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Help me choose an iron
Moderators: adafruit_support_bill, adafruit

Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.

Help me choose an iron

by FunkyELF on Tue Aug 11, 2020 9:34 am

TLDR: I need a soldering iron recomendation

Use Cases:
  • Current need: to make guitar/instrument (1/4" TS) cables and some other 1/4" TRS cables.
  • Current need: to replace a 3.5mm TRRS connector on a headset (it broke off inside of a laptop)
  • Future need: I'd like to do some Raspberry Pi projects. One project I had in mind was to control a bunch of RGB LEDs with something like the Adafruit 16x9 Charlieplexed PWM LED Matrix Driver - IS31FL3731 (https://www.adafruit.com/product/2946).


I don't envision myself removing or replacing tiny surface mount things.
I'll also be purchasing a helping hands station to hold the cables and connectors as I solder them.

So with my use-cases in mind, can someone recommend a soldering iron?

The problem: (i.e. overchocie, consumerism, YouTube rabbit hole)
I've watched some videos from Louis Rossman on YouTube. He's hating on any soldering iron that doesn't have heating elements and temperature sensors directly on the tip like the Hakko FX-951. In fact he even talks down about the Hakko 888D saying it's garbage ancient technology. For $100 he recommends buying a fake Chinese ripoff of an FX-951 rather than the 888D.

I appreciate his passion and do enjoy his videos, but I'd like a second opinion on a soldering iron.
I can't bring myself to dump $300 into an FX-951 but at the same time I don't want to buy a fake product either.
Can someone recommend something around $150 or less?
FunkyELF
 
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Re: Help me choose an iron

by adafruit_support_bill on Tue Aug 11, 2020 10:27 am

The Hakko FX-888D is an excellent all-round iron and a good value. Ladyada uses hers daily. You can spend lots more on the latest and greatest state-of-the-art soldering station. But for most common applications like connectors and through-hole PCB work, it is not going to make any better solder joints than you can do with the Fx888D.

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Re: Help me choose an iron

by FunkyELF on Tue Aug 11, 2020 11:25 am

adafruit_support_bill wrote:The Hakko FX-888D is an excellent all-round iron and a good value. Ladyada uses hers daily. You can spend lots more on the latest and greatest state-of-the-art soldering station. But for most common applications like connectors and through-hole PCB work, it is not going to make any better solder joints than you can do with the Fx888D.


Thanks, I think I just needed some re-validation from a pro like Ladyada ;-) That definitely makes me feel better. I don't envision myself doing anything that isn't through-hole.

I also saw the USB powered TS80. Would that work well too for making guitar cables and through-hole PCB stuff? The reviews I've seen people are thrilled with the accurate temperature control.

Is there some task that the TS80 couldn't handle but the 888D could?
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Re: Help me choose an iron

by adafruit_support_bill on Tue Aug 11, 2020 11:43 am

The TS80 is a nice iron. To my mind, it is the perfect portable iron to take on the road. Compared to the Fx-888D, the main limitation is power for temperature recovery. If you have a long row of header pins, you may need to slow down a bit so it has some time to come back up to temp between pins.

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Re: Help me choose an iron

by FunkyELF on Tue Aug 11, 2020 12:32 pm

adafruit_support_bill wrote:The TS80 is a nice iron. To my mind, it is the perfect portable iron to take on the road. Compared to the Fx-888D, the main limitation is power for temperature recovery. If you have a long row of header pins, you may need to slow down a bit so it has some time to come back up to temp between pins.


Perfect! Thanks for the help. And I see you sell the TS80 as well, so I think I'm sold.
Now I may need to put together a part list for my Raspberry Pi project and just order everything together ;-)

I should probably start a new thread for it, but this is my project idea:
I got this Star Wars poster at a Good Will. It has fixed color LEDs. I want to make them individually addressable and control them with PWM. Perhaps even swap them out for RGB. That's why I was thinking of the charlieplex controller.

a.jpeg
poster project 1
a.jpeg (82.73 KiB) Viewed 300 times

b.jpeg
poster project 2
b.jpeg (44.32 KiB) Viewed 300 times

c.jpeg
poster project 3
c.jpeg (50.82 KiB) Viewed 300 times
FunkyELF
 
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Re: Help me choose an iron

by adafruit_support_bill on Tue Aug 11, 2020 12:46 pm

Looks like a fun project. It it were me, I'd probably be looking at doing it with Neopixels.
Maybe these: https://www.adafruit.com/product/1558

But best to start a new thread for this over on the 'Glowy Things' forum: viewforum.php?f=47

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Re: Help me choose an iron

by FunkyELF on Thu Aug 13, 2020 3:23 pm

Okay, sorry for all the n00b questions. Couple more before I place my order today.

On the TS80P page it asks to "Also include 1 x Soldering iron stand ($6.00)"
I'm assuming it works with the TS80P or it wouldn't be recommended as an add-on.
The iron seems very small and thin, it won't fall through the stand?

The product page for the iron also says:
The tip it comes with is a nice general-purpose D25 screwdriver tip for all through-hole and larger-SMT work.

The picture however is showing a conical tip. I'm hoping the description is correct and the photo is wrong.

I read to use 60/40 solder wire for electronics and guitar wiring but I'm not sure what size to get.
I saw your Mini Solder spool - 60/40 lead rosin-core solder 0.031" diameter - 100g
Is 0.031" good for both through-hole PCB and guitar wiring?

Thanks again,
~Eric
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Re: Help me choose an iron

by adafruit_support_bill on Thu Aug 13, 2020 3:48 pm

The neck of the stand is narrower than the flange on the handle, so the iron will not slip through. I will double-check on the tip that ships with it.

60/40 rosin core is the easiest to use solder for that type of work. And 0.031" is a good size for most through-hole work and audio connectors. You might want to go thicker if you are working on things like power switches and heavy-gauge wire.

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Re: Help me choose an iron

by adafruit2 on Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:15 pm

oops yeah that changed in the revision, its what you see in the pic, conical smt

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Re: Help me choose an iron

by FunkyELF on Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:37 pm

Darn, from all the reviews of soldering irons I've watched over the past couple of days the consensus seems to be conical tips are the most useless tips. The D25 screwdriver tip is another $30.
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Re: Help me choose an iron

by adafruit2 on Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:54 pm

?? we use conical tip all the time, use the side of the tip not the point

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Re: Help me choose an iron

by FunkyELF on Thu Aug 13, 2020 4:56 pm

adafruit2 wrote:?? we use conical tip all the time, use the side of the tip not the point


Yeah, too much YouTube for me. Too many opinions. I pulled the trigger. Also ordered a bunch of other stuff to get free shipping. Now I have to do the project I was planning on doing.

See thread here
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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.