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A friend asked me today to recommend a decent low-buck soldering station, and I have to admit I was a bit stumped. I looked around online, and what you see above was the best one I found. But I’m far from the best judge when it comes to soldering irons. I have a cheap POS iron that I probably picked up from Radio Shack (for too much cash) years ago. So my question to you: Is the Weller pictured above a good recommendation?

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Well-known electronics tool manufacturer Weller offers a whole mini-website aimed at promoting their Zero-Smog campaign: a plea to you to stop breathing in the nasty stuff released in the air when you’re soldering. And even a quick look at the site shows that the contaminants you smell when soldering are truly hideous health-wise.

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Toolmongers who find themselves tackling electrical work on a regular basis are probably familiar with the six-dollar Radio Shack soldering iron, a plug-in hot stick without even an on/off switch. If you’re ambitious enough to tackle a large project like an entire automotive wiring harness, or just use your iron frequently, those get frustrating fast.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Weller’s WES51D digitally-controlled soldering station. The user can set the temperature (which is displayed on a bright three-digit display) with a simple dial, and the unit automatically maintains that target. As an added bonus, the iron stand has a slick little grooved sponge which makes tip cleaning a dawdle, and this feature is available on Weller’s full range of irons. There are four different models covering a wide price range, and all deliver even heat and top-notch construction. As usual, Amazon has excellent prices on these fine tools at around $118 for the kit.

Soldering Station [Cooper Hand Tools]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

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Amazon is offering a great deal on the Weller WES51 analog soldering station, at $86.  With variable output and a host of features, this fine unit will help out with all sorts of electronics projects.

Via Amazon [What’s This?]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

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Toolmonger has discussed the value of having a soldering iron in the shop, and many Toolmongers mentioned Weller as a good make to have on your bench. If you want to take that iron off the bench, Weller offers the ML500MP, a portable soldering pencil.

You fuel the piezo-ignition soldering iron with standard lighter butane. The adjustable flame allows you to set the tip to between 750 and 900 degrees. You can get up to 30 minutes of operation on a medium setting. And when you remove the tip, the ML500MP functions as a small torch.

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The friendly folks over at the Weller blog posted a great article today explaining what’s inside a soldering tip — and why.  Something I was surprised to learn: while copper conducts heat well, it doesn’t do so well holding up against tin — hence the layer of iron around the copper tip.  It seems as though the iron layer is the main factor determining the longevity of a tip.

If you spend any time at all with an iron in your hand, this is a must read.

The Architecture of a Soldering Tip [Weller Blog]

 

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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.

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Weller announced yesterday the release of two new 80W/24V products desgined to work with their exising power supplies: the WHP80 preheating plate (pictured) and the WSB 80 solder bath.

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We’ve written about a couple of electric cordless soldering irons, but if you look through the comments you’ll quickly notice that our readers almost universally prefer butane-power when it comes to portable soldering.  A number of them recommended Weller’s units (like the P2C pictured above).

The P2C reaches solder-melting heat in under a minute, and is adjustable between (the equivalent of) 25 and 75 watts of heat.  It can reach temperatures of up to 850 degrees C.

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The ColdHeat concept is great: it heats up and cools down instantly so a) you don’t burn yourself or the things around you, and b) it can run on batteries for quite a while.  We have one, but we’ve always been a little bit wary of the tool’s quality as the only place you could find them was at Harbor Freight and on late-night infomercials.

Now it appears that Weller’s decided to take the technology pro.

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