BlackJack SolderWerks BK-3000LF
Last spring I had picked up a pair of BlackJack SolderWerks BK3000LF soldering stations with a couple of extra tips in different sizes. These have worked pretty well for the price (around $39 each at the time) and the control units stack conveniently to save space. But, they have trouble maintaining temperature when using desoldering braid… or even without using braid, they won’t really maintain temperatures above 360 C. Also, there aren’t any tips that work well for SMDs.
The price has gone up quite a bit in the past year, so I’d be a lot less inclined to get these now. The only place to get them, or any tips, appears to be from CircuitSpecialists.com. If they decide not to carry it, then I’m out of luck for parts.
So, I recently looked at the Hakko units. The FX-888 is a well made unit (see this hack at the eevBlog), even though it looks a bit like a toy. I also liked the FX-951, with the digital display. The 951 series is more of a professional unit, even though it too has the bright yellow and blue colors. There’s a huge selection of tips, and you can get extra snap-in grips which makes it easier to change the tips while they’re still a bit warm. The cables on the Hakko are thinner, more flexible, and a bit longer than on the BK-3000LF.
For most purposes, I’d generally go with the FX-888, it’s a great unit at a decent price. Hakko makes a variety of tips available from multiple sellers.
Why two soldering irons? I found that I often need two sizes during the same work session. When building a board I’ll use a small bent tip for surface mount devices, and a larger bevel tip for through-hole components and wired connections. When salvaging a board I often need a small tip to get some components, but for many I need to use a large tip with heavy desoldering braid. So, having two irons available is very convenient. And, if they are similar models, I can share the tips between them.
I have found great prices on tips and handles (and stunningly fast shipping) from All-Spec.com
I’ll see about doing a teardown of both the BK-3000LF and the FX-951 when I can.