Soldering Equipment Advice

Hi all!

I was just wondering if anyone would be able to offer any advice when it comes to soldering equipment? I’m looking to (eventually) put together my Makerbuino DIY game console, and replace some batteries in my old game cartridges. However, after spending two hours searching through Amazon and various review sites, I couldn’t really decide what soldering iron kit / station I should go for!

I’m a complete novice in this sort of thing, so I definitely don’t want to go for a professional multi-purpose station, but I don’t want just a cheap pencil iron either. Ideally, I have a budget of around £40-60, give or take a bit (is that even a realistic budget?). I’ve seen quite a few Chinese knockoffs on Amazon in this ballpark, and they seem to have mostly positive/mixed reviews (mixed due to their build quality, surprise surprise).

I’d also be interested in any accessories that you could recommend as well (protective mats, for example).

Here’s a thread from one of my favourite forums:
Which soldering iron?
and another:
De-Soldering Tool

Hmm, seems like that the users on that forum agree with my initial observation: avoid the Chinese knockoffs!

I did see the Hakko FX-888D soldering station mentioned everywhere, but I avoided it because it was out of my price range. I guess I’m either going to have to go for one of the Antex irons (which is more in my price range), or splash the cash and go for the Hakko one! Hmm…decisions decisions…

Lidl do one which is probably as good as any £30-£40 soldering station - and you can take it back for up to 3 years for almost any reason. Trouble is you have to wait for it to be one of their specials. Alternatively, you can get one on Ebay. It’s a Lidl branded job, but I doubt you’ll be able to take it back so easily, but you wont have to wait… Don’t know what sort of soldering you have to do but try and get some solder with real lead not this lead-free stuff - and while you’re stocking up on substances hazardous to health, get some acid flux for cleaning the wire you are about to solder. The new healthy equivalents make the whole job a bit safer but a lot harder. And get a ‘helping hand’ ![hhand|666x500] as you only have two and you will need three for most soldering jobs. (upload://AdnDTirBzAIWKgGI4YNBLb6Rw4Q.jpeg) Hope this helps.

The best soldering irons I have used are the “Metcal” brand.
The tip heats up rapidly, and is well temperature regulated.
Also, the tips do not erode, which can be a problem with cheap irons.
The tips are quickly interchangeable.
They are expensive, but you do “get what you pay for” in this case.
If you are planning to do a lot of soldering then Metcal. These are the Rolls Royce of soldering irons!
A cheaper one would probably be fine for your initial use, but you need to be more patient. And add in the cost of replacement tips.

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I have several soldering irons I don’t need. Let me know if want one to use while you decide which station you want to buy.

Thank you PJ and Hugo for your suggestions! I’m afraid that I ended up purchasing some soldering equipment and accessories before I saw your replies though! I hope to get around to using them soon, perhaps at the session tomorrow if all goes well.