Originally Posted by westsailwill
Thanks so much for all the really terrific and helpful info. If it wouldn’t be too much to ask, some name brand and model recommendations on your top three picks of all round best irons would be greatly appreciated by many.
JBC and Metcal produce the best soldering irons. All the models from these two companies use the direct heating
method and all are good. These two rivals use very different technology to achieve the tip heating
, but while there are pros and cons the net effect is very similar. However, these companies only produce professional, industrial soldering equipment so even their basic models (which is what you want unless you can use hot air rework equipment) are expensive.
Hakko produce good, but more consumer grade equipment. Their basic FX-888D model is frequently recommended for electronic work
. Unfortunately, this model does not not have quite enough heat generating capacity for some boat
work, however they have released a larger model, the FX-951, which uses the direct heating technology. I have not used this particular iron, but it looks like it would be a good boat
soldering iron for a more reasonable price
than the JBC or Metcal units. The only thing to watch with Hakko is there are many copies sold. The copies have become so visually good that it is impossible to tell unless you open up the unit and look at the components inside. I am not a fan of copy or clone products, but some argue that deliberately purchasing
a copy, or clone Hakko FX-951 is perhaps the best value for money
, capable soldering iron available. I am not sure of the USA pricing, but I think the clone Hakko FX-951 seems to sell for around $100 and the genuine thing perhaps double this price
The wild card is the TS-100. This soldering iron has open source software
and is sold without a power supply. It will run from 12-24v so it can be used directly from the boat’s 12v supply (although it really needs 19-20v to perform well).
Other options are The Pace ADS-200. They had quality control problems with some early units. These seem to be solved
. They are made in USA so local pricing may be better than the rest of world where they are a little expensive for the performance, but they are still a quality company making robust products.
Weller traditionally produced good quality both consumer and professional soldering irons. I have owned several Weller irons over the years and they were great products. They seem to have lost
their way a little bit in recent years and cannot quite decide if they want to compete with the cheap
Chinese stations or produce professional quality soldering irons. They do both with their vast product range, but arguably currently do not excel in either area.
ERSA is another quality soldering iron manufacturer. The above comments about Weller seem to also apply to this company.
Please note that the above are personal opinions. As with any product comparisons, others will express different views. I guess the important message is there are alternatives to the $15 soldering iron and the $5 roll of solder. Spending ten times above these basic costs on products that essentially perform the same function is hard to justify. However, in absolute terms, given the cost of boat wiring
terminals and components that might be wired up such as solar
etc the extra cost in boat dollars is small.
So you asked for three. The best products at different price points in order of cost:
Hakko FX-951 genuine
Hakko FX-951 copy