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temp controlled soldering irons


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hi everybody,

for years i've been using the same old dual 15/30 watt soldering iron from radio shack.  it's served me well and i've built a number of projects with it.  however, as i become increasingly involved with more advanced projects and more knowledgable in general (due, in no small part, to midibox projects of course!) i'm thinking it's time to upgrade to a nice temp-controlled iron.  what i'm asking here is for any input on which brand/model to purchase.  i'm hoping to spend no more than $60-70 (american).  is this reasonable?  in other words, would a $60-70 iron be decent?  are there any optional features that i shouldn't live without?  and finally, are there any major disadvantages to purchasing one of the ~$35 generic models that a lot of suppliers sell?  (i.e. http://www.mpja.com/productview.asp?product=15140+TL)

thanks in advance.  obviously, i hold your opinions in high regard. :)


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  • 2 weeks later...

so i decided to go with the knockoff hakko station that arumblack and i were talking about (*anticipating a grimace from smashtv*).  from what i've read online, it seems to work pretty well.  if people have any questions about it (if you're in the market for a new station or something...) let me know...


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I do expect a full report though......... ;D 

Are these Hakko, or MPJA re-brand from another company?

hey smash,

well, some people (so i've read online, anyway) say that they are actually manufactured by hakko, while others say they just look like a hakko.  i'm assuming the latter is true, but you never know i guess.  anyway, i actually ended up ordering the analog version from circuit specialists (http://www.circuitspecialists.com/).  same unit though.  anyway, i will definitely post a full review once it's delivered (tuesday) and i've got enough time to take it for a spin (sometime next week, i'm sure).  i can answer any specific questions you may have also, arumblack.


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hey smash,

well, some people (so i've read online, anyway) say that they are actually manufactured by hakko, while others say they just look like a hakko. i'm assuming the latter is true, but you never know i guess.

Hmmm......  from the look I assume they are Hakko:

http://www.hakkousa.com/products.asp?PID=936-9 Notice that Hakko says these are discontinued.....

Looks like the same iron is available from many companies, two vendors I use regularly sell an iron that looks identical/same specs.....

I don't know the history/current practice of Hakko, but I do know a few things about offshore OEM, Here are possibilities:

1) they are manufactured -by- Hakko, and can be had in quantity from them without their logo.

2) they are manufactured -for- Hakko, and Hakko is just re-branding like MPJA and the other vendors.

3) they are manufactured by several companies (yes the exact same design, this meter is a great example of this practice, I can buy it from no less than three different manufacturers (same part number!) who are all separate companies, producing the same design (with color variants etc.). 

I need to ask the buyers how close those factories are to each other.....:) 

This is normal these days in China, and while it seems insane to the rest of the world to freely exchange/borrow/share/steal/manufacture designs and IP with your competition, its not so crazy when you realize that competition to them is units produced and sold, not innovation or feature differences. 

It's entertaining to watch (and participate in) a market that's not affected or diluted by brand recognition..... ;)

Damn another novel!  Sorry about that.....

The true test will be to grab a Hakko tip, and see how it fits your iron.......If you have a Fry's Electronics nearby they should have tons of Hakko tips in stock that you can actually hold in your hand to see......



</edit broken quote>

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  • 3 weeks later...

i realize i've been MIA on this one...planning on building some stuff tomorrow for my senior project, so i should have some details then.  sorry, haven't forgotten....just been busy.

Smash:  I was at a parts store the other day and it looked like the Xytronics tips they were selling would fit my iron nicely.  not sure though.  but they didn't have any hakko tips, so i may order one online just for fun.

a few quick details:

-the iron comes with an extra ceramic heating element, which is nice.

-the iron holder that it comes with is very sturdy and has a solder holder (you know, one of those spindle thingys).  the stand alone is probably worth about 10-15 bucks.  i will say this however, the iron doesn't fit super will in the holder.  but with a quick modification (removal of two little tabs that extend out of the iron slot...tough to describe) i think it will be a perfect fit.

-the iron has the same ESD safe logo at the bottom right, just like the hakkos

-the manual that it comes with lists it as being a 900 series...just like the hakko!

i've been dying to try this thing out, so i can't wait to post a full report.  check back soon!!!


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ok, so i finally got a chance to build something with the hakko knockoff and i have nothing but GREAT things to say about this soldering station.  it's getting late though, so i'll make this quick...

first off, it took 54 seconds to reach 600 degrees F from room temp.  while this may be longer than more expensive stations (don't know), this is infintely better than the heat-up time of my old radio shack iron (~5-7 min).

second of all, i take back everything i said previously about the iron's fit in the holder.  the iron fits just fine...not sure why i didn't realize that in the first place.

it's got a heating indicator light to let you know when it's heating/finished heating (just like an oven light).  while soldering/in standby, the light cycles on and off (with a slight hum, but i got used to it within a few minutes).  recovery time is virtually instantaneous.  to test it, i made enormous bridges.  no matter how big the job, this iron handles it in an instant.

results: the finished circuit looks beautiful.  everything was quick and easy.  i can't believe i EVER used anything else.

oh yeah, and did i mention it comes with an extra heating element?

oh, and it's only $35...i still don't understand....

now i just need to see if hakko tips fit.  from what i've read online, i think the hakko tips will work just fine.

if anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask.


EDIT:  P.S. after building an entire project, the tip is clean, shiny, and completely in tact.  needless to say, i am VERY pleased.

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Awesome! I recently got a job working on media equiptment for our county school system (mostly mechanical problems, cleaning heads and soldering loose connections, they don't even have a scope for me to use... but I love it still, my first REAL Job in electronics), and they have a Hakko, not exactly like that one but I like using it very much! I am definitely going to order the one with the digital readout now. Also they have a benchtop fume absorber ( which I saw in a catalog at work , and I think it was made by Hakko too) that I want to get, only like 28 dollars or something. Currently i use a fan I salvaged from an old PC case hooked up to a wall wart, to blow the fumes out of my face so I don't breathe them directly in.

Thanks for the test report!

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hi arumblack,

congratulations on your job!  i'm going to graduate from college this spring, so i'd love to get a job like that.  unfortunately, i think most places usually require a degree in the field, which i don't have (why don't people recognize the value of self-teaching?).  anyway, back on topic...just a word of warning: i've read online that the digital version only reads in degrees celsius.  not a problem if that's what you prefer, but i'm more used to the good old °F.

when you do get your station, be sure to let us know if the hakko tips fit!!!  (and compare generic/hakko tip quality)

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Thanks for the congrats! I have no degree *yet* I am working on it. Fortunately it is a school system, so they understand the being educated process. Plus I know more than the guy who was doing( who's true skills lie in broadcasting and production ) and they have been sending stuff off that he couldn't fix. The pay is certainly less than I would like, if I had a degree, but I need the good resume experience real bad now so I consider it to be worth it. If the Hakko at work uses the same tips, I will compare them. Actually, I got a tip when mine was backordered, i then cancelled the order for the iron, but forgot to cancel the tip ( I needed some other things on that order too bad to wait 3 weeks). I will dig it out and compare it to the iron at work. I could live with degree's celsius, but since you mention that I wonder if the display is worth an extra ten bucks? Also they have an smd tweezer you can get for it, though I don't do much smd work.

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This is my first post...and I'm still waiting on my boards to start my project (But it looks like Smash shipped them yesterday so I should see them soon!)  and I had planned on just using my old RatShack pencil to put it all together.  I've done two EFI computers that work fine a couple of 8051 based projects and a couple of surface mount projects even and it's served me well.

But seeing this thread and having heard of the CSI stations before I finally decided to give it a go.

Now get this.  I saw the report by jdutcher on thursday morning.  Around lunchtime on thursday I placed an order at CSI for one of the $35 stations.  Was surprised at checkout when they charged me tax until I realized they were in Mesa AZ (I'm in Yuma about a 3 hour drive away.)

Was even more surprised when they shipped it the same day and UPS said it would be here the next.  Sure enough today around 1PM it was on my doorstep - Less than 24 hours from when I ordered and with just cheap ground shipping!

Of course I had to run off and give it a test - and so far I'm very impressed as well.  Can't wait until my midibox boards get here next week so I can give it a real test ;)  Thanks for the heads up on this deal.  I even got a nice surprise of a spare heating element in the box with mine, not sure if it was ment to be included or if it was a mistake since it's not listed on the packaging slip or on the invoice.  But a deal is a deal!

I also noticed they have the Xytronics379 station for less than anywhere else I've seen it.  I almost got one of those last year for $15 more from somewhere else.  But for my occasional needs this one seems like a great deal.

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Well, well, Weller... reasonable price, long lasting, spares easily obtained and good iron-coated bits.

The temp control depends on a magneic effect known as the Curie point, so theres no fancy

electronics to fail at the wrong moment,

A tip... always keep the sponge wet, that way you will make a good joint ( all else considered),

and greatly increase the bit life.

hope this helps,

Regards all.

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