Solder Irons – $10 vs $200

Let’s talk solder irons.

I used a $10 soldering iron from Radio Shack for years.

It’s a 25 Watt Iron that works great. You can also see the Solder Sucker I use. I use that and Solder wick, just depends.. Now then I also have a more expensive Soldering Iron. The Weller WESD51 which list for $199 (about $144-150 on Amazon).


This is a very nice little station, You can set the temperature is adjustable from 350 to 850 degrees Fahrenheit and have a very nice digital screen. Did I mention how FAST this thing heats up to temp? Well it take about 30 seconds – now that’s fast. The cheaper one above, I plug in and let sit for 5-10 minutes before I use it. Both have replaceable tips. SO which do I use the most? Well would it surprise you if I said that I use my $10 Radio Shack solder iron 80% of the time over the more expensive Weller? WHY??? I don’t know? Maybe because I used it for YEARS before I got the Weller station. Maybe because it just works? I don’t know, please post your thoughts in the comments below.


Let’s talk Solder

I thought I had already posted this, but looks like I didn’t. Years ago I was having ALOT of trouble with soldering. I thought my skills have been slipping or my solder irons where bad. I ask for some advice over on the KLOV forums and came to realize that it was my solder I was using. They told me to toss out the Lead-Free stuff and use what they used BITD (back in the day). They used lead solder on PCB and there’s not reason you can’t use it now. (Just remember NOT to EAT lead or get it on cuts, etc, etc, etc).

So here is what I NOW use:


And this is what NOT TO USE – it’s hard to work with on small electronic PCB work:


You can still get the good stuff from Radio Shack #64-009 (60%-tin/40%-lead Rosin Core Solder) OR Use something like 64-035 (Rosin Core Silver-Bearing (62%-tin, 36%-lead, 2%-silver) The only difference is the 2% silver and the price.

ALSO try to find a 63/37 solder. It is Solder that is 63% tin and 37% lead. 63/37 solder is also known as eutectic solder and is often preferred because it goes directly from a solid to liquid state when melted.


Fuse blowing in your monitor’s chassis?

What would I do if I had a blown fuse in my arcade’s monitor chassis? Well a couple of things, first being to make sure it was the correct size and type (Amps, slow blow or fast blow). Next I would likely put in a new one and turn the game back one. Watch the fuse and see if it blows right away or not. If it doesn’t then play your game!!! BUT if your fuse blows, do not keep replacing it with a new one, because it will blow also. It’s time to pull the chassis out of the arcade machine and put it on your test table. The first place I would test in this case is all of the diodes around the fuse. OK now testing a diode is super easy. A diode is like a one way door, it will let current through in one direction and block it from coming back in the other direction. So get out your Multimeter. Set it to ohms, then touch the red lead to one end of the diode and the black lead to the other. It doesn’t matter which. Check the reading, remember and then switch the red and black leads. One way will give you a reading like .850 (maybe .500 to .900) and the other will probably show no reading, because it should be blocked by the diode.. But if you get a reading and the other way is open (OL) then it is a bad diode, I would remove from the board and retest it.

A diode should read relatively low resistance in one direction and very high resistance in the other direction. There are a ton of videos on Youtube on how to properly test a diode. Please watch a few to get a better understanding.


What to do with a dead PCB?

When I get a new game with a non working PCB (Printed Circuit Board) the first thing I will do is to pull all of the socketed chips and clean with a detailing pen. These are great for removing rust or corrosion off of about anything. People even use these to clean ancient coins. Also works amazing on cleaning contact edges. This is the ones I use from Amazon. If you do not have this item buy it and put it in your toolbox.