger any scope within a
> light-year, when they trip.
> The metcal dosen't.

Interesting observation.  Luckily I can only do one of develop or assemble at a time.  I'll have to consider the Metcal when I grow a couple more arms.  :-)

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2003\08\03@182439 by Picdude

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I did a search thru Weller's website earlier today for some specs, but came up with nada.  Just checked how stuff works, but nada again.  Oh well.

On a related note, how about temp control.  I read somewhere that I can use a diode in series with one of the power-pins to the soldering iron to cut it's power in half.  Sounds simple enough, and I can't imagine anything detrimental coming from this.

But it begs the question ... how much power do I really need?  Everything is rated in power, but I'll guess that it does not directly correspond to heat output, as there are a lot of other factors that determine that.  But since most every iron is measured in watts.... ?  I find 12W quite fine for everything I do (PICs and discretes, wires <= 16ga, no power resistors), but will say 10W work?  Or less?  I'd like to get away with less, since I'm going to be playing with smaller (SMT) components nowadays.

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Sunday 03 August 2003 16:30, Olin Lathrop scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

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2003\08\03@182644 by Dave VanHorn

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>
>Which is somewhat contradictory to my findings, though mine is based on only
>one model, and perhaps their very lowest-cost model at that -- the SP12.  I
>might have to take the plunge with one of their upper products.  I like the
>Weller due to availability just about anywhere.

I can't speak to the SP series, I've mostly had the WTCP series.


{Quote hidden}

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2003\08\03@183715 by Dave VanHorn

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>But it begs the question ... how much power do I really need?  Everything is
>rated in power, but I'll guess that it does not directly correspond to heat
>output, as there are a lot of other factors that determine that.  But since
>most every iron is measured in watts.... ?  I find 12W quite fine for
>everything I do (PICs and discretes, wires <= 16ga, no power resistors), but
>will say 10W work?  Or less?  I'd like to get away with less, since I'm going
>to be playing with smaller (SMT) components nowadays.

Watts tells you how fast it can heat up.
Thermal mass and tip design tell you how much heat they can deliver to the
joint.
temperature and mass tells you how much heat is available for delivery.

The metcals throttle power differently. There's an alloy coating that
absorbs RF and gets hot.
When it heats above it's curie temp, it stops absorbing rf.
So, it hovers right around it's curie temp.
If you load it, then it cools the alloy, and starts taking power again.

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2003\08\03@183716 by Dave Tweed

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Josh Koffman <EraseMElistsjoshspamEraseME3MTMP.COM> wrote:
> The other one I have on my bench at work is a Weller WTCPT station.
> It's not controllable temp-wise, but I've always been amazed at how
> quickly it heats up when I turn it on.

Sure it is. The temperature is controlled by the tip itself.

The back part of the tip is made of a ferrite material that has a Curie
point of approximately 600, 700, or 800 degrees F, as indicated by a "6",
"7" or "8", respectively, stamped on the end.

Power to the heater is controlled by a switch that has a magnet as an
actuator. When the tip is cold, the tip attracts the magnet and the
switch is on. When the tip gets to its Curie point, it no longer attracts
the magnet, which is released and the switch turns off. When the tip cools
below its Curie point again, the cycle repeats.

Very clever, actually.

> Anyway, I wish I could afford a Metcal station, they seem really
> amazing. I haven't actually soldered with one, but the size of the irons
> vs. their power levels seems impressive.

The Metcal system also uses Curie point, but in a different way. The tip
is primarily copper, but with a nickel-iron alloy plated on the surface.
A high-power RF oscillator is magnetically coupled to the tip. When the
plating is below it's Curie point, it absorbs the energy, and being
relatively resistive, it heats up. When the plating reaches its Curie
point, the induced current flows through the copper core instead, and
since its resistivity is much lower, the heating is much less.

-- Dave Tweed

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2003\08\03@185827 by Picdude

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One more Q, and I'll quit for the day :-) ...

What about Hakko?  I've found tons to references to the 936 in the past with lots of good reports, but no one here mentions it.  My local Fry's carries this, so it's on my list.  Any thoughts/opinions?

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Sunday 03 August 2003 17:36, Dave VanHorn scribbled:
{Quote hidden}

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2003\08\03@191940 by Dave VanHorn

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At 06:04 PM 8/3/2003 -0500, Picdude wrote:
>One more Q, and I'll quit for the day :-) ...
>
>What about Hakko?  I've found tons to references to the 936 in the past with
>lots of good reports, but no one here mentions it.  My local Fry's carries
>this, so it's on my list.  Any thoughts/opinions?

The only Hakko product I ever worked with was a desoldering gun.
It was horrible. Unusable. In a room full of repair techs, it sat unused
for two years.

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2003\08\03@191940 by Dwayne Reid

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At 05:04 PM 8/3/2003, Picdude wrote:
>One more Q, and I'll quit for the day :-) ...
>
>What about Hakko?  I've found tons to references to the 936 in the past with
>lots of good reports, but no one here mentions it.  My local Fry's carries
>this, so it's on my list.  Any thoughts/opinions?

We use Metcal, Weller, and Hakko soldering stations here at work.  We
started off with the Weller WTCP series - most of those are still in use -
some after 20 years.  Lots of replaced parts along the way but they have
been amazingly reliable and inexpensive to operate.

We purchased several Hakko ?910? stations a few years back when we started
doing SMT stuff.  Most of those sit on the shelf and are never used anymore.

When Metcal stations started showing up on eBay a few years back, I bought
1 station to try out.  We then bought several more - and I still get them
if the price is right.  They simply work better than anything else I've used.

The Weller WTCP tips have the longest life of all the stations we use here.

The Hakko tips have reasonable life but they erode from the inside, making
it hard to tell when they are toast.  I usually find out when I happen to
notice that the production people have the temperature cranked all the way
up - that is a *very* bad thing!

The Metcal tips have a surprisingly short lifetime - somewhere between 100
- 200 hours of use before the plating fails.  Makes them expensive to run . . .

dwayne

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2003\08\03@193017 by Dave VanHorn

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>
>The Metcal tips have a surprisingly short lifetime - somewhere between 100
>- 200 hours of use before the plating fails.  Makes them expensive to run
>. . .

I hadn't noticed this.
I don't leave mine cooking on purpose, since it takes about 7S to get to
temperature.
I haven't replaced a tip in two years, but I'm not on it all day, every day.
Light prototyping mostly.

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2003\08\03@193847 by Michael Davidson

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>One more Q, and I'll quit for the day :-) ...
>
>What about Hakko?  I've found tons to references to the 936 in the past with
>lots of good reports, but no one here mentions it.  My local Fry's carries
>this, so it's on my list.  Any thoughts/opinions?

I asked for recommendations for Irons on [BUY] about a month ago and was
recommended the Hakko 936 which I grabbed. The only problem I've had is a
housemate accidently melting plastic over the tip requiring me to buy a new
tip after about a week - which only cost me $10au. They heat up to
temperature quickly (At least compared to my old Weller SP15D) and stay at
temperature rather well.
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2003\08\03@194718 by David Duffy

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Picdude wrote:

>One more Q, and I'll quit for the day :-) ...
>
>What about Hakko?  I've found tons to references to the 936 in the past with
>lots of good reports, but no one here mentions it.  My local Fry's carries
>this, so it's on my list.  Any thoughts/opinions?
>
>
We have 3 of the older Hakko 926 and 1 of the newer 936 Hakko units.
The tips last a long time and we do quite a lot of hand soldering here.
David...

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2003\08\03@195341 by Olin Lathrop

face picon face
> But it begs the question ... how much power do I really need?
> Everything is rated in power, but I'll guess that it does not directly
> correspond to heat output, as there are a lot of other factors that
> determine that.  But since most every iron is measured in watts.... ?
> I find 12W quite fine for everything I do (PICs and discretes, wires <=
> 16ga, no power resistors), but will say 10W work?  Or less?  I'd like
> to get away with less, since I'm going to be playing with smaller (SMT)
> components nowadays.

That's why you want a temperature controlled soldering iron.  It will send
only the power to the tip that is needed to maintain the desired
temperature.


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2003\08\03@200624 by Matt Pobursky

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On Sun, 3 Aug 2003 12:33:27 -0500, Picdude wrote:
> In the recent discussion of soldering stations, I saw nothing about
> tip life.  But I've noticed on some soldering irons, that the tips
> don't last as long as with other irons.  They "erode" at the very
> tip, rendering them unuseable.
>
> But I'm guessing that weller's tips are going to all be of the same
> quality, so perhaps I should switch brands.  How do I determine which
> ones will last though?  Are there some tip specs (or material) I
> should look for?
> Also, keeping it to a popular brand (so I can find and actually see
> the tips locally) would be nice.

The Weller tips for my EC2002 soldering iron last quite well. I go
through a new tip maybe once a year at most. I have several different
size/styles I use for different tasks. I also don't leave the tip sit
and cook when I'm doing something else -- I either turn the station off
or (usually) just give the temperature knob a quick twist to minimum
temperature (350:F). This keeps the tip warm, but not hot. I also
always tin the tip right before I shut the iron down. Seems to make the
tips last a  lot longer.

I like the EC2002 iron, it's temperature control is good and the
replacement tips are about $5. I've had mine now for about 10 years and
no troubles with it.

> BTW, can old tips be re-ground, or is there some coating on the
> outside that makes this idea useless?

I've re-ground tips, polished them in a drill press then tinned them
during first warmup. Works OK, but the solder tinning won't last as
long as a (new) plated tip. It's let me extend the life of a tip a few
times until I could get a new replacement though...

Matt Pobursky
Maximum Performance Systems

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2003\08\03@202911 by Picdude

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Thanks for the comparison Dwayne.

Amazing that you (production folks) consider 100-200 hrs a short lifespan.  I'm honestly looking at <10% of that for the SP12 I use now.

So if the Hakkos are just sitting on the shelf, I'll start the bidding for one unit at say $1. :-)

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Sunday 03 August 2003 18:18, Dwayne Reid scribbled:
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2003\08\03@203119 by Spehro Pefhany

picon face
At 05:30 PM 8/3/2003 -0400, you wrote:
> > I always assumed the tips were copper clad steel because they had a
> > reddish color cladding over a silvery metal.
>
>That sounds backwards.  You would want copper on the inside because it
>conducts heat very well.  But, you don't want the soldering surface to be
>copper because it will get eaten away very quickly.
>
>I have a Weller WES50 and just looked at an unused tip.  The main body
>must be made of steel because it sticks to a magnet very nicely.  It
>appears all but the last 5mm are chrome(?) plated to make it essentially
>inert.  The last 5mm are plated with a different metal that solder can
>wick on well, but definitely not copper.  It looks dull gray compared to
>the chrome.  I don't think its iron because it doesn't look rusty or
>corroded.  Bare iron sitting around my office would have a thin layer of
>rust on it by now.  I think nickel would make a good surface, but it
>doesn't look like nickel either.

Tinned (with solder) iron plate over copper is what I'm used to on the
good ol' WTCP (that's the one that doubles as an EMC testing rig when it
switches - based on Curie point).

Best regards,

Spehro Pefhany --"it's the network..."            "The Journey is the reward"
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2003\08\03@203325 by Picdude

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I just got back from Fry's where they have the 936 and 936ESD.  $90 and $100 resp.  Quite attractive compared to the others.  They also have the Weller WTCPT, but I wondered why get a station (vs. an iron), if the station does not have temp control?  If "stand" is part of the answer, there were stands for $6.50, so that couldn't be it.

Cheers,
-Neil.


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2003\08\03@214448 by Randy Jones

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Some of the Wellers have temp control but no knob...  you change the tips
for 600, 700 or 800 deg F.  I picked up a Weller EC1002 new in the factory
sealed box for ~$100 on eBay, and like it very much for the price.  The temp
adjust knob is handy, as Matt mentioned, to quickly adjust the temp down to
350F when you won't be using it for a bit, but don't want to turn it off.
Crank it back up to working temp when you want to resume, and it's ready to
go very quickly.  Tips seem to last well, and are $4 to $5 each at my local
electronics store.

I've had a chance to use a Hakko station at the soldering lab at our local
community college, and found the tip selection to be considerably better
than that available for my Weller station -- specially for SMT work.  The
tip I really wish that Weller had available for my station is a
diagonally-cut flat (or slightly concave) oval.  These are called
"mini-wave" by Pace, and I really like them for sliding down a row of pins
on SMT devices.

I do prefer the knob on the Weller for quick/easy temp changes, as opposed
to the up/down buttons on the Hakko.

I had been using pencil irons for many years, from the Weller 12W to larger
ones, and the change to a temp. adjustable station was wonderful.  If you do
much soldering, I expect you'll feel the same way.  I've also started using
finer solder wire than I used to, and like it better.  About .025 inch for
through-hole, and .015" to .020" for SMT seems about right for me.  I expect
those who solder many hours per week can work faster with the larger stuff,
but I find that I get nicer joints with the fine solder.

Randy

http://www.glitchbuster.com


{Original Message removed}

2003\08\03@233958 by Dwayne Reid

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At 06:38 PM 8/3/2003, Picdude wrote:
>I just got back from Fry's where they have the 936 and 936ESD.  $90 and $100
>resp.  Quite attractive compared to the others.  They also have the Weller
>WTCPT, but I wondered why get a station (vs. an iron), if the station does
>not have temp control?  If "stand" is part of the answer, there were stands
>for $6.50, so that couldn't be it.

The station is, as you noticed, 2 parts: the base and the iron.  The base
contains the power supply (just a 24V 2A transformer if its a Weller WTCP)
and the iron is, well, the iron.

Some older Weller models operate straight from 120 Vac (the old W60 comes
to mind) but the low voltage stations just seem to work better.  You also
have a much larger tip selection to choose from.

You control the temperature setting on a Weller station by choosing the
desired tip - there is a little metal slug crimped on the inside end of
each tip.  That slug is the temperature sensor - it loses its' magnetic
properties when the temperature rises above the desired point.

The advantage is that the slug is directly monitoring the temperature of
the tip.  The disadvantage is that the part of the tip being monitored is
right next to the heating element and as far away from the actual working
part of the tip as possible.

Weller compensates for this by making the tip body as large in diameter as
possible, of nice, heat conductive copper.  It actually works quite well.


The Hakko station monitors the temperature of the heating rod.  That
heating rod is surrounded by the copper tip.  It, too, works pretty good.

The problem with the Hakko tips is that they have a stainless steel liner
forced into the copper tip body.  The heating rod is in direct contact with
that liner.

All the Hakko tip failures we have had were because the copper body
corroded at the copper /  stainless interface.  This is an insidious
problem because you can't see the cause of the problem - you just notice
that the iron does not work very well.  But it works better if you crank
the temperature up a bit.  Then a bit more.  Etc.

The problem is obvious when you remove the tip - the stainless steel liner
remains on the heating rod and the inside of the tip (where that liner is
supposed to be) is all corroded.  Replace the tip with a new one and
everything is good again.

Hakko also has a better selection of tips than Weller when it comes to SMT
stuff.  In fact, that was why we purchased Hakko in the first place.


The Metcal tips are thinner and longer than either of the above
stations.  They feed RF energy to the wand via a thin coaxial cable and
couple that RF energy to the heating element with a small (8 turns or so) coil.

That heating element is a thin layer of iron-bearing material plated right
onto the copper tip.  The coupling between heating element and tip is as
good as it can possibly be.

The heating element is also the temperature sensor - when the temperature
rises above the set point, the material loses its' magnetic properties and
the RF field from coil goes into the copper tip body.

The effective resistance change is at least 20:1 on the tips that I've
measured - it may be even more than that.

The power supply functions as a constant current supply.  High load
resistance equals lots of power.  Low load resistance equals very little power.

The heating element / temperature sensor is very close to the working end
of the tip - this makes the Metcal system the most responsive soldering
system that I have ever used.   You can solder a copper penny to an
un-etched piece of copper clad PCB material with even a small (sttc136) tip
and not take all day to do it.  Then immediately go and solder a single
lead on a 0.02" gull wing package - and not lift the trace because the
temperature does NOT over-shoot like it does on the other stations.

I mentioned earlier that the working life of Metcal tips is far shorter
than any other soldering system that I have used.  Rough guesstimates are
100 - 200 hours.

Part of this is the flux that we use: Kester wire solder with 331 water
soluble flux or wave-soldered boards with AZ-2331 water soluble flux.  But
the Weller tips are good for about a year, the Hakko tips are good for at
least 6 months under the same conditions.  I'm lucky to get 2 months with a
Metcal tip - I've seen some crater in only 4 weeks.

But it doesn't matter.  The tips are expensive and it hurts to keep buying
them when I know that the other stuff we have sitting here lasts longer -
but we do.  It just works that well.

Metcal also has the largest tip selection that I've ever seen.  Even better
than Hakko.


I haven't seen any mention of Pace soldering equipment, nor the Edysn
gear.  I won't have the Pace equipment in the shop - I used to use it and
really do NOT like it.  I understand it has gotten better but I'm still
gun-shy.

I understand the Edysn soldering stuff is supposed to be pretty good but I
haven't used it.  I'd be happy to read about other people's experiences
with it, though.

dwayne

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2003\08\04@114833 by Tal

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I got an Hacko 936 at Fry's about three month ago. Main motivation was
to have access to smaller tips than those available for Weller. This is
a solid product but if you don't care much about very small tips, I
would pick a Weller because of the automatic power off.

Tal

> {Original Message removed}

2003\08\04@132937 by Picdude

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Dwayne, awesome writeup/comparison.  Thanks.

From what you say here, and for my (minimal) purposes, the Hakko is still quite attractive, along with the Wellers.  Since I have to narrow-down the options, I'll avoid the Metcals only due to lack of local availability ... I prefer something for which I can get tips easily, locally and after physically seeing them first.

I have heard good things about the Edsyn 951SX, and never heard anything bad.  However, it almost always comes up in the context of SMT soldering.  A quick google search puts it in the $100 ballpark.  Here again, I'll avoid it though, only because I've not seen it in any local store.

Cheers,
-Neil.



On Sunday 03 August 2003 22:35, Dwayne Reid scribbled:
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2003\08\04@144318 by p.cousens

flavicon
I have a small ANTEX 15 watt iron that I made this mod to just fitted a
diode and small switch to short it in the plug (three pin 13A English
plug, there's enough room)

Takes longer to reach melting temp but for light infrequent work it
stays hot enough and it's  easy to switch to full when you need it,
extends tip life more than 3 times for me,

I have a 30watt ORYX thermostatic iron that I use mostly though parts
are getting hard to find  in England

The ORYX is my iron of choice

I think they no longer exist though just found this on a search
------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------
In article <.....E0qB51.18H@spam@spamEraseMEfangorn.demon.co.uk>, Adrian Godwin
<.....adrianRemoveMEspamfangorn.demon.co.uk> writes
> A slightly cheaper option is a 240V temperature controlled iron, but
>I don't know what the long term reliability of the Weller version is.
>I have an Oryx iron of this type that's been going strong for 16 years.

Not one of the red handled ones by any chance ? Oryx seem to have
disappeared from the scene. Do you know of anyone who still sells bits
for it ?

Karel
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------------------------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------
My two are about the same age
Changed one element and one micro switch (plus tips in this time)
Best money I have spent
Peter Cousens
cousensEraseMEspam@spam@biscit.biz

> {Original Message removed}

2003\08\05@063700 by Tal

flavicon
face
I think Fry's carries also the Weller WS51 for about 100$. I has
temperature control and automatic shutdown as well as cute temperature
lock using a magic wand.

Tal

> {Original Message removed}

2003\08\05@132851 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
> Amazing that you (production folks) consider 100-200 hrs a short
> lifespan I'm honestly looking at <10% of that for the SP12 I use now.

In a production environment working 1 shift 5 days a week you get at least
40 hours of iron use per week. You need a new tip for every iron every
month or so with 200 hour life. Usually this is not something the
bookkeepers will take sitting down for long. Especially if the tips have a
price tag like the Metcals. But maybe others think differently.

Peter

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2003\08\05@132855 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
> I have oftern thought of bringing one of my Weller tips to a jewler and
> having it platinum plated.  Anyone ever tried that?

You do not want to do that. Platinum is not wetted by solder and you'll
end up with very poor solderings. Same for other noble metals.

There is a kind of tip that is made of some sort of stainless steel that
is wetted by solder but does not corrode (even if abused a lot). This is
used in irons like Goot's (it's the 20W pencil kind that has a boost
button that makes it 200W temporarily - excellent for opening shield cases
and chassis soldering and such). I have one for occasional home use and
it's as good as new after 12 years. The tip is stainless with ceramic
sheath (very good insulation wrt the mains powered heater).

The trick with the copper tip is related to heat transfer. They used iron
plated copper tips for high heat transfer to the tip and good thermostat
control (copper is a very good heat conductor). If you solder delicate
things most of the time and your iron hasn't got a thermostat in the first
place then a tip made entirely of iron/stainless is probably better. Plus
you can resharpen it as you like (as another poster noted). This turns out
to be very useful because some special parts require special tip shapes
and buying them such made is not an option for amateurs ($$$).

At work I use Weller + Hakko. We once had someone demonstrate Metcal. We
concluded that we cannot justify the expense, it did nothing that the
Hakkos and the Wellers could do.

Peter

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2003\08\05@133923 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
> Weller stations (the magnetic kind) will trigger any scope within a
> light-year, when they trip.
> The metcal dosen't.

Yes but the metcal will produce several well-defined lines on any specan
;-)

Peter

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2003\08\05@133924 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
> I did a search thru Weller's website earlier today for some specs, but
> came up with nada.  Just checked how stuff works, but nada again.  Oh
> well.

Just to get things straight:

Weller/Cooper WTCP use a magnetic switch that uses the Curie temperature
of the tip (!) to sense temperature and cut the heater when it is reached.
It's an on/off system that will cycle all the time. Extremely reliable and
well proven. Other Weller irons use electronic thermostats and a different
tip heat sensor (rtd).

Metcal (at least the ones we saw) use the Curie temperature of a
distributed ferrite like material in the tip. When that is reached the
ferrite stops absorbing RF. It does this by volume so the heat is very
uniform and prompt in coming on and off. The black box contains a RF power
generator and the cable to the iron is coax. If you work with RF (specan
etc) and must have the iron going while you work then this may be a
problem. Otherwise very good and very expensive.

Most other thermostated irons use a special tip heater which has a built
in heat senser (RTD usually). The control box contains a thermostat with a
knob that sets the temperature. Such are Hakko, most Goot, Weller etc.

Most unthermostated irons (a la what you call rat shack ? - why ? did you
ever see an electronics store in another part of the world to compare with
?) use a simple heater wired directly to 24Vac or 110/220Vac. The tip
reaches its working temperature when its heat loss to the environment
balances the power input. Their temperature changes with the time of day,
your breath etc.

The only thing that the tip must do besides getting hot enough to solder,
is to be wetted by solder. All noble metals reject solder (silver does not
- beware). So they cannot be used for tips. Zinc plated steel is most
often used for cheap tips. The gray plating on the tip Olin L. mentioned
seems to be Zinc. That would turn gray after a while.

The things I look out for in an iron for general use:
- Can be ground separated and has insulation to match (soldering a wire to
the + pole of a lead acid battery with a grounded iron and grounded
battery - can be a memorable experience)
- Has reshapeable/hard cleanable tip (i.e. not iron plated copper - iron
plated copper is good for heavy duty precise work but not necessary for
general soldering imho)
- Has removable/replaceable tip - if it's expensive enough (the iron) and
the tips are not single-sourced (price !!)
- Has some sort of temperature stabilisation so it won't ever run too hot
(gas powered irons fail here - also with memorable results sometimes)
- Has screw-on cap or other tip protection if it is to be used outside the
lab

Peter

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2003\08\05@194353 by Picdude

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Yet another option... it seems as though our friends at Radio Shack have an actual soldering station (http://www.radioshack.com, part # 64-2185).  Adjustable temp, digital, and looks decent from the specs, but that's all I know about it.  Contrary to popular opinion, I actually think Radio Shack has bunch of decent products, and a lot of it is manufactured by third parties.  Does anyone know who makes this?  Or if it's any good?  For $70, it seems much better-priced than the other options, but only if it's not junk.

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2003\08\05@200926 by Tal

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Does the Weller WS51 use magnetic tips ? Aren't the magnetic tips are
for a fixed temperature while the WS51 provide dial controlled
temperature ?

Tal

> {Original Message removed}

2003\08\05@221119 by Picdude

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face
Hmmm... let's drop this (Radio Shack) option...

Was out just now, and decided to swing by there and check it out.  Only one tip is available for it (same as the largish conical tip that came with it) and it's a special order item.  Other things did not make me comfortable with this, so I decided not to even investigate any more after that.

Cheers,
-Neil.


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2003\08\06@061008 by Nigel Orr

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> But it begs the question ... how much power do I really need?

The ideal is infinite power with a good temperature control.  50W is close
enough for most of what I do, I've used a 150W iron in the past, but only
for _large_ areas of solder- it wasn't temperature controlled, came up to
temperature in 3 seconds and was not supposed to be used for more than
(IIRC) 40 seconds without a chance to cool off!

> will say 10W work?  Or less?  I'd like to get away with less,
> since I'm going
> to be playing with smaller (SMT) components nowadays.

I've tried using my Antex 12W non-temp-controlled iron and my Weller 50W
temperature controlled on SMT.  I'd go for higher power any day.  It seems
that the sooner the part gets up to temperature, the sooner you take the
iron away, the better the joint.  It seems less likely to damage
heat-sensitive parts too.

Nigel
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2003\08\06@061633 by hael Rigby-Jones

picon face
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Nigel Orr [SMTP:spamBeGonenigelKILLspamspam@spam@AXONINSTRUMENTS.CO.UK]
> Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2003 12:22 PM
> To:   PICLISTspam_OUTspam@spam@MITVMA.MIT.EDU
> Subject:      Re: [EE]: Soldering iron recommendations
>
> > But it begs the question ... how much power do I really need?
>
> The ideal is infinite power with a good temperature control.  50W is close
> enough for most of what I do, I've used a 150W iron in the past, but only
> for _large_ areas of solder- it wasn't temperature controlled, came up to
> temperature in 3 seconds and was not supposed to be used for more than
> (IIRC) 40 seconds without a chance to cool off!
>
That sounds more like a soldering gun than an iron.  They are designed
purely for intermittant operation, due to the extrememly high currents used
to heat the tip.  You can however buy 150Watt+ irons that are
thermostaticaly controlled, we used them in my last work place for soldering
some very heavy duty cable.

Mike


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2003\08\06@103715 by M. Adam Davis

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I have an old WTCP iron and can attest to its ruggedness and long
lasting value.  The tips will be around forever, it is comfortable and
balanced well enough to use, it heats up quickly, the tips last forever...

Long after I get a nice station, I bet this old workhorse will still be
sitting here ready for the odd job.

-Adam

Picdude wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2003\08\06@123019 by Dennis Hoskins

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   The Weller WTCP is a low voltage, temperature controlled iron.  You control the temperature by selecting the proper tip.  Tips come in 600, 700 or 800 degree ratings (I believe). The tips are marked on the back with a 6, 7 or 8.  This iron has served me very well for years. Highly recommended

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2003\08\06@131632 by

picon face
Amen to that !

I have a (now probably 25+ years old) Weller WTCP,
50W, 24V iron. Works perfectly. Tips in all size
are still easy to find.

Jan-Erik.

Dennis Hoskins wrote:

> The Weller WTCP is a low voltage, temperature controlled
> iron.  You control the temperature by selecting the proper
> tip.  Tips come in 600, 700 or 800 degree ratings (I believe).
> The tips are marked on the back with a 6, 7 or 8.  This iron
> has served me very well for years. Highly recommended

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2003\08\08@024433 by Peter L. Peres

picon face
One trick about Weller WTCPs is that they can be operated from two SLA
batteries in series for some time (a few hours!). This is not so good for
the thermostat switch but you will not see any damage immediately. If you
are somewhere and the power is out and you need to fix *the power* then
this is invaluable. Ditto when you need to solder on powered equipment.

Peter

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