Soldering Station Guide: Weller, Metcal, Tenma & Hakko Reviews

A soldering station is a bit more than just a soldering iron.  While a soldering iron is one component, it also includes at least a power station.  The power station can give you the option of controlling temperature or power (therefore controlling temperature) to the soldering iron.  A soldering station that controls temperature will have a sensor that will heat the soldering iron to a set temperature, and then maintain that temperature under use, or rest.  A soldering station that controls power will simply control the wattage going to the soldering iron.  It will not vary based on the use of the soldering iron.  Temperature-controlled soldering stations are more expensive, as there is more circuitry involved.  The simpler temperature control uses a thermostat, commonly place inside the tip of the iron, which turns the power on or off to maintain a constant temperature.  A more complicated (and more expensive) soldering station will use a microprocessor to adjust power to the heating element.  Another way to control temperature is through a magnetic tip.  The tip will lose magnetism at a certain temperature, and fall away from the heating element.  It will cool until it regains the magnetic properties, and pull itself in contact with the heating element, causing it to warm again.  The problem with this system is that it operates at one temperature, and is not adjustable.  Yet one more method of maintaining a constant temperature in the tip is to pass high-frequency AC current through the tip.  Magnetic physics will cause the current to pass through only the points where the tip is below the determined temperature, heating it up.

Weller Soldering Station

Weller is a well-known, well respected name in soldering, and has been for years.  Buying a Weller soldering station has meant that you have purchased long-lasting quality and great workmanship.  The new WX 2 control unit is another milestone in innovative solutions by Weller.  It is a creation developed from ideas and suggestions from the customers, making it one of the best soldering stations ever created.  Soldering stations reviews have listed it as one of the easiest soldering stations to use, and state that once you have used one, you will not want to use any other.  The touchscreen is extremely responsive, and the interface is intuitive and simple to use.

Metcal Soldering Station

Weller isn’t the only company with a great reputation in soldering.  The new MX-5000 is a Metcal Soldering Station that answers right back with increased productivity and loads of new features.  Metcal has been listed in a great number of soldering station reviews, and is one of the top companies in the world for developing quality and innovation.  The MX-5000 has added more power (almost twice of the previous model), improved ergonomics through a newly designed hand-piece that will enhance dexterity and reduce fatigue, and greater process control.

Tenma Soldering Station

Tenmas has developed a low cost station that is perfect for occasional use, and is being used in classrooms all over the world.  It is the model 21-7945.  It operates at 50 watts, and is designed for a small footprint and durability.  A newer company, Tenmas has been building a reputation of durable, inexpensive soldering supplies built to last.  They began in 1984, and have had the same ownership ever since.  They take pride in their customer service and relationships with their customers.  The crew that builds Tenma Soldering Stations has been handpicked to provide you with the best customer service and insure the highest quality products.

Hakko Soldering Station

Hakko has a 50 year reputation of producing the best soldering stations, and desoldering tools, as well as rework stations and a variety of accessories and equipment for industrial and hobby use.  In soldering station reviews, the words “reliability”, “value”, and “quality service” come up often.  Although not a commonly known as the Weller name, Hakko is rapidly becoming a well-respected and known name among the electronic community.

Solder Rework Station

A solder rework station takes the soldering station one step further, in that it will also include a hot air gun and sometimes vacuum attachment designed to remove old solder from circuit boards.

Amazon.com Products

The most popular soldering station found on Amazon.com is the Weller WES51.  It is an analog soldering station that includes the power unit, soldering pencil, stand and sponge.  It is a very basic adjustable temperature station designed for continuous production.  It works well for rework and repair of through hole SMT boards, or most ground planes and multi-layer boards.  The temperature lockout keeps the temperature from being raised higher than what has been specified for the board or component.  For only $83.55, this inexpensive system is suitable for most soldering applications.  To help reserve the tips, save power, and for safety, the power station will shut down after 99 minutes of inactivity.  The solder pencil is a slim design to be comfortable and help reduce fatigue with prolonged use.  It features a silicone rubber cord that cannot burn for safety.  The temperature is adjustable from 350-850 degrees, and is accurate within nine degrees.  The system is designed for quick heat-up and temperature recovery to ensure consistency in your soldering tasks.

The customers who review this station feel that it is a great buy, reliable, and performs well, even under constant, and repetitive uses.

The next most popular station sold on Amazon.com is also a Weller.  It is the model WLC100 Soldering Station.  It is not designed for constant or heavy use, but rather for the hobbyist and occasional use.  This simple, easy to use model sells for just $41.49.  It features variable power control from 5-40 watts.  The quality pencil iron comes with a cushioned foam grip for comfort.  This model is designed for years of use, as is evident by the manufacturer’s 7 year warranty.

The customer who has reviewed this station find that it works well, heats up quickly, and is obvious that it is built with the quality workmanship Weller is known for.

The final soldering station I wish to review is the X-Tronic #4040.  It is a digital hot air rework and soldering station.  It is designed to be ESD safe.  When you buy this unit from Amazon.com, you not only get the station, but 4 hot air gun tips, 10 soldering tips, an extra hot air heating element as well as an extra heating element for the soldering gun.  This list price is $259.99, which is a great price already for this versatile full rework station, but when you buy from Amazon.com, you can get this at an amazing $139.80.  The manufacturer is so confident in the quality construction of this unit that they have given it a full 1 year warranty that states that if anything goes wrong in the first year they will repair or replace it free of charge….period.

The reviewers of this station love it, and recommend it to anyone needing a rework station.  They found the hot air gun to work beautifully, melting the solder quickly and easily.  The soldering iron heats quickly, and maintains heat perfectly.  They write that the support is just as high quality as the station itself.

Summary

Soldering stations are the preferred method when it comes to producing professional solders, particularly on circuit boards.  The adjustable temperature will help prevent burning boards or damaging components while installing them and the de-soldering abilities of a soldering rework station is an absolute necessity when repairing or rebuilding boards.  Stick to the brands that you have read about here, and you are assured quality from a reputable company that provides excellent customer service after the sale.

 

 

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