Best soldering station has put together some simple guides, comparison charts, reviews and buying recommendations for some of the best and most popular soldering stations and soldering kits you can buy. To get started, take a look at the soldering station comparison charts to help you determine what type of station will be most suitable for you.
You can also take a look at our “best soldering station for the money” post that will give you a good idea of what to look for when buying a soldering station.
After scouring the internet for information on the best soldering station, I was amazed at the lack of soldering kits and soldering station reviews and comparisons that were available online.
By writing this side by side soldering station review hopefully I will save you the time and effort of going from Radio Shack to Lowes to Home Depot to Amazon and comparing each Solder Station individually.
I decided to review the middle price range of stations ($50 to $150) due to the fact that these stations are the most popular and they will also fulfill the majority of most user’s needs and requirements.
If you are still unsure of how to choose the best soldering station for your needs and requirements, read our guide here, it will show you what you should be looking for when choosing a station and give you our recommendations on the top soldering stations to consider.
What is a soldering station?
A soldering station is made up of a docking base (holder) for the soldering iron, a variable electric power supply unit and the soldering iron itself. When compared to a conventional soldering iron a soldering station makes it possible to precisely regulate the temperature that the iron operates at, giving you much more control for different types of soldering projects.
A typical “plug into the mains” soldering iron has no such heat regulator and has a fixed power consumption dependent upon the wattage of the iron. A 30 watt soldering iron will dispense 30 watts of heat to the tip of the soldering iron and relies upon the dissipation of heat into the air to reach its thermal balance. These types of soldering irons are adequate for some soldering jobs but may be too hot or too cold for many others causing either overheating and damage to the component or a cold solder joint.
The other major drawback of the unregulated Soldering irons is the lack of static protection. Many electronic components are susceptible to ESD (electro static discharge) and can be damaged or destroyed by a static discharge. All of the stations in the Soldering Station Comparison are ESD safe which means that when you pick the Soldering iron up the static charge from your body will be dumped to ground.
Recommended Soldering Stations
When you have mastered the basics of soldering, you may want to consider building a “soldering kit” that will allow you to save time, tackle more complex soldering projects and reduce the risk of accidents and personal injury.
Listed below is a selection of soldering accessories that are not essential but they will help you to become more proficient at soldering. All of the tools can be found on our soldering station accessories page.
Magnifying glass / Magnifying Lamp / Magnifying Glasses:
If you take a look at the circuit boards from just a few years ago they are significantly bigger than today’s boards. Modern technology is shrinking electronics, making them smaller and as a consequence harder to see and more difficult to repair.
A magnifying glass, glasses or lamp will enable you to easily see the components you are working on. The added advantage of using a magnifier is that you can keep your head at a distance from the soldering project, not only protecting you from any solder splatter but also from any toxic fumes that are given off.
Soldering Fume Extractor:
Being in constant contact with solder and flux fumes can cause irritation to the eyes, lungs and throat. A soldering fume extractor will remove the toxic fumes from the work area and leave you free to solder without worrying about any harmful toxins that you may be breathing in. Many smoke absorbers come with a replaceable carbon filter to trap the toxins.
Imagine the situation, soldering iron in one hand solder in the other and your third hand holding the component on the board! Helping hands come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs. They are an invaluable tool to hold components, wires or boards, freeing you up to solder without worrying about the component or board moving around. Panavise manufacture a huge array of helping hands to suit every sort of application.
Side cutters, pliers, tweezers and wire strippers:
Side cutters are used for cutting off component leads close to the board and also for cutting wires.
Pliers are used for holding components and bending component leads, the most popular type is the needle or long nosed.
Tweezers can be very useful when placing very small components, they are available in a wide range of styles and most of the ones designed for electronics work are anti-static.
Wire strippers often come as a multi-tool, they can strip wires, cut wire, crimp terminals and act as pliers. They are a great tool to have around.
A good precision screwdriver set is essential and should include Phillips, Flat and Star drivers.
If you need to de-solder a component or joint (you eventually will) there are a couple of ways to make a clean job of it. The solder sucker or de-soldering pump is a spring loaded device that sucks hot solder up with the push of a button. The other way of removing solder is to use a soldering wick that absorbs the heated solder, removing it from the board.
Fireproof soldering mats are available online in a variety of sizes. They are a great way of protecting the work area from burns.
Anti-static wrist strap and Mat:
Static electricity can kill electronic components, so, by grounding yourself to a metal object you are removing the static from your body and dumping it to earth.
Tip Cleaning Tools:
You may have the best soldering station but if you don’t keep the tip clean you might as well have bought a $5 firestarter iron. Most soldering stations come with a sponge or wire cleaner to clean the tip. However, if the tip becomes badly oxidized and you are finding it increasingly difficult to clean then you should consider using a sal ammoniac block.