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By Panikos
I am new to electronics. Please be forgiving of anything ignorant I say and please provide your advice if you can.

I have been trying to find a soldering station to purchase. I want to spent upto ~50GBP i.e $80 but the less the better. However I want to purchase something that will not be frustrating as I move away from beginner projects. If you have any good recommendations please let me know.

There are a few things I am unsure about and I would like to ask here.

1. Digital vs analogue solder stations. Is the difference here simply how you set the temperature (buttons vs analog switch) and the lcd display in the digital one OR are there differences in terms of functionality?

2. Power. I understand that soldering pipes etc needs big watts but for electronics wattage seems to range from 20-80W. What should I be aware of here? Most irons in the range I am looking for seem to be 40-50W.

3. Tips. They are not interchangeable between brands? Should this be a major consideration when buying an iron? How long do they typically last?

4. Anything else that you learned "the hard way" that would be useful to me?

Any input would be appreciated to the extreme.
User avatar
By leon_heller
I use Metcal equipment; it's expensive new, but quite affordable if bought second-hand. My used Metcal STSS power unit and new MX-500 handpiece and a selection of new cartridges cost me £125 a few years ago. I bought a spare power unit on Ebay for £70. It's definitely worth paying the extra for good equipment that can cope with any soldering job, apart from BGAs.

The cartridges are expensive at about £15 each, but last a long time. I've got some that have lasted a couple of years. The soldering temperature is determined by the cartridge, so there are no adjustments to worry about.
By Panikos
Thanks for the input

I looked around for metcal but it seems that ebay UK does not have that many used, the new ones are around 100GBP.

I really like the one from sparkfun ( ... ucts_id=85) but the shipping for it comes to almost near he value of the soldering station!

i even tried to find the same one for sale in the uk but its too expensive here so it ends up the same as buying from sparkfun.

The only one i could find that seems ok for this pricerange is ... &R=0186719.

Does anyone have any experience with this brand or iron?

User avatar
By phalanx
I use a Weller WTCPT which is a 60W iron whose temperature is controlled by the cartridge just like Leon's Metcal. Their used prices are similar to the Metcal. Used ones don't stay on ebay too long due to their popularity.

Cartridges are about $5-$6 through companies like McMaster. While I have replacements, I haven't had to replace my cartridge yet. It's going on 5 years old.

By mbchandler
I have a Hakko, I think it's the 936. I got it from Kiesub Electronic Supply for under $100. I've been very pleased with it.

I had the same question regarding digital vs. analog. I couldn't see any advantage to the digital version especially since it costs more money. It's easy to twist the dial to the desired temperature and there's a light that goes off when it's up to temperature.
By EmbeddedMan
I bought myself one of these for Christmas, and I will NEVER go back to anything else. It rocks. Nothing I've ever used (including the METCALs in our plant - which come very close but are more expensive) is as good.

One of our best techs swears by these guys (JBC) and I couldn't agree with him more. Pricey, I know, especially for a hobby tool. The ones SparkFun sells are quite good, but these JBC (or Metcals) are a total-nother-level. And you really can tell the difference, and if you're doing much fine pitch stuff, it really helps.

By gmarsh
Add another Hakko 936 vote to the list.

936ESD is my iron at home, and it's the workhorse production line iron at my company. At least two of our subcontractors swear by them. Dead reliable, decent tip selection (900M-T-K > *) and they're cheap.
By Topher
About five years ago I bought a Tenma soldering station (see link) for about $20 off ebay with the expectations to replace it in a year or so. I still use it at least once a week to this day and have never even replaced the tip on it. Granted, its not as nice as some other irons but there has never been anything I can't do it with just easily as I can with other irons. I've done everything from soldering through-hole stuff to SMD chips with 0.5mm pin spacing without issue.

I've used many Wellers and a few Metcals before and they are nicer, but IMO don't warrant the $100ish price tag unless you're very serious about electronics. ... 20Stations
By Raptor85
gmarsh wrote:Add another Hakko 936 vote to the list.

936ESD is my iron at home, and it's the workhorse production line iron at my company. At least two of our subcontractors swear by them. Dead reliable, decent tip selection (900M-T-K > *) and they're cheap.
Another vote for the Hakko 936, good price, reliable, great tip selection, heats up extremely fast hand holds temperature perfectly, and since the iron is pluggable you can use their small, medium, or large sized irons with the station.

Here's the one that comes with the standard sized's nice as they have the accessories and tips linked here too. ... 250&Page=1

Also, on a hilarious note...i saw this on hakko's site while getting the link to the iron...I've honestly never thought of putting a skin on my soldering station....
By mac
In uk you have Allendale or CircuitSpecialist europe, so you can have some low-cost chinese stations.
I have one, and they are quite ok for hobby use.

Both are serious vendors (I have a CSI station 2A and is a regular customer of allendale).

As you will use leadfree solder, be sure to get a powerfull (around or above 40w) but regulated temperature iron.