Upgraded Soldering Setup

Upgraded Soldering Setup

I've had a very basic soldering iron for years, and it served its purpose well enough. It was one of those "plug in and they go" type irons that lacked any settings, and its tip wasn't really replaceable either.

After I recently started installing new batteries with proper holders a while ago —I made a video of my first-time-in-many-years— I realized it might be a good time for me to get a new soldering iron, along with a few other useful bits. For example, I did not have any solder wick, so removing some of the (excessive) solder was quite challenging. What follows is a brief overview of what I got, in case others might be in similar situations and looking to find affordable options.

KSGER V2.1S T12 Soldering Station

This unit can be had for about ~$50 over on Banggood.com.

The KSGER T12 Soldering Station

The KSGER T12 Soldering station is a very reasonably priced, often-recommended soldering iron that uses T12 tips. It's a great little unit that seems solidly built, and comes with some features often only found on fancier irons, like replaceable tips, replaceable handle, electronically controllable temperature, et cetera.

The controller part is solidly built out of what I think is aluminum, and has a nice infinitely rotating knob that can be pressed in as-well. You use this knob to navigate it's menus and perform tasks like adjusting the temperature.

On the back of the controller you'll find a common C14 power supply socket, the same one you'd find on a PC or similar device, so sourcing a cable for this will be no problem as the unit is not shipped with one. You'll also find the power switch, as-well as a user-replaceable fuse, especially useful for folk over in the UK, but generally just a nice feature to have in your devices.

The front of the controller when powered on, showing several statistics like current temperature, current voltage, etc.

With the unit comes one T12-K tip, which is a wide blade-like tip. You'll probably want to get several other tips, or go for a set as I did.

Extra soldering iron tips

These can be had for about ~$30 over on Banggood.com.

This package comes with 10 tips, including the same T12-K tip included with the soldering iron, so if you end up buying this set you'll end up with two of those. Still, it seems like a nice and varied set with all kinds of tips that seem useful for various situations. I can't speak too much about these as I have yet to use them all, but they seem of decent enough quality and are also very affordable.

Helping Hands (YP-001)

This can be had for about $23 on Banggood.com.

Another thing I was looking for was some helping hands to hold up the PCB I am working on, freeing my other hands for the actual soldering or cleaning. After some searching I found this one that seemed to be pretty flexible in how it can be set up and used, and offers four hands (or, protected alligator clips) which is great for keeping the PCB stable.

The alligator clips can be removed by loosening the screw you see above. I guess this might come in handy if you have other clips, like bigger plastic ones or so, but I am not sure what options are actually available that use this specific type of mount.

The base is quite heavy (the listing says it's about 400 grams) so it really won't move anywhere unless you want it to. It has four almost full-width slits in which you can mount the four arms. This design makes the base very flexible, as you can move the arms around wherever you like.

The only thing that might be considered a downside is that if you want to adjust where the arms are, you need to loosen them using the included Allen wrench.

Other assorted additions

Basic soldering iron stand, about $12 on Banggood.com.

The soldering iron stand I was using was also quite flimsy, so I had to pay a lot of attention the iron wouldn't drag itself and the stand off the table. Not very useful. So I looked around and also picked up a stand that looked heavy enough to not move around so much.

1.5m long, 2mm wide solder wick in a pack of 4 for about $4 on Banggood.com

Closing thoughts

These are merely the items I chose to flesh out my soldering setup a tad, I am not trying to claim these are the very best choice. At least for the soldering iron it is quite highly recommended and solidly built, so for the price range it's a very good choice. Everything else listed here very much depends on your specific needs, on what kind of items you usually work with or on, et cetera. In my case I just needed something a bit better for performing basic maintenance tasks on my SNES and Super Famicom carts, and I am decidedly amateurish at best, so keep that in mind ;-).

I took the soldering iron for a quick spin today and, out of curiosity, tried using the T12-K that came with the iron. I must admit that I am not liking that tip very much for my specific needs, I think a sharper tip works better in my specific case, but that's the benefit of having swappable tips; you can pick the one that works best for the project at hand.

It's certainly nice to not have to wait for the iron to warm up, this thing gets up to temperature very quickly. I'm glad that I am finally able to adjust the temperature now too.

I replaced just one battery today to give this iron a quick try at least, and also cleaned the pins of course. The helping hands worked great, it was so much easier to work with the PCB with the hands holding it up, and they're easy to adjust too for getting to the part you're working on from different angles.

In case you're curious, the game in question was Hoshi no Kirby 3 (Kirby's Dream Land 3).