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Old 9th Nov 2019, 12:22 am   #21
Sinewave
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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'.

Alan
No, no one has suggested that. They do come up in conversation though, as a comparison of differing levels.
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 12:34 am   #22
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

It might be helpful to the OP if any users of the ubiquitous temperature contolled/regulated irons sold by the likes of Lidl/Aldi and on eBay (often clones) could comment on their experiences. I am thinking of the ones that come in at between about 15 and 50. Are there any that people would recommend from use over a sustained period? Can't help personally as I've never tried one as my 'go to' soldering station is Weller TCP1 based although I still use the old Antex now and again.

Alan
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 1:16 am   #23
paulsherwin
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I bought a cheap temperature controlled iron from either Aldi or Lidl a couple of years ago. The temp control was very hit and miss, it didn't maintain temperature when soldering heat sinks, and the bit deteriorated rapidly. I wouldn't recommend it.

You do need to use a different technique depending on if you're using a controlled or uncontrolled iron.
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 1:23 am   #24
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I have a second hand Weller WS81 and a couple of 'soldering pencils', for maybe 100.

I got it because I was fed up of bits wearing through and not being able to solder bus bars on valve amps. I am definitely a 'dining room table job' fellow, but have discovered that since splashing out on a serious step up from the Antexes and red-handled Wellers that I do a lot more soldering.

Suddenly other repairs become a pleasure rather than a game of chance as to whether the soldering's going to work or not.

The small tip option has been a real boon for doing the PCBs on the Uher I've had on the go for the last year.

I think, in my hobbyist's experience, "buy cheap; buy twice" is a truism when it comes to soldering irons. Getting a better one will improve your soldering and make you want to do it more, which should be factored in.
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 3:40 am   #25
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

A Chinese "936" temperature-controlled soldering station for 15-20 is better than an ordinary (uncontrolled) iron at any price, though you may well have to replace the original mains lead if they are still as bad as a couple of years ago. The bits are very cheap, but OK.
The other part is desoldering.
I like these: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/desol...pumps/4794197/ (22)

I prefer the CPC stations https://cpc.farnell.com/duratool/d00...lug/dp/SD01384, but they are now 87.

I caused more damage to PCBs with poor desoldering tools and technique than with poor irons, but not for the last 30 years.

Whatever you get, I suggest practice on some scrap boards.
Martin.
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 7:28 am   #26
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

With all the talk of Weller TCP I might remind people that Weller do more normal types of iron. I have been using a Weller WHS40D for several years, a workstation type temperature controlled iron at a sensible price. But if he is just starting PCB work an Antex pencil iron should not be dismissed, I grew up on those.

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Old 9th Nov 2019, 9:32 pm   #27
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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A Chinese "936" temperature-controlled soldering station for 15-20 is better than an ordinary (uncontrolled) iron
Unfortunately, the price of the Chinese temperature-controlled irons has gone up quite a lot. About 10 years ago, I bought one of these https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Aoyue-937...4AAOSwfOBdwyBn but I'm sure it was nowhere near the present price back then. I've been very happy with it and now find going back to a fixed-temperature iron very hard to cope with. Re Antex fixed-temperature, they may be the market leader, but I used one for some time and never liked it.

B
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 10:46 pm   #28
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

As someone who does the electronics lark for a living, I have to repeat what others have said. I reckon a 2nd-hand TCP on Ebay is about the minimum if the gear you work on has any value. I often work on 70s gear with SS PCBs. They can de-laminate easily, even with an expensive temp-controlled iron. We currently rely on WSD81s, but Metcal or JBC ought to be on the cards at some point as I don't have the faith in Weller that I used to (note that the firm has changed hands a few times over the years and there are very mixed reviews for their current lower end range).
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Old 9th Nov 2019, 11:01 pm   #29
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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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



Another vote for Metcal.
I can't say I've personally found the MX500 type unreliable, even when abused. I have to confess to disabling the auto switch off on my home ones

I have a pair - both bases bought on ebay for around 100 - they were rigged for 110V but easy to change. I've also used them at a variety of places I've worked over the years.

With respect to the tips, they are expensive and care in needed. If you change them with pliers they will have a short life - always use the rubber thing attached to the lead. Ditto using a sponge that is flooded with water - it shortens the life of the tip no end. Use a slightly moist sponge only.

Thermaltronics do compatible tips that are cheaper than Metcal's own offerings. I've found them to be just as good.

http://www.thermaltronics.com/pseries_ref.php
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 12:01 am   #30
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Question Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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Metcal bases are also staggeringly unreliable. People leave soldering irons on all day. Metcals are designed to be switched on right before soldering and straight off afterwards. They 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.
Yes, I've read that comment from you before, here, on at least one occasion. My Metcal power unit is an STSS-PS2V-02 (230 v.a.c. operation only). It's quite an old model. However, with this one, I have never experienced that failure which you have reported. Many have been the times when I have inadvertently left mine switched on for days - without the power unit failing.
Perhaps the power units you are referring to are different to mine.

Al.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 12:33 am   #31
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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JBC all the way for me!... Sad thing about the JBCs is the need for deep pockets!! They are not cheap at all.

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Lloyd
Yes I've just splashed out on a JBC CD-2BQ station and wondered how I ever did without it!
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 10:02 am   #32
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

I'd suggest you've been lucky, Al. In the microwave section of the lab at HP there must have been over 30 Metcal setups failing at around one base per month. It was noticed that certain people had repeated failures and these were the folk who left them on.

In the firm where I now work there are 5 Metcal setups, and a couple of dead bases in the cupboard. Various generations of the base. The early ones seem the worst. In the same environment and the same people, Weller TCPs just kept on going for years.

If fixed and used sympathetically, they seem to survive OK.

I'm not guaranteeing that if you continue leaving it on, it will fail. Nor do I want yours to fail. I'm just trying to warn you that you are taking an avoidable risk.

Which reminds me that I have two dead bases on my round tuit pile.

All I've had is experience in a place where a statistically-significant population of these things have been in use and patterns have shown up with a good level of confidence.

Why is it just me alone saying these things? Maybe I've got a bee in my bonnet? Maybe there aren't many people hereabouts who've worked amidst lots of metcals?

I actually like the things.

David
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 10:57 am   #33
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

As a student, I started out with an Antex iron. It was great for new-build prototype projects on vero-board and replacing passive components in 1990's domestic electronics.

Enter I.C's and the use of desoldering braid to remove I.C's, this is where the Antex struggled.

Once graduated, I was in a better job, had more income and could stretch to Maplins soldering station, the temperature controlled one, with a row of LED's as an indicator. EDIT: A Union BP53.

This has been brilliant, fixing anything from an iPod right up to a sideboard sized radiogram and anything in between. Before Maplin closed, I bought a selection of spare tips, in nearly 20 years of hobby-work, I'm on my 2nd tip.

At work we use either Weller or Metcal. For hobby use though, the above show their worth.

The rest of my equipment came from radio rallies or eBay, always used/faulty so had to learn/repair myself. It's all old gear but ultimately, very high quality and 'period' for the radios I now concentrate on.

My only recent indulgence was a new chair, a Fluke multimeter and a Seaward PAT.

Mark
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 11:11 am   #34
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

Oh yes, an Antex type iron is hopeless for desoldering ICs, though they are OK for fitting new ones so long as they're not surface mount. On the rare occasions I have to remove a dead IC I snip the legs from the body with sidecutters then desolder each leg separately.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 11:17 am   #35
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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I'd suggest you've been lucky, Al. In the microwave section of the lab at HP there must have been over 30 Metcal setups failing at around one base per month. It was noticed that certain people had repeated failures and these were the folk who left them on.
First I've heard of it and I've been using them for quite some time. When something fails, it usually fails when something is on though, so

Maybe it was a bad batch at the time. I do notice though if I've left mine on for some time and haven't used it, it goes into a standby mode.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 1:38 pm   #36
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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I do notice though if I've left mine on for some time and haven't used it, it goes into a standby mode.
Ah, that's why yours has survived! The earlier ones don't do that. They just sit there, stewing themselves.

I think I know why that feature got added...

The latest one at work has an LCD which shows power level and does a count down.

David
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 1:46 pm   #37
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinewave View Post
I do notice though if I've left mine on for some time and haven't used it, it goes into a standby mode.
Ah, that's why yours has survived! The earlier ones don't do that. They just sit there, stewing themselves.

I think I know why that feature got added...

The latest one at work has an LCD which shows power level and does a count down.

David
The first one I used was probably in the 90s, badged as Metcal. The later ones like my one, badged as Oki.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 1:54 pm   #38
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Arrow Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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I'd suggest you've been lucky, Al.
If fixed and used sympathetically, they seem to survive OK.
I'm not guaranteeing that if you continue leaving it on, it will fail. Nor do I want yours to fail. I'm just trying to warn you that you are taking an avoidable risk.
O.K., point taken. I value your opinion based on your experience and will instigate appropriate measures to ensure mine does not get left switched on. Something like a notice on the inside of the workshop door asking "Did you switch off the Metcal?"

Al.
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Old 10th Nov 2019, 3:15 pm   #39
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

All this talk of making up good TCP1s and Metcals isn’t really answering the original question.

If you had your collection of broken TCP and Metcal bits, you need two things, the knowledge to fix them, and a soldering iron.

I think the OP, and possibly others making a start in vintage radio, need advice on that first soldering iron. So in that situation, would you choose a basic Antex, a cheap Lidl/Aldi temperature controlled iron, or some other solution?

Stuart

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Old 10th Nov 2019, 3:36 pm   #40
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Default Re: Soldering Iron For PCB's

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Oh yes, an Antex type iron is hopeless for desoldering ICs, though they are OK for fitting new ones so long as they're not surface mount. On the rare occasions I have to remove a dead IC I snip the legs from the body with sidecutters then desolder each leg separately.
I would agree with that, although I have never found desoldering easy and anything beyond 14 / 16 pins usually fails for reuse. I must say though I have used Antex XS25's (and smaller earlier models in the past) with excellent results. I find the main point about soldering surface mount components is technique rather than specific equipment. I get few problems to the limit of my eyesight as these are hot enough for quick soldering. I have used Weller at work and, although nice irons, seemed to give no appreciable advantage to my approach.

I do power my Antex via an isolating transformer on reduced voltage for longer life.
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