Pers­der Solder­ing Iron Tips

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I’m usu­ally quite con­fi­dent in my solder­ing skills, but then some­times I find my­self com­pletely fail­ing at putting a header on a Rasp­berry Pi Zero, and what lit­tle con­fi­dence I had in my sup­posed skills drops through the floor. Then I re­mem­ber that I haven’t re­placed the tip of my solder­ing iron for a cou­ple of years, and it all makes sense.

Solder­ing is a nasty busi­ness. Ev­ery time you use your iron, you’re heat­ing the tip to 380°C or more, cov­er­ing it in molten metal and sub­ject­ing it to boil­ing acids in the form of flux, then let­ting it cool back down to room tem­per­a­ture un­til you need to sol­der once more. Over time, this process ab­so­lutely ru­ins the tip of your iron, an is­sue that makes it­self known by sim­ple solder­ing jobs tak­ing in­creas­ing amounts of time un­til, like my­self, you’ll find even the most ba­sic tasks im­pos­si­ble.

That’s why solder­ing irons have re­place­able tips, a fact I need to re­mem­ber more of­ten. Find­ing my­self fac­ing the assem­bly of the MAKERbuino, I headed off the prob­lem at the pass by pick­ing up a ten- pack of Pers­der solder­ing iron tips in a va­ri­ety of shapes and sizes – and in a natty black fin­ish to boot. Ex­actly which tips you’ll need de­pends en­tirely on which iron you own. In my case, the Pers­der tips – sold as be­ing com­pat­i­ble with a range of Hakko solder­ing sta­tions – were just what I needed for my trusty Tenma 60W solder­ing sta­tion (re­viewed back in Is­sue 149). These tips have a hol­low base, with the in­ter­nal di­am­e­ter (ID) mea­sur­ing around 4mm. This hol­low base slides over the solder­ing iron’s built-in heat­ing el­e­ment and is held in place with a metal shield and re­tain­ing ring, with the tips be­ing heated from the in­side out. Other irons re­quire solid tips, which slide in­side the han­dle of the iron, and which typ­i­cally cost con­sid­er­ably more money due to the ex­tra metal re­quired for their man­u­fac­ture.

Al­though it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble to buy in­di­vid­ual iron tips, this ten-pack caught my eye, as it had a range of dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes. Apart from be­ing fresh, it’s the shape of the iron tip that has the big­gest ef­fect on your abil­ity to sol­der; a large chisel tip will hold its heat for longer and trans­fer it to the piece more ef­fec­tively, mak­ing solder­ing eas­ier, while a finer tip is trick­ier to use but al­lows you to sol­der very finely pitched com­po­nents with­out dis­turb­ing their neigh­bours.

This ten-pack in­cludes dou­ble- and sin­glesided chisel tips in a range of sizes, a cou­ple of nee­dle tips (in­clud­ing one at a jaunty an­gle for hard-to-reach ar­eas) and one sharp-look­ing knife edge.

The lat­ter is a par­tic­u­larly use­ful shape for drag-solder­ing – the process of solder­ing a sur­face-mount com­po­nent with mul­ti­ple legs, such as an SMD, by ap­ply­ing sol­der to the tip and slowly drag­ging it along the legs; you rely on the cir­cuit board’s sol­der-re­sist layer to prevent bridges be­tween legs.

For the price – a mere £7.99 (inc VAT) from UK sup­plier Ar­lent via www.ama­ – you cer­tainly can’t fault the se­lec­tion on of­fer, and the tips are a per­fect fit for my Tenma iron. The key, though, will be in their longevity. While the tips I’ve tried cur­rently sol­der like cham­pi­ons, it re­mains to be seen how long they’ll last.

A new tip will breathe fresh life into even the old­est irons, and at a frac­tion of the cost of com­pletely re­plac­ing one

A ten-pack of as­sorted solder­ing iron tips for the cost of a cou­ple from my usual sup­plier? Colour me in­ter­ested

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