I guess that a lot of hams give short shrift to soldering irons and equipment. Heck, I’ve still got tools that I’ve had since junior high school. (Hmm…a small crescent wrench has the initials of my high school shop teacher on it. How did THAT get there?) Over the years, I recall a few trips to Radio Shack to buy the cheapest iron that I could find there that looked like it wouldn’t break in two before I got home with it. Now, guns are a different thing, for some reason. I’ve had Weller guns for years. But not with irons.
Perhaps it was buying my first kit with surface mount components (one!) in it. I was going to use an on-sale Heat Gun from Northern Tool ($14) to do that work. Fate, however, intervened. I accidently melted the AC power cord to my RS iron, sparks a-popping! So I just started looking a “official” soldering workstations with digital temperature control. And, my instincts were correct: really good ones can cost a bunch. So I settled for a reasonable one, price- and review-wise.
Shown below is my new Hakko 988D, sitting on my workbench. I just did some mods on a Linksys wifi router to give it external antenna jacks. Worked swell! I paid $90 with extra tips and flux on Amazon (the best price that I found online). I’ll try not to melt the power cord on this one…for a while. Now, gotta get a muffin fan or two to get the bad stuff away!