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.
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I tried to stop myself, I really did, but in the end I couldn’t resist and just had to put the BernzOmatic® QUICKFIRE® Torch in the Hot-Or-Not category. The recently-released and patent-pending QUICKFIRE® claims a 40% height reduction (compared to “standard” cylinder hand torches), and 30% faster soldering time (via the Ultra Swirl nozzle and the Max Power Propylene fuel in the QUICK-CONNECT gas cylinder). It has a trigger ignitor switch with lock button and adjustable flame control. The QUICK-CONNECT gas cylinder, with its Max Power fuel capable of producing a 3,600° F flame, will also fit all Propylene and MAPP gas hand torches on the market that use a CGA600 thread connection.
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TM has had recent posts about both soldering and desoldering. If you’re doing either, the Edsyn FXF15 FUMINATOR can help to remove the potentially toxic fumes. You can get one in blue, green, or red from Edsyn for $27 (a 75% discount according to their website). Shipping costs seem a bit high, but maybe you can find some other things you need to rationalize the shipping. This bench-top fume extraction system draws fumes away from the operator, and comes with front and rear charcoal-impregnated filters, a 12 VDC wall transformer, a single adjustable arm, and is ESD safe. The FXF15 weighs 1.09 lbs, and is 5.5″ W × 9″ H × 5.5″ H. It appears to have a fan system similar to the Edsyn FXF11 (available from Amazon), but without the solder-peg stand and dual adjustable arm.
Instructables has several DIY alternatives (here’s a filtered version, for example).
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.