So, you know that cool soldering iron
that gets advertised on TV? The cordless, battery operated one which cools down almost instantly, and has all sorts of safety features so that children
can't get burned?ratphooey
was kind enough to buy me one, for the holidays. (If you don't trust ordering from the TV guys, ThinkGeek
Tonight, I felt motivated enough to do some soldering. A simple job-- the output jack of my main guitar (a rather beaten up but loved and extremely tricked up 1980 Ibanez Artist that I've had for 13 or 14 years) had been crackly and loose lately (A hint for the future-- I had replaced this output jack a few years back. It turns out that there is
a difference between the $1.79 ones at Radio Scrap and the fancy $3 ones what advertise in the geetar magazines. The latter feel more solid, actually sound noticeably better, and presumably won't die of metal fatigue after only 4 or 5 years).
So, I dragged out the ColdHeat, and went to it. Some notes:
- It really does heat up and cool down fast-- however, they claim it has the power of approximately a 15-30w iron, yet it takes a little longer than a 30w iron would take to melt solder. The extremely narrow gauge silver solder I like using for audio-related electronics took a couple seconds to flow. I tried some thick rosin-core as well, and that took 5-10 seconds to heat up enough to flow. I'd guess closer to 15w than 30w. Good for small electronics and PCB work, (and probably jewelry) but I'd go nuts trying to say, rewire an AC-powered lamp with it.
- Despite the reasonably low power rating, the tip that ships with it is manifestly unsuited for electronics. It's unwieldy, and very hard to get a good joint on say, 20 or 22 gauge wire. I was using the 24-gauge wire that was already in the guitar. It took me an hour to get the jack wired into my guitar as a result-- the job would have taken me 3 minutes flat with a conventional iron. (To be fair, about 15 minutes of that involved restripping the 25 year old wire so that I had a clean enough surface to resolder.
- I did not burn myself; not with the iron, not with hot solder, and not even with hot bare wire. This may be a first in my 20 or so years of soldering. I also had no fear of burning the dining room table.
- The tips appear to be made of graphite. Whatever it is, it conducts heat well. However, it's kinda fragile. Out of sheer reflex, I wiped the tip (with some, but not a lot of pressure) against the damp newspaper I had at the edge of my project, and it cracked.
- It does not heat up unless the twin points of the tip make an electrical connection. And it has a great white LED which lights up the thing you're trying to solder.
While it wasn't an ideal soldering experience by any stretch, I was pleasantly surprised, mostly by the safety stuff (a real consideration, given that Maggie the moggie has been fascinated by soldering since kittenhood, and the fact that the baby is about to start becoming self-mobile) . And I like the lack of a cord a lot and the fact that I can toss it in the case without having to keep a close eye on it for 20 minutes while it cools down. I guess I'll shell out the $10 for the small tip that should have come with it in the first place. Not a bad buy.