If you have electronic appliances at home or need to create your circuit, you will need to know to solder. In terms of electronics, soldering is an important skill to master. Learning to solder is not an impossible task to do, but it does require precision. It is easy to learn as long as you are willing and are interested.
If you are new to soldering or have little experience, you are reading the right article! In this article, we will be covering some of the best soldering irons for newbies like you. Most of what we will be going over is ideal for joining circuit boards or prototyping electronic circuits. You will be able to DIY your soldering in no time at all!
TS100 Soldering Iron
The TS100 is the best soldering iron in terms of portability. It is better than most regular soldering irons in the market that are in a similar price range. Unlike other soldering irons in the same class, the TS100 is portable, temperature-controlled, lightweight, and cheap. Despite being cheap, it is high-quality and has a few smart features, such as the sleep mode.
With its affordable price comes a few drawbacks. Right out of the box, the TS100 does not come with a stand or a power supply. When picking up one for yourself, be sure to purchase a power supply and a stand. For the stand, you have the option to 3D print one on your own.
When looking for a power supply, get one with a power source of 12 volts to 24 volts and an input interface of 5.5mm x 2.5mm. Before purchasing, be sure to check around the house, as you may already have one. If you do, there is no need to buy.
Inside the TS100’s package is the tip attached to the heating element, soldering iron handle, spare screws, an Allen key, and an instruction manual. The contents of the package may differ, but the items mentioned are what you will usually get.
TS100 Soldering Iron First Setup
It is simple to set up the TS100 soldering iron. All you need to do is attach the heating element and handle with the screw included in the set. The soldering iron needs a power supply within the 12V to 24V range. You may want to check around the house before purchasing one. Any power adapter within the specified range should work safely as long as the connector’s size is 5.5mm x 2.5mm.
If it is of any importance to you, the power supply voltage affects the length of time it will take for the element to heat up. A higher voltage requires less time for the element to heat up. A 12V power supply takes about 40 seconds, whereas a 24V power supply only takes about 11 seconds.
TS100 Common Features
Here are some of the common features of the TS100.
- Lightweight, small, and has a comfortable grip on the hand.
- It weighs about 30 grams and is about 16 cm long.
- The soldering iron’s tip is conical, which is perfect for soldering most electronic components.
- You can replace the tip with a different shape as long as it is compatible.
- It has two buttons, an OLED display, a micro USB port, and a barrel port for power.
- Updating the soldering iron’s firmware through a computer is done by connecting the iron via the micro USB port.
- The iron’s operating temperature is adjustable from 100ºC to 400ºC.
Operating the TS100
Start by connecting the soldering iron to a power supply. After a few seconds, you should be in standby mode. Press the A button if you want to start heating. The default temperature is 300ºC, which you can adjust. The temperature in the display can either be Celsius or Fahrenheit, depending on the user’s preference.
To change the temperature to a specific setting, press and hold the B button until you see two arrows on the screen. To increase the temperature, press the B button. To decrease the temperature, press the A button.
The working temperature, the temperature during standby mode, the time it takes to go from operation mode to sleep mode, and the time it takes to go from deep sleep to standby mode are all configurable. Your soldering iron should be in standby mode to configure the default settings. Press the B button to go over all the settings. Hold down the A button or B button to adjust the setting you have chosen. Leave it for at least five seconds for the new setting to take effect.
Take note that older firmware versions will not allow you to configure the default settings. To address this, connect your iron to a computer and update the configuration file. It should change the default parameters for these settings.
Unlike most soldering irons in the same class, the TS100 has the sleep mode, which puts the soldering iron to sleep if you do not use it for more than 180 seconds. Sleep mode puts the iron in its sleep mode temperature, which is 200ºC by default.
As soon as you grab or lift the soldering iron, it goes back to operation mode and will slowly heat up to the temperature set before it went to sleep mode. The soldering iron goes to standby mode if you do not use it longer than the idle time plus sleep time.
Testing the TS100
To test if your TS100 is working as it should, supply power to the soldering iron and press the A button. Right after 30 seconds, the iron should be hot enough to solder. If it does not seem to work, your unit may have some issues. Check your settings and power supply, and try again.
There are times the nearest outlet is not near enough. If this is the case, you can use an extension cord. Several factors need consideration when using an extension. For a list of the best extension cords available in the market, you can look into our article.
Unit conversion should come in handy when dealing with extension cords. If you are having a hard time, we have an article that details SAE to metric conversion.
There are six types of soldering irons available in the market. You can go through each type below so you can decide which one best fits your needs.
Simple Soldering Iron
A low-power iron, typically with a power rating of 15 watts to 35 watts, is used for electronics and electrical work. Other soldering irons are available at a higher power rating, but those have higher operating temperatures, which may be unnecessary for your needs.
Other types of soldering iron run at a temperature that is not variable. In the case of simple iron, thermal equilibrium determines the temperature. The temperature drops when heating a large object. On the other hand, the temperature rises when heating a small object.
Temperature-Controlled Soldering Iron
Thermal equilibrium determines the temperature for simple soldering irons. It is dependent on cooling by the environment, power input, and the type of materials. More high-tech soldering irons are available wherein you can control the temperature through a mechanism. To keep the temperature steady, manufacturers use a temperature sensor.
Temperature-controlled soldering irons either comprise a head and a tip, or they may also be free-standing. There are several ways to control the temperature in a soldering iron. The easiest way is to through variable power control. It works much like a light dimmer, wherein the thermal equilibrium changes without automatically regulating the temperature. Another way to control the temperature is by using a thermostat, typically in the iron’s fine tip. The thermostat sends a signal to the element to turn off or on.
Some manufacturers take advantage of the magnetic properties of the soldering iron. A switch to the supply power closes whenever the tip has magnetic properties. The contacts open and cool down when it reaches a temperature.
Cordless Soldering Iron
When electricity is unavailable, you can heat small amounts of iron with a battery or combustion using propane or butane. You cannot directly regulate the operating temperature when using a cordless soldering iron. Instead, you can change the power by making a few adjustments to the gas flow. Soldering irons that utilize gas mostly have an interchangeable tip, allowing you to control the gas flow.
A soldering station has a control that lets you adjust the temperature. It consists of control circuitry, an electrical power supply, and a soldering head with a tip equipped with a temperature sensor. The control circuitry typically has a provision, which allows users to adjust the display and temperature.
Most soldering stations come with a stand, which serves as a holder for the hot iron when not being used. Some kits come with a sponge, which you can use for cleaning. If the soldering station you got does not come with one, you can buy any sponge in the supermarket.
Most soldering stations have a wattage of 60 watts. However, several options are available in the market. Some have a wattage as low as 20 watts or as high as 70 watts, such as the Hakko FX888D.
The hot knife is a soldering iron equipped with a double-edged blade, which you can find on the heating element. Most hot knives can reach a temperature of up to 538 C. High temperatures allows for easy cutting of foam and fabric materials without any issue in beading or fraying. You can use a hot knife in several ways, such as carpeting applications, marine, automotive, for both personal and industrial uses.
A soldering tweezer lets you desolder or solder small components, such as resistors, capacitors, links, and diodes. You can also use a soldering tweezer to pull small copper wires from an electrical board. Soldering tweezers are either controlled from a soldering iron station or free-standing on their own.
These tweezers have tips attached to separate arms. You can control these by manually squeezing the arms together, much like a regular tweezer. The primary purpose of a soldering tweezer is to guide the solder that it melts in the right place. Using a regular tweezer is not a good idea as it can easily move components.
Make sure to check out our guide on the best dehumidifiers as well.
Features You Should Look For
Soldering iron comes in a few types, each having its advantages and disadvantages. Some are heavy-duty, while others are light and portable. Some require electric power to operate, while others are battery-powered. However, all require a soldering wire to do their purpose.
Below are five features you should keep an eye on when looking for a soldering iron.
Although most soldering irons can support as low as 17 watts, it is advisable to pick one with at least 30 watts. A low wattage rating means more time for the heating element to heat up, which might be a problem in the long run. Having a low wattage also makes it inconsistent to hold the temperature. A 30 watts soldering iron is about a 16V power supply.
Having the ability to control the temperature is a great feature to have. Not all types of work you do with the soldering iron require the same temperature setting. Some jobs may require low temperatures, while other jobs may require high temperatures. Soldering iron with a temperature control feature lets you quickly and easily adjust the temperature. It gives the user more flexibility and control over the device.
Not all manufacturers that sell soldering irons include a holding stand right off the box. When looking to purchase one, you may want to consider picking a brand and model that comes with a holding stand. However, take note this should not be the number one determining factor as you can easily purchase a holding stand separately. It is useful to have one because it is where you can place your hot iron. If you don’t have a holding stand, placing the hot iron on any surface could lead to accidents or damage.
What is your most common use case for the soldering iron? It is the question you should ask yourself before buying one. Will you be doing occasional repair jobs, or will you be building several circuits? Knowing your use case plays an important factor in determining the set of features you need the most.
The tip on the soldering iron should be easy to replace. Moreover, the soldering iron should be compatible with a variety of tips available in the market. It gives you the flexibility to choose which type and size to use for a specific job. Several manufacturers produce tips, so aside from compatibility, you may also want to consider the prices.
Keeping yourself clean after doing some soldering work is important. If you are looking to make some modifications to your half-bathroom, or you are debating between a shower or bathtub, you can read about it on our website.
There are hundreds of soldering iron brands available in the market. Honestly, it gets confusing if you do not have any references on hand. Here are some of the best brands available in the market.
Weller manufactures its soldering irons in Germany. This company offers a wide variety of equipment, which you can use for your soldering needs. They have several soldering iron models, each one intended for a specific need.
The Milwaukee M12 soldering iron can easily reach its operating temperature in under 18 seconds. It can maintain the temperature throughout the time you are using it. The M12 uses REDLINK INTELLIGENCE, a heat indicator that notifies users when the tool is safe to store or ready to use. The head has a three-stop pivot, allowing the user for more flexibility, especially in tight spaces. Thanks to the battery technology powering the M12, the user can go up to 40 minutes of uninterrupted run-time.
TS80 Soldering Iron
The TS80 soldering iron is a newer version of the TS100 soldering iron. These two models share similar features, but the TS80 is noticeably smaller than the TS100. The TS80 uses anodized aluminum for the case, while the TS100 uses plastic. Because of these improvements, the TS80 is a bit heavier than the TS100, weighing 35 grams and 31 grams, respectively.
Aside from this, other brands worthy of attention are Hakko, Ryobi, and Benzomatic. These brands offer several soldering iron models.
Best Solder for Electronics
The solder is an alloy material, which is used to bond two electrical parts together. It comes in several sizes, with 0.062 inches and 0.032 inches being the most common diameters. Inside the solder’s core is the flux, which is a material that aids in improving mechanical strength and electrical contact.
The best solder is the lead-free rosin core solder, a type of solder made from copper or tin. Be sure not to purchase a solder with an acid core, as it will cause damage to the components and circuits.
Best Soldering Iron Station
The best soldering iron station is the 853D Soldering Station. It comes with several accessories right off the package. You get several tips for the heat gun and the soldering iron, which is no longer common in other brands these days. The soldering iron has a power of 60 watts with operating temperatures ranging between 200ºC and 480ºC. Despite being a powerhouse, the 853D Soldering Station has low operating noise, which helps you concentrate on your soldering work.
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