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By danvm
#109024
I have one of these(https://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/produ ... ucts_id=84) sitting in my cart waiting for payday. I have a quick question or 3 for someone that has one. I've been working with PCBs as a hobby for the better part of 5 years now and this will be my first proper soldering iron.

What kind of usable life can I expect out of a tip?
I do mostly PTH, rarely SMD and never anything more than an 8 pin SOIC. What size and how many spare tips should i get?
Is lead-free really worth the money for a hobbyist, and is it any easier on tips than lead?

For the past 2 years i've been using a weller 25w fire starter and, to be honest, I hate it. It takes upwards of 15 minutes to heat up, the cord on it is 2 feet too short and it eats tips for breakfast.
By maxheald
#109044
I just bought the 50w station, and the difference is unbelievable to a hobby iron. I had a 10 dollar iron and tips melted almost as much as the solder. With the new Iron I only have a few hours of soldering on it, but the tip has no noticeable wear. My cheap iron would have gone trough a tip or two by now... well worth it!!! I use lead free solder, and it works wonderfully.
By Cannibal
#109046
I have one of those for personal use and it lasted about 1 year of moderate use before I noticed any changes in the tip (~35 printed circuit boards with 2 or more 80 qfp packages plus other fun).

I'm still using the original fine point tip but they seem to do very well.
By motopic
#109108
I also got about a years usage out of a tip using lead-free (about 25deg hotter than lead).
I used the .2mm tip, but replaced it with the default one. Both worked fine.
I've done probably 15-20 large boards, lots of parts, etc.

My friend burns one up in a week, sometimes 2-3 days. I have NO idea what he does to do that.
He claimed it because he left it on all day, but I doubt that. He also tends to solder the same board 3-4 times...again, I dunno...
By danvm
#109242
Thanks for the info folks. 1 year average tip life beats the hell out of 2 weeks.
My friend burns one up in a week, sometimes 2-3 days. I have NO idea what he does to do that.
Tell your friend to wipe the tip on the sponge once in a while and turn it off when not in use.
The flux and oxidized solder buildup baking away on the tip is what eats them.
By mac
#109363
This station is great for hobbyist use, plenty of power, good tips, rather good regulation.

Some minor drawback:

- Holder is crap, it doesn't hold well the iron, or the tip touch the holder body.
- No automatic temperature reducing in idle.

For extended tip usage: use correct temperature for your solder (or flux will burn badly and etch the tip). Reduce temperature when idle.
Do not wipe tip when not in use! You want some solder on the tip when it's hot or in storage, this is the major reason tip get burned: ppl tend to wipe it after soldering instead of wipe it before soldering!