The 10 Best Soldering Stations
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in June of 2015. A quality soldering station can provide you with effective control over the heat you use to make and break critical electrical connections. Whether you're a professional tradesman or a handy hobbyist looking for an upgrade to your collection of tools, these models are built to make sure you come away with a job well done — and, more importantly, no painful injuries or burns. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 17, 2020:
The Vivohome 853D and HoLife Black were no longer available, so we removed them from the list. In examining the Aoyue 9378, we learned that it comes with a spare heating element, which is a nice touch. However, if the original element breaks, it can be quite difficult to replace with the spare, which we’ve noted in the bullet points. We also point out that when you power on the Hakko Digital, it is automatically programmed to its most recent temperature setting, which is a useful feature if you routinely work on projects with similar heat requirements.
The X-Tronic 4010-Pro-X, one of our new additions, comes with a variety of tools that help with different types of tasks, including tweezers, a tool holder, an anti-static grounding wire, and a cleaning sponge. There’s also a hand-operated vacuum pump that efficiently sucks up molten solder.
Some kits come with tips in a variety of sizes, which is something to consider if you'll be using it for an array of applications. Some also have an automatic sleep setting, a handy feature for added safety.
June 20, 2019:
We discovered a new version of the Weller Analog, but noted several issues, including inaccurate temperature readings and a tendency to break down quickly. We removed this model and the X-Tronic Digital, as many reports indicate that this option also suffers from an unimpressive lifespan. The Kendal 853D and Sealody SSA51 were no longer available, so we eliminated those items as well.
We elevated the Hakko Digital in the rankings once we established that it’s a well-rounded station without the exorbitant price tag that usually comes with such a versatile model. Of particular note are its five pre-programmed temperature settings, which helps users save time spent on manual adjustments, and its quality craftsmanship makes it stable and durable for consistent performance.
Added four new models, including the Uy Chan TS100, which is a nice selection for users who value precision and efficiency for intricate tasks. It also has the ability to connect to your computer, allowing you to program custom functions. The HoLife Black is another new addition; its base includes a built-in sponge tray for soaking up excess solder, a useful feature that is absent from some models for some reason. This is one of those rare inexpensive models that offers professional-level quality.
Hexacon Electric Hexacon Electric offers two lines of stations: the Therm-O-Trac Plus and the HTC. The former is ideal for those with a wide range of temperature requirements, with quick power-up and recovery processes. The latter features a sponge holder and a collection tray for keeping your workspace tidy. hexaconelectric.com
MPJA Stations If you go this route, you’ll have your choice between standard sized models or a mini unit that’s tailor-made for the at-home hobbyist. All options have a rugged construction that will appeal to professional tradesmen, and you’ll have the ability to effortlessly swap tips for different applications. mpja.com
Quick 376DI This high-tech station automatically and smoothly feeds solder from its integrated holder, helping prevent any splattering from occurring. The feeding speed can be adjusted, or you can opt for manual mode if you’d rather do it the old-fashioned way. It has a bright digital display screen, too. promationusa.com
Don't Just Solve The Problem, Solder The Problem
However, intricacy and accuracy of the iron used is also important, especially if you're working with electronics.
If you want something done right, do it yourself. This is a phrase that makes sense if you prefer to handle your own projects around the house and/or experiment with tools. Then again, you might also be a professional repair person, plumber, or simply an amateur hobbyist looking for something to keep you busy around the house. Regardless of the situation, a soldering station comes in handy when you decide to take on such a project for yourself.
Soldering is a process by which two or more items (usually metals) are joined together by intense and directed heat with a filler metal (or solder) used at the joint. The filler metal usually has a lower melting temperature than the adjoining pieces. Depending on the application involved, a variety of alloys can be used as filler materials during the soldering process. These include alloys like tin-lead, tin-zinc for joining aluminum, lead-silver and cadmium-silver for delivering strength at high temperatures, zinc-aluminium for corrosion resistance, and tin-silver/tin-bismuth for soldering electronics.
There are 3 forms of soldering that require progressively higher temperatures resulting in progressively stronger joints. These 3 forms include soft soldering, silver soldering, and brazing. With soft soldering, the primary ingredient is lead. Heat is applied to the pieces that you intend to join, while the melting point of the filler material is around 400°C (752°F).
When the filler melts, the two pieces bond together in a process called wetting. Soft soldering uses the lowest temperatures, but does not form a joint as strong as other forms of soldering. Silver soldering is used most often by jewelers and machinists for repairing or bonding precious metals. It forms stronger bonds/joints than soft soldering and requires the use of a torch at very high temperatures. Brazing produces the strongest bond of all 3 forms of soldering, thanks to its use of a brass alloy as a filler.
Your intended goal determines the kind of station you'll invest in. For example, if you consider yourself a fix-it Felix, a hobbyist, or a hardware engineer, then strength and conductivity of the soldering bonds would be most important to you. However, intricacy and accuracy of the iron used is also important, especially if you're working with electronics.
It's Time To Form A Bond
Choosing the right soldering station isn't that daunting of a task. You just need to ask yourself what you plan to use it for. Many stations feature convenient, easy-to-read digital displays so you always know how hot your iron is, while others let you program your temperature so that it always remains constant. This ensures the most consistent bonds.
Other soldering stations include iron stands with adjustable tilting angles that come in handy when working with oddly-shaped metals.
Other soldering stations include iron stands with adjustable tilting angles that come in handy when working with oddly-shaped metals. Depending on the available space in your workshop or garage, the size and ability to store the station and its components matter a great deal.
Energy efficiency is another driving factor in your decision, since low-voltage models can help prevent unnecessary electrical surges when your soldering iron reaches very high temperatures. For that reason, self-testing capabilities are also a good feature to look for.
If you've turned soldering into a business, finding a station with fast heat-up and temperature recovery functionality is also a great idea.
Soldering has its place in the home, on the assembly line, in factories, and has a range of applications that offer both practicality for fixing common items to artistic expression in the form of valuable jewelry, to the cutting-edge convenience of curcuit boards that allow your electronic devices to operate efficiently. With its extensive range of applications, soldering is a form of science and expression that won't be leaving us anytime soon.
Soldering Through Time
Soldering dates back to as early as over 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Think of all the gold work crafted by the ancient Egyptians and their use of metallurgy. Some of the most impressive soldering achievements can be contributed to the Romans who soldered 400-km long water pipes made from lead with seams that could withstand 18 ATM (water resistance).
Soft soldering, for example, developed into an independent field of engineering in the electronics industry and combined the concepts of chemistry, metallurgy, and physics.
Many of the earliest solders available were alloys that could be found in nature, which meant that only a few solders with a severely limited range of properties were actually available for use during those times. This further suggests the idea that solders could only be worked by skilled artisans spending much of their time joining jewelry or attaching handles to decorative vessels. As the materials were considered rare and costly, only the wealthy could afford them.
Both improvement in soldering skill and an understanding for the scientific interactions involved in the process have occurred during the last century. Soft soldering, for example, developed into an independent field of engineering in the electronics industry and combined the concepts of chemistry, metallurgy, and physics.
In today's computer age, soldering techniques still play a major role in the production of printed circuit boards (PCBs), which are defined as intricately-designed pathways created by metallic insertions for the smooth transfer of electricity. This type of soldering requires detailed work on a very small scale to ensure no interruption of operation with the electronic device that makes use of the printed circuit board itself. That said, soldering can solve many problems that go beyond simply bonding 2 pieces of metal together.