Craft

Best Portable Soldering Iron Options

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Three low price soldering irons that don't require AC power

[This is just one of many tool review videos we have on our new Cool Tools YouTube channel. Check it out, and if you like it, please subscribe — MF]

We’re going to take a quick look at three very different options in portable soldering irons. I have separate videos on each, that I’ll link to in the description. The point here is really just to give you a demo of each on the same table and you can draw your own conclusions on what might work best for you.

First up we have the Hakko FX-901. This guy runs around $33 on Amazon. It uses 4 AA batteries, I’ve got rechargeables in here. The batteries come out in a clip, making them easy to change. At full charge you should get around an hour of continuous use, but I tend to just sip off the power right when I need it. It get’s up to a useful temperature in around 30 seconds. The hand feel is a little top heavy, but the grip itself is pretty natural and it doesn’t hurt my hand.

Next up is this USB-powered soldering iron. These come under different brands, but this one was just $9 on Amazon. It has this 5 long cord with a minijack on one end and USB on the other. All connected, powered from my Macbook, it takes around 15 seconds to reach a useful temperature. A button on the handle activates it, and if your finger is off the button more than 15 seconds, it shuts off for safety. Battery life really depends on what you have this plugged into, but this and a rechargeable USB battery pack will probably get you a long way.

Last up, we have the Dremel Versa Tip, which runs off butane. It’s $40, it comes with a bunch of different adapters for hot cutting, shaping, and wood burning. It also works great as a hot air torch for heat shrinking wire. This one gets to a useful temperature in 25 seconds. Best of all, it’s adjustable, so if you have work that needs higher heat this might do the trick. Filled up, Dremel rates this for around an hour of continuous use. And when you do run out, it fills back up in seconds. Like the Hakko, you get a nice cap that can secure on even when the tip’s still hot.

My general thoughts on this, at $9 I think everyone should have one of these small USB irons just as part of their toolbag. But for regular work, I reach for the Hakko more than the Dremel. It’s quieter, and feels safer than burning butane.

I hope that was helpful to you. You can find Amazon links to all of these soldering irons in the video description, and if you pick one up using the link it helps to support the Cool Tools blog. And you can find thousands of reader recommended tools just like these at cool-tools.org.

-- Donald Bell 08/31/17