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Toolmonger reader Russell Jones, a mechanical engineering student at the College of New Jersey, took the time to review his new Weller digital solder station.  His verdict: it’s a quality piece of gear for high-end hobbyists and pros — especially if you’re planning on doing any surface-mount work.  Russell also found a $20 rebate from Weller — that’s still available – which brings the station’s price down to $110 or less.  That’s the best deal we’ve seen on it to date.

The WESD51 digital soldering station is temperature controlled — as opposed to wattage controlled like the cheapies — and offers a range of 350 to 850 degrees F, controlled by a knob and a digital LED temperature display.  One important tip, though: Russell recommends a smaller tip than the ETU he purchased for surface mount work.  There’s a lot to this pro-level station, so be sure and check out Russell’s review for the details. 

The $20 rebate comes directly from Weller (link below).  Street pricing for the station starts around $125 (pre rebate).

Weller WESD51 Review [RJB Labs]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What's this?]
$20 Rebate Form (Warning, PDF Link) [Weller]

 

17 Responses to Weller’s Digital Soldering Station: Reviewed And On Sale

  1. ned.ludd says:

    The first thing I look at when I see a new soldering station is the price of replacement tips. My current station is an older Hakko digital unit (929, I think) and each tip has it’s own heater element, which makes the price per unit a LOT higher than this Weller. If I wasn’t already set up with these kind of tools, this one would be on my list of tools to grab by the end of the year…

  2. Chris Ball says:

    I’ll second the review, I have had one of these for a couple years now, works great. Pretty similar fit and feel to the megabuck rework stations I have used in the past.

    The rebate on this unit seems largely to be one of the pretty much perpetual sort or at least every time I get a flyer from one of the electronics places around here this unit and some rebate has been mentioned, clear back to when I bought mine.

    Tip o’ the day, if you tend to leave the iron on but not in use for long periods the tip will stop tinning properly, if this happens pick up some tip tinner cleaner ala: http://www.computronics.com.au/multicore/ttc/ this stuff is cheap and one tiny tin of it will last basically forever and should pretty much resurrect your tips no matter how abused.

    By the by, 250 deg celcius seems to work best for most fine work for me although I tend to use silver solder so you might want to go up another ten degrees or so for straight tin lead.

  3. Hate to be a stickler, but could you fix my name? There’s two l’s in Russell. Thanks!… ;-)

  4. Charles Harris says:

    I used to use one of those crude iron that just plug in the wall with no adjustments whatsoever. Finally after ruining a number of parts due to overheating, I broke down and bought this model a year ago. The on comparison I can make is that I once drove a yugo and now I have a Cadillac. This thing heats up very quickly and the control over the temp is very handy.

  5. Christian says:

    I am a practicing EE with a penchant to bench work. I used to use one of these at work (and the previous versions, WES50 and WES51) for years (went through a number of pound rolls of 0.032″ solder) until I stepped up the the Metcal system. I can say that these are the real deal for doing quality soldering – anything less is basically a toy and not worth bothering with. If it isn’t thermostatically controlled, walk away. And get a few different tips and find the one that works best for you.

    There is no reason, if you’re going to be doing any soldering worth talking about, to scrimp on your iron. It would be like a painter using a 50 cent supermarket-stationary-aisle paintbrush. A soldering iron is how you talk to your work. When I was in school, so many students got completely fed up with their design projects during the soldering phase, because they used $5 irons. Or even $25 irons. They spent so much time fighting their tools – get the good stuff. The cheapies are like those hammers from ‘home handyman’ toolkits, where they’re made of softer metal than the nails.

    Weller knows what they’re doing, go for it. You have no idea what you’re missing if you’ve never used a good iron!

  6. Kurt Schwind says:

    Great review Russell. Like Charles, I had one that just plugged into the wall. I used it all throughout Electrical Engineering school, but it took a lot of patience and practice (which I was fortunate enough to get as I was working in a recording studio). I must have soldered 500+ XLR cables.

    I DID ruin a few IC chips though because I wasn’t able to control temp. On one project I borrowed a friends controllable one and I was amazed at how much easier it was. I know that Chuck and Sean will sometimes toss out the “You can get 15(!) cheapies for the cost of this one.” on some reviews , but sometimes quality is just worth every penny spent.

  7. Chuck Cage says:

    Russel(l): Of course! Done.

  8. Chuck Cage says:

    Kurt: Note we didn’t recommend cheap ones. I have one, and I hate it. Russell’s review caught my eye because I’m in the market for a decent one, and $100-$125 is right about in my range.

  9. Rob says:

    I have the wes50 the sam basic soldering iron with out the display
    I have to say it is well worth it

    I have a wep15 the 15watt well plug in and I have a well station may have been wld100 I can’t remember the magnetic temp contotrol system
    and that was nice but when I got asked to doa big project and I added this to the bill to get the job done do to my station had long since kicked the can
    and I all I had was the little 15watter I was amazed these wes50/51 irons are so nice to use

  10. ned.ludd says:

    One note about the tip cleaner mentioned above: it will not restore the _plating_ on the solder tip. High temperatures, not keeping the tip clean, or failing to keep it properly tinned will cause the plating on the tips to oxidize. Once the plating is gone, the tip is toasted, and the quality of your solder joints will suffer. This is also why using abrasives like steel wool or sandpaper on the tip is bad bad bad.

    This is the main reason why the availability of cheap replacement tips plays a big role in the overall value of a soldering iron… Tips aren’t supposed to last forever!

    Keeping several tips sized for different jobs is also the best way to get good results on a variety of projects. You don’t want to use that fine, pencil point tip on a huge solder lug! I always try to use the largest tip that is practical for the job. Bigger tips transfer heat more effectively (if they are in good condition and properly tinned) which often means you have to heat the joint for a shorter length of time. This can help save heat sensitive components, insulation on wires, and all the other things that will start to melt while you’re waiting for the solder to flow. There’s nothing worse than lifting a trace off a PCB or melting a lug out of the plastic body of a cheap (but irreplaceable) switch or potentiometer.

    That being said, Weller makes some quality stuff and you can generally source replacement tips for their irons from any of the big mail order distributors like Mouser or Digikey. If you’re buying a used iron, check this out first. This can be a great way to score a good unit at a great price, but finding out that there’s only one distributor that sells the tip you need for $25 each really sucks. DAMHIKT.

  11. Kurt Schwind says:

    Chuck,

    I wasn’t saying that on this post you’d recommend 15 cheapies. I’m just talking ‘in general’. You are exactly right, cheapies in this case just doesn’t cut it. There is a bigger gap in cheap to nice soldering stations than say ‘screwdrivers’.

  12. benjamen says:

    Being an EE I completely agree with Christian. For those of you who aren’t to familiar with soldering, a cheap iron is like the 4 for $5 Locking pliers to a real set of Vice Grips. But it’s a matter of what you are doing. If you are soldering a couple of wires together, cheapie irons are fine. If you are doing delicate surface mount or even alot of through hole work, do yourself a favor and get a better iron.

    I also second Metcal. The disadvantage is if you need to change temperature, you need to buy a new tip. I’ve never had much liking for Weller, but that’s because I’ve used Metcal.

    I fully recommend ebay for a good place to get a better Metcal and tips for a fraction of the price

  13. Gary Norman says:

    I’m a bench tech who has tried a bunch of soldering stations, and have never had any last over a month. A Weller sp-23, or the like lasts as long as anything, and other fixed wattage units are available if needed. I have had two of these bought for me by the management. Liked them for the 3 to 29 days they lasted. They just aren’t rugged, and cost too much to repair. I sure would like to find a temperature controlled soldering station that is rugged, as there are many uses that really need one.

  14. Gary, what are you doing to destroy your solder stations? I’m using an EDSYN Loner right now and it feels pretty well built, but I’m sure you could kill it if you tried. Plus, the price was right on my refurbished unit, $60 from EAE Sales.

  15. Bruce Sander says:

    The EDSYN 951SX temperature controlled soldering station is the most reliable, reasonably priced ($125) soldering station you’ll find on the market (and they are still made in the USA). EDSYN has the largest assortment of soldering tips available.

  16. Jack Needy says:

    I used one of these Weller soldering stations as an electrical technician repairing electrical components and some lite electronics repair, and I had the same unit with the same tip for over 4 years. Used it ever day. I even used it to burn out plastic from light plates with integral lamps which were embedded in the clear plastic light plate, then I would dip it in the little can of tip cleaner that I had glued to the top of the soldering station and proceed to replace the dozen or so lamps soldered into these light plates. Like one other person said, the little can of tip cleaner lasted forever. I remember hording such things as tip cleaner but the one can lasted so long that I didn’t really need to do that. I think that little can was about an inch in diameter and maybe a quarter inch thick or so. I think I finally did replace it but only because I had polluted it with plastic from the light-plate repair operation.

    However, I took a soldering course at work and became a certified IPC soldering specialists. We soldered EVERYTHING. You name it and we learned to solder it. Through hole, and every variation of surface mount. Trace repair. Through hole repair. We used the Metcal soldering station, including desoldering unit. The Metcal is as far ahead of the Weller 51, as the Weller is ahead of the cheap units. That being said, I just bought a Weller for home use. I wish I had a Metcal though. The guys who do the heavy hitting in the electronics shop at work do most of it with the Metcal. There is no substitute. They did have a special hot air unit for removal and replacement of larger ICs. That’s a pretty slick operation itself.

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