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TM has covered just about all aspects of soldering, desoldering, solder fumes, and the like, but the Make blog recently reported on soldering workshops conducted by Jimmie P. Rodgers. His blog has tool suggestions for soldering, or for those wanting to run similar workshops. One of the things he mentions — and uses in his workshops — is a $15 iron from MPJA that has temperature control (800° F max.; 5W to 50W adjustability), a built-in stand, and inexpensive (< $2) replacement tips.

Jimmie notes that it’s not a top-of-the-line iron, but it doesn’t cost much, and he’s never had to replace a tip in the dozen or so units he uses for workshops.

It certainly looks like a good deal. Have any Toolmongers used this iron? What did you think?

By the way, MPJA appears to have a variety of reasonably-priced equipment and electronics.

Soldering Setup for Workshops [Jimmie P Rodgers]
Mini Solder Station [MPJA]

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12 Responses to Soldering (Again)

  1. Simon says:

    Having bought many solder stations both cheap and not so cheap, this one looks like good value for the money. The level adjustment (probably not continuous for that price) is key to not burning out things when learning.

    It appears to be a knock off of Weller’s cheapo model:

    But if you solder much you will be happy to pay $100 for one with variable adjustment, a lighter wand and more flexible cable. The built in temp regulator on the higher end models are nice when working on many connections at a time also.

    Toolmonger types who need to solder larger connections in colder weather will want more wattage also.


  2. Mike says:

    I haven’t tried it, but at that price I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot. That’s only three solder tips for my current station.

  3. Josh says:

    I have bought 30 or so of these for dorkbot and 911 Media Arts in Seattle. They are great for occasional workshops and student use, but I would not get one for my personal iron. The tips DO wear out and pretty quickly too, especially when the folks using them don’t wipe’n’tin often enough. I am still not convinced that the temperature control is worth it, but it is a good deal just for the iron, sponge holder and stand.

  4. techieman33 says:

    This sucks, I paid $35 for that same iron on ebay a few months back. I’ve been happy with it for the once or twice a month I use it.

  5. Cameron says:

    I bought one from MCM Electronics, imprinted with their house brand, Tenma, for about the same price. It has worked very well for me. Definitely a good bargain.

  6. B. Foo says:

    Is this the orange Weller just rebranded? I have the Weller and I love it. I wonder if these cheaper tips will work with it….

  7. Orpheus says:

    I bought this same soldering iron as the Stahl STSSVT at parts-express.com last year ($10 IIRC, but it’s been on sale for $12 continuously since then). I was doing a review of inexpensive soldering irons for beginners, and this one really came out very well for performance and value, just a wee bit less power [slower heat up and top temperature] than some others I compared. I’d recommend getting the $5 4-tip kit at the same time. It’s a bargain.

    Simon wondered if it was continuously adjustable. I took mine apart: it’s a thyristor (lighting dimmer) circuit, hence continuous. Curiously, the cooling vents lead into an empty chamber (the actual electronics are mounted to the back of the knob), but that’s a plus, in my book. You an drill holes in the top to use that chamber to hold tips, etc. or cut it carefully with a Dremel to turn it into a closed storage compartment.

    I’m not sure that the ceramic coating helps the iron in actual use, but it does seem to keep solder off the untinned part of the tip to limit oxidation

  8. Mark says:

    Don’t buy one of these.
    It’s not “temperature controlled”.
    It’s just a power control, the tip temperature will still drop every time you touch it to something to solder and rise when you pull it back off.

    This isn’t significantly better than a cheapo pencil iron.

    MPJA has an actual temperature controlled iron for $40. (A Hakko knockoff)

    Or you could get a real Hakko for $80 and be assured of the availbility of tips.

  9. Orpheus says:

    Mark is absolutely right. I should have mentioned that. It is a power control and not a temperature control — and that’s a huge step down. I was rather disappointed about that fact when I disassembled it — but I got over it, because I decided its features were a real bargain. I doubt that the $15 MPJA iron *pictured* and recommended (i.e. the subject of this blog entry) is temperature controlled. In fact, it is exactly identical in appearance and in “regular price” to the Stahl on perpetual discount for $12 at parts-express.

    But I’m heading to the MPJA site to order/test the $40 iron Mark mentions. I can use pretty much anything reasonable (even of SMD) after 30+ years as a hobbyist and sometimes instructor (starting at age 9), but I find true temperature-controlled irons a huge boon, especially to those with less experience, or less constant use to keep their instincts/habits in practice.

    I have good Hakko air and conductive iron stations. They are great, but many people don’t need/benefit from them for occasional use. Very experienced users can do SMD with a $5 DealExtreme 40 Watt iron (i just did, earlier this evening) A $15 harbor Freight Motor control or $8 lighting dimmer can do a lot to improve a cheap iron *if* it has some excess power when operated at full current — and 40W is overkill for either through-lead or (especially) SMD work. 15-25W is fine, without a controller.

  10. Victor says:

    I’ve always wondered how much difference there is in soldering units. You look at the multiple models in the store and just think about what you want to do. I haven’t moved past small electronics, so my 15 watt model does just fine.

  11. Mark says:

    Actually, you spend more money to do “small” electronics than big stuff.
    If you want to solder small (0.020″ by 0.040″) components you will see the use for a nice expesive iron that doesn’t overheat the parts.

    For real work, I use Metcal. ($1000) But for a home rig, a basic Hakko setup with a good variety of tips can do a lot.

    With an actual temperature controlled station, you can have 100 Watts at the ready for that big component, but it will idle at a much lower wattage. Think of it like a cruise control on a car, actively maintaining the same speed, vs. locking the throttle in a fixed position and letting your speed fluctuate wildly as you go up and down hills.

    If all you do is the occaisonal bit of messing around, I would stick with a cheap pencil iron until you’re ready to step up.
    (As soon as you plan to install 100 parts on a board, it’s time to get a real station.)

  12. Paul says:

    I have an iron that looks almost identical to that one, though it doesn’t have the rocker switch, but it has identical specs, and I’m sure its internally identical.

    Its a terrific value, hot enough to work well, and the built in holder is the nicest feature.

    The only thing is that the iron doesn’t get THAT hot. I haven’t ever had a situation where I didn’t have the thing turned up all the way, so the temperature dial isn’t really necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to have it just in case.

    All in all a great iron for DIY electronic soldering.

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