Updated: Jan 29, 2021
Great tools for improving your soldering game.
Two of my recent tool acquisitions, both Christmas and birthday presents, were the Hakko FX-888D soldering station, and the Quad-Hands, a helping hands tool. My model railroad projects often require soldering, as everything from all the track wiring, to circuit boards inside of locomotives, to toggle switches for various controls requires soldered connections at some point along the way. While I already have a few soldering irons, they are all the type where you plug them in and then heat to a specific temperature and have a specific power output. The problem is that different projects need different levels of heat. Soldering track requires more power output than does a delicate circuit board.
Enter the Hakko FX-888D soldering station. Hakko makes a number of different soldering stations, many designed for electronics work, and this one is on the lower end of their product offerings, but still offers a wide range of temperature control.
You can see below how it ships in the box. You get the base station that the iron connects to, and which has the controls, along with the iron, the holder for the iron, and a couple of cleaning pads for the holder (one wire, and one sponge).
Setup is easy, though the controls are somewhat too simplified. You have an up arrow and an enter button. You can change the temperature with the up arrow (once you go past the top of the range you go back to the bottom again), and also store some presets.
While it is simple enough to change the temperature, it is slightly annoying that a couple of extra buttons weren't added. A down arrow and preset button would have been nice to have so you didn't have to hit buttons as often to get to a setting you want.
The iron does heat up very fast, far quicker than any soldering iron I have used before with the exception of one very high wattage unit I once had. You only have to wait seconds instead of minutes for the iron to heat up, which is really nice. The temperature controls are great to have, even if they are a bit janky to use, and this will really help to improve my soldering.
A companion to the soldering iron is this Quad-Hands device which is a heavy quarter-inch steel plate with four magnetically attached arms. The whole setup is very sturdy, and you can arrange the arms wherever you want on the plate.
It is great for holding multiple things that you are trying to solder or glue in place. While more expensive than other helping-hands type of devices, this one does work really well and is a joy to use. You could certainly make something similar yourself for less money, but this unit nonetheless works and looks great. And the ~$45 price isn't too bad and this makes a really nice gift as well. It certainly will come in handy for all my future soldering and modeling projects.
You can watch the video review of both of these items below.
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