Buyer's Guides Soldering Irons

Best Soldering Irons: Amazing Picks for 2020 & In-Depth Buyer’s Guide

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If you were to take apart any type of electronic device that came equipped with a circuit board, such as a computer, then you’ll find components that have been attached via soldering. This process involves joining electronic parts together by melting the solder around each of the connections. But finding the best soldering irons can be a challenge these days, since many of these kits are now sold online, giving potential buyers dozens of models to choose from.

Whether you’re new to soldering, or you have plenty of experience, finding a model that comes equipped with the type of durability and power you need won’t be easy. Fortunately, I’ve created this buyer’s guide, which lists all of the important components and features to look for in a top of the line kit. I’ve also included six of the leading products currently available, so you should have no trouble finding a set that will work with your skillset and budget. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of these products, complete with important information regarding standout features, how each model rated, and more.

Soldering Irons Comparison Chart

Product Adjustable
Temperature
Max Temp Wattage Rating
Vastar Soldering Iron


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Yes 480°60
Anbes Soldering Iron Kit


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Yes 450°60
Hakko Digital Soldering Station


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No 350°70
YIHUA Professional Digital Soldering Iron


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Yes 896°75
HANMATEK Digital Display Soldering Iron


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Yes 896°60
Weller Soldering Station


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No 900°40

Vastar Soldering Iron


Our Rating: (5/5)

This model offers precise temperature control and can produce a max temperature of four hundred and eighty degrees Celsius. The station is equipped with a variable power control knob that allows you to set the power as low as five watts, all the way up to sixty watts. The internal thermal ceramic heating element provides a faster heat-up time while giving your iron a longer lifespan. The adjustable temperature controls are perfect for a wide range of applications, whether you’re soldering electronic circuit boards or pipes. The host integration and soldering platform are beginner-friendly, so this system is perfect for soldering iron users of all skill levels.

Pros

  • Temperature adjustable
  • Power adjustable
  • Durable
  • Beginner-friendly

Cons

  • Cord is very short

Conclusion

This model comes with all the bells and whistles that many buyers are looking for. The adjustable temperature settings allow you to tweak the heat based on the application. This system comes with everything you’ll need to get started including an iron, power source, and cleaning sponge that will help you to keep the iron free from debris, stains, and rust.

Anbes Soldering Iron Kit Electronics


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model features a dual spring soldering iron holder, complete with a sponge and operates at sixty watts. The base is durable and secure, offering a much safer stand compared to what you’ll find in low-priced systems. This model comes with five tips, a stand, an iron, tin wire tube, desoldering pump, and a sponge. This system features a durable design and an iron that’s impact and heat-resistant. It offers a max temperature of four hundred and fifty degrees Celsius, with a faster than average heat-up time.

Pros

  • Includes several extras
  • Faster than average heat-up time
  • Durable stand
  • Sixty watts

Cons

  • Many of the included extras are not pro-quality

Conclusion

This is a fourteen-in-one soldering kit that comes with a variety of extras including a wire stripper cutter, tweezers, a soldering iron, tin wire, extra tips, and more. The fact that it offers variable temperature control also makes this model beginner-friendly, and a great choice for a variety of applications. The durable stand, combined with the top of the line tips, and the highly adjustable design also make this system a good choice for the pro in search of a system they can rely on for heavy-duty use.

Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model offers excellent thermal recovery compared to other models in this price range. It also comes with the popular T18 series tip, which offers top of the line heat conductivity. The iron itself is comfortable, easy to hold, and features the type of lightweight design that makes it perfect for longer use. This iron allows you to solder at a lower set temperature, which will reduce thermal impact on the tip and oxidation, which can significantly shorten the tip’s lifespan.

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Includes T18 tip
  • Better than average thermal recovery
  • Low price

Cons

  • Does not offer variable temperature control
  • Lower max heat

Conclusion

This model offers a lower max heat compared to competing models in this price range, which can make it a poor choice for professional use. However, the many built-in safety features, the top of the line tip, and the lower price make this set a better choice for the beginner in need of a more forgiving soldering iron they can practice with.

YIHUA 939D+ Professional 75W Digital Soldering Iron Station


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The YIHUA soldering iron is pro-quality all the way, operating on seventy-five watts of power and featuring a temperature-controlled digital station. This model is top of the line and includes a program that cycles every twenty milliseconds in order to read the temperature in real-time and change the heat accordingly. The temperature ranges from three hundred and ninety-two degrees up to eight hundred and ninety-six degrees, providing excellent temperature stability. This set comes with one pair of tweezers, brass tip cleaner, five soldering tips, a sponge, and the soldering iron.

Pros

  • Excellent temperature control
  • Durable
  • Pro-quality
  • Plenty of free extras

Cons

  • Not beginner-friendly

Conclusion

This is definitely a pro-quality model, which also means it’s not the best choice for the beginner in search of a system that comes with intuitive controls. While the system does offer excellent temperature stabilization and some great extras, this is not a toy or a model that should be used by the inexperienced person interested in learning how to solder.

HANMATEK Digital Display Soldering Iron Station


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model features a rapid heat design that allows the iron to reach the perfect temperature in just six seconds. It has a max temperature of eight hundred and ninety-six degrees, so you know this model is designed for pro use. The station has a large LED display, which will allow you to keep a close eye on the temperature. The internal thermal ceramic heating element is designed for improved heating efficiency and has a high durability rating. The kit includes the soldering station, five tips, iron holder, solder roller holder, sponge, and the iron itself.

Pros

  • Heats up in six seconds
  • Includes several free extras
  • Large LED digital display
  • Variable temperature control

Cons

  • Not beginner-friendly

Conclusion

This is a system that’s designed for the pros. It offers a faster than average heat up time, precise temperature control, a durable design, and a thirty-day money-back guarantee that will allow you to return the system within the one month period for a full refund, if you’re not satisfied, no questions asked. This is a great buy for your home workshop or on the job use and it’s available at a price that’s reasonable.

Weller WLC100 40-Watt Soldering Station


Our Rating: (4/5)

This model by Weller is one of their top-selling models. This is a high-performance soldering station that’s able to reach a higher temperature of nine hundred degrees, so you can use it for a variety of projects. The variable power control allows you to adjust the power from as low as five watts up to forty watts. Granted, this model doesn’t offer the highest power wattage rating, especially compared to other pro-quality models that operate on sixty watts, but it does offer a reliable performance. However, considering the lower wattage, I would not recommend this model for certain applications such as pipe soldering.

Pros

  • Includes several extras
  • Can reach a temperature of nine hundred degrees
  • Variable power from five watts up to forty watts
  • Low price

Cons

  • Does not offer variable temperature control
  • Low wattage

Conclusion

This set comes with an ST3 iron-plated tip that’s certified, a built-in soldering iron holder, a cleaning sponge, a safety rest, and an iron that features a cushioned grip that’s designed to promote user comfort and longer use. Since this model does not offer the variable temperature control and higher wattage needed for tougher applications, I wouldn’t recommend it for pro use, however, it will be a great addition to any home workshop.

Soldering Irons Buyer’s Guide

This buyer’s guide will discuss many of the must-have features this soldering irons have to offer, including variable temperature and power options, what you need to look for in a model that’s beginner-friendly or designed for pro use, and a model that comes with all the accessories you need to get started soldering right out of the box. Since there are so many sets available these days, choosing a system that comes with precise temperature control and higher power options can be hard to find. Fortunately, this guide has got you covered, so you’ll have no problem finding a model that comes loaded with all the right features you need to get the job done.

Benefits of Using Soldering Irons

fixing a circuit

Electronics technicians, jewelers, and metal workers are familiar with soldering, which involves a metal alloy that has a low melting point that can be utilized to fuse metal together. The soldering iron is often the tool of choice for melting solder, although you will also come across soldering pencils and guns. All of these soldering devices are designed with heated pointed tips. A plumber can use one to fuse copper piping, while the jeweler will use one to create a unique, delicate piece of jewelry. Essentially, the solder’s composition will vary depending on the application. In the electronics industry, tin is one of the prime components of the solder. A jeweler will use a solder that contains a large silver content. There are basically a number of benefits you can enjoy from learning how to solder and purchasing a starter kit that comes with everything you need to get the job done.

  • For flashing, a roofer will use solder in order to fuse galvanized metal. They may also use it to fuse copper components to roofs. Soldering irons designed for roofing usually come with a much broader tip because it has the ability to retain heat in high wind conditions, heats up quickly, and doesn’t need to be as accurate as the solder gun used for more delicate applications.
  • If your home has metal gutters, then it contains sections that have been soldered. The materials and tools are similar to the type of soldering iron that’s used by roofers. These soldered joints are considering permanent and leakproof.
  • In the past workers who created fine stained glass windows used lead solder. In modern times, solders that are lead-free are more commonly used for both mosaic sculptures and stained glass windows. For this delicate art, you only need to use a soldering iron at one hundred watts, a glass grinder, pliers, and a glass cutter.
  • In the electronics industry, soldering is always used and it works to guarantee contact between a couple of wires. Basically, it’s main use it to establish electrical continuity, but it can also be utilized for its ability to lock down the wires on a circuit board. Since these joints are very small, a soldering pen is also used, in addition to a soldering iron.
  • While the soldering technique is not tough enough to use for major engine repair, in the auto repair industry, it’s often utilized to tighten joints, smooth rough surfaces, and fill irregular cavities.
  • Irons, guns, and pencils are all great choices for home use. Many of these models have tips that can be used with a propane torch. The right type of tool will depend on the specific application, however, certain tasks, such as circuit board repairs and joining wires can require precise control and varying levels of heat.
  • A jeweler will use an iron or pen, one that comes equipped with interchangeable tips, in addition to torches that burn butane or propane. The solder that’s used will have a high silver content. The jeweler will usually use a borax flux in order to minimize metal oxides that tend to form when heat is applied to metal. The flux is crucial when it comes to any type of solder job.

Soldering Iron Processes

As you know by now, soldering involves the process of bonding metal pieces together. This is accomplished by using a separate alloy, referred to as solder, between a couple of parts that need to be bonded. The solder is heated with a pen, torch or gun, in order to melt it. As it cools down, it will become very hard and will form a bond between the two pieces.

There are three standard soldering classifications:

Soft

Soft soldering is by far the most commonly used process, especially in the plumbing and electronics industries. This technique will create a type of electrical connection, bonding electronic components on a circuit board. However, it’s also used to join connectors and copper pipes. The solder that’s used for this process usually consists of tin and another type  of metal. For plumbing, flux, which is an acid substance, is also used in order to ensure a tighter fit. The soft soldering process will utilize gas-powered or electric irons.

Hard

This process will create a much stronger bond than what you’ll get with the soft soldering process. It also relies on a much hotter temperature to melt the soldering material. The type of material used in the hard soldering process is typically silver or brass, which normally requires the use of a blowtorch. The metal that’s bonded is referred to as the base metal. This metal is heated up to the melting point at which the silver or brass melts and creates an incredibly strong joint as it cools down. While silver can melt at a much lower temperature compared to brass, it’s an expensive material. However, it’s commonly used when joining pieces of brass or copper.

Brazing

Brazing is a process that involves solder material that will melt at a higher temperature compared to hard and soft soldering. This process is very similar to hard soldering since the pieces of metal that are bonded are heated, instead of being melted, during the process. Once you have heated up the base metals, the solder material, which is referred to as brazing filler metal, is placed between the surfaces and will melt instantly. The filler materials will bond the joints that are between the base metals using a process called capillary action.

Types of Soldering Irons and Equipment

microchip

There are many variations of the standard soldering iron. These tools can come in the form of a pen, iron, or gun. The iron is the most commonly used tool and it’s designed with an end piece that’s shaped very much like the tip of a pencil. During the soldering process, the tip will heat up in order to melt the solder. The gun is a much larger device and comes equipped with a handle that’s used to grip it. The gun features a tip that’s much larger than what you’ll find on a standard iron. Torches can also come into play for certain types of soldering applications, such as when bonding copper to a piece of pipe. While the torch definitely lacks the precision that the gun and iron offer, it’s definitely a must-have for larger jobs, whereas the iron or gun is a better choice for more delicate projects, such as when soldering electronic connections.

The good thing about learning how to solder is the fact that you don’t need a lot to get started. Below I’ll outline the basic tools and materials you will need for most of your soldering projects.

Iron

The soldering iron is a type of hand tool that will plug right into a standard outlet. This tool will heat up in order to melt solder. It’s considered one of the most important tools that’s used in the soldering process, however, it can come in both the gun or pen form. Beginners will be better off using the pen since it offers more control and is available in a fifteen to thirty-watt range. Most types of irons will come with interchangeable tips that you can use for different applications. When using an iron, you’ll need to take extra safety precautions since it can heat up to over eight hundred degrees.

Station

A soldering station is considered more advanced than the iron and it’s essentially a standalone pen. If you’re planning on doing plenty of soldering then a station is a great choice since it offers more control and flexibility, making it a more beginner-friendly option as well. The biggest benefit that comes with this type of soldering tool is the precise temperature control. This makes a station a better choice for a wider range of projects. Additionally, it can also provide a much safer workspace since some systems will come equipped with top of the line temperature sensors, password protection, and alert setting options.

Tips

At the end of an iron, you’ll find a tip, which is an interchangeable part. There are several different types of tips to choose from and they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, each of which has an important purpose. The most common tips used are designed for electronic connections and includes the chisel tip and the conical tip.

Conical

The conical tip is used for electronic connections and features a very fine, precise tip. It’s pointed end is able to deliver a concentrated amount of heat to a specific point, without impacting any surrounding areas.

Chisel

This tip is often relied upon to handle soldering large components or wires, due to its flat tip.

Other Features to Look for

working on circuit board

Now that you know there are a variety of different types of soldering irons to choose from, there are some other important features you should take into consideration before you choose a set that’s right for you, based on the intended application, budget, and power needs.

Cordless

There are some models that feature a cordless design. This makes the iron highly portable, which can make it more convenient to use. A cord can restrict your movement, which is why some buyers will go for this more flexible option. Keep in mind, a cordless model doesn’t offer the same type of power that a corded model does and can. Because of this, many seasoned iron users will pass this option by, in favor of more power. For the crafter, a cordless model can be a great option since many crafting tasks do not require the same type of power that’s needed for soldering pipes or electronic connections.

Temperature Precision

Modern soldering irons allow you to precisely control the temperature, based on the application. Now, you can easily adjust and monitor the temperature as needed. If you’re a beginner, then choosing a model with this feature will be important, although the experienced soldering iron user can also appreciate temperature control, since it allows them to work with a wide range of base metals, with total control over soldering temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Good Soldering Iron for Electronics?

This is a great question, and one most beginners have. If you need a soldering iron specifically for use on electronics, then you’ll want to shop around and look for one that offers twenty watts to sixty watts. However, it’s also common to use models that offer fifty watts, which will provide the type of heat that’s needed to solder on circuit boards. Keep in mind, for this specific type of application, a model with a higher wattage in the forty-watt to sixty-watt range will be the best choice.

How Do You Maintain a Soldering Iron Tip?

Before you clean the tip of the soldering iron, give it time to cool down completely, usually about fifteen to twenty minutes. Make sure the device has been switched off. Once it’s had time to cool off, you can wipe the iron off using a sponge that’s sulfur-free and damp. If you notice that the tip has any type of stain or rust, then you can use a damp piece of steel wool and carefully scrub the surface.

Why is My Soldering Tip Melting?

The higher the temperature used in solder, the speedier oxidation starts to form. When you solder at a temperature higher than eight hundred and fifty degrees, the tip will oxidize at a much faster rate than if you soldered at seven hundred degrees. You can adjust the temperature of the iron to the lowest setting that’s needed to melt the solder and it will still produce the same type of results, it will just take slightly longer, however, you’ll save plenty of wear and tear on the tip.

How Long Should a Solder Tip Last?

With proper usage and the use of the right temperatures, there’s no reason that the tip shouldn’t last for several years if you purchase a high-quality one. If you purchase the cheapest tip you can find, then it may only last a few weeks, depending on the application. Obviously, investing in a high-quality tip will allow you to get more usage out of it and can save you money in the long run.

Final Thoughts

These days, now that the best soldering irons are so readily available, there’s no reason why you have to pay the high prices that most repair shops charge. Learning how to solder also allows you to get truly creative in your workshop, adding metal accents to your latest art project, or by creating your own unique piece of jewelry. This buyer’s guide, and the included products on my top six list, will help you choose the right set, based on your budget, intended application, and skill level.