Skip to content

 

 

 

Basic soldering skills are a great addition to any Maker’s toolbox. As with many new endeavors it can be challenging to sort through all of the information out there to decide where to start. This guide is intended to satisfy the needs of attendees of our online electronics build classes, or those who want to build our kits on their own. Recommendations span bare bones kits through more comprehensive assembly stations, you can choose what makes sense for you based on what you think your future holds and what fits your budget.

There are a lot of options that aren’t included here so if you’re inclined, read other guides and learn more. The links provided are for representative products. We didn’t buy these specific products, we haven’t tested them and don’t know the sellers. You might find better deals, better reviews, better versions if you do some searching on your own.

 

Under $30 Bare Bones Kit

This inexpensive kit can take you a long ways. It will take a couple of minutes to heat up, its temperature setting may not be super accurate and it wouldn’t be classified as the finest of tools but it will get the job done without lightening your wallet much. The iron is for soldering, the side cutters for trimming leads after soldering and the solder wick for removing solder.

Solder Iron Kit
– Pencil iron w/ adjustable temperature
– SnPb solder
– Tip cleaning sponge
– Assorted tips
$13
Side (Flush) Cutters
$7
Solder Wick
$7

 

Bare Bones Upgrades

The Bare Bones Kit is pretty good as is but many folks will appreciate a few upgrades. We often wish we had a helping hand to hold things in place while we solder. There are many variations on this theme available, a couple of the lower cost options are highlighted here. The solder sucker can be helpful for removing solder in some cases. The version listed here is lower cost, it may not endure years of use but if you use it enough to want a better one then maybe the investment was worth it. If you decide it’s not your thing then you’re not out much.

Third Hand Option 1
$8
Third Hand Option 2
$14
Solder Sucker
$7

 

High Quality Portable Kit

The TS100 and TS80 style solder irons have a strong following. They are small, easy to pack and take with you, and a pleasure to use.  They are on the more expensive side but their fans find the price worthwhile. The USB-C powered TS80 requires a USB-C port with Quick Charge 3. Your existing laptop or USB wall charger may not support this so consider buying a power supply with it. There are plenty of knock-offs of these irons and variations on this these so shop around for what suits you best. Both solder wick and a quality solder sucker are included and each are useful in some circumstances.

TS100 with Power Supply
$75
Engineer SS-2 Solder Sucker
$30
Solder Wick
$7
Side (Flush) Cutters
$7

High Quality Bench Solder Station

It’s hard to beat a proper bench soldering iron. The iron holder is stable and holds the iron safely and securely. The tip cleaner will work well and won’t slide around the bench when you use it. The iron will heat up quickly, tip temperature will be well maintained while soldering and will be ergonomic in your hand. This setup is a quality and popular setup for electronics enthusiasts.

Hakko FX880D
$105
Solder: 63/37 Sn/Pb 0.032″ diameter
various
< $10
Side (Flush) Cutters
$5
Engineer SS-2 Solder Sucker
$30
Solder Wick
$7

 

SMT Bare Bones Upgrades

Any of the solder kits above with with or plus the items below will suffice for some basic SMT work. Removing SMT parts with only one solder iron can be difficult at times. It might be helpful to add an inexpensive second iron for this reason alone.

A pair of fine tipped metal tweezers
$7
Solder with 0.032″ diameter at most
Solder iron tip options down to 0.06″ ~ 0.08″ is preferred

 

SMT Enthusiast Upgrades

Fine pitch SMT parts like some QFN or BGA will require using finer pitch tips, solder paste, hot air reflow or other tools. If you get to this point then congrats, you’ve stepped beyond what we are trying to cover here, enjoy your endeavors!

Scroll To Top