When I started messing around with Arduinos and electronics some years ago, I used a cheap 230V soldering iron from RadioShack. But I quickly realised that I needed something more flexible since the cheap soldering iron felt bulky – and it also had a long warmup period.
Being new to the hobby I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a soldering iron and what is the best soldering station for hobbyists?
Searching the net made it obvious that all the famous DIY electronic geeks all recommended Hako and Weller – but what about the price tag?
A Hako soldering station is priced above 100$ for the cheapest model and the digital versions even higher.
After some research I discovered that the Chinese had copied the Hako soldering station especially the 936 – and that these clones could be a nice entry point for practice and enhancing my skills.
I bought a Yihua 936 soldering iron from HobbyKing – it even came with “genuine sticker” which shows to what extend these frauds will go to convince us about the supposed quality.
My impressions of the Hako 936 clone
The packing was quite good and could just as well have been a genuine Hako. The soldering handle was clearly a fake and it felt very cheap – especially the cord was stiff and not very flexible. Not that this clone handle has a female plug opposed to the male plug on an original Hako soldering handle.
When I powered up the Yihua 936 I was initially surprised how quickly it warmed up – but just as disappointed when I realized that the soldering kept warming on – blinking the red LED. I guess this was due to either a poor-quality heating element or little thermal mass in the soldering tip.
The way to the dumpster
I told myself that I probably could accept the shortcomings of the cheap soldering iron and started my endeavour into the electronics hobby.
I guess that I used the Yihua 936 soldering station for about 1½ years a couple of hours a week. Most of the times successful – but at times it seemed that I was fighting against the iron and that my soldering results was affected. Mainly I felt that the soldering iron had a hard time holding a certain temperature. At one time I also tried to be soldering with leadfree solder – this was close to impossible since the little Hako clone couldn’t reach the higher temperature.
I had almost decided to scrap the Yihua 936 – but I decide that would change the heating element. I expected that it might be as simple as wear and tear.
But after having tried to change both the heating element and buying a new soldering handle, the obvious became true for me – you get what you pay!
Buying a Hako Fx-888D
After the frustrations with the cheap and fake Hako 936 clone I decide to buy a real Hako Fx-888D.
I bought the soldering iron from a premium and authorized Hako retailer.
The difference was obvious already when I unboxed the Hako Fx888D – the soldering station felt much heavier although it had a smaller footprint.
The soldering handle is smooth, and the cord is real silicone and much longer also.
The heating process is completely incomparable, and I can just say – this works and what a difference! It is true what they say – “the right tool is half of the job”. My soldering joints has improved astronomically since the solder melts instantly both 60/40 and leadfree.
I can only recommend you stay away from the fake Hako soldering irons – they will only cause you frustrations.
They don’t heat, and they don’t last very long.
Buy a genuine Hako soldering station – this will be the best investment as electronic hobbyist.
Why you should buy a true Hako iron:
- Silicone handle and cord
- Faster heat-up
- Greater thermal mass on the soldering tips
- Better joints (less frustrations)
- Cheaper in the long run