I have had an old Unger Princess soldering iron since I was a kid and it has served me well. But lately, I had been wanting to do some things that I couldn't do with the old girl. Plus she was getting a frayed AC cord, so I decided to buy a new iron.
What was wrong with my old iron? Several things.
This list, by the way, is in order of importance. The stand is a minor problem, and I rarely, if ever, change the heat level on the iron.
I thought about buying a fancy station, but I was put off by the price. Then I noticed that Weller has the WLC100 for about $30-$35 dollars. You couldn't tell much by the picture, but it looked OK. The catalogs didn't seem to know what kind of tips it took either, but obviously it had interchangeable tips.
I deliberated for a while and finally bought the iron. Here's what I found out.
When I unpacked the iron, the first thing I noticed is that the casing is plastic. I don't know if this is usual or not now days. Last time I had a soldering station it was that old blue metal. This is a red plastic that is apparently thermally stable. I don't have any problem with it being plastic, but it was a surprise.
The iron comes with one pretty big tip (the iron takes ST series tips). You loosen a set screw and slip the tip in. Tighten the set screw and you are ready to go.
The stand has an on/off switch (lit), a knob marked 1-5 (5 to 40W, with no calibration), a sponge, and the usual metal funnel for the iron. What is doesn't have is a holder for extra tips. My son-in-law wants to drill holes near the base of the funnel for the tips and I think that is a good idea and will probably do it.
There is a very small pamphlet telling you how to operate the iron.
Of these problems, the funnel catching the screw is probably the most serious. This is especially true since the base is lightweight enough that you can drag it unintentionally. A potential safety hazard.
I have the two smallest ST tips (ST5 and ST7, each 1/32" at the tip), but they seem too large to effectively work with SMD parts. They are plenty small enough for everything else, though. You can get the tips at RadioShack.com, or anyplace that has Weller stuff.
Well, if you must have a station, the price on this one is right. And it certainly works as advertised. However, I'm not 100% sure what the advantage of this is over just a regular iron with a stand. Sure, you can adjust the heat, and I am learning to like that. But the set screw grabbing the funnel is a big problem. Also, the lack of really small tips is an issue. Bottom line: there are several other stations for just a bit more money. Unless you are really strapped, I think I would try one of them instead of this unit. If you just want basic soldering, buy a soldering iron. I haven't been so dissatisfied that I will junk this station, but I can't believe you couldn't find something better.
I had heard from several others that you can file or cut off the set screw carefully and you'll still be able to change the tip (the slot is deep). Sure enough, a few minutes with a Dremel tool did the trick. Much better. I still like my Edsyn better, however. On the other hand, the one I have does not have adjustable heat.