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Vintage Test Gear and Workshop Equipment For discussions about vintage test gear and workshop equipment such as coil winders.

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Old 7th Nov 2019, 8:56 pm   #1
BrianAllen
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Default Soldering Iron For PCB's

Good evening all,

Would someone be so kind as to recommend a suitable soldering iron for working on vintage Hi-Fi/PCB's.

Nothing too expensive but good value for money.

Thank you.

Brian
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 12:50 pm   #2
duncanlowe
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Since I had one for my eighteenth birthday many years ago, I have always stuck with Weller and never regretted it. The TCP versions are pretty good, and the intercnagheable tips and thermostat control mean they work nicely. Used versions are often available.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 1:02 pm   #3
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

There are several threads on this subject if you search. There are many different opinions. Many active forum members have a professional electronics background and will recommend professional temperature controlled kit, but this is very expensive for amateur use, especially if only used now and then.

Personally I would recommend a good quality non temperature controlled 18-25W iron from somebody like Antex, which you can buy for about 25. You could supplement this with a no-name 30-60W market stall / eBay iron for very occasional use when you need something really hot for about 4.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Antex-Preci.../dp/B07MT5LH29

Those Antex models may struggle with lead free solder, but you won't encounter that in vintage gear.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 1:14 pm   #4
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

If you are just starting out with vintage equipment a basic Antex XS25 will do the job and won't break the bank. Weller irons are better for various reasons but are expensive to buy new. Buying used really requires some knowledge and experience. Be sure to use leaded solder whatever iron you choose.

Alan
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 4:37 pm   #5
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Personally, I'd avoid any of the traditional non-temperature-regulated "firestarter" type irons if you're starting off doing PCB work: some of the early PCBs had less-than-brilliant adhesion/bonding between the copper tracks and the board itself - putting too much heat into these can cause the track to 'lift'. A temperature-controlled iron allows you more control, reducing the risk of damage.

The Chinese "TS100" and clones are more what I'd be looking at - they've got reasonable tempeature-control, run off 12/24V (which reduces the risk of 'mains leakage' damage to sensitive components) and cost less than 50 via the usual auction-sites.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 5:02 pm   #6
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I've been told semi-jokingly (but only semi-) 'If you can afford it, get a Metcal, If not, get a Weller TCP'.

I can't afford a Metcal (yet), so I have the Weller TCP. I've had it for almost 30 years now, in that time it's needed one replacement element (and of course replacement bits). Some years ago I was doing a repair for a friend and tried to use his Antex X25 (I think) to desolder some connections on a PCB. I gave up, went home, and grabbed my Weller, fortunately before I'd ruined the PCB.

Whatever you get make sure that replacement bits (tips) are easily available. Other spares are up to you, personally I will happily spend more on something that I can keep working.

And no, I don't have an electronics industry background.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 5:47 pm   #7
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Another vote for a Weller TCP. Like many others I've had mine for 30+ years. They run off 24v AC or DC so you don't need the expensive Weller power unit, just something that does 24v at 2 amps.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 6:14 pm   #8
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
I've been told semi-jokingly (but only semi-) 'If you can afford it, get a Metcal, If not, get a Weller TCP'.
I'll second that. I use an OKi/Metcal. First used them at work and they're so so so sooooooo good I had to get my own. I've never used my Weller since. The heating element is in the tips, the way it works is just completely and utterly second to none. I've got a few different tips for different jobs.

It could be hard to justify the cost, but perhaps compare it with an enthusiast cook who just wants something nicer in terms of a mixer, knifes, pans etc, or you want to go out for dinner but want something really nice, not just something about adequate.

Otherwise if I wanted a cheap one I probably would give the Antex a go, I've used them and they are ok.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 6:44 pm   #9
tony brady
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I started with Remploy irons from the Green Shield stamp shop then Antex. Have been using Weller for over 40 years now I highly recommend them. Cheap irons are ok for tag strip work and at a push the Antex are ok on pcbs but the Weller is so much better. Just get the best you can afford, damage to pcbs is not worth the problems. A new Weller with a 24V 2A supply as stated above is a good place to start.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 6:46 pm   #10
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I suspect I am going to have to ensure I never use a Metcal. Because my one extravagance is good/expensive tools, so if I use a Metcal I'll probably have to buy one of my own

I've used my Weller TCP on old PCBs, new PCBs, single-sided PCBs, multi-layer PCBs, SMD parts, tagstrips. even small bits of sheet metal and it's always done what I need. So for me it is 'good enough'. I would be surprised if it wasnt 'good enough' for any vintage radio, etc, repair work. Doesn't mean I won't get something better if I try it....
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 8:22 pm   #11
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Arrow Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
I've been told semi-jokingly (but only semi-) 'If you can afford it, get a Metcal; if not, get a Weller TCP'.
Being a user of both, I'll concur with that. But the 'afford it' is very relevant: replacement elements are just so expensive!

Al.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 8:47 pm   #12
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianAllen View Post
Would someone be so kind as to recommend a suitable soldering iron for working on vintage Hi-Fi/PCB's.

Nothing too expensive but good value for money.

Brian
Are we really suggesting that Brian should consider a Metcal? Even the Weller TCP hardly qualifies as 'nothing too expensive'.

Alan
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 9:22 pm   #13
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

As a schoolkid, I had a 15W Antex always in my inner pocket of my blazer. I was playing mostly with valves. It was awful, but that's what I thought all soldering irons were like.

At uni, the toolkits in the lab had antexes so that's what I used there. No better!

I then had a period as a student at HP. The first day, I was led down to stores and issued with a toolbox and all the usual hand tools... and a brand new Weller TCP1 setup. Good grief it was good. There was no going back.

I let it be known I wanted to collect dead irons, so failed ones being replaced were passed to me instead of the bucket. After a while I had built one good iron out of the bits. My junk box turned up a 24v 3A transformer which got mounted in a tupperware sort of commercial mayonnaise tub. Not pretty, but I was on the road. I now had the power to do hefty joints quickly instead of stewing things slowly, and it didn't get too hot for light work.

Scour amateur radio rallies and look at club stands, look under the stalls in the junk rummage boxes. Find yourself one or a few Weller TCP 1 irons and make up a good one. A bit of effort and a bit of luck and you can get one going cheaply. Look out for a transformer with a meaty 24v secondary or a suitable tap. It'll do instead of a Weller base.

If all you've used are hobbyist irons, you won't know what's hit you. Life will have got an awful lot easier.

Now for Metcals:

I have two. I use one in each hand under a stereo microscope for SMT work. All they cost me were the bits, though those are about 18 apiece.

Metcal bases, the power units are very expensive indeed. But they are also staggeringly unreliable. This doesn't sound good, does it?. People leave soldering irons on all day. Metcals are designed to be switched on right before soldering and straight off afterwards. Tey heat in only a few seconds. They are intended to let you swap a tip and be going again in under 10 seconds. Leave one on as a habit, and the base will die. Firms chuck out dead bases
So here is an opportunity for someone who can do a bit of electronic repair. The base unit supplies up to 70W at 13.5MHz into a nominal 75 Ohm load and throttles back the power into a mismatch. The use international rectifier hexfets as their power amp stages and that's all they usually need to get them going. Schematics are on the web.

So don't believe these things are too expensive. Collect some dead junk and hit it with some thought and engineering. You can have a dream setup for little cost. It will take time, but keep word out and keep your eyes open. You wouldn't want to miss an opportunity.

David
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 9:41 pm   #14
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

JBC all the way for me! Tried a Metcal recently, didn’t like it. I used to use Metcals years ago when I was an apprentice mobile phone tech, thought they were pretty good back then, but then I got hold of a JBC, and it’s just so much better. I also have a Maplin temperature controlled iron, that is pretty good but takes ages to heat up, good iron for use on PCB’s, and for a cheap iron it’s pretty good. Before that I had a 25W Antex which was ok, no temperature control though. Sad thing about the JBC’s is the need for deep pockets!! They are not cheap at all.

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Old 8th Nov 2019, 9:57 pm   #15
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Wrangler View Post
So don't believe these things are too expensive. Collect some dead junk and hit it with some thought and engineering. You can have a dream setup for little cost. It will take time, but keep word out and keep your eyes open. You wouldn't want to miss an opportunity.

David
True but you really need some considerable knowledge and time to do this successfully. I suspect that Brian needs something to get him started and at a reasonable price.

Alan
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 10:00 pm   #16
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

And where are amateurs without industry contacts supposed to find all this faulty Weller and Metcal kit?

Yes, if you're working on SMD stuff you're not going to find a 25 Antex a lot of fun, but that's a huge challenge for any amateur setup, let alone the occasional dining room table job. The OP wants a cheap iron to change caps and transistors in 30 year old hifi separates, he's not going to be fixing iPhones.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 10:03 pm   #17
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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Are we really suggesting that Brian should consider a Metcal? Even the Weller TCP hardly qualifies as 'nothing too expensive'
Quite. Soldering iron threads usually escalate to Metcal levels, but this is not what the OP is asking!
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 10:29 pm   #18
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinewave View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
I've been told semi-jokingly (but only semi-) 'If you can afford it, get a Metcal, If not, get a Weller TCP'.
I'll second that. I use an OKi/Metcal. First used them at work and they're so so so sooooooo good I had to get my own. I've never used my Weller since. The heating element is in the tips, the way it works is just completely and utterly second to none. I've got a few different tips for different jobs.

It could be hard to justify the cost, but perhaps compare it with an enthusiast cook who just wants something nicer in terms of a mixer, knifes, pans etc, or you want to go out for dinner but want something really nice, not just something about adequate.

Otherwise if I wanted a cheap one I probably would give the Antex a go, I've used them and they are ok.
Agree 100%, the metcal smartheat system is brilliant, i use an sp200 system bought second hand off ebay some years back and gradually built up a selection of bits that do everything i need.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 11:08 pm   #19
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

After trying all sorts of cheap irons as a youngster (including a 25W Weller and a Remploy one) I wouldn't use anything that wasn't temperature controlled these days. I've had a 50W Oryx iron at home for over 30 years and mainly used Weller 60W TCP's at my old job. We had a couple of Antex irons as well but I was never a big fan - they were fine on very small parts but even the 40W temperature controlled model didn't have enough heat capacity for many things.
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Old 8th Nov 2019, 11:54 pm   #20
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I frequently see old TCP1 irons and bases at amateur radio rallies. No professional contacts needed! Whatever he gets next, he can keep his eyes open once he knows what these things look like. Another amateur stall at an event yielded a working Metcal for 70 quid which may be more than Brian may be interested in, but I bought it for someone else.

It doesn't take much knowledge to fix a TCP1, and there's all the guidance needed, on here.

David
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