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Best soldering iron

I've been using a cheap pistol grip type soldering iron (no trigger - you plug it in, its on, you unplug it, its off) for stuff like replacing P/S fans and wiring case fans.  I tell you that, so you know the thickness of the wire I'm soldering.  I find this cheap soldering iron to be barely adequate for the job.  It takes about 20-30 seconds to heat up this type of wire so its hot enough to accept the solder.  I want to try recapping the bad motherboards (of which I have a ton), but this thing is simply inadequate for the job.  I can't spend 5 or 10 minutes desoldering each capacitor (BTW-one of my buddies has done this and advises you use a solder wick rather than a solder sucker)!  So my question is whats a good soldering iron for work like replacing P/S fans AND desoldering electronic components.
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JohnnyCanuck
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JohnnyCanuck
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wordartistCommented:
Check out the Cold Heat

http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/tools/69d3/

Pretty inexpensive, and works fairly well.  I probably wouldn't recommend it if you are going to do heavy work, but what you described isn't tremendously heavy work.  
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
Yah I've seen that on TV.  Seems like a gimick to me.  4x1.5 volts batteries does not equal 110volts+amps to drive it.  Theres no way that thing works in real life like it does on TV.
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GinEricCommented:
Weller, hands down!

The soldering iron for a sensitive motherboard has temperature control, and many other features, including various tips, base, sponges, instructions.

The proper iron for a motherboard is in the $600.00 to $700.00 range.

It is a pencil iron, usually no trigger nor buttons.  The key is in your technique and abilities too.  A wick is useful many times, but often cannot get as much as a good solder sucker.

The solder must melt completely, and be drawn out as a liquid.  Most irons are not fine enough to do this.  Which is why a pencil iron is used.  Problems include overheating and lifting the land, etc..  Pins or wires should first be moved to the center of the hole, "clicking," before an attempt is made to remove or pull them out.  They must be free and not still soldered to the land, which will cause the land to come off of the surface.

Even in power supplies, the lands will come off if too much heat is applied.  The proper pencil iron concentrates the heat, whereas a gun spread it all over the laminate.

As well, for larger wires, the iron should be applied onto the wire and not onto the land.  This way, the solder in the wire liquifies first and usually it will come right out without disturbing the land.  The land can thereafter be cleaned up by wick or solder sucker.

You can get cheap copies of the Weller, but they won't last as long, they are not as reliable, and you'll probably have more than a few mishaps.  But they'll work for power supplies.

Any pencil should have no problem unsoldering these connections you mention.  The pistol grip is awkward, the gun is overkill.

Radio Shack is your best bet, but don't get a cheap black one, try something in blue and with more guts, probably more price.
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J-A-LCommented:
Check out the hakko lines of soldering irons.  If you are serious in to electronics development... you may want an iron that will take different tips... and be able to replace tips as well.  The hakko also has a temperture adjustment.

I have a hakko 936 soldering station which works very well.
http://www.hakkousa.com/products.asp?PID=936-9&page=1

Depends on your needs.  May want to get something ESD safe as well... protection against Electro-Static Discharge.  You'd be looking at a few hundred for a nice station.  If you are working on computers... ESD-safe is a must.  If you are working with surface mount technology... you may want to investigate in hot air, rather than metal-heat transfer.

Jeff
at yourtechonline.com
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
GinEric, the one I have doesn't even have a brand on it.  I mean, its a piece of crap.  600 or 700 bucks is nuts for I want.  I was hoping for something nice in the $50-$100 range,
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J-A-LCommented:
Oh yeah... check out the hakko desoldering stations too... all of which are ESD-safe.
Ebay usually has piles of this stuff also.  hakko is an industrial quality tool.
Weller is good too.  I would stay away from solder wick. The last thing you want on a motherboard is to apply heat for too long a period... it may result in detaching traces from the board... so careful. You may want to test your equipment on a dead mobo.

Jeff
at yourtechonline.com
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
J-A-L, I checked that out and its discontinued, but that is more along the lines of what I'm looking for. Anybody else got suggestions?
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J-A-LCommented:
Hi Johnny... just check the other models on the website... what-ever is not discontinued, and ESD-safe should be great.

http://www.hakkousa.com/products.asp?PID=FP102-01&Page=1
is ESD-safe


Desoldering
http://www.hakkousa.com/products.asp?PID=472D-02&page=1

For the discontinued items... they may be cheaper on ebay.

Jeff
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
My buddy who is teaching himself to recap bad mobo's, swears by the solder wick.  Is that just because he has a cheap iron like me?  Remember, I want an iron that heats quic,k and has a fine tip for touching electronic components.
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J-A-LCommented:
Yup... with the hakko, you buy the tips you want to use... the nearest electronics store or who-ever supplies hakko stuff will have a bzillion tips... small ones fat ones, slotted ones..all different shapes for different purposes.


Heres's some ebay lins
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=57012&item=7506454058&rd=1

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=48745&item=7506501340&rd=1


Jeff
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
J-A-L, Hack-gag-cough.  Nice but far beyond what I need, and can afford!  Remember - heat quick and melt solder - thats all I need.  A good general purpose soldering iron that heats fast.  One of my buddies, who only works on printers and faxes, has one from some eastern European country that does exactly what I want.  Unfortunately, it has no label and he brought it to Canada from Hungary about 15 years ago.
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kalamazooCommented:
I've done alot of soldering in the last 15 years, and I really like my Ungar 30W iron, and I'd recommend getting a decent coil stand with a sponge on it.  For desoldering, I use a decent sucker (Ungar 7874B) and different width wicks for the tough ones.  After reading your question I spend a good hour searching the web for my next iron, and I decided on this one that looks good, has adjustable heat, and is only $25.

http://www.herbach.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=HAR&Product_Code=SD-012&Category_Code=SOL

I think I may get one of those ColdHeat deals for my kit as well, as my butane portable recently stopped lighting...
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J-A-LCommented:
Thanks, yes, they are nice..hehe.  Well, nice for a reason.
If I were gonna get something cheaper... kala mentioned an ungar... which you can replace the tips also...which is what you need.  No ESD protection...so, you take the mobo life in to yer hands :-)  Usually it's ok tho.

Jeff
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PCBONEZCommented:
Soldering Irons are rated by wattage. The normal range is 15 watt to 45 watt. For electronics work it's normally 15 watt to 30 watt irons used.

15 Watt is for very small close in work.
30 Watt is what I'd recommend for what you are doing.

Other things matter. The quailty and type of the tip and the %tin/%lead and diameter of the solder.

Those cheap (large) tips will only cause problems AND they take forever to get hot.

For Solder the thinner it is the quicker it will melt. Percents: 60/40 or 63/37 for electronics.
Electronics for Nuc Reactors has 63/37 as a prefered spec and it's common.

I keep both a solder sucker and wick around. In a given situation one may be better than the other.
A crappy sucker will be more problems than none at all. (That sounds funny... )

There's also another device. It's basically a cheap sucker idea. It's a rubber bulb with a tube/nipple on the end.
You squeeze the bulb, melt the solder, then with the tip positioned let the bulb go and it sucks the solder inside.
To clean it you just pop out the nipple and dump out the solder.
It works VERY VERY good in many situations.

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snerkelCommented:
In UK I would recommend this http://www.arcadegeek.co.uk/node/214 works very well and about $20 US I use one and it heats up fast, has temperature control, and a nice tip as standard. In fact it is the best soldering iron I have had in 25 years of playing with electronics.

A local electronics catalogue dealer should have similar.
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snerkelCommented:
Whoops US price should be about $35
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Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security OfficerIT Consultant, Network Engineer, Windows Network Administrator, VMware AdministratorCommented:
I too have to go with a good 25 or 30 Watt Iron.  It all depends on application and the sensitivity of the components you are working one.  For a motherboard, don't go any higher as the excessive heat can damage not only the board but other components connected to the same run you are heating.   Now, if you are talking about inside of a power supply that has beefier components and larger wires to remove, then a higher powered iron is appropriate.  I would not interchange them though.  So, for a nice power supply, you could use a 2 power Weller Gun or a larger, say 75 Watt Pencil Iron with a larger tip.

Solder wick or solder Sucker.  I have used both and each can be easier to use in different situations.  The goal is to get the liquid solder removed from the board or wires with the minimum of time spent heating the component it is coming off of.

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WatzmanCommented:

There is no question about this, the best soldering irons are the Weller thermostatically temperature controlled soldering stations.  They are not cheap (over $100 new), but you may be able to find a good used one on E-Bay.

2nd best is probably a conventional Weller iron, probably about 25 to 35 watts for most PC work, probalby about $35 but I have not bought one in a long time (you may be looking at 3 separate pieces, handle, heating element and tip).

Unger is a good 2nd choice.
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
Snerkel, that's the type of unit I'm looking for I think.
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snerkelCommented:
The nearest I can find in US is http://www.mpja.com/tools/solder_equipment/TEMPERATURE_CONTROLLED_SOLDER_STATION_15140_TL.asp
but I would look at a few off the electronic distributors to find similar (I don't know any US ones)
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JohnnyCanuckAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone who helped.
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kalamazooCommented:
Wow, that MPJA station for $35 look great.  I think I'll get one of those, too!
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GinEricCommented:
You're welcome JohnnyCanuck.
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