What is a Soldering Iron?

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The right tool for the job

Whenever you have a difficult task to do, having the right tool to help you makes that task go easier and more smoothly. Joining wires or other components together is best done through using solder and a soldering iron.

Unfortunately, there are still some people out there that do not know what a soldering iron is. To get up to speed on a popular and well used tool, just continue to read our article. It gives you the definition of a soldering iron and how it is used in most industries.

What is a soldering iron

The very basic description of a soldering iron is that it is a hand held tool that when plugged into an electrical outlet, supplies heat to melt solder. It often looks like a pencil with a long cord extending from one side.

The soldering iron has an insulated handle protecting your fingers from the heat it produces, which can get up to 300 to 800+ degrees F. A metal tip is attached to the soldering iron in order to melt the solder and let it run to the location it is supposed to connect.

Cordless soldering irons use gas to heat the tip and perform the same task. They are just more convenient to use as there is no cord to get in the way of your work. All the soldering iron does is melt the solder so that two different components can be joined together and form a circuit for electricity to travel.

Solder is simply an easily melted metal compound that helps components conduct electricity when connected in a circuit.

Types of soldering irons

There are many different types of soldering irons and they have tasks that the smaller versions cannot handle. Here are those different types and a brief explanation or description for each one:

Type of soldering ironDescription
Simple soldering ironLooks like a pencil, can be held like one and usually comes in 15 to 50 watt sizes. The higher the watts does not produce higher temperatures but just sustains the heat longer. These are used for most electronic work including circuit boards. There is no temperature control on this type of soldering iron
Cordless soldering ironRun by either a battery or a butane gas capsule, these are similar to the simple soldering iron and have the same wattage capacity. You control the heat by adjusting the gas flow on the non battery irons
Temperature controlled soldering ironsJust as the name says, these soldering irons have a dial or switch that allows you to change the temperature on the iron. This gives you better control over your work and helps eliminate mistakes
Soldering stationUsually for bigger soldering tasks, you get to control the temperature and place the station on your workbench so it is out of your way as you work. The iron is attached to the station and looks like a standard pencil soldering iron. There is a stand that comes with the station to hold the iron. You may get higher temperatures and more watts with this option
Soldering tweezersTheir main purpose is to handle delicate work in hard to reach places. There are two tips that can be squeezed together once they have reached the right temperature. Those tips melt the solder and make the connection when regular soldering irons won’t fit
Hot knifeThis is technically a soldering iron but its application is not always for melting solder. It comes with a two sided blade that heats up and can be used to cut fabric for cars,boats and other locations. Its temperature capacity is up to 1000 degrees F.

Soldering iron accessories

When you go out shopping for a soldering iron you will see that they are sold individually or in sets. Those sets provide you with some accessories to help you work better and protect your iron when not in use.

#AccessoryPurpose
1.TipsThere are many different tips you can buy. Each one ha a specific purpose and some fit in tiny little spots while others need lots of room to work
2.Carrying caseThis protects your soldering iron, your solder, tips and other accessories you may have. The exterior is made from different materials and they come in different prices
3.StandsThese are not always standard equipment and you usually have to buy them separately when using a simple soldering iron. The stand protects your work area and you from the heat of the tip when the iron is not being used or while you are waiting for it to warm up
4.FluxCan be found in sets or you have to buy it separately. You need flux to solder correctly
5.Batteries/gas capsulesLike flux they may come with the set or not. Batteries and gas capsules offer you a lot of freedom when you work

Tips when using soldering irons

There are two important facts you need to know about when using soldering irons.

#1. Cleaning– you should clean your iron frequently as any build up of flux or oxidation can ruin your connection and work. A dirty tip means that heat is not transferred correctly and the solder may not melt. A wet sponge is usually all you will need for most cleaning duties

#2. Electrostatic discharge– while some soldering irons protect you from this issue many do not. To solve the problem when this occurs you may have to attach an additional ground wire to the soldering iron.

Some final words

Soldering irons are very handy and important tools. They work quietly even when building up the heat. This element allows you to concentrate on what you are doing. Soldering irons provide a vital service when working with electronic equipment.

That service makes sure your musical instrument is heard clearly or your computer works like it is supposed to. When you do soldering right, then you can do your other activities correctly.

About the Author Dan

Just a random guy who likes to build things. Providing tool knowledge, appliance/device testing tips, and DIY project info in an easy-to read & non-intimidating style.