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Top Performing Soldering Iron

Your stained glass soldering iron is one of the most expensive items in your kit. And so it should be!

It’s a false economy to buy a cheap stained glass soldering iron and find that it doesn’t solder properly. There’s nothing more disheartening and it may put you off stained glass forever.

On this page you’ll find:

  • helpful reviews of the best soldering iron around to help you choose wisely
  • the important features to look out for before buying one

Best Stained Glass Soldering Iron

Recommended

The Hakko FX-601 Soldering Iron

Starting at the top, we have the Queen of stained glass soldering irons, the Hakko FX-601. This ticks all the must-have and wish-list boxes. I waited quite a while to buy mine but now I absolutely love its heat retention, adaptability and lightness.

Pros

  • Not only is the temperature thermostatically controlled, it combines the latest highly efficient ceramic heating element
  • This ceramic heating element enables these soldering irons to reach temperature very quickly and to maintain it consistently over prolonged periods. The light flashes when it is ready to go.Hakko soldering iron
  • This avoids the annoying ‘cold’ spots that you sometimes suffer with other stained glass soldering irons when they attempt to recover heat.
  • The new ceramic heating technology is also cheaper to run than soldering irons with the more conventional temperature controlled tips.
Easily Adjustable
  • Handy built-in control that can be adjusted to 6 different temperatures. For regular foil soldering tasks I use 410. For leading projects I reduce down to 360.
  • Being able to change the tip temperature adds versatility and means that this iron can be used for all types of stained glass projects.
  • It’s very light which gives you lots of fine control over your soldering. If you’re doing hours of soldering you won’t get tired holding it.

Cons
It’s not the cheapest stained glass soldering iron but you don’t expect the best for next to nothing.

If you’re NOT in the USA or Japan, you’ll need a step-down converter (sometimes called a transformer) – at least 100W- to use this iron.
I bought my transformer in an electrical store – Maplins – and have had no problems at all.

Rating
The Hakko FX-601 professional quality soldering iron is lightweight, cheap to run, heats up extremely quickly and maintains temperature beautifully. 9 out of 10.

 

Other Stained Glass Soldering Irons

The Weller 100 Watt Iron
soldering stained glass
The Weller 100W Soldering Irons are just right for those who are starting out and who want a very good iron at a decent price. I used one for years and years until I bought the Hakko FX-601.

I still regularly use them as an alternative.

Comes with a 3/8″ 700 degree tip.

Pros

– These soldering irons reach temperature in a couple of minutes.
– Weller 100 soldering irons are easy to use for beginners as the tip is thermostatically controlled. This means you don’t need to adjust the temperature while you’re soldering nor do you need an expensive rheostat (separate temperature controller).
– It’s the most popular stained glass soldering iron and many accessories are easily available.
– The iron is lightweight and easy to maintain.

Cons

Very occasionally this iron will experience cool spots. This is when the temperature drops and it will need to rest for a minute or two to regain its heat.

Rating

The Weller 100 is lightweight and well balanced. It works well with different types of solder. These soldering irons are great for those not wanting to spend on the Hakko. 8 out of 10.

The Studio 100 Iron
stained glass soldering iron
The Studio 100 Iron is great value but I’m not sure if that is enough to recommend it.

The main difference between this and the Hakko FX-601 above is price, temperature flexibility and running efficiency.

The Studio 100 soldering irons have a temperature controlled tip which has a set (rather than adjustable) temperature – normally around 750F – which the iron reaches and then shuts off.

Once heat has been lost from the tip it has to turn itself on again. This causes ‘cold’ spots stopping it melt the solder.

 

Cons

– More costly to run as the thermostat than the irons with ceramic heating elements.
– Cold spots experienced.

Rating

The Studio 100 soldering irons come with a one year manufacturer’s warranty and have replacement tips in various sizes available to buy.
However, with commonly experienced cold spots I would pay the extra for the Weller 100. 6.5 out of 10.

What To Look Out For In A Stained Glass Soldering Iron

There are three key things to consider when looking at stained glass soldering irons:

First, temperature.

Your iron should have a heat capacity of between 80 and 200 watts.
– The exception to this rule is irons with the ceramic heating element, like the Hakko FX-601 above, which is a far more efficient technology and therefore needs less wattage.
– When you are soldering stained glass, you want the tip to reach and maintain a certain temperature to melt the solder evenly.

Second, weight.

You might be using the iron for prolonged periods of time, so its weight and the balance between the handle and tip are important.

Thirdly, versatility.

There are different tips and temperatures needed for various soldering tasks.

– The best irons can be adapted to suit all types of projects. – A standard ¼” tip is great for copper foil or lead came projects, whereas smaller tips are better for decorative soldering.

– Being able to adjust the temperature of your iron means that it can be set at the melting point of the solder you’re using and give you perfect results.

Helpful Resources

This is a useful 2mins 30 second video explaining some of the different tips you can buy for stained glass soldering irons. It tells you which ones are best for which kind of project.

Video explaining the types of tips available for soldering irons

There’s some additional information on the Hakko FX-601 on for you here if you want to find out more.

Find out about other stained glass tools for the Tiffany technique here.

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