Weller is probably the biggest manufacturer of soldering guns, with the most models available. The temperature controlled iron I mentioned above is a Weller unit. Their equipment is top quality and while designed with industrial use in mind, their consumer line of equipment shows the quality their industrial line is known for.
This ESD safe soldering iron is part of their industrial line, but a lot of them are sold as consumer products. The controller and stand are separate to make it easier to locate on your workbench and you can use this iron all day long, as it’s designed for constant use. Temperature can be set anywhere from 350 degrees to 850 degrees Fahrenheit and held to plus or minus ten degrees. The innovative heater and sensor combination allow for quick heat-up and rapid temperature recovery while the station automatically powers down after 90 minutes of inactivity for safety and to help extend the life of the tip. Tips are replaceable, as well as the entire pencil, which is connected to the controller via a plug for easy changeovers.
Hakko is one of Weller's biggest competitors. This soldering station is intended to be a high quality consumer product, providing an adjustable temperature range of 120 to 899 degrees Fahrenheit, with an accuracy at idle of 1.8 degrees. The digital display will read out in either Celsius or Fahrenheit, as you select with five preset temperatures which can be stored in the unit to facilitate ease of changing projects.
A ceramic heating element provides fast heat-up and thermal recovery as well as a wide selection of tips available for this unit and the stand has dual tip cleaners installed. This unit is ESD safe and will also work with Hakkko's FX-8804 hot tweezers for soldering of surface mount devices (SMD).
X-Tronic is another strong competitor for Weller, producing a number of different soldering iron models, including this one, which is right on the edge between being an industrial or consumer unit. It has a temperature range of 392 to 896 degrees Fahrenheit, with 3.6 degree stability at idle. The digital display will provide temperature readout in either Celsius or Fahrenheit.
This kit comes with a lot of extras, giving tremendous value for the money and include a lighted magnifier for working, ten assorted soldering tips for a variety of applications and anti-static non-magnetic tweezers. It appears that X-Tronic is trying to make up for their lack of fame by providing a more complete soldering kit than the competition.
For those that want a good soldering station for electronic repair, without paying the price of the units we've seen, I'd recommend Weller's WLC100. This 40 watt station has an adjustable temperature control, although it doesn't have the temperature control circuitry of the more expensive units. Temperature control is managed by setting the wattage of power supplied to the iron, not a temperature setting.
The soldering pencil plugs into the base via a standard two-prong AC plug while an additional three-prong outlet is provided for connecting other equipment. While the temperature control is not as accurate as industrial units, the 150 to 900 degree ranges makes it useable for almost all electronic applications. Putting Weller quality together with this unit's pricing makes it a winner.
There are only a few butane soldering irons on the market, of which Weller's unit and this one from Power Probe are the best. Intended for use in the field, where no electricity is available, this unit will work either as a torch or a soldering iron. As a torch, it reaches 2500 degrees Fahrenheit and as a soldering iron it will reach 950 degrees. Temperature control is imprecise and provided by controlling the flame level. It will operate as long as two hours on a butane charge at lower temperatures. This soldering iron is packaged in a plastic carry case, with everything you need, including solder and several tips.