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Tool Review
11
Digital Soldering Station
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by: Michael [ MIKEM670 ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

introduction

Working with photo etch material can be difficult at best to obtain professional results. Using a poor performing soldering iron just makes the process more difficult. While at my local Radio Shack I came across a Digital Soldering Station. Shortly I was on my way home and immediately set about the business of soldering some photo etch for a campaign I was working on.

review

The Digital Soldering Station was packaged neatly in an attractive looking box that showed accurate images of the product. The soldering station consists of the control unit, stand and soldering iron with 5-pin female connector. Expanding on the control unit, it is made of a grey colored plastic, built in power cord, power switch, 5 pin male connector for the soldering iron, ground jack, digital display, three preset temperature buttons and a variable temperature control knob. Setting up the unit was a snap as you only had to connect the soldering iron cord to the base unit.

Base Unit:
Powering up the unit the digital display shows all its readings in a blue color. The default temperature indicator is in Fahrenheit but the system allows you to change to Celsius. There are two lines to the display. The top line indicates the temperature you have selected and the bottom one shows the actual tip temperature. You can watch as the heat output display bars indicate the actual temperature comes closer to the assigned temperature.

The factory set temperature factor presets are:

Preset 1 = 302F (150C)
Preset 2 = 518F (270C)
Preset 3 = 680F (360C)

You can reassign different temperatures to the presets by following simple instructions on the included foldout.

Stand:
The stand is solidly built and should not easily tip over. You can place the stand in a more convenient location while working while keeping the soldering station further out of your work area for less clutter. The stand includes a small metal tray on top and a removable sponge in its own compartment for cleaning the soldering iron tip.

Soldering Iron:
The soldering iron has a nice feel to it when held in your hand. It feels solid and the cable connecting it to the base station is very flexible and 34 inches long. The soldering tip is pointed which I feel is much more useful for soldering photo etch then the larger tip I was using previously. The tip is replaceable and depending on the replacement tip you may need to recalibrate the unit (a fairly simple procedure).

Using the Unit:
As I indicated at the top of the article I used the unit for several hours and encountered no problems. With the solder I was using I used Preset 2 for most of my soldering needs. Only when I encountered a larger piece of photo etch did I find the need to use Preset 3. Changing between them only took a few seconds for the temperature to adjust. The sharper tip was very useful in getting closer to smaller parts or fitting into tight locations. I was very pleased with the initial use of the unit.

Conclusion

While more expensive than just a plain soldering iron the flexibility of the unit more than outweighs the moderate cost. With the ability to adjust temperatures with either presets or through the dial, your work with photo etch should be much more enjoyable. The issue with tip replacement should not be a problem if one plans ahead and orders new tips to have on hand as needed. Time will tell if this unit will hold up and be an indispensible workbench tool for photo etch.
SUMMARY
Highs: The functionality of this well built soldering station really stands out. Variable temperature controls allow the user to set the desired temperature for the job at hand.
Lows: No part numbers for replacement tip(s) are provided so this requires you to return to the store for assistance as indicated in the instruction booklet.
Verdict: A serious tool for any modeler who works with photo etch materials on a regular basis.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: Radio Shack #64-053
  Suggested Retail: $79.99 US
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jan 10, 2012
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 87.50%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.00%

About Michael (MikeM670)
FROM: ILLINOIS, UNITED STATES

Copyright 2019 text by Michael [ MIKEM670 ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.



Comments

Nice review. I must have gotten the lemon of the bunch as mine was utter crap. Could not get it to solder anything. It would melt the solder easy enough, but when I touch it to the pieces to be joined, the melted solder would solidify again. Didn't matter how much juice I put to it, same result every time. Flux or no flux same thing. I returned it the following day. I now use a $12 wood burning tool with a fine pointed tip and haven't looked back. "Q"
JAN 10, 2012 - 10:41 AM
That is a shame. I've been happy so far. I'm using a liquid flux to help with solder flow now with this setup and have not had any issues so far. Like I said in the review time will tell of the unit holds up to a lot more use. I also picked up some tinning stuff at Radio Shack which might of helped with heat transfer.
JAN 10, 2012 - 02:40 PM
I Like hearing about stuff like this, I was in the market for a soldering tool for PE but reluctant to purchase anything because of the price. Radio shack for me holds nothing but bad memories of things that just did not hold up. Their was one video on the web from a mail order company that has gone under.... It made solder pe look so simple. Solder small items are a real skill someday! Michael
JAN 11, 2012 - 02:12 AM
I really dislike electric soldering irons but good review though. Gas soldering irons are a little more expensive in terms of initial purchase and running costs but I have never had a good result with an electric iron. That is probably down to me though rather than the soldering iron
JAN 11, 2012 - 02:19 AM
How were you doing it? No amount of heat and flux will help if you don't have the right technique. Trick is to heat the parts from one side and add your soldier to the other. In other words don't use the soldiering iron to melt the soldier, but use the heat from the iron to heat up whatever you are trying to join, and use that heat to melt the soldier. In the end, if done right, you will use very little soldier and flux. Not sure what you mean by "tinning stuff" when I was taking Electronics Engineering you tinned your soldiering iron by melting some soldier on the tip as it was heating up, and also just before you turn your iron off...melt some soldier on the tip and leave it there while it cools down. This will protect your tips and your iron will be ready for your next session. Don't waste your money on the idiots at Radio Shack or The Source here in Canada. Gas irons are more expensive over all...but convenient, as you aren't tethered to a wall socket. Temps are a little hard to control and be precise with as compared to an electric one, especially a digital one.
JAN 11, 2012 - 04:58 AM
Scott good catch on the issue Matthew was talking about with the solder solidifying. I totally missed that! Yes you heat the metal to allows the solder to flow. I use several techniques when working with PE. One technique to applying solder is to add just a Tiny Bit to your soldering tip and then the tip is applied to the work piece and when the metal heats up the solder will flow into the joints to secure the pieces together. That is why flux is so important to allowing a good solder flow as well as bond. Another way I apply solder is to flux the parts while they in secured in place and add just a tiny piece of solder to the area to be joined and then apply the soldering tip on the opposite side from where the Tiny Bit of solder was placed. When the metal heats up and the solder melts it flows through the joint and towards the soldering tip. With the second method where I place a tiny piece of solder I take a x-acto knife and cut a Very Small piece off the soldering spool. I use a liquid rosin free flux and a very fine diameter solid core solder for working with photo etch. Not sure what you mean by "tinning stuff" when I was taking Electronics Engineering you tinned your soldiering iron by melting some soldier on the tip as it was heating up, and also just before you turn your iron off...melt some soldier on the tip and leave it there while it cools down. This will protect your tips and your iron will be ready for your next session. Don't waste your money on the idiots at Radio Shack or The Source here in Canada.[/quote] Here is the link to the product I was talking about. LINK
JAN 11, 2012 - 06:25 AM
As long as you are useing good soder, I prefer 60/40 and good flux, I have a tin of kester paste flux that has to be 40 years old, and probably banned in CA and my handy old adjustable iron that goes from 0 to 800 F but I may take a ride to the Shack and get a back up. Thanks for the review Jim
JAN 11, 2012 - 12:30 PM
I know how to solder and have for years. The digital iron I had from Radio Shack simply didn't work the way it should have. "Q"
JAN 13, 2012 - 04:23 PM
   

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