Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

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Steve Taylor
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Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby Steve Taylor » Sun May 16, 2021 7:12 pm

Ok, ladies and jellyspoons, having had a time served Antex 25w expire today, and found that the reserve Wella 40w (BR 1980's issue) has also declared itself OoS, it appears its time to part with some brass. Given I've seen over the years a number of people extol the advantages of temperature controlled soldering stations, can I get some recommendations/assessments of what is currently available. The £2.5k unit available from RS is not on the list. Reliability, durability and parts support are all good factors, but ergonomics too sometimes sway the economic argument.
Thank you in advance for your time, thoughts, and wisdom.


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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby myoxall » Sun May 16, 2021 7:48 pm

Hi Steve,

A couple of years ago I had to replace my soldering iron. After much research I plumped for an ERSA RDS80 (80 watts, 230 volts, Temperature controllable to 400 Degrees C). Not cheap but I have been more than pleased with it. There are also a range of differing shaped bits for it, for an extra bit of cash of course! No interest except as an extremely happy customer.


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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby bécasse » Sun May 16, 2021 8:38 pm

I used to think that I was a dab hand at soldering and had demonstrated soldered construction at public shows. Then I bought myself an Antex soldering station - and, importantly, a full range of bits - and suddenly realised that perhaps I was only playing at it before. Soldering certainly became easier, particularly when making up fine items with lots of small parts close together. The modern equivalent of what I have is the 690D with the digital read out and listed at about £ 140 (not much more than what I paid 20-odd years ago). Do buy a full range of bits and don't be afraid to change them around so that you are always using the right one for the job in hand - if you are soldering something big, you need a big bit to give the heat reserve that you need, if you are soldering something small, especially fitted in close to other soldered items, you need a fine bit to bring the heat just where it is needed and nowhere else.

I also have a variety of different melting point solders. A high melting point solder with silver content (not silver solder!) is especially useful for jobs where strength is important (laminated coupling rods or captive nuts, for example) and I always use it for tinning a new bit for the first time.

I usually run my iron at 100°C above the melting point of the solder I am using at that moment but otherwise set it at 245°C because my habitual solder has a melting point of 144°C. Set at that temperature, and cleaned very regularly on the damp sponge pad, bits seem to last indefinitely, certainly mine show no signs of needing replacement after 20-odd years of use. If you use the iron for soldering white metal using low melting point solder, set the temperature at least 15*C below the melting point of any other solder present in the vicinity of the joint to avoid any risk of creating a low strength amalgam, you may need it lower than that for soldering delicate white metal items.

Finally, you can also use the iron for "welding" two pieces of thermoplastic together, creating a strong but not particularly neat joint, which can be useful for mending, say, plastic garden tools that have broken.

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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby BryanJohnson » Sun May 16, 2021 9:19 pm

I've also had an Antex 690SD for nearly 20 years and am very satisfied with it.
I know that there have been other temperature controlled irons identified on the forum over the years, but I've had no need to try them.

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Paul Willis
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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby Paul Willis » Sun May 16, 2021 9:38 pm

If you're in the Nottingham area and can collect, or don't mind paying £20 postage, this seems an absolute snip:

Ignore the fume extraction, the Antex 660TC soldering station is no longer made, and is an excellent piece of kit. If I didn't have a second Maplin soldering station as back up to my own TC, I'd be bidding on this myself.

No connection, etc...

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Philip Hall
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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby Philip Hall » Sun May 16, 2021 10:11 pm

I too have had an Antex 660TC for many years and chose it partly for its temperature variations but also because I could make my own bits from pure copper rod shaped to my own preferences. I have two irons to go with it, a 25W and a 50W, and it has been very satisfactory. I was also given a Weller soldering station recently which has been very good.

I think if I was making a larger investment I would go for a more powerful Ersa station as I know several modellers who have them and speak very highly of them, but that isn't to say that the Antex 50W isn't more than adequate for 4mm work.

Last edited by Philip Hall on Mon May 17, 2021 8:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby Terry » Sun May 16, 2021 10:55 pm

I have recently bought an Antex 690D 50W station, temp range 50°C to 450°C with an additional range of tips. It is quite simply superb. I have limited experience in this field but for many years used my Antex 25W TC25 25W iron with some success, but the new station and iron really does offer much flexibility. If you choose this option be sure to get the 50°C to 450°C, as the original 690D temp range was 200°C to 450°C, and many on ebay are still to that spec.


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David Thorpe
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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby David Thorpe » Sun May 16, 2021 11:19 pm

I've got a Hakko FX888D 70W soldering station, temperature range 50 - 480 degrees. Like others mentioned, not cheap, but I'm very pleased with it.


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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby Daddyman » Mon May 17, 2021 7:08 am

I would avoid Antex: while they may have been good 20 years ago, quite a few people on RMWeb have confirmed my experience that the quality has now dropped considerably: the irons themselves tend to fail after 6 months or so (daily use) - I went through a 4- or 5-year period of having them regularly replaced on guarantee. The latest thing is that the bits are iffy: I've recently had ones come out of the packet with the coating already failed (presumably not applied properly at the factory). Mine is a 660A.

Choice quote from RMWeb: "My soldering iron has failed me - again - so another one is on the way from a different manufacturer. Antex have had their chance."

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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby shipbadger » Mon May 17, 2021 7:56 am

Another vote for the Hakko. I have two now, no not one for each hand, one in the house and one in the shed.

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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby davebradwell » Mon May 17, 2021 8:55 am

Remember with a soldering station you need bench space both for the iron and the control unit. Best check price/availability of bits, too, as recent posts suggest it's wise to keep separate bits for each type of solder.

I've used the relatively cheapo Weller W61 for years - it has the essential thermostating but a fixed temp. The station type are probably a bit smaller and lighter in use but I've never felt the need to upgrade.


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John Bateson
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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby John Bateson » Mon May 17, 2021 9:22 am

This summary was on the demonstrations at S4N 2021 and may help to clarify the issues when planning a new purchase.

My current set up is a WEP 939D+ which is 75W capable. This came with a spare head, some tweezers and s set of soldering bits plus the cleaner, both sponge and brass swarf. but like many things today, this Weller is now made in China and I have noticed some concern over the quality of the solder bits that are available from other sources.

Slaving away still on GCR stuff ...
Avoiding the soaps ...

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Will L
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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby Will L » Mon May 17, 2021 9:56 am

I'm not qualified to comment on the various stallions avaible today, I would say that just having one is very much a good idea.
My Antex 660 TC is now of significant antiquity, and I have been through a number (3?) of elements over time, but these are still available as spares. You just need a soldering iron. When I wasn't sure about ordering an element, I ordered a whole spare iron hand set as well, so I now have 2. This has a big advantage in that I keep different size bits on each hand set (basically big and small) and these days I don't change the bit, I charge the hand set.

P.s. I do have a small 25watt iron for bulk electrical work.

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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby tmcsean » Mon May 17, 2021 10:18 am

A couple of years ago I replaced an ageing with a Weller WE1010 and it has made life a good bit easier. Not cheap, but at 70w it has more than enough power for my needs, and swapping bits is really quick, easy and burn-free. The only down side is that there is no pilot light and before getting used to it there were several times I have left it on overnight.


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Re: Soldering stations - a reccomendation please

Postby nigelcliffe » Mon May 17, 2021 3:57 pm

I'm another with an Antex 660TC unit, probably 20+ years old. I have two irons for it, which means I have a spare, and can have two tips mounted for quick swaps. The elements are available as spares should I burn one out.

On the current quality: A friend owns a 690D, and that seems reliable: it gets a fair bashing at exhibitions when they existed (its the iron for maintaining Burntisland 1883 at shows), and a fair bit of use by its owner.

- Nigel

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