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Following comes from http://tangentsoft.net/audio/new-diyer.html

Might gives you some helpful insight. As some of us, are not very helpful.....

I think there are no dumb or stupid questions. We all have them.

What Kind of Soldering Iron Should I Get?

Most any pencil type iron will work. You can get them at Radio Shack or a home improvement store, but I find that most of these irons have rotten tips; they have broad tapers so they're unsuited to delicate work, they crud up easily, and they don't stand up to the frequent heating/cooling cycles that happen when you clean the tip on a damp sponge. A specialty electronics shop will have irons with fine tips that will last a long time. This isn't to say that you can't use a cheap iron, just that it won't last very long and it will be frustrating to use.

A decent iron will cost about $20 including the stand. (The stand holds the iron when your hands are otherwise occupied, and it has a sponge which you dampen and use to clean the iron's tip.) Higher-quality irons add fast-heating ceramic elements, burn-resistant cords, grounded wiring, antistatic construction, and various levels of temperature control. A high-quality iron will also be designed to be repaired, rather than replaced.

Most irons come with a conical or a chisel tip. (Sometimes called needle-point and screwdriver tips.) You can get them in various tapers and widths. I've used both kinds. I used to be partial to fairly sharp conical tips, but now I'm going more towards small chisel tips since they have more surface area for faster heating. Either way, don't get a tip that's too big, or you won't be able to solder small parts, which is critical since parts are getting smaller all the time. Big, crude tips with broad tapers will only result in frustration.

As for temperature, the wattage of the iron determines how hot it gets. You want an iron that will melt the solder readily, but won't burn your board or damage heat-sensitive components. If you get a non-adjustable iron, 15W to 30W iron is about right. A better solution is to use a temperature-controlled soldering station; a basic station is around $100. You have to be serious about electronics to justify buying one.

Above all, don't use a solder gun or one of the small butane torches sold for soldering. Solder guns are too clumsy for delicate electronics work, and butane torches are only for things like plumbing and other big metal-to-metal jobs. There are butane-powered irons that heat with a metal tip instead of a direct flame, but these are for portable use, away from a wall outlet.

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