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Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

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  • TheCotMan
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by Vulix View Post
    Just wanted to say I got a good starting point with this thread and went ahead and got a weller and some components to start playing with. Thank you guys!
    As one of the mods, sometimes my comment cause people to worry about some sort of veiled threat. I'd like to say explicitly, I am NOT threatening you and this is NOT a warning. :-)


    Threads like this become useful when the contain information and personal experience. I am encouraging you to experiment and please let us and anyone else that reads this thread know what you have learned, and what has worked for you with your work, and selections of tools.

    I recently finished setting up most of my solder station, and like what I have:
    * As suggested above by someone else: soldering wand is powered by power strip with an additional on/off which powers all bench devices. Suggestion from above: Shutting this bar off is an additional safety point for not accidentally leaving an iron on.
    * Also as suggested above by someone else: Adjustable "lamp" (White LED) with big magnifying glass can be positioned to let me relocate light and magnification anywhere on my bench.
    * Plywood under anti-static mats with grounds is the base for where I will be soldering
    * I have 3 tips for my soldering station in addition to the original, but have not experimented with them all. (The one that came with the unit meets the needs I've had so far.)
    * Flux (in a refillable pen) works well
    * I have 6 different kinds of lead free solder (different ratios of metals, all rosin core), but have not experimented with them all yet.
    * I recently received one of those "Hakko" kooshie metal balls for cleaning tips and sponges, but have not tried the new metal ball for cleaning yet.
    * I have solder wick (Which I have more experience with using for desoldering)
    * I now own a desoldering pump after seeing one used with some associates that have done much more solder work than me.

    Of all these new additions, the reminder above by someone to get a good lamp has been the greatest tool addition for improving my work. I've not had to use the lens, but the bright light makes all of the work really visible.

    After some time with all of these, I'll come back and provide some of my thoughts and experience with each and mention what worked for me, and what didn't.

    For you and anyone else reading this thread:

    * What have you learned with your soldering station setup?
    * What works for you, and why?
    * What does not work for you, and why?
    * If you could decide to change your purchases, what would you have purchased and what would you have decided as not worth buying?

    Leave a comment:


  • Vulix
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Just wanted to say I got a good starting point with this thread and went ahead and got a weller and some components to start playing with. Thank you guys!

    Leave a comment:


  • FirmWarez
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    ...
    The "Third Arm" with magnifying glass works as well as I remember it, even though the magnifying glass is new. The present one I have kind-of sucks though, as it has metal alligator clips. I think I will look for one with rubber padded metal clamps, or spring-compressed metal with rubber pads, as the alligator clips made of metal are scratching up the surface of the board. :-/
    ...
    Just noticed this part, didn't read the whole thing last time. I've spent the last few days fighting a WiFi stack from a vendor. One of those "we will supply applications libraries so you don't have to mess with that code"..."why is this happening?" "oh, you're not doing it right, just look through our code to figure it out". Blech, I'd say who they are but to be honest I like working with their parts, just not their code...Add on top of that porting code that none of the current apps guys have ever touched...

    Anyway, search for something like "panavise board clamp". Their 315 model holds like a 12" board and is in the $30 or $40 price range. I rarely use the "third hand" things for holding boards, primarily for connectors, discrete wires, and strange shaped things. If you want to go all out pro get a board clamp.

    Leave a comment:


  • FirmWarez
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    Tangents like this are welcome and something I'd like to encourage. :-)

    ...

    I have a light over this workspace, but I think I will have to buy a better source of light for it; really bright lights over a work area really help me avoid eye strain. (Thanks for the reminder FirmWarez ... *bright* work lamp.)

    Hope something here is helpful to someone. :-)


    A new questions related to soldering:

    I've not used one, but seen them. Does anyone have any comment on the use of a "Hakko 599B Wound "Wire" Tip Cleaner" instead of a sponge with Weller irons and tips, or any other soldering stations? Is the metal too abrasive? Do you find these tip cleaners are better? Do they extend the life of your tips like some people claim because the tip is not pushed to temperature extremes of a soaked sponge when cleaning the tip?

    Thanks for your thoughts and experience on this.

    Yeah, my old eyebones aren't what they used to be. I keep repeating to myself "I don't need bifocals! I don't need bifocals!" I have a 65W flood bulb in the movable arm lamp above the solder station. The laser etched chip markings these days are much harder to read than the old screened markings...and just forget finding that 0603 resistor you just dropped... I also have a couple of those 12V white LED strings on the solder bench. Perfect for illuminating a board under the inspection microscope.

    Tip life seems to me to be more related to tip quality than thermal cycling. I've seen high quality tips last a long time in a daily professional work environment (using sponges), and I've seen cheap tips burn up in a day of hobby use. I've never used the wire type tip cleaners. I do have a little tin of "tip tinner", described as "a mixture of solder powder and thermally stable, oxide reducing compounds". A tin is like $10 from DigiKey, and will last a long time. I'll use the tip tinner once a session, and the rest of the time it's the sponge, and making sure the tip is well tinned with solder.

    I resort to more aggressive methods of cleaning tips, including scrapping with an exacto blade, only when dealing with nasty tips in nasty environments, like automotive work. But that's usually with big cheap irons. For typical PCB type soldering, use high quality (like genuine Weller) tips, tin it at the start of the session with solder, re-tin as needed, and keep it clean. I probably average at least two or three serious solder sessions a month in my home lab. I've got Weller tips that are years old. I was also taught to tin the tip at the end of the session, so before shutting down the iron I clean and tin it again.

    I have thought about doing a quick little video on "how to solder QFN packages by hand"...

    A thought unrelated to anything mentioned so far. I'm a volunteer firefighter and paranoid about a fire in the lab. My solder bench is on a switchable power strip. The work light, one of the 12V LED strips (which I normally keep in a graduated cylinder on the bench, it looks cool) and the soldering iron(s) plug in to this strip. If the lights are on, the iron could be on, that way I don't leave an iron on when I leave the lab.

    Leave a comment:


  • TheCotMan
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by sintax_error View Post
    Not to run off topic here, but yeah, I ran into that issue a while back, the offending tip became unusable. I started tinning it's replacement (and all my tips) with a thicker gauge solder than I normally use for my projects, and haven't run into an issue with it since.
    Tangents like this are welcome and something I'd like to encourage. :-)

    Pretty much, it would be useful to have discussions about soldering in this thread. Such questions and answers are kind of natural for discussions. If we get something as a tangent, even a really good soldering topic, I am happy to fork that into a new thread and discussion. (Me forking a thread is *usually* not a sign of me being angry, or upset so much as it is an attempt to help organize content and help make thread readable on various topics.) You all that have met me in person know I am pretty easy going, so this is a comment for those of you that might not know otherwise.



    Originally posted by sintax_error View Post
    Cot: sounds like a decent iron you picked up, let us know how it works out, and anything you decide to add to your station that may not have come up here.
    I've decided to go with using plywood as a based for my workbench, and ordered an ESD "cloth" to place over it to insulate to wood from heat (a little) and provide a ground to decrease risk of static discharge ruining components I work with.

    Next, today, for the first time in many years, I turned on a soldering iron to, "play." (The last time I was soldering much of anything was when rosin-core solder pretty much was only available with lead in it -- only different amounts.) I have to say a big "yes!" to the unit I bought. The digital readout of temperature for me to set it, and then after setting it, measurements of the present temperature of the iron is very nice. The warm-up time was less than 1 minute.

    I have 5 different kinds of lead-free solder to see how I like each.

    The one I tested tonight was 99.3% Tin, 0.7% Copper.

    Based on information from various sources, I decided to start at 650 degrees F, and that was more than hot enough. If I was better skilled, I could take advantage of this temperature. I scaled it back to 600 degrees F, but there is a little hesitation while feeding solder towards the iron to fill a hold on a circuit board. The temperature I will end up using for this solder will probably be at around 615 to 620 degrees F to give me the speed I want, without being "too hot." Once I get more speed, I'll probably bump it up to higher temperatures.

    Even though it was a long time ago, I can tell there is more of a hesitation with this lead free solder, in getting it "wet" vs. my old experience with a soldering gun, or my last old, wimpy and cheap soldering iron.

    Big pluses with this?
    * It gets hot faster
    * It keeps the temperature I set it to be
    * As I am melting solder, the iron is able to recover lost heat wayyyyy faster than my wimpy old iron could
    * It is not "too hot" like my soldering gun was, so I can take a little more time to work on parts
    * The "wand" is really more like a pencil, and can be held like one more easily, while the old cheap "wand" I had was too large/fat to hold in the same way.

    I test-soldered about 64 "holes" with wire as part of a practice cycle before I start working on my project... The first 6 really look like they were done by someone that likes to build mountains of solder, but quickly improved to have just the right amount of solder in each hole without bubbling through or spreading on top of the board.

    I tested solder removal with a copper braid, and that worked as well as I remembered. (Ages ago, the first time I used a braid to remove solder, it was *awesome*; huge time saver!)

    I've not tried to use the vacuum pump to desolder anything yet.

    The really fine tip that came with the iron is very nice. I am going to order more, and maybe some chisel-tips, too.

    The "Third Arm" with magnifying glass works as well as I remember it, even though the magnifying glass is new. The present one I have kind-of sucks though, as it has metal alligator clips. I think I will look for one with rubber padded metal clamps, or spring-compressed metal with rubber pads, as the alligator clips made of metal are scratching up the surface of the board. :-/

    I have a light over this workspace, but I think I will have to buy a better source of light for it; really bright lights over a work area really help me avoid eye strain. (Thanks for the reminder FirmWarez ... *bright* work lamp.)

    Hope something here is helpful to someone. :-)


    A new questions related to soldering:

    I've not used one, but seen them. Does anyone have any comment on the use of a "Hakko 599B Wound "Wire" Tip Cleaner" instead of a sponge with Weller irons and tips, or any other soldering stations? Is the metal too abrasive? Do you find these tip cleaners are better? Do they extend the life of your tips like some people claim because the tip is not pushed to temperature extremes of a soaked sponge when cleaning the tip?

    Thanks for your thoughts and experience on this.
    Last edited by TheCotMan; September 8, 2012, 23:34.

    Leave a comment:


  • sintax_error
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by ButterSnatcher View Post
    I run with the wesD51 as well the only thing i seem to get issues with every once and awhile is tip oxidization when working with lead free solder.
    Not to run off topic here, but yeah, I ran into that issue a while back, the offending tip became unusable. I started tinning it's replacement (and all my tips) with a thicker gauge solder than I normally use for my projects, and haven't run into an issue with it since. Cot: sounds like a decent iron you picked up, let us know how it works out, and anything you decide to add to your station that may not have come up here.

    Leave a comment:


  • ButterSnatcher
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    I run with the wesD51 as well the only thing i seem to get issues with every once and awhile is tip oxidization when working with lead free solder. I have tips for lead and tips for leadfree and the lead free ones seem to oxidize really fast so i bought some tip tuner i guess it was called, basically a mix that bubbles and cleans the tips. Seems to help now but has anyone ran into that issue and know a way around it, im thinking its a temperature thing beings as you have to have the iron hotter then with the leaded stuff.

    Leave a comment:


  • streaker69
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Cot,

    I have the Weller analog solder station, have had it for several years and haven't had a single problem with it. I also used to work for a company that had hundreds of the exact same model. Good thing is, parts are easily found to replace broken parts.

    I do have one of the basic style desoldering irons, the ones with the bulb that you squeeze before you start heating the solder. I built my own holder for it, I think I just picked it up at Radio Shack a while ago because it isn't something that you need real precise control with, and since Radio Shack is everywhere you can get replacement tips for it easily.

    The Weller station has a wide assortment of tips available, but I keep the finest tip available loaded into mine, haven't actually replaced it in years, and it's still fine.

    Leave a comment:


  • TheCotMan
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by Vulix View Post
    Glad to see this thread, I was going to ask something similar. Besides what has been mentioned, any further suggestions for someone who has never soldered before? Recommended reading materials? I've always wanted to play with an Arduino board but it seems that soldering is required; might be worth picking up the skill in the near future
    A suggestion for asking questions like this:
    * (First, I'm not saying you did or didn't do this. This it advice for future threads you want to create with questions. :-) Don't just ask "support me questions" but instead show that you have invested some of your own time into the process and explain some of the things you have leaned by reading and learning, and then ask questions not answered in your education. (This is true for any questions about nearly anything when you want to start a thread to get an answer to a question. Showing you have invested work into the process encourages people to contribute and help people that help themselves.

    There are many kinds of solder with different mixes of metals and flux, each have different advantages from cost, to melting point, and more. I don't know enough about the advantages of each, but have been reading about them and plan to order different kinds to try them out on some test boards. There was a wikipedia page with some basic summary information on different mixes with claims of advantages. The details of advantages and disadvantages are mostly subjective opinions, so I just take those as advice, but the melting points are objective, so those I've found helpful:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solder

    That is a good suggestion: buy some circuit boards, or take existing boards with failed equipment and use them to practice soldering before working on a real project. Soldering is like any skill, as practice improves skill.

    I settled on a cheaper, soldering station ( Weller, for around $200) with a digital temperature setting/read-out with sensor built-in to the wand. I've not done any work with it yet; I'm still creating my workspace.

    The next item I am looking to acquire is a platform to work. Artificial materials risk releasing toxic fumes if/when an iron rests on them, but wood has a risk of burning. After reading about this online, most people seem to prefer wood as a base for doing all of their work, but some people say special mats (often based on special carbon fiber or other similar materials) designed to not release toxic fumes when heated a little, and have really high burning/melting points, and with grooves to prevent electronic components from rolling/moving are better. I've not decided and may try both.

    Reading many different web pages found with google searches, written by people with advise on how they like to solder have also been helpful.

    A buddy said a book he liked was: "Modern Electronics Soldering Techniques" but I have not read it and have no opinion on it.

    Some other people in a different chat space provided some other ideas. I'll try to get those and add them to this thread later.


    Hopefully other people will have other ideas to add to this thread.
    Last edited by TheCotMan; September 8, 2012, 21:46.

    Leave a comment:


  • Vulix
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Glad to see this thread, I was going to ask something similar. Besides what has been mentioned, any further suggestions for someone who has never soldered before? Recommended reading materials? I've always wanted to play with an Arduino board but it seems that soldering is required; might be worth picking up the skill in the near future

    Leave a comment:


  • FirmWarez
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    I'm happy with Weller, but I know I'd be happier with Metcal. Some think Metcal is to Weller as Weller is to cheap no-name irons. Soldering snobs choose Metcal; they are a joy to use.

    My soldering bench is an old Invincible Modernaire desk. This has all my wire stock, zip ties, heat shrink, hot glue, terminals, connectors, etc.

    What I keep handy around the soldering station:
    • various sizes of solder, tiny solder for tiny leads
    • flux pen
    • scrap blocks of wood
    • a couple of floor tiles for setting hot stuff on
    • hemostats
    • solder wick
    • third hand
    • _bright_ work lamp
    • magnifying glass and inspection microscope
    • small bin of trimmed leads for jumpers
    • bottle of water for sponge
    • alcohol and alcohol wipes for cleaning stuff
    • the usual electronics hand tools -- dikes, needle nose
    • little tin of tip cleaner
    • assortment of tips


    I do a lot of work with very small packages -- TQFP, QFN. The flux pen, tiny solder, and magnifying glass/microscope do the trick. Using a flux pen over the tightly spaced pads for those packages helps alleviate bridging. The flux pen is also the answer when you've got something that just won't solder. Flux it, try again, solder will flow.

    My solder station is in a lab I built (no, it's not that fancy, it's an obfuscated lab in a barn as opposed to the dream of a secret underground lab). I put a small bathroom vent fan in over the bench, but there are some nice filtered soldering station fans.

    I do keep a couple of big ugly irons around. Match the iron to the work. Most of what I do is small, surface mount; SOIC seems big to me anymore. On the other hand I'm a gearhead, and occasionally find my self repairing automotive type parts that need a big iron and big solder.

    Even with all the surface mount work, I don't normally use a variable work station. I've got a particular Weller (I don't recall the model) that "just works" for most of what I do. I do like the fact that it's easy to find replacement parts for a Weller.

    Leave a comment:


  • sintax_error
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    Do you have any other ideas or considerations for features you like in a soldering station?
    Availability of replacement parts, and upgrade potential. Weller is great for this, tips and parts can be found pretty much everywhere.

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    Other than a "third arm with manification" , de-solder pump, and "Solder Wick" do you have anything else you include near your solder stations for the work you do?
    As for the basics, you're pretty much set there, aside from that I keep a tin of tip tinner/cleaner. Flux pens are always handy, as are various conformal coatings and solvents (for coatings), and an IR thermometer. A hot glue gun actually tends to come in handy all the time when I'm making crap, so I include that as part of my station, as well as a variety of clamps, tweezers, cutters and pliers. An emergency eye wash kit is cheap and like a condom or handgun, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have one.

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    Do you use wood as the platform on which you do work, or some other material like dense stone, or artificial materials with claims they don't release toxic fumes when high temperatures are applied?
    Primarily wood.

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    Do you have any other thoughts or advice for our readers on how to setup your location for solder work other than the obvious? (For example: "use well ventilated areas" and "Don't solder naked." :-)
    Lighting, use good lighting. Also climate control, few things suck more than a bead of sweat dripping onto your project, but you also don't want a fan or AC blowing directly over your work area. Organization is key; keep everything clean and separated, design your workspace to be bigger than you intend to need.

    Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
    Do you have other brands? Favorite models? Why?
    I like Weller. I use a WESD51 personally because of the control and comfort you get. Temp offset is nice to calibrate it for different tips too. Vellman is a decent brand for the price, though haven't used one in years, so I can't really give an accurate thumbs up or down.

    [edited for typographical fuckups]

    Leave a comment:


  • pH_Boston
    replied
    Re: Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    I don't have comments for all you questions but I can highly recommend the Hakko FX-888. I recently picked one up and have been using it for a ton of soldering and it's my favorite soldering station I've ever used, even compared to Weller costing up to the $300 price point. I know it kind of looks like a Fisher-Price toy, but that isn't yellow and blue plastic, it's ceramic.

    Leave a comment:


  • Looking to upgrade to soldering station from simple wand, suggestions?

    I've mostly used a soldering iron (simple wand, no ground plug, no temperature control), and occasionally a soldering gun (two settings: slag rosin core solder, and slag FASTER).

    Recently, I used a Weller soldering station with variable heat control (analogue) to do some work, and found that it was much better than my really old and cheap wand.

    So, what should I look for in a soldering station, assuming a price range of $100 to $300?

    In reading online and discussion elsewhere, some elements that came up in discussion:
    Code:
     * Desired names: (Designed to stay on for long periods of time as normal operation,
        replaceable/removable common/interchangeable tips, etc.)
      * Metcal
      * Weller
      * Maybe Hakko 
     * Features:
      * Variable Temperature settings
       * Digital/Analog both good. Digital better if your components are really
          temperature sensitive.
     * Wattage:
      * Higher wattage is better up to ~20 watts unless variable temperature
         control is available to throttle back the heat generated when using more power
     * Ground:
      * For variable temperature with sensors, lacking a ground in the AC plug, the
         temperature sensor may swing wildly with inaccurate data, leading to
         over-heating/under-heating what the dial is set to.
    Do you have any other ideas or considerations for features you like in a soldering station?

    Other than a "third arm with manification" , de-solder pump, and "Solder Wick" do you have anything else you include near your solder stations for the work you do?

    Do you use wood as the platform on which you do work, or some other material like dense stone, or artificial materials with claims they don't release toxic fumes when high temperatures are applied?

    Do you have any other thoughts or advice for our readers on how to setup your location for solder work other than the obvious? (For example: "use well ventilated areas" and "Don't solder naked." :-)

    Do you have other brands? Favorite models? Why?

    Many of the items above were included as part of advice from people elsewhere. I am happy to identify them if they want to be, and give credit to them. :-) (One resource that is ok with the mention was "scorche", and another was "tooth")
    Last edited by TheCotMan; August 23, 2012, 12:26.
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