There are many people who like to take the time to repair their electronic devices and the soldering iron is one of the indispensable tools for this purpose. Anyone who has opened an electronic device knows that the internal connections are made thanks to welds between the various components. However, not everyone knows what type of soldering iron to use, at what temperature regime it works or other important characteristics.
Tin soldering irons are precision tools that are used for jobs in the computer, electronic and even aeronautical fields. They allow for the so-called «soft soldering» and are really appreciated by professionals and non-professionals alike. If you too have decided to buy one, keep in mind our advice to buy the best soldering iron available on the market.
- Tin welders use heat to melt tin, which joins two parts. To avoid damaging the materials to be welded, a protective paste is used.
- Tin soldering irons can have overheating problems. The heat induction tips and tubes can melt and the resistances burn. To avoid problems, try to choose a model with ceramic induction and a cooled tip.
- A type of soldering iron that has a temperature regulation system should be chosen. In addition to allowing you to work on any type of material, this feature contributes to energy savings when using the tool.
The best soldering irons on the market: our selection
A good quality soldering iron will come in handy in many situations, whether you are doing DIY jobs or repairing your household appliances. To help you choose the product that best suits your needs, we have researched and selected the five best soldering irons currently on the market.
- Dremel Versatip
This kit includes a soldering iron, five different sized tips, a desoldering iron, a tin spool and a holder, all in a handy tool bag. The soldering iron has a system to regulate the temperature (200-450 ° C) and a ceramic technology, which optimizes heating and heat retention. It also comes with an insulated handle with non-slip design.
DIY and electronics enthusiasts who bought the kit are really excited about its versatility, the low price, the quality of the welds obtained and the case that allows you to keep everything in order. The presence of the on / off button, often absent in competing products, which allows you to control the ignition of the device, is really appreciated.
The kit is equipped with a soldering iron with adjustable temperature (200-450 ° C) and six interchangeable tips. The welder has an insulated handle with an ergonomic design that prevents burns during use. There is also a more complete kit, which also includes a support, a tin wire, a box of fondant paste and a sponge to clean the tip, which can be purchased with only one euro of difference.
Buyers consider it a good product, cheap and suitable for occasional jobs, certainly an excellent compromise between quality and price. Thanks to the small size it easily reaches the temperature, the smaller tips are really useful for performing precision soldering. The only drawback is the absence of an on / off switch which is however shown in the description on the package.
The Versatip is really versatile, it can be used anywhere (thanks to the butane power supply) and for different applications: welding, melting, hot cutting, shrinking, pyrography and paint stripping. The tool comes in a handy case, with a soldering tip, a cutting knife, a hot cutting tip, a flat and wide torch, a reflector and a hot blower head.
Regardless of the use, buyers (do-it-yourself lovers but also professionals in the electronic and IT fields) really like it thanks to its versatility and the fact that it is portable and usable without the need to connect it to the electricity. It is also light, easy to handle and has a good autonomy. Also appreciated the value for money.
The kit offers all the necessary accessories: a soldering iron, six interchangeable tips, a tin spool, two pliers, a support and a sponge for cleaning the tips. A novelty compared to the other kits reported in this guide is the presence of two tools that make the kit truly complete to solve any need in the electronic field: a desoldering pump and a copper wire for desoldering.
The article is very successful. Among the positive characteristics reported we find the good value for money and the possibility of buying other compatible tips on the internet. Furthermore, some videos are available on YouTube (also in Italian) which, in addition to presenting the unboxing of the kit, teach how to solder and desolder. Alternatively, instructions in Italian are available.
The solder soldering kit offered by VicTsing includes several accessories: the soldering iron, five interchangeable tips (classic and shear, of different sizes), a tin spool, the desoldering pump, a tweezer and a support with integrated sponge. Thanks to the glass-thermal induction it quickly reaches the desired temperature, adjustable with a small knob on the stylus.
Buyers recommend it for DIY enthusiasts or DIY enthusiasts who are new to soldering. The soldering iron is so light and handy that even beginners will be able to perform good quality welding work. Although the use of the soldering iron is quite intuitive, the lack of instructions in Italian is reported.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about tin soldering irons
Almost all objects that surround us nowadays contain a circuit with solders. If you like to repair appliances, one of the tools you will need the most is the soldering iron. We have prepared a buying guide to solve the most common doubts regarding this type of instrument.
What is a tin soldering iron?
What is soft soldering?
What are the applications of soft soldering?
Soft soldering has numerous applications, for example in the making of toys, but also in aircraft engines and spacecraft. In general, this type of welding is preferred when it is necessary to join pieces of small dimensions or of different materials, both cases in which an autogenous welding by fusion (such as that of the TIG type) would be more complicated and less precise.
This is why in the computer and electronic fields, soft soldering is a very popular technique for processing and repairing electronic parts of circuits and motherboards, such as transistors, printed circuits, parts of heat exchangers, small decorative parts etc.
What are the characteristics of soft soldering made with a soldering iron?
The properties of the weld joint depend on several factors, for example the ability of the metals to form an alloy with each other and with the base. Consequently, the distance between the metals to be joined can also vary. Normally this type of welding is not recommended for aluminum.
To weld zinc or galvanized iron, the filler material must be free of antimony, a particularly melt-resistant element that is used as a hardener in some alloys. At room temperature, the shear strength of the joints depends on:
- The distance between the metals to be joined.
- The temperature used for soldering.
- The heating time .
- The composition of the metals to be joined.
What materials are needed to use a soldering iron?
Soft welding, unlike other types of welding, requires the use of a filler material. In the case of the soldering iron, of course, tin is used which is a soft material with a melting temperature below 450 ºC and which offers little resistance in case of desoldering. Below we explain what materials and tools are needed for soldering with tin:
- Soldering iron: Obviously you will need a tool. Tin welders allow to reach the melting temperature of the filler material, a necessary and indispensable condition to perform a welding between the materials.
- Solder flux: Flux paste plays a very important role in soft soldering. In addition to protecting the material from contact with air, it dissolves and eliminates the oxides that can form and helps the molten filler metal to cover the base material and to distribute itself on the connection point.
- Filler metal: This is the material that is added at the time of welding, normally it is a metal that meets certain requirements, such as the ability to cover the base metal and an adequate melting temperature. Thanks to its fluidity, this material can be distributed by capillarity on the joints, thus creating a welded connection that respects the mechanical resistance requirements.
What is filler metal and what types are there?
As we said, the filler metal is the material that is added during welding. It must be soft enough and have an optimal fluidity to distribute itself in the weld area and create a solid bonding base. This joint must be corrosion resistant under normal conditions.
The filler material is chosen according to the temperature at which the welding will be carried out. The metal must interact with the base material, but without forming compounds capable of decreasing the strength of the connection. The different filler materials can be marketed in the form of bar, paste or wire spools.
In this table you will find a summary of the main filler materials with their respective uses:
|Filler material||Common uses|
|Tin-lead||The most common metal, for general use.|
|Tin-aluminum||It is used to improve the mechanical properties of the filler material.|
|Tin- silver||It is used for delicate work tools.|
|Tin- zinc||For welding aluminum.|
|Tin -bismuth||Widely used for electronic work.|
|Lead-silver||For soft welding of steel, cast iron or copper.|
|Cadmium-silver||For joining copper and aluminum.|
|Cadmium-zinc||For welding aluminum.|
|Zinc-aluminum||For aluminum welding, it ensures great resistance to corrosion.|
What is the solder flux that should be used with the soldering iron?
Fluxes are mixtures prepared with many chemical compounds, including borates, fluorides, borax, boric acid and wetting agents. Fluxes can be used in the form of powder, paste or liquid. The powder version can be applied dry or dissolved in water or alcohol to improve adhesion.
Before adding the fondant it is necessary to clean the parts to be joined with a brush. Flux is very useful as it helps us understand when the base material has reached the soldering temperature. When the flux becomes transparent, it means that it is time to add the filler material.
What is the optimal amount of tin for welding?
To identify the amount of tin needed and to prevent drops from falling during soldering, you need to measure the material you are working on. For example, to weld a pipe we will use an amount of tin equal to the thickness of the pipe.
During soldering it is important not to use disproportionate amounts of tin to avoid excesses occurring, which can generate drips. The most practical way to avoid these excesses of tin is to use a flux or a flux which, thanks to the heat of the tin, will help the adhesion of the tin to the material.
What types of tin solders are there on the market?
In this table we summarize the characteristics of these two types of tin soldering irons:
|Features||Stylus welder||Gun welder|
|Power||Power between 30 and 60 W.|
|Heating||Continuous heating.||The heating of the tip is due to the high current flowing through it.|
|Other properties||It has high thermal inertia.|
|Power source||The soldering iron must be connected to the electric current.||The handle contains a transformer that generates the current.|
|Recommended use||Ideal for repetitive jobs||It is not suitable for electronics work due to the oversized tip.
Useful for occasional jobs, thanks to the fast heating.
What types of supports are there for tin solders?
When the soldering iron is connected to the electric current, its tip remains at high temperatures. During this time, the instrument reaches temperatures between 250 and 300 ºC, it will therefore be necessary to place the soldering iron on a support to avoid damaging the table or work surface during breaks from use.
In this table we explain which are the types of supports most used for tin solders, with their respective characteristics:
|Sponge support||This is the most common support for low power welders.|
|JBC type support||It allows you to place the soldering iron in two different ways. This product contains a sponge.|
|Simple DIY support||It can be made with a piece of sheet metal and a wooden board.|
How do you use a soldering iron?
The soldering iron is a very easy tool to use. In reality you just have to connect it to the electric current, wait for it to reach the desired temperature and apply the heated tip on the material to be melted. However, there are some things to consider. Below we will explain step by step how to weld with a soldering iron:
- Clean the surfaces of the parts to be welded.
- Make sure the soldering iron can melt the tin easily.
- Place the parts to be welded.
- Heats the parts to be welded simultaneously.
- When the soldering area reaches the optimum temperature, pull the tin wire closer and allow a small amount to melt .
- Remove the tin wire.
- After a few seconds, pull the soldering iron away.
- Wait for the pond to cool down without moving the soldered components. If the tin layer has a bright, concave appearance, the soldering is done well.
What do experts advise about using a soldering iron?
A good deal of precision is required to solder with tin. If you have decided to buy a soldering iron but have never owned or used one, our advice will be useful. It’s actually quite an easy job, it won’t take you long to become an expert!
However, these tips will be useful for you to start using a soldering iron:
- Keep the tip of the soldering iron clean. You can clean it with a rubber sponge after each use.
- Do not use any type of abrasive material to clean the tip, otherwise you risk damaging it.
- When you have finished welding, wait for it to cool down well before starting the next use.
- Before you start soldering integrated circuits you will need to have acquired a certain level of safety and precision. To avoid problems, it is advisable to solder a socket on the plate and mount the integrated device on it.
- When working on CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor in English) it is advisable to isolate anything that may come into contact with these components, including yourself.
- The temperature of the soldering iron can cause really serious burns, so try to be very careful when using it.
- To put down the soldering iron while it is on, you need to be very careful. If you don’t have a stand, look for a piece of metal or sheet metal.
We have already talked about what you need to know about tin solders, now it is useful to focus on the fundamental criteria to keep in mind when buying. To choose the welder that is most congenial to you then, follow what we have to suggest in this paragraph.
There are two categories of tin soldering irons on the market. The former, called “precision”, have the shape of a stylus pen and are used to work on circuits and cards, in electronics and computer science. The others are pistol guns, which are more powerful and heat up more quickly, but guarantee less accuracy.
We can also divide tin soldering irons according to the power source, some in fact must be connected to electricity, while others work with battery or gas. The latter undoubtedly offer greater autonomy, but require more frequent maintenance and are more dangerous, as the gas could explode.
The rate of heating is a factor that contributes to the capacity, quality and power of a soldering iron. Among the various existing welders, some reach the desired temperature in 30 seconds, while others need a time between 1 and 3 minutes. Normally, transformer gun soldering irons heat up faster.
This characteristic must be considered in relation to the type of use that will be made of the tool, in fact for daily use the heating time must be as short as possible. On the contrary, you won’t need to make a big investment if you only use this tool on a few occasions for do-it-yourself jobs or sporadic repairs.
A soldering iron should be light and easy to use. These tools must be comfortable and allow you to work agile. In a nutshell, working with a soldering iron should be like holding a pencil or pen, so the handle will need to be ergonomic and comfortable, as well as incorporate a system to regulate the temperature.
In addition, it must be equipped with an anti-slip protection. In fact it is quite normal to sweat while working with the soldering iron due to the heat, as a result your hands could be wet and slippery. Without a non-slip coating, this could lead to accidents.
In many cases, these products can be bought at a good price, along with briefcases full of other accessories. These assorted sets offer considerable versatility of use, as they contain almost all the necessary accessories. In addition, this way you will have a box to store and organize your tools, and this is a really nice advantage!
Normally the carrying cases including a holder and a set with interchangeable tips of different sizes. It is very convenient that these kits also include a tool for desoldering, or eliminating soldering, and a set of precision pliers which can be indispensable for performing soldering on electrical components.
Here you can find an article on precision pliers where you can find all the necessary information:
In precision tin solders the tip is undoubtedly the most important part, and at the same time the most delicate. It is made with copper and subsequently treated with antioxidants and protectors to prevent it from corroding due to continuous contact with the lead-tin alloy, which is used as a casting material.
Given its importance, the tip must always be kept clean and functional. Although there are some protection systems nowadays, don’t forget to clean it after each use. In many cases, tin solders include tips of different sizes, which are interchangeable.