A Guide to Buying Soldering Irons

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A Guide to Buying Soldering Irons
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A Guide to Buying Soldering Irons

Many novice do-it-yourselfers are intimidated by soldering irons, but the premise of the tool's operation is quite simple. A soldering iron supplies enough heat to melt the solder that connects two parts of an electronics product. The heat is created by an electrical current that passes through a resistive heating element. Once exclusively utilised by electronics repair professionals to repair video game consoles and televisions, soldering irons have become a common hand tool in a do-it-yourselfer's toolkit. Soldering irons are used to perform installations, repairs, and limited production work on electronics assembly lines. High-volume industrial production lines typically require industrial strength soldering irons that operate at predetermined, programmed power levels.

Buyers can find brand name soldering irons at big box hardware shops and home improvement outlets. They can also shop for secondhand soldering irons at smaller discount hardware shops. However, the best soldering deals consummate on the leading online auction site, eBay. Many eBay sellers not only offer great deals on soldering irons, but they also offer generous delivery terms. Before shopping for soldering irons, buyers should first learn about the types of soldering irons and the factors involved in reaching a soldering iron purchasing decision.

Types of Soldering Irons

Manufacturers produce different types of soldering irons to handle different jobs. Some soldering irons emit intense heat for ensuring quick melting points. Other soldering irons possess designs that allow users to enter small openings. Because of the disparate ways to utilise a soldering iron, many electronics professionals stock most, if not all, of the following types of soldering irons.

Simple Iron

As the most common type of soldering iron, the simple iron operates on a power rating between 15 and 35 watts, which is more than enough wattage to handle most electronics repair jobs. Manufacturers design simple irons to run at uncontrolled temperatures that are determined by a thermal equilibrium. For example, when heating larger objects, the temperature automatically declines to provide more uniform heating. Do-it-yourselfers who mostly work on electronics, such as boom boxes and computer hard drives, find the simple iron is the only type of soldering iron they need in their toolbox.

Soldering Station

Soldering stations comprise an electrical power supply, temperature and display control circuitry, and a soldering head that includes a tip temperature sensor. The station includes a stand for storing the iron when it is not in use and a wet sponge for cleaning the dripping from the soldering iron surface. Other optional features that electronics repair professionals should consider include a hot air gun, vacuum pickup tool, and a vacuum pump for desoldering through-hole components.

Soldering Tweezers

As a specialty niche iron, soldering tweezers solder and desolder small surface-mounted components, typically an electronics unit that has two electrical terminals. Soldering tweezers work well on most batteries, resistors, capacitors, and diodes. Manufacturers construct soldering tweezers to be freestanding or operated from a station. Each of the two tweezers possess heated tips on thin arms that users manually control by gently squeezing against a mildly resistant spring. This type of soldering iron requires steady hand control.

Soldering Gun

Manufacturers design soldering guns that appear similar to cordless hand drills. Soldering guns possess a wire looped tip that rapidly cools, which means the guns do not require holsters for safe storage. The rapid cooling rate also diminishes fire hazards. Do-it-yourselfers prefer soldering guns because of the easy-to-grip handles and convenient trigger mechanism. The tin-constructed tip only activates when the user pulls the trigger mechanism.

Soldering Torch

Acetylene or propane gas typically power soldering torches, which deliver considerable heat in short bursts. Jewellers utilise soldering torches to melt precious metals that require above average melting heat, such as gold, silver, and copper. The temperatures can reach levels that require users to work in flame-resistant areas and wear flame-retardant clothing. Because of safety concerns, soldering torches are the domain of electronics professionals and are not recommended for novices.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Soldering Iron

While a soldering iron is not an essential hand tool for novice do-it-yourselfers, it does become an integral part of a more accomplished do-it-yourselfer's toolbox. The soldering technique is not necessarily difficult to learn, so most do-it-yourselfers typically add a soldering iron to their DIY tool inventory shortly after embarking on do-it-yourself projects. Electronics professionals have many more factors to consider before purchasing a soldering iron. Therefore, the following list of buying factors applies both to electronics professionals and do-it-yourselfers.

Going Cordless

Portability and convenience are the two primary reasons why do-it-yourselfers and professionals should consider buying a cordless power tool version of a soldering iron. Instead of being restricted by a cord, users can quickly move from point A to point B, which increases productivity. Cordless soldering irons operate on gas combustion from a separate self-contained tank.

Temperature Control

Technologically advanced soldering irons include a method for controlling temperature. The methods range from controlling temperature range for variable power control, which is the simplest version, to a thermocouple that works in conjunction with the station circuitry to adjust tip temperature. Some soldering irons function with a thermostat that automatically switches power on and off, depending on how much power is required for specific jobs. Electronics professionals utilise temperature-controlled soldering irons to handle delicate soldering jobs, such as desoldering an internal speaker connection.

Tips

Most soldering irons come with an interchangeable tip feature. The tips, which are also referred to as bits, vary in size and shape to provide flexibility to the user. Some of the more common tips include pyramid, chisel, fine conical, and tapered. Users should consider which types of jobs they plan to perform before deciding on which types of tips to include in their inventory. Copper, chrome, and nickel solder iron tips provide the most durability.

Wattage

Wattage provides the power required to heat objects. Too much wattage can burn through certain electronics components or boil the flux before it cleans a component. While do-it-yourselfers should remain in the 15 to 35 wattage range, electronics repair professionals can go as high as 60 watts.

Brand

A number of major electronics brands manufacture soldering irons, so the question is not which brand produces the best soldering model. Simply choosing to purchase a name brand soldering iron is a great start for ensuring high-quality and product longevity. Users should consider brands that have established a lengthy track record for constructing top-of-the-line soldering irons. Brand name soldering irons typically are easy to grip, provide firm handling, and rarely overheat.

Cost

Cost should not be an issue for beginners, who can use a simple pencil iron to solder and desolder. However, more experienced do-it-yourselfers and trade professionals must consider the cost-benefits trade off of purchasing a soldering iron. Name brand soldering irons tend to cost more than generic models, but some hardware shops and online e-commerce centres, such as eBay, offer nearly mint condition soldering irons at discounted prices. Name brand soldering iron manufacturers also offer discounts on discontinued soldering iron lines. Create a budget and remain patient until a seller offers a soldering iron that falls within the budget.

Research

Make sure to perform ample research before reaching a buying decision. There are plenty of small or upstart companies that produce high-quality soldering irons at reasonable prices. Read online reviews from numerous sources, and once a search is narrowed down to a brand, go online and search for sellers on eBay who meet all of the soldering iron shopping criteria.

Buying Soldering Irons on eBay

What separates eBay from other e-commerce shops? The answer lies in a powerful search engine that allows you to pinpoint soldering iron sellers who match your buying needs. Type specific keywords that represent your criteria into the search engine to reduce the number of soldering iron seller search results. For example, type "Draper" or "Sealey" to shop by brand name. You can also vet eBay soldering iron sellers by searching for used soldering irons. You may find multiple sellers who match your soldering iron buying criteria. If that is the case, review each seller's product page to determine which seller breaks the tie.

The first piece of evidence to examine is the enlarged product photograph of the soldering iron. Are there any rust spots? Does the tip or collection of tips appear to be in excellent condition? Is the battery included for a cordless model? After examining the product photograph, review accepted payments methods and delivery terms to further vet the candidates. You can also review customer feedback on seller product pages. Consider eBay sellers who have earned positive feedback over the past year for selling soldering equipment.

Conclusion

There was a time when customers had to take in their electronics products for professional repairs. The electronics professional used a soldering iron to establish wiring connections and remove faulty wiring. Technological advances have now made soldering irons accessible for do-it-yourselfers, even the least experienced do-it-yourselfers who have never repaired a radio or an iPod Touch. Not only have the grips and trigger mechanisms become more user-friendly, do-it-yourselfers can purchase simple soldering irons that automatically regulate temperature.

Knowing which type of soldering iron to buy is the first step in the shopping process. Besides the easy-to-use, simple soldering iron, consumers also have the soldering station, soldering gun, soldering torch, and soldering tweezer options. The type of soldering iron chosen depends on the scope for the soldering job. For instance, soldering tweezers are constructed to access difficult-to-reach spaces. After deciding on the type of soldering iron, consumers then consider myriad factors that include cost, brand, temperature control, and whether to go cordless. Above all, shopping for a soldering iron requires considerable research and an understanding of how to use eBay's search engine.

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