Choose a Soldering Iron

Do you need to join 2 metal pieces together in a more permanent manner than what duct tape provides? If so, then you will probably need to either weld or solder them together. Welding is the process by which you join two metals by melting them together. Soldering is the process by which you join two metals by melting another metal to flow and fill the gap between them. The melting metal is called solder. And the hand-operated tool you use to melt the solder is called a soldering iron. The focus of this article (and overall, this site) will be on soldering and not on welding.

This high level review aims to throw more light on the subject of choosing a soldering iron – what to look for in a soldering iron and what are some of the best soldering irons on the market.

Soldering Iron Uses:​

Consideration of your soldering goals can help in determining the best soldering iron for the job – whether you need to solder for one specific purpose or whether you need a versatile soldering iron for multiple purposes. Typically, soldering irons are used for arts & crafts, plumbing, stained glass, circuit boards, and jewelry making or repair. Knowing what you’re going to need the soldering iron for will help in figuring out your soldering iron from all the options.

Soldering Iron Features​:

When choosing a soldering iron, there are a five features that will be the main determiner of what you eventually pick:

Wattage
Type (or style)
Temperature control
Mobility/Portability
Tip size and tip shape

Let’s briefly discuss the wattage and the types of soldering irons to give you a more detailed view of why they are important in your soldering iron purchase decision making process.

Let's talk about Wattage:​

Wattage is inarguably one of the most important factors to take into consideration when choosing a soldering iron. Think of wattage as power and think about how much power you’ll need from your soldering iron.

The most common sets of soldering irons used in electronics are 20 to 60 watts and these days, most popular soldering irons used are between 40 to 50 watts. While this does not mean that soldering irons that have higher wattage can apply more heat to the solder, it simply means that more power can be used by the soldering iron—so generally, soldering irons with higher wattage (40W and above) are better.

Let’s move on to Type (or style):

There are three main types of soldering irons:
So​ldering pencils
Soldering guns
Soldering torches

Refer to our article on Soldering Iron Types for more info.

The importance of temperature control:

Closely tied to wattage, temperature control is important in that as soon as you start soldering, the heat will transfer from the soldering tip to the solder and your soldering iron will drop in temperature.  If you're working on a project where you just need to do a bit at a time, then this shouldn't be a problem.  However, if you need sustained heat, then a higher wattage soldering iron with temperature control would be better.

Where will you be soldering:

An important consideration for your soldering iron will be whether you'll be soldering comfortably at your work station or whether you'll be soldering in various locations.  Clearly, if you will be standing on a chair and reaching around a pipe through an opening you've cut in the drywall, you'll need a soldering iron that can be taken into that situation.   

And finally, tips sizes and tip shapes:

One way to consider soldering iron tips is like screwdrivers.  Again, depending on what you're doing, you'll find that certain tip sizes and tip shapes will be better than others.  The basic guideline is to pick a tip size that's only slightly smaller than the area you're soldering.  As for shapes, flat shapes tend to hold the solder bead better while conical shapes tend to draw the solder away.  When purchasing a soldering iron, some will bundle more tips than others. 

A sampling of soldering irons:

Reviews of the Top 5 Best Soldering Irons

American Beauty 3198-550 Heavy-Duty Soldering Iron

The American Beauty Heavy-Duty Soldering Iron is a perfect tool for industrial tasks that need joining metals of any size and thickness. This is not your conventional soldering iron that is only capable of plastering solder to metal—the American Beauty Heavy-Duty Soldering Iron is designed to handle heavy industrial metal work like joining metal seams as large as 26-gauge sheet metal, as well as other complex operations like joining of copper down spouts and flashings.

The American Beauty Heavy-Duty Soldering Iron is designed to make the process of soldering metal and performing heavy industrial work easier, and can be applied to a lot of processes in the industry. Here are the features that make the American Beauty Heavy-Duty Soldering Iron stand out from the others on the market:

Pros

  • The American Beauty heavy duty soldering iron was made to be health conscious with a heat shield provided to ensure the excess heat generated does not get to users.
  • This is a very durable soldering iron, and the best part is its parts are easily replaceable.
  • The yip of the American beauty heavy duty soldering pencil is designed for ease of use.
  • This soldering iron offers users a firm grip with its handle, which is made of hard wood.
  • High maximum tip temperature
  • This is one of the best soldering irons available and is very suitable for industrial use and private use alike.

Cons

The major disadvantage of the American Beauty heavy duty soldering iron is the pricing. It costs up to 7 times the amount of your average soldering pencil.

Weller PS1100K Super-Pro Soldering Iron

Having a soldering iron is good, but have you ever imagined something better than just a simple and regular soldering iron? Something that come packing a toolkit which has other tools included—extra tips and sponges? Yes, there’s one like that, it’s the Weller PSI100K Super-Pro Soldering Iron.

The Weller PSI100K Super-Pro Soldering Iron and its soldering iron kit have been specially designed for trained and untrained users alike to go through an easier and more comfortable process of soldering. No matter your level of expertise in handling brusque work tools like the soldering iron, the Weller PSI100K Super-Pro Soldering Iron will work just fine for you.

If you would like to know more about this tool, then you should further read on.

  • Apart from the Weller PSI100K Super-Pro Soldering Iron itself, there are other major things that feature in the kit which make it easy to use, and extends its functionality to an exciting level.
  • The Weller PSI100K Super-Pro Soldering Iron kit comes with one double flat tip that has a length of 2.4mm. This tip is called the PSI-6 and is useful in situations when small sizes or sheets of metal have to be soldered.
  • The Weller PSI100K Super-Pro soldering iron kit also comes with one double flat tip that has a length of 4.8mm. This particular tip is called the PSI-8 and is useful in situations where the PSI-6 is not applicable, that is when larger sheets of metal have to be soldered together.

Pros

  • The Weller PSI100K Super-Pro soldering iron is light weight and this makes it very easy to carry, and also makes it good for regular usage.
  • Also, it is easy to refill and use the soldering iron
  • The soldering iron heats up very fast and makes it easy to use
  • If you are doing small- or medium-scale soldering, then the Weller PSI100K Super-Pro soldering iron is a great choice because it can last for about two hours. A customer said the total burn time of the soldering iron is almost three hours because during the time he uses to separate and cut wires, the iron is still on and running.

Cons

The Weller PSI100K Super-Pro soldering iron has been known to handle mostly small- and medium-scale solders, so if you’re into large scale soldering, this isn’t the right tool for you to think of purchasing.

Hakko Dial-type temperature limiting soldering iron FX600

The Hakko Dial-type temperature limiting soldering iron is one soldering iron with a difference. Made by Japanese company Hakko Inc., the brand has been releasing top quality soldering equipment for over 50 years. The Hakko Dial-type soldering iron is well built and according to various users, is the next best thing to a soldering station.

The Hakko FX600 soldering iron heats up very easily and immediately, and utilizes the regular T18 tips. Aside from being thoroughly well made, users have praised the ability of the Japanese firm to create a very compact temperature control system on a small body.

Several users have praised its durability and long-lasting tendencies, citing it as a more powerful soldering iron compared to some of the most expensive soldering stations around. This Hakko dial-type temperature limiting soldering iron FX600 is best used to solder electronic components but can be glass materials.

The Hakko Dial type soldering iron works pretty well on lead-free solder and is great to use in fixing small electronics, soldering of IC/LED and PWB equipment among others.

Pros

  • The Hakko Dial-type temperature limiting soldering iron is sturdily built and made to last.
  • The Hakko FX600 is manufactured by a trustworthy and highly revered Japanese company.
  • It features an LED light which functions to show you different phases of the heat change, from cooling down to attaining the required temperature level, and finally to overheating, a unique addition to the Hakko FX600 soldering tool.
  • Hakko FX600 parts can be interchanged with those of the Hakko FX601, which are a higher capacity model, so you not only get higher capacity reachability, but also save cash which would have been used to upgrade your soldering iron.
  • The Hakko FX600 is priced reasonably.
  • This heat-limiting soldering iron is also very versatile and can be used for soldering and electronic repairs.
  • This Hakko FX600 dial-type temperature limiting soldering iron heats up easily—it usually takes less than 30 seconds to heat up enough to begin smelting and soldering.
  • The Hakko FX600 uses the common and popular T18 tips so even if you damage the tip, you can easily replace it.

Cons

  • The shipping period could be overbearing as it ships mostly from Japan.
  • A few users have complained that it doesn’t work really well for stained glass.
  • It doesn’t come with a soldering stand.

Weller W100PG heavy duty soldering iron

The Weller group has always made great soldering irons for small- and medium-scale usage, and the Weller W100PG heavy duty soldering iron is not an exception from the great collection of tools and machines they produce.

The Weller W100PG heavy duty soldering iron is an electric-corded machine that has to be connected to a power source to be able to use it.

The Weller W100PG heavy duty soldering iron is exceptional among contemporaries because it offers a high power capability of 100 watts and is compatible with a leaded process of up to 120 volts.

With a high wattage capacity, the W100PG aims to deliver a top quality soldering job. Worthy of note and of high importance are the reviews of satisfied owners of this soldering iron.

Different users from across the globe all have very positive ratings for this product, citing its durability, ease of use and compactness as its strong points.

The Weller W100PG not only does a proper job with metals, but also is very handy if you need to work on stained glass.

Pros

  • The Weller W100PG heavy duty soldering iron is not heavy so it can be used effectively without the struggle or stress of carrying a heavy machine.
  • This tool comes with three different types of tips which makes it even easier for people who are into soldering, as it reduces the chances of making mistakes due to the wrong heating temperature. The tips vary according to temperature transfer capability; they range across 600° Fahrenheit, 700° Fahrenheit and 800° Fahrenheit. The three tips also give a wider duty or job range.
  • It reaches the desired temperature fast as it takes about 110 seconds, which is relatively fast for a soldering iron.

Cons

  • One of the shortcomings of the Weller W100PG heavy duty soldering iron is that the temperature cannot be adjusted while soldering, so you need to know the right temperature it needs from the start.
  • Also, once in a while, your iron might drop in temperature and would take about a minute to regain proper heat.

Weller WP35 35-Watt Professional Soldering Iron

The Weller WP35 professional soldering iron is manufactured by a leading and well-known brand in the soldering equipment market since 1945. The company is not only recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the soldering equipment market, but also a strong force known in the advanced electronic rework and repair equipment market.

The company also deals with sophisticated industrial applications, and churns out numerous products for hobbyists and DIY specialists.

The Weller WP35 35-Watt professional soldering iron is a very long-lasting smelting device which users all over the world have praised for its durability seemingly lasting up to 40 years. The Weller WP35 35-Watt professional soldering iron is a general purpose soldering iron, so can be used for just about any soldering need.

It features a unique temperature-controlled tip with a magnetic shank added to the tip. This functions as a temperature regulator, keeping the temperature steady when working.

The Weller WP35 soldering iron has a 3 wire AC cord which is plugged in to a power source. Once connected, the soldering iron heats up pretty quickly, and users have said it does not overheat, even after several hours of use. The soldering iron comes with a chisel tip as well as a pencil tip which are capable of joining larger SMD works.

The advantage of not overheating is important if you are going to be working with a pencil tip, as some other types of soldering irons tend to overheat and melt away the pencil tips in hours. This Weller soldering iron, on the other hand, has been praised by users in the past for standing the test of time and not melting away like Radio Shack’s irons, among others.

Pros

  • The Weller WP35 35-watt professional soldering iron is one of longest lasting soldering irons on the market, usually lasting up to 40 years, according to users.
  • It is made by a well-respected brand on the soldering equipment market. The brand has been offering soldering and electronics equipment for 70 years.
  • The soldering iron is very comfortable to hold for long periods, as it is well balanced and doesn’t irregularly get hot.
  • The tips of the Weller WP35 are very durable and don’t melt away, like some other soldering irons after consistent use.
  • The WP35 soldering iron can house various other tips asides the ST3; tips of other ST series ST5 and ST8 can be used for various other soldering tasks.

Cons

  • The major disadvantage is that the Weller WP35 soldering iron doesn’t come with a stand, so you would have to buy or build your own stand if you plan on setting it down after use.
  • There’s also no sponge to clean the soldering iron after use, which is pretty important as well.