We were brought up with soldering irons and solder guns in our house. Our father was always tinkering around with electronics and we eventually got into remote control cars and planes which meant we were constantly using a soldering iron. The solder tools are still pretty basic after nearly 30 years and fairly easy to use. Many hobbyists use a Weller soldering iron on most projects since they do have the best products on the market. Black and Decker and Wall Lenk offer a few alternatives, but soldering iron reviews point all consumers to the Weller line almost every time. In talking to local hobby shop owners, we found they recommend buying the Weller soldering station more than any other. Which soldering gun is best? How much do soldering irons cost? These and many more questions will be answered down below.
Buying Guide - Let's start with some basics on a soldering iron or gun. They are used to join metal components (often wires) with a substance called solder which is just a tin and lead alloy mixture. The solder gun heats up the tip and the solder is then melted so that it can be placed on the materials it will eventually hold together. You will find that soldering tools often range in wattage from 15 up to 300. The ones with lower wattage power are the soldering irons and the higher wattage tools are referred to as the soldering guns. The vast majority of soldering irons are of the electric kind and a few run on butane. The soldering guns have a pistol shape (hence the name) and tend to be 75 watts or more. The higher the wattage means your soldering iron or gun can handle larger projects that take more time to finish. Experts recommend that you use a lower wattage soldering iron (15 to 30 watts) to take on projects with circuit boards or electronics since the higher wattage tools can actually harm the materials. Those that work with materials like stained glass typically use soldering guns with 80 to 100 watts of power. Some plumbers use the solder guns with 200 watts or more of power. We find that Weller WLC100 Soldering Station is something that most homeowners would be happy with since the average project falls into its capabilities. The soldering guns that have a trigger control and allow varying wattage outputs are the best for DIYer's. Soldering iron reviews can be found online at sites like Dansdata.com, eHam.com, Radio Shack, and Applefritter.com. They cover all the major brands but mostly focus on the Wellar soldering equipment since it is the best in the industry. You can browse all the top selling soldering irons, guns, and solder stations online here.
Best Soldering Iron:
RECOMMENDED - For the hobbyist the Weller WLC100 Soldering Station For Hobbyist And Diyer is a good "value buy" at around $40. Features include variable power control from 5 to 40 watts, on/off switch with a "power on" indicator light, ST3 iron-plated copper tip, UL listed, and a cushioned foam grip. The lightweight pencil iron comes with a 7 year warranty and the heating element is replaceable. Owners say the power controls are easy to adjust and it's easy to use overall. The negative reviews we found for this product tended to come from individuals that expected more and in that case we suggest the soldering guns and stations listed below. The Weller WLC100 is considered a basic soldering iron for light home use.
Sometimes buying an entire kit is the best way to go. We RECOMMEND the Weller D550PK 120 Volt Professional Soldering Gun Kit 260/200 Watts which is loaded with goodies. The kit contains the D550 solder gun, 1 smoothing tip, 1 solder tip, 1 cutting tip, flux brush, a coil of lead free solder, and a soldering aid tool. The fingertip trigger allows you to go from low (200 watts) up to high (260 watts) so you are always in control. The pistol style grip is comfortable to hold and easy to use. Owners appreciate the twin lights on the D550 soldering gun so they can see their work when soldering in dark areas. Also, the Weller soldering gun heats up in about 6 seconds making quick work of any project. All 9 reviews on Amazon gave it 5 of 5 stars and I have used this model for years with fellow hobbyist friends of mine. Owners call it the "perfect solder gun" and "works great on auto wiring soldering". Another option is the Weller 8200PK 120 Volt Universal Soldering Gun Kit 140/100 Watts which is very similar to the D550PK kit yet with lower wattage output. With the 8200PK the range in watts is from a low of 100 to a high of 140. Reviews are still good for this model, although a few owners question the design of the trigger and the heating tip durability. You can view all the most popular soldering guns here.
Soldering Iron Station:
Looking for a quality soldering iron station - we RECOMMEND the Weller WES51 - an analog soldering station that features a soldering pencil, stand, sponge, and power unit. The WES51 gets excellent reviews from those that use it weekly or only periodically. The Weller soldering station is designed "for continuous production soldering" per their website. Great for repair or rework of multi-layer boards, ground planes, or SMT boards. To save power and the life of the tip, the unit will automatically shut down after 99 minutes of inactivity. Heats up quickly and temperature is adjustable from 350 to 850 degrees fahrenheit. Owner comments include "nothing better than a Weller" and "great analog soldering iron". There is a digital version available called the Weller WESD51 Digital Soldering Station although reviews are less favorable for this model and it costs a little more as well.