In the fist soldering iron review at uCHobby we played with a low cost soldering station from MPJA. That iron cost $15 and was quite usable. Here is a quick run-down for this one.
The fist point is that while the iron claims it work on 220AC it also works fine on 110AC. I found it takes about 2 minutes to heat up. Perhaps it would heat up faster on 220. Honestly this was a mistake on my part, I totally missed the 220 spec until I tried it out.
- Cost: About ($10)
- Space Saving (save bench and tool box)
- Temperature Controlled
- Large wand (not as delicate in the hand as a Weller or Hakko)
- Bulky cord (not a supple as a top end tool)
- About 2 minutes to heat up (not a big deal, a Weller is ready in about 20 seconds)
- Two prong power connection means you have a separate ground lead. (Most irons have a three prong power connection so that the tip is grounded.)
- Takes a while to get to you (shipping from China)
The negatives are similar with the other inexpensive iron as well. They both suffer in the wand compared to a Weller or Hakko.
Overall the quality seems good. I will know better how well it works when I put it to the test of a few projects, will let you know.
The extra wire with the alligator clip is for grounding. The iron does not have a three pong power connection so you could do a static discharge from you to the board when you solder. To prevent this you can connect to ground on your board or bench. This could be an advantage, you might even be able to solder on an active circuit as the tip should be isolated when the ground clip is disconnected.
I will keep using my Hakko mostly because of the better wand and well I paid for it…
I don’t know if I like the see through nature of the wand. It’s nice that the “Heat-On” LED is easily seen, on the wand itself. But this plastic seems out of place on a soldering iron. It’s strong, but would melt so easy if touched with an iron.. Not really an issue for a home electronics bench.
Tip Fixer. This stuff is great. If your like me, you often forget to turn off your iron. The tips get dirty and stop working, you can scrub them and re-tin but it’s a pain and soon the tip is painful to use. This tip refresh does wonders to fix up a dirty tip. Just stick the hot iron tip in the paste and let it sizzle a bit, then re-tin and your tip is great again. I am glad to find this finally, have been hunting for this stuff for some time. Just found this at Banggood and I’m very hopeful that it works as well as my treasured tiny can of the stuff I’ve finally worn out after years of use.
Do you have a Hakko iron? Banggood has tips for a good price. I will do a review of these tips once I get some time with them. They look very good so far.
Want to get a Hakko? adafruit sells one for $110. I got mine there a few years ago, works great. Looks like they have done some improvements since I received mine.
Cheap Stuff at uCHobby?
I have to take a moment here and praise companies like adafruit, sparkfun, and the Maker shed. They have great products and do a lot for the maker community. Take a look around, especially at the tutorials at each of their sites. They don’t always have the lowest cost on things but they do put back into our community.
There are a lot of other similar companies, don’t mean to leave anyone out. I just shop at these place more often then not. Go ahead and plug the companies you think provide great products and give back to the community in the comments here. I will delete any obvious spam though…
I think the low cost tools reviewed in this and other post at uCHobby are fine for general hobby use or I would would not be featuring them. But, with that said, a serious maker should buy serious tools from providers like adafruit, sparkfun, and the Maker shed. They (we) are all in this to make money but they do give some back for the greater good. If you want to make things and need to sacrifice a bit for a great deal, then go ahead, competition is good.