Recently, in the comments to one of the articles, I was asked to advise a soldering iron for a novice craftsman who can repair electronics at home. In response to this comment, the idea for this article came about. Since repairs for me are not a professional activity, but only a hobby, the information below will be my subjective opinion, with which I can disagree.
So, depending on the purpose, soldering irons have different characteristics, which means, before going to the store, you need to understand why you need it and how much money you are willing to spend on it.
The ideal option would be to buy a soldering station, however, for a novice craftsman who will solder something only occasionally, it makes no sense to spend extra money. If you plan to seriously engage in soldering business, then the surest option is a soldering station.
But today is not about that, today about soldering irons.
Soldering irons can be divided according to the following parameters:
On sale you can find two types of soldering irons, differing in their principle of operation.
- Coil heater electric soldering irons are the most common and available soldering irons. At the heart of the heating element is in the form of a nichrome wire spiral. There are also ceramic ones, which have a ceramic rod instead of a spiral, but they are more expensive and less common. And even if you find it, it will most likely be an ordinary spiral, in which the spiral will be wrapped in ceramics.
- Pulse soldering irons – most often they look like a gun, and the heating turns on after pressing a special button. The advantage is very fast, literally in seconds, heating. However, such soldering irons are hazardous to sensitive electronics due to the high frequency voltage present on the tip. And their cost is high.
- Induction soldering irons are essentially a soldering station. Heating is carried out using an inductor coil. Advantage – the soldering iron is protected from overheating – when the core reaches a certain temperature (Curie point), the ferromagnetic coating of the core loses its magnetic properties, and the heating of the core stops. Upon cooling, the ferromagnetic properties are restored, and heating resumes. Such soldering irons are significantly more expensive than their spiral and pulse counterparts.
There are other types, for example, gas, but there are also enough 'buts' there that make this type either too expensive or inconvenient for home.
Thus, we will focus on the classic spiral type. What is called, cheap and cheerful.
The higher the power (unit of measurement – Watt (Russian designation: W, international: W)), the higher the temperature of the tip. High power is not always needed, since in the case of soldering electronics, it can lead to overheating of the elements and their failure.
Typically, soldering irons have a power of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 watts. For home repair of phones, a power of up to 20 watts is enough. Anything above requires additional protection measures, and is simply redundant.
Often, when asked what kind of soldering iron they prefer to use, I hear the phrase from familiar masters: but, it doesn't matter, if only it melted. On the one hand, although this does not sound professional, this position also has the right to exist, however, only if you have a lot of experience and you know exactly what you are doing and how. In other cases, it is better to use a 20 watt soldering iron.
The most common option, and the most convenient for a novice master, is 220 Volt (V) standard for the Russian outlet. Yes, there are also soldering irons for 36, 12 and even 6V networks, but they require additional equipment – a transformer. We don't need these difficulties, so we will focus on the most common version – 220V.
Everything is simple here – the finer the work you plan to do, the smaller you need a soldering iron. I advise you to have two soldering irons in your arsenal, one small, for soldering microcircuits and small parts, the other medium-sized, for working with wires or large parts.
The size of a small soldering iron usually does not exceed 20 cm, and the average one will be 30-35 cm long.
Pay special attention to the soldering iron tip – it comes in different shapes (profiles) and materials.
For a small soldering iron, a needle-shaped tip will be most convenient.
For the medium, choose either round or flat sting to your taste. Also pay attention to the length of the tip – do not take too short, otherwise there is a risk of not reaching the soldering point, or melting the wrong places with the casing.
Body material (handle)
Everything is simple here:
Soldering iron handles are made from a mass of different materials, the most common of which are plastic, wood, ebonite, carbolite, textolite.
Many people advise choosing wooden handles because of their low thermal conductivity and lightness. Perhaps I agree with this opinion. However, I also had the cheapest soldering irons with plastic handles. And nothing terrible happened. But whatever I definitely would not recommend, these are handles made of carbolite and PCB – not only are they heavy, they also heat up.
Most often, a copper tip is used for household soldering irons.
The advantages of a copper tip include simplicity of tinning, quick heating, ease of straightening and cleaning from carbon deposits.
Of the shortcomings of the copper tip, the very fact of the need to edit the tip can be noted due to the fact that during operation the surface of the tip oxidizes, burns out and becomes cavernous. You have to take a file and grind down the damaged surface.
Another type of sting is the so-called 'eternal' sting, nickel or chrome plated. Such a sting does not fade, which means that it does not require editing.
However, like everything, such a sting has disadvantages, including a separate tinning procedure, similar to a ritual, as well as sensitivity to overheating and mechanical damage. If such a sting is overheated, then it will cease to capture the solder, which means that it will have to be tinned again. Such a sting is not only unnecessary, but even impossible to edit – the protective layer is quite thin, and if damaged, the sting will burn out very quickly and fail.
Here, perhaps, are all the recommendations for choosing. As for specific manufacturers, I could, with my nose up high, call you some 'Weller' for 6000 rubles, saying that the Germans are what you need. But, I will say this – for occasional use at home, the usual Chinese 'Ya Xun' for 180-250 rubles is also suitable, which will serve you no worse than a tool from a renowned German manufacturer.