Recommended Soldering Equipment

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The below recommendations are general recommendations for soldering equipment targeted toward hobbyists looking to repair or mod electronics.

Warning Be careful about ordering name brand soldering irons and supplies from online marketplaces like Amazon. Hakko/Kester/etc products sold by third-parties on these stores are frequently cheap counterfeits which may not be safe.
Note Digikey, Mouser and other well-known electronic stores are almost assuredly genuine products. When in doubt, most manufacturers have lists of authorized resellers on their websites.
Item Description Recommendation Explanation Link
Soldering Iron The handheld pen used to solder and the base station it is attached to.
  • Station with a knob to control the temperature.
  • 60W or greater
Cheap irons generally do not have a base and are usually 30W, which will drop heavily in temperature whenever you are actively soldering a pad. Hakko is the top name brand who makes fantastic products, but there are plenty of clones that will do the job for a fraction of the price. If you think you might ever use hot air for soldering or desoldering chips, go with a 2-in-1 station. Hot air is also a convenient option for when you use heat shrink. Irons should last a long time, but their main weak point is twisting the cable too much and cause an internal break.
  • KSGER T12 Iron
  • TS100
  • Hakko FX-951 Iron
  • Hakko FX888D Iron
  • Generic 862D+ Hot Air Station
Solder The spool of metal which you melt.
  • Lead solder (not lead-free)
Lead-free solder has a higher melting point and is a little harder to work with since you have to heat the target pads to a higher temperature for them to bond. The only time you absolutely need to use lead-free solder is if you are selling a product and live in a country - such as the United States - which requires all products to use lead-free solder. Either solder type can have a "rosin core" which means it has flux inside of the solder. This can be used in place of external flux, but there are times in which you may not want to use flux such as purposely bridging pads together or you may want to add flux without additional solder like in the case of soldering fine pitch chips to a board. Never use acid-core / plumbing solder!
  • Kester 63/37 (especially the 3.3% flux options)
Brass wool Used to clean your iron tip.
  • Brass (NOT STEEL!) wool with a small metal container
This is an alternative to a wet sponge for keeping your soldering iron tip in good condition. Dipping your iron tip into brass wool will absorb any excess solder and residues from the tip, helps scrape off any oxidation on your tip, and spread solder evenly across the tip without drastically dropping the tip temperature like a sponge would. Most collected debris can be dumped out of the brass wool container or shaken loose. It is important to use brass wool over steel wool, as brass is a 3 on the Moh's Hardness scale and therefore will not damage your iron tip, which is plated with iron (hardness of 4), chrome (hardness of 8.5), and nickel (hardness of 4). Brass wool is also convenient as you do not have to keep a sponge wet.
  • Hakko 599B
  • Generic
Flux A liquid or paste that removes oxidized metal from surfaces, seals out air to create a stronger bond, and affects surface tension to make solder easier to control.
  • Non-corrosive
  • No-clean liquid
  • Needle applicator
Non-corrosive means it will be safe on plastics and metals. No-clean means that once it's heated, it cannot be cleaned off of the board and it dries clear. It's best to buy a 2oz bottle with a needle applicator as it makes application much more precise and you only need to use a drop at a time. If you do run out, you can refill it with a larger bottle. Paste flux can make wire-to-wire soldering easier, but it's much messier for soldering on PCBs and can turn dark and make it hard to see small connections. Do NOT use acid flux (used in plumbing or automotive industries) as it is very aggressive and can damage nearby components. Always be sure to clean ALL flux residue, regardless if it's "no-clean" or not. Be careful when selecting a NC flux, as some are corrosive until fully heated and are intended for wave soldering, not board rework.
  • Amtech VS 213
  • Amtech NC 559
  • Kester 959T
  • Kester 951
  • MG 8341
  • MG 835 (not no-clean)
Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) + Extras Used to clean up after soldering and remove leaked acid.
  • 90% or higher IPA
  • Only inactive ingredient is purified water (NOT glycerine)
  • Cotton swabs for wiping up
  • Soft bristle toothbrush for gently scrubbing between pins and components
While some say it's a waste to buy 99% IPA due to the idea that it will quickly evaporate, one study shows that it would take 48 hours in an open wide-mouth container for 10% of it to evaporate. Ideally, you should keep the cap on the bottle of IPA and only pour out a small amount into a container at a time. Double check the inactive ingredients before purchasing to ensure that it only contains alcohol and purified water, and not glycerin which will leave a residue. It can be found at most pharmacies along with cotton swabs (Q-Tips) and a soft bristle toothbrush.
  • Cheapest from local pharmacy or in bulk
  • 99% Isopropyl Alcohol (at least 91%)
Desoldering wick (braid) Used to wick up solder from pads
  • Braid with quality flux
Some wick works better than others, the flux built-in to the wick has a lot to do with that. Place the braid over the pad you wish to desolder and apply your iron on top of the wick and continue to apply heat until the wick is either fully saturated or the pad is clean. Cut the saturated parts of the wick off. Allow the pad to cool before re-wicking. Do not remove your iron before removing the wick, or the wick will be soldered to the pad and you risk tearing a pad off.
  • MG 426-LF Super Wick
  • Gootwick
Heat Shrink Tubing Used to cover exposed wire-to-pin or wire-to-wire connections.
  • Mix pack of different sizes as opposed to rolls of one size
Heat shrink is essentially all the same no matter where you buy it from. A mix pack of many sizes is useful as you can just slip the size you need over the exposed metal and heat it with a hair dryer or hot air station (on low heat) to shrink it.
  • Mix pack of sizes, any brand
Multimeter Used to diagnose issues and check your soldering work.
Very useful for checking your work by testing continuity between two points to make sure your solder joints and connections are good without having to power on the device. Also allows you to check for breaks in circuits on boards and to measure live voltage to ensure it's operating correctly. Essentially all multimeters have continuity testing and voltage reading, cheap ones will do.
  • Any brand multimeter
Wire Strippers Used to strip ends of wires.
Any wire strippers will work so long as they support your wire gauge (AWG). Most strippers will do a range of sizes
  • Platinum Tools 15005C ProStrip 16/30 Wire Stripper (can strip 18-32 AWG)
(Optional) Silicon mat Insulated soft work surface.
Provides a soft work surface that can't be melted or burned by a soldering iron.
  • Any brand
(Optional) Kapton tape Insulated tape for wire and hot air work.
Lightweight non-conductive thermally-isolating tape that keeps wires held down and protected. Useful to cover nearby exposed pads and components when using hot air to protect them.
  • Any brand
(Optional) Helping hands Used to hold PCB at desired angle.
Bendable arms connected to a heavy base with alligator clips on the end used to hold a PCB at a convenient angle for you. Can also include a magnifying glass to see smaller pads. You can make your own out of a hunk of metal (such as an old hard drive), alligator clips, flexible coolant hoses, and superglue.
  • Any brand
(Optional) Digital microscope Used to line up small pitch chips and check work.
  • One with an LCD screen (not handheld)
  • One with two bendable lights
Helpful for soldering and checking small pads, such as RAM installs. Bendable lights allow you to compensate for the shadows of different components on a board. Often times, there is the option to take screenshots of the display as well.
(Optional) Hot Air Rework Station Allows you to desolder components with hot air.
Some mods require removing or replacing a chip from a motherboard, which you need a hot air rework station to use. If you are looking to get a hot air station, you may want to get a combination soldering iron rework station.
  • Atten ST-862D
  • Quick 861DW
  • Generic 862D+ Hot Air Station (combo station)
  • YaeCCC 858D Rework Station Hot Air Gun
(Optional) Electric duster Used to blow dust out of consoles and PCs.
  • One with a fine nozzle option.
  • One with a cord (no batteries)
While traditionally people use cans of compressed air to remove dust and dry IPA from under chips, a plug-in blower can do the same things for much cheaper in the long-run and with less environmental impact. Most units come with multiple speed settings, so you can use higher settings to blow dust out of consoles or PCs much easier.
  • Any brand
(Optional) Desoldering gun For people who extensively recap boards or desoldering thru-hole ICs.
If you plan on recapping a ton of thru-hole capacitors or desoldering thru-hole ICs for advanced mods like NESRGB installs, you may also want to invest in a desoldering gun which is similar to a soldering iron but the tip is hollow and it has a trigger that enables a vacuum to suck solder away. The Hakko FR-301 is the gold standard for this. Others recommend a budget ZD-915, but often times you need to swap out the plastic solder collector tube with a glass one and get ceramic filters - but even then it doesn't seem to perform as well as a FR-301.
  • Hakko FR-301
  • ZD-915