Soldering Irons - wattage 40w 80w - what does it mean?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by benhenny, Aug 31, 2011.

  1. benhenny

    benhenny Tele-Holic

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    So I'm looking to buy a new iron, and I'm looking at Weller, of course, and I see a Weller WLC100 with a wattage of 5W - 40W. Okay.

    But they make another Weller WLC200 that is advertised as "80 Watts Stained Glass Station" yet is rated at 5W - 40W.

    Both have a high temp range of 900° F.


    Coopertools Specs:

    WLC200

    WLC100

    And here's the 80W iron that heats to 900° F - just like the 40W iron does.

    So besides the size of the tips, what difference is there between 40W and 80W?

    And just to make it more confusing, here's a 60W that heats up to 800° F, depending on the tip you use.
     
  2. polkat

    polkat TDPRI Member

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    Well, put bluntly, the higher the wattage, the greater the efficency of the gun at a given temp. Or even more bluntly, the higher the wattage, the more heat the gun should make. But...the tip of the gun (and overall design) can have a great effect on the above. A heavy tip requires more wattage to acheive the same heat as a light tip...and so on.

    The work also dictates what tip to use. Small circuit board soldering requires a light gun, which won't damage neighboring compoments when soldering, where as heavy work, such as tube amps or basic guitar interiors require a heaver gun to get the bigger parts up to heat.

    Even the solder can have an effect. Silver solder usually requires more heat then rosin core solder. I'd stay with a good Weller at 80 watts for most work.
     
  3. gandsfjord

    gandsfjord Tele-Meister

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    I go for low-power soldering irons for electronics style work.
    With a high-watt iron you're more likely to fry the components being worked on.
    A low-power iron will take longer to heat up, and you will have to warm up the lead / soldering-ear / component pin for longer before applying the solder. It is also useless for work outdoors or if there's a cold draft in your working area, but you don't need to worry about destroying your components.

    Tubes have heftier pins / metal parts and may require more power - or more patience ;) (I haven't started modding my tube amp yet, so I can't tell for sure).

    I have two Wellers; a 15W and a 60W. Haven't used the 60W for 10 years I think.
     
  4. Hoopermazing

    Hoopermazing Tele-Holic

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    If you're going to de-solder that awful silver solder on the back of Fender pots, don't even think about using a low power soldering iron. Hit it with something along the lines of a 60W (or better) iron and get in out quickly.
     
  5. PinewoodRo

    PinewoodRo Tele-Afflicted

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    You need only 300 - 360 degrees for guitar type work, any hotter and you may melt pots and fry capacitors. As mentioned, silver solder (lead solder is now illegal for manufacturing) might need a bit more temp. The higher wattage iron will hold it's temperature more consistently as you work, sometimes useful for bus-bars and chassis grounding on amps etc.
     
  6. Davecam48

    Davecam48 Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Guys regarding the "wattage" of an iron you should always go larger rather than smaller but it is the size of the tip that's important and also the type of solder used. The lead -free is just rubbish and the so called silver solder has a much higher melting point than the real stuff and does not flow like 60/40.
    I repaired hearing aids for 16 years using an 80 watt iron and a fine tip and believe me the stuff I worked on was sub sub miniature about 75% smaller than surface mount components, so small the work could only be done through a microscope.
    Soldering is an art and is easy to do if you let the iron do the job for you. There are a few rules .....make all ends to be soldered are clean AND TINNED, do not melt the solder onto the iron tip and try to push it onto a joint, it will make a dry joint!
    To solder perfectly every time, place you iron on the job and touch the solder onto the TIP OF THE IRON close to the joint and if all is cleaned and tinned it will flow on the exact amount os 60/40 required. DO NOT BLOW THE NEW JOINT, let it cool down naturally.. Whole process takes about 3 secs.

    Buy a high wattage variable heat soldering station and some old style 60/40. Have fun!
     
  7. donh

    donh Tele-Afflicted

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    Listen to Davecam48, he speaks truth.

    also, please consider this iron: http://www.howardelectronics.com/edsyn/951sx.html

    The Edsyn 915 is awesome.

    I had Wellers and was going broke buying tips and heat elements for them, and growing old waiting for them to heat up - both the first time and in production.

    Once I got the Edsyn, all I have to do is fire up the tool and go to work. the Edsyn has a far better heat recovery curve (no waiting!), and ships with Just The Right Tip.
     
  8. Sleph

    Sleph Friend of Leo's

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    40 watts is perfect...my first one was 25 watt and it took forever to get hot enough to melt old solder.

    I did more damage overheating parts trying to unsolder things than I ever could have with a hotter iron.

    Finally sick of it, I went to buy an 40 watter a few months back and could only get a 60....works good and quick, but probably a little too hot.

    Just my 2c
     
  9. Bolide

    Bolide Friend of Leo's

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    Another "Ditto for Davecam48"

    Contrary to intuition, you are more likely to overheat a component with an underpowered iron, because it takes more time to bring the surface to temp giving more time for more heat to soak to the vulnerable material.

    Get some cheap components from Rat Shack and practice before going for the gusto with your money parts, when you get the knack you will know it from how pretty the beads look. Like everything it takes practice, you will scorch a few things, and make some cold solders, at the start.

    And, whoever came up with "Well cleaned is half soldered" was dead right.
    Pre-Tinning is A Good Thing.
     
  10. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I woudn't try soldering a ground to the back of a pot with less than a 40W. Lately, I've been using my 40W for connections and an 80W chisel tip for the back of pots. I find it alot easier and quicker.
     
  11. benhenny

    benhenny Tele-Holic

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    Thanks, all, for the suggestions.

    I think I'm going to stick with my 20yr old, 35W, $6 Radio Shack iron, buy a new tip for it (it's in bad shape), and be more patient while waiting for it to reach temperature. I think it takes 10 min or more to get up to temp.

    I don't solder more than a few times a year, but I've always found it a PIA due to the iron not being hot enough. I think I'm just not waiting 10 min.
     
  12. polkat

    polkat TDPRI Member

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    Keep a damp cleaning pad around for the tip, and get a usable solder gun stand. Keep the tip clean with the damp pad (between solderings-just touch the tip to the pad to remove excess solder), and let the iron come up to heat on the stand, not on the work. If the tip is hot enough to keep melting solder fed to it, it's hot enough to use.

    When done, clean the tip well before storing.
     
  13. JuSteve

    JuSteve Former Member

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    For small wiring jobs, I love my Weller "Portasol" kit. Adjustable butane power, no plug-in cord to tangle or melt, interchangeable tips:
    solder/torch/hot knife/hot air blower for shrink tubing.
     
  14. tfsails

    tfsails Friend of Leo's

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    The wattage rating on the iron is an indicator of how heavy a job it can do. If your work has a lot of metal around it acting like a heat sink, you'll need a higher-wattage iron to heat the work enough to melt solder.

    Just about all soldering irons/guns heat up to the same temperature: 800-900°F. The advantage of high-wattage is heating the work up faster; the disadvantage is you run the risk of overheating delicate electronics if you're not careful.
     
  15. Revv23

    Revv23 Friend of Leo's

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    Any iron is better than that.... just get a weller 40w pencil and live it up. :)

    Seriously, youll thank me for this.
     
  16. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    For a start there's no such word as wattage, it's power. Power is measured in watts.
    Power describes how much heat the soldering iron can provide. Power is a much better description anyway.
    Try to remember, power is measured in watts.
    Heat is not temperature.
    You have to heat something to make it hot.
    If you do not have enough heat it will never get hot enough.
    When something is heated, it will be cooling down too, so to get it hot enough to solder, you have to pump more heat in.
    So if you want to heat a big thing to soldering temperature, you need more power.

    A Temperature Controlled tip is a thermostat for the iron, it cuts out at a given temperature.
    You need a higher temperature for lead-free or to solder tin/lead over lead-free than for tin/lead.
    Use a Weller no.8 for lead-free and a no.7 for tin/lead.
    The Weller 40W TCP (Temperature Controlled Pencil) is capable of doing all manner of soldering work.It can push a lot of heat in without going over temperature.

    Power and temperature :- Think of it as the big ring on a stove but with a simmer-stat, as opposed to a little spirit burner which burns very hot but will never bring a big pan to the boil.
     
  17. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    That iron has a very large tip, and would be tough to use for most guitar wiring. I think the listed wattage of that iron is wrong, I believe it's actually an 80 watt iron. It would be good for trem claws or pot backs, but personally I would opt for the 40 watt iron with the small tip.
     
  18. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

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    I'd recommend a Metcal/OKi soldering iron if you are going to be doing a lot of work. I tried other styles, but they seem to be the best. They heat up faster then anything else I've tried. They also pump heat into your joints really fast for quick and reliable soldering. They also feature tons of different tips that are really easy to change. I think a good soldering iron is one of the most important tools for guitar/pedal work.
     
  19. megafiddle

    megafiddle Former Member

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    Ever hear the saying, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity"?

    There is a somewhat humorous saying, "it's not the heat, it's the temperature".

    That last one is actually technically correct. Heat and temperature are not the same.
    Temperature is the degree of thermal agitation of the molecules. We use it to measure
    things like melting points. We also sense it, and perceive it as hot or cold.

    Heat is temperature times mass. The math is not important. It simply means that it takes
    more heat to raise the temperature of a pot case to soldering temperature, than it it does
    to raise the pot terminals to soldering temperature.

    Soldering temperature is always the same. Iron tip temperatures range from 700 to 900
    degrees F. What you are doing with different wattage irons is providing the correct amount
    of heat to raise the terminal (or pot case) to soldering temperature. The larger the size of the
    object being soldered, the more heat you need to raise it to soldering temperature.

    Heat, in a soldering iron, is specified as wattage. If you are using a fixed wattage iron, it is
    designed for terminals and wire of a certain size or range of sizes. That iron will bring that
    size work up to soldering temperature quickly.

    If you have an iron with heat control, you have to match the heat setting to the size of the work.
    And usually the tip size also. They work, I use one. But you do have to adjust the heat correctly,
    and they can easily burn the tip if you had the heat up high and forget to turn it down afterward.

    My main iron though, is temperature controlled. The iron delivers a variable amount of heat,
    maintaining a constant temperature at the tip. Touch the tip to a pot case and the heat output
    rises to keep the tip (and to a lesser extent, the work) at 800 degrees.
    Another advantage of these is that when idling in the iron holder, the heat output drops
    way off and the tip doesn't burn.

    I believe the "stained glass" iron is meant for soldering stained glass lead, not electrical solder.
    Would be too hot.

    50 watt variable heat irons are pretty popular. They are certainly good for casual use.
     
  20. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    No, That is a very specialized tool for doing the lead-work on stained glass windows
     
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