Up Your Soldering Tool Game
The soldering iron is one of the most important pieces of equipment when it comes to cable assembly, building electronics, and repairs. If you work in or around the music industry, it's inevitable that you will find yourself behind the wheel of an iron in order to fix a bad cable or build something useful for your personal setup. The soldering iron you choose should be reliable and robust as it will be the core tool you reach for every time you build or fix a piece of gear.
At Trace Audio we have a Weller WE1010NA at every bench. The WE1010NA combines affordability and reliability. It offers variable temperature control, temperature stability, and a temperature preset. Iron tips can be changed easily depending on the application. These irons are great if you want something of quality without breaking the bank. If you'd like to pick one up for your workbench, check out our link below:
Surprisingly, a lot of people aren't even aware that there are different styles of soldering iron tips. We are going to outline just a few of the tip options and which ones we like for specific applications.
Conical - Conical tips get their name because of their cone-like shape. The tip is rounded which allows for soldering at any angle. Conical tips are a good general use tip for most applications.
Chisel - Chisel tips, sometimes referred to as screwdriver tips, have a flat edge on either side of the point much like a chisel. This is extremely useful when you need heat to transfer quicker from the iron to the work. These are excellent for use on thick wires, small to medium grounding planes, and most other soldering applications. Our go to chisel tip compatible with the WE1010NA is the Weller ETR tip. Weller ETR Tip
There are a few other types of tips besides the ones mentioned above. If you'd like to checkout a multipack of affordable tips check these out. ShineNow Soldering Tips. This pack also includes some chisel and conical tips.
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the work surface you need to solder, the larger your soldering tip should be. If you are using a conical tip on a 10AWG speaker wire, you are going to be sitting there for a long time.
Let's talk solder. There are so many options, which one is the best?
Leaded solder is the easiest to work with as it has a lower melting point than lead free solder. Most people in the audio community prefer the "sound" of leaded solder. Just make sure you have adequate ventilation or a good fume extractor as to avoid fume inhalation. Here is a budget friendly fume extractor that is perfect for use with lead-free and leaded solder.
Kester is a well known and trusted brand in the audio community. We like to use the No-clean version of Kester solder as it doesn't leave a ton of yellow sticky flux behind that you have use heavy chemicals to remove. Below we've linked good general size solder in both leaded and lead-free options.
Spool holder - a spool holder is a great way to remove frustration from soldering as you can freely pull as much solder as you need without having to manually unwind your spool. Some spool holders even let you hold multiple spools which is nice if you use various sizes of solder.
Squeeze bottle - If you are reaching for your soldering iron regularly, it can be annoying to have to run your sponge to the nearest sink just get going. We have a squeeze bottle filled with water nearby for ultimate convenience.
Solder Wick - Sometimes you need to remove solder from a work surface and this can be difficult once the solder has bonded to an area. Soldering wick is a woven braid of copper that you heat up and apply to the area where you want to remove solder. the wick will absorb most, if not all, of the solder.
Desoldering Pump - Solder wick doesn't always do the trick, and you may need some extra help removing excess solder. A spring loaded desoldering pump is a cheap and effective way to quickly remove solder. It's also a tool that can be used over and over again, unlike solder wick which is a one time use product.
Here is a complete amazon list if you want to check out the full list of suggested products:
We hope this information is useful in your soldering journey.