Many homeowners overlook the value of soldering. In fact, a lot don’t even know what exactly it is!
Soldering is the process of joining two pieces of metals using a filler metal – a solder – that has a melting point below that of the work pieces being combined.
Here is the list of Best Soldering Stations
Soldering can be useful around the household in so many ways. It can be used on electronic circuit boards, for car and engine repairs, in plumbing and sealing pipes, and even for jewelry making, to name a few.
Because of its many uses, you need to carefully consider what type of soldering station to buy. This is not one of those “this-will-do” kinds of purchases. Think of it as a great investment for your home, a tool for those important DIY repairs and projects.
Things To Consider When Buying A Soldering Station
- Iron wattage
Wattage determines if the soldering station provides sufficient heat. A good soldering station ranges from 40W to 60W. Why? Because in this range, metals heat up pretty fast. You don’t have to wait too long to proceed with the soldering. Plus, this wattage is enough to maintain an even temperature. Lower wattages (20W-30W) generally mean more work time and lower quality in solder joints.
- Temperature variation
With soldering stations, always look for those with adjustable temperature. Different temperatures are needed depending on your project and the alloys you use. Once set, the soldering station should have consistent temperature. Uncontrolled metals tend to heat up too high, which can result to poor soldered connections and even damage to your piece.
When checking for safety, look for ESD-safe, or Electrostatic Discharge-safe models. This means no static charge will be built on the station. An ESD-safe iron is a must if you’ll be working on electronic gadgets and semiconductors.
- Digital or analog?
The temperature feature can either be analog or digital. Analog doesn’t have any display to show the current temperature. For a bit of added cost, digital units are able to show the set temperature. Digital adjustment of the temperature is also easier.
- Heat-up time
Choose a soldering station that is able to produce heat quickly. This way, you create a good quality solder by melting your alloy properly, and at the same time avoid fatigue from taking too long to complete the project.
Proper Maintenance Of Your Soldering Station
Soldering iron tips are sensitive and are subject to oxidation from being repeatedly heated and cooled. They need to be regularly cleaned. Otherwise, your soldering station will not work well as you’d like no matter how great your choice of equipment is.
- Cleaning the soldering tip
To prevent rust from ruining your iron, always clean the tip after use. Let it cool first, then use a damp cellulose sponge to wipe the tip off. Don’t hold the sponge when doing this. Instead, rub the iron tip onto the sponge. A steel wool brush or a Brillo pad can also be used.
Once you have cleaned the soldering iron, it’s best to put on a clean surface of tinning by adding a small amount of fresh solder to the tip of the soldering iron. Tinning prevents fast oxidation and keeps the tip in good condition.
- Alloy Cleaner
You can use an alloy cleaner to protect the tip from rust and dirt. Apply a lead-free cleaner like a polish to the tip of your iron after use.
Best Soldering Stations In The Market
To give you a clearer idea of which soldering station to purchase, here are seven of the best soldering stations in the market right now. Reviewing each one’s features will allow you to see which of them is the best fit for your needs:
1. Weller WLC 100
Weller is a trusted brand that makes good quality soldering stations used around the world. This analog Weller WLC 100 soldering station heats from 5W to 40W with a simple turn of the knob on the base unit. It heats up a little slow (think an extra minute), but is able to maintain the heat level and can reach up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
A lightweight pencil iron means you can work comfortably with this soldering station. But, there’s only a single screwdriver tip included, a 1/8-inch tip. Additional tips are sold separately, so you may need to buy a different size depending on your work.
This model has some safety features, including an ESD-safe iron stand and iron tip, plus a sponge cleaning pad to keep your workspace both secure and organized. The base has a “power-on” indicator light as well as on/off switch to prevent leaving it on accidentally.
Considering its price and features, this soldering station is a bargain and is ideal for hobbyists, students and DIY enthusiasts.
Weller WLC 100 Video Review
2. X-Tronic #3020-XTS
The X-Tronic 3020 has a digital display that lets you know exactly when your iron is ready. It has a 60W capacity and a temperature range of up to 896 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature dial is extremely precise compared to other models, and can heat up pretty quickly while maintaining constant heat.
This station comes with a 10-minute sleep function, which adds a safety precaution in case the iron is left turned on. Moreover, it has a self-test function that allows it to deal with over-temps, short circuits and overloads. The silicone-coated cord is flexible, so no ergonomic issues with this one. But the iron tip itself is a little heavy compared to other models.
Aside from the ESD-safe soldering station stand, tip and spring style holder, the kit includes a brass sponge tip cleaner with Cleaning Flux at the bottom of the tin.
With all the inclusions and factoring the digital feature, this soldering station is one of the best out there in terms of both quality and price.
X-Tronic Model #3020-XTS Video Review
3. Weller WE1010NA
The Weller WE1010NA is a digital station that has a 70W capacity and temperature that reaches 850 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing for faster heat up time and increased power compared to other stations available in the market.
This station can be navigated easily, with its intuitive system and 3 push buttons where you can control the temperature, switch the unit on/off and put in preset or standby modes. The LCD screen is easy enough to check, but it would have been better if it were a backlit display. In addition, the on/off switch has a reverse design – the unit switches on when in the downward position! It’s probably a European thing, but it can be confusing to use.
I have to say, the best feature is its wand holder. It’s quite solid and stable to work with, and with the lightweight pencil, there’s little chance for hand fatigue. This certainly feels more secure than other stations I’ve worked with.
While it’s a bit pricier than the first two stations discussed, it’s still worth it if you want a comfortable and secure soldering station for repairs, crafts and DIY projects.
Weller WE1010NA Video Review
4. Hakko FX-888D
The Hakko FX-888D is another great soldering station that features digital controls for different functions. Among the models reviewed so far, this has the fastest heating time – in less than 30 seconds, it reaches 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Users can finish soldering projects right away because of the rapid heat-up and thermal recovery.
The ESD-safe stand is very secure. The holder is solid and the soldering tip is light, making this station very convenient for constant use. Meanwhile, its digital calibration allows you to input up to 5 preset modes, again lessening your work fuss. Plus, it can be password protected.
The only downside is the two-buttoned interface that makes it harder to change current temperatures. I’ve found that Hakko’s other models that use a knob work faster than this digital control. But again, if you’re using preset temperatures, it’s easier.All in all, this is a great digital soldering station that has an efficient heating system and ergonomic pen and stand. For a price that’s nearer analog models than digital ones, this is a cost-efficient investment.
Hakko FX-888D Video Review
5. Aoyue 968A+
The Aoyue 968A+ features 70W soldering capacity with a built-in smoke extractor that is very useful for eliminating the fumes created during the project. A digital calibration display with microprocessor technology shows the hot air set and actual temperature, which can reach 896 degrees Fahrenheit. The intuitive controls make it easy to monitor heat levels. Also, the digital function has an adjustable sleep timer for a more secure work process.
What’s really great about this soldering station is its heat-up speed and temperature consistency. It comes with an array of different tips as well, 10 iron tips in fact, which makes it versatile for various soldering jobs.
A vacuum pickup kit and spare heating elements for the hot air gun and soldering iron are also included. When one part goes out, rest assured that you can replace it. The only issues I had with this are the noise level and the bulkiness. The pump creates a loud sound when used, and the station’s quite bulky compared to other models.
This is a great option for home use and typical electronics projects. It has a solid collection of tools and replacements that are all quality made. But if you are planning to solder pipes or other heavier pieces, go for a more powerful station for that purpose.
Aoyue 968A+ Video Review
6. Sywon Soldering Iron Kit
The Sywon Soldering Iron Kit features 60W power and temperature of up to 896 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a hand-held control module containing the temperature adjustment knob and LED indicator. The control module cables are long enough, so they don’t interfere with the soldering iron itself. This design is compact and convenient, a change from many bulky stations out there.
Unlike other stands mentioned here, this one includes a helping hand equipped with a 2 ½-inch magnifying glass, a soldering iron stand and a metal base. The orbital joints are flexible and removable depending on what you need. It’s ergonomically sound as well, with a lightweight pencil with silicon handle that can be gripped easily.
The only thing to watch out for is the control module. Because it’s small and lightweight, it has a tendency to move around your workspace. You’ll need to secure it somewhere so that it doesn’t interfere with the soldering.
The entire package includes the ESD-safe soldering stand, the helping hand kit and a total of 5 extra iron tips that come in different sizes. It’s a nice and inexpensive soldering stand that soldering beginners can use for electrical and craft work.
Sywon Soldering Iron Kit Video Review
7. X-Tronic 5040 XR3
The X-Tronic 5040 X3 model has a 60W capacity and temperature range of up to 896 degrees Fahrenheit. Like the Aoyue 968A+, this soldering stand has a hot air gun with 500W power and features an auto cool down safety option. There are 4 different hot air nozzles included as well.
This soldering iron heats up quite fast, even faster than the Weller models I’ve tried. In addition, it can maintain an accurate level of temperature all throughout the soldering project. Its stand is made of an ESD-safe heavy-duty base that has a stable iron holder, a wet sponge and a side mount roll holder. And there are 9 extra soldering tips for every size and style you will need.
The kit also includes a magnifying lamp with daylight fluorescent, providing 5 times magnification. There’s also an IC popper useful for disassembling IC components, anti-static tweezers, and a roll of Goot Wick, a wick braid used to remove molten solder.
Among the units reviewed, this is the priciest one because of its high quality workstation complete with various accessories and extras. If you want a wide array of tools, get this kit. But if you can forego the add-ons, then other models would work just as well for a fraction of the price.
X-Tronic 5040 X3 Video Review
Okay, so now that I’ve presented and reviewed the top soldering stands currently available, a final recommendation has to be given. And based on my experience, I would have to choose X-Tronic #3020-XTS for its accuracy in temperature, safety features, and ergonomic qualities. It’s definitely great value for your money.
Of course, this is only my opinion. Every person has different needs and preferences, so invest in a soldering stand that you feel has the best quality, components and features you can use. After all, you’ll be the one using it at home.