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Topic: shorter soldering iron tip? (Read 14344 times) previous topic - next topic

shorter soldering iron tip?

I've been soldering for about 35 years and I think the answer to my question is "no", but maybe someone here knows of something:

I recently realized that one reason it's easier to solder at work than at home (apart from the nice binocular microscope) is that we have Metcal MX-500P-11 soldering irons. Apart from the fast warmup time, the Metcal is easy to use because the tip is only 4 cm away from the hand grip, enabling precision work.  I cannot afford my own Metcal, so at home I have a cheap Radio Shack iron with a tip about 8 cm away from the grip.  Since it is 2x as long as the Metcal, any deviation in the angle of my hand is multiplied by 2x at the tip, and that makes a real difference with accuracy.

My question: is there any affordable iron with a very short grip to tip distance? Or is that not practical with a simple, conventional iron?  The Metcal uses RF power from the remote base going right to the tip, so there is no separate heating cartridge in the handpiece to design around.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #1
I think there are probably two issues.  One is that the stereo microscope makes a huge difference in how well you can control your soldering iron.  The magnified visual feedback is the key.
Secondly, if your Radio Shack iron doesn't have feedback controlled temperature (with a sensor in the iron) then that is another likely culprit for difficult soldering.  There are quite a number of decent irons from China (Ayoue for example) which are not very expensive.  Take a look at some of the Hakko 936 clones.  I think you also might find that those have somewhat shorter distances between grip and tip although I haven't measured one to see.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #2
[quote author="jbeale"].... is that we have Metcal MX-500P-11 soldering irons. ....[/quote]

Arrgh!  That's evil....  I read about the Metcal MX-500 after your post, and now I *just* have to have one to replace my old WECP-20 Weller that I've used for the last 15-20 or so years.  Unfortunately most used models of the Metcal on eBay is 110 volt and I'm in a 220 volt part of the world....

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #3
The grip of Weller's RT tips is about 4.5 cm from the top of the tip, but the stations that use them seem to be in the same price range as Metcal's. In Weller's approach both the grip and the heating cartridge is part of the removable tip.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #4
I also use metcal's with a binocular scope at work - they're quite nice.  At home, I have a binocular scope setup, which helps considerably.  At the same time, I'm using sub $30 weller WLC100 irons - open loop power setting (vs. closed loop temp control). 

Even with the scope, the difference in "ease of soldering" at work is still fairly large - because the low-end weller has no temp control.  It's not too bad if I'm doing a lot of assembly with the same size components, but getting the temp "just right" and trying to move between different component sizes/types is a PITA.  I recently got one of the Aoyue 852A++ cloned hot air rework stations for home - I wish I would have gone with a model that had a temp controlled iron instead of the vacuum pen.  Next upgrade will probably be some hakko cloned irons ( I think Ahri recommended a few a while back) - but that won't be for a while.

Unfortunately, this doesn't really address your original question - just my experience.  I think sdixson hit the nail on the head - magnification helps a LOT, as does temp control (mainly just setup speed for me).  One down-side of having the short hand piece on the metcal is that if you have a scope that is lower to the PCB, it's a lot more awkward to get the iron underneath it.

matseng - I use Metcal SP200's at work.  It looks like the MFR-1160 is the replacement for this single output model ( I think) - it looks to have a universal mains input.  You might try searching for these - they're quite a bit less than the 500 series (also only have a single output though).

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #5
bearmos: That's great - thanks . I'll see if I can find any used unit first, or else I'll have to order one from my local RS-electronics for $425.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #6
[quote author="matseng"]bearmos: That's great - thanks . I'll see if I can find any used unit first, or else I'll have to order one from my local RS-electronics for $425.[/quote]
Sure thing matseng.  Just make sure you also budget for tips. . .and realize that if you're doing work at different temperatures for some reason, you'll need a different tip for each temperature.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #7
Not sure what's definition of affordable butI got me a PACE ST-50 with TD-100 hand piece TD-100 is "designed by surgeons" and it has few benefits. One is 1sec tip replacement, you get a piece of silicone rubber with the iron and you just take the hot tip from the iron and plug in the new one without turning anything off, time to replace tips - 2 secons .. Second benefit is short length, from your hand to the tip, depending on the tip size is 3-4cm. Compared with that for e.g. HAKKO 907 is 9cm, SOLOMON HQ30 is 10cm, Weller PES51 9cm .. The bad side of the TD-100 is that you feel that heat on your fingers, it's not too hot, but it gets a bit uncomfortable after a while. PACE sells some green "sponge" for the TD-100 to "mark" the handle (so you can, if you use few of them use lead-free solder on one of them to not introduce lead by accident etc etc...) and with this "sponge" the heat is almost gone (and imo the grip is better so I recommend getting it)

Note that ST-50 can work also with PS90 handle but that one lot longer then the TD-100, does not use cartridge's but standard tips (heater is in the handle) and is not nearly as precise as TD-100.

Also, ST-30 is bit cheaper and also runs TD-100 only it's analog, so if you don't need fancy display, sleep mode etc etc, ST-30 + TD-100 is great combo..

I ordered from pacedirect, they unfortunately deliver only in USA but they were kind enough to send me the EUROPE (240V) version to my USA address. Prices (wrt "affordable")
The "sponge": SOFTGRIP&CUBBY TD-100-LF - IIRC the cost was $11 (make sure you get this one with cubby addon 'cause when you attach the soft grip the handle does not sit properly in caddy)

The ST-50 + TD-100 was $304 + I ordered a bunch of tips, each tip is ~$10-14 depending on the tip (I got some miniwave, microwave and normal chisel tip with diamond coat)

Now if $300 is affordable or not is really a personal/subjective thing so .. you outta check the ST30+TD100 too as that's probably $50-100 less and only thing you lose is the digital display and some standby functionality ..

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #8
Here's some comparison pictures I just took, maybe it'll help

btw looking at the pictures of that iron you mentioned and I'm seeing identical piece of silicone pad that came with PACE came with that iron :)

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #9
Thanks Arhi, that's exactly the kind of iron I was hoping to find. Still not exactly "cheap" but definitely more affordable than the Metcal.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #10
The Pace-combo is about $300, if you want a Metcal MX500 and live in USA you could get a used with accessories for $349 or a brand new MFR-1160 for $333

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Metcal-Solderin ... 0759620320
http://www.newark.com/metcal/mfr-1160/s ... dp/26R1719

The price difference is more or less negligible.  But compared  to a rather nice Hakko FX-888 for $80 Metcals are quite expensive...  But if the cost is spread out over the number of years it will be used it's not so much. My old $150 Weller have lasted me almost 15 years by now.

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #11
FX888 utilizes also a fairly long tip (almost identical to the 907 on my picture) so it would not solve the problem jbeale tried to solve. It is a great soldering station, no doubt, but the lenght of the tip is not comparable to METCAL or PACE. I have here only Weller PES51 and some "230VAC plug in to wall directly" Weller that's not even temperature regulated, but I did use magnastat Wellers for years and number of other irons they make - same thing, tip is very long so precise work is way harder then with PACE or METCAL, especially if you are working under the microscope.

As for second hand Metcal, I'd rather go $250 for new ST-30 PACE or $300 for new ST-50 PACE then with second hand Metcal for $350 as Metcal is really not better at all..  (unless you really need nitrogen env but you can get the extension for pace if you need it, and still get cheaper then Metcal)

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #12
Has anyone tested or analyzed the iSolder-40 from Jovy Systems?

Is it safe and reliable not to display the temperature of the iron, even preconfiguring the temperature range?

 

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #13
have not tried it, dislike not showing temp a lot, no clue how you set the temp at all I see it has usb port but I hope that's not what I think it is ... looks like they use hakko t12 tips?

Re: shorter soldering iron tip?

Reply #14
JBC has shortest tips. But, I read somewhere that JBC tips fail hot, while Metcal tips fail cold. Is this true? And would Pace TD-100 tips fail hot or cold? What this means basically, is that the mode of tip failure in JBC tips, when they go bad, is that the thermocouple stops responding to changes in temp, but the heater continues to work, so the station pumps more and more energy into the tip, thinking it needs more power to overcome some thermal mass, and the tip glows red hot, just before it dies. Metcal tips, on the other hand, fail with a break in the wiring, so they simply don't heat up anymore, there's never the run away red glow like with the JBC tips. Does anyone know how the PACE TD-100 cartridges fail, when they do?