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I'm looking at buying a new soldering station and trying to figure out what would be the right wattage. I'm going to soldering everything from electronic components (not much SMD, if any) to 16mm2+ cables.

Everywhere I look for recommendations everyone keeps warning about getting an iron thats too powerful. What I don't get though is why it should matter, given that you have a soldering station that maintains a set temperature. It's not like a 120W iron will spin out of control compared to a 15W iron, if anything it'll just keep the temperature from dropping when utilised.

Can you get a high quality soldering iron with set temperature that's too powerful? Is the only downside that the iron tends to get more bulky with higher wattage? Or am I just plain wrong?

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At work, I have been using a solder station from Weller. It had a 80W iron, which was still very handy: Not longer that 18cm, a not too thick handle, and the heater was as thick as a pencil. The tip was exchangable, we had fine, needle-like tips for soldering SMDs as well as more bold ones for thicker cables like 2.5mm² and more.

Sometimes, I also soldered more heavy things like ground straps with it, but this isn't fun. The iron had not enough power, and due to it's size, also not enough heat capacity. I had to set the iron to 480°C and wait a moment before I could solder. The result was... well, there was an electrical connection, but I wouldn't call it reliable.

It is clear that this temperature is far to high, the flux just burned, the tin had a bad consistency, the tip didn't like it, and you can apply too much heat.

We also once had do solder lots of thick cables like 16mm², therefore we got a very strong solder iron, I guess a minimum of 150W.

So, my personal conclusion is that a regulated solder station in the range of 60-100W with exchangeable tips of different size is fine for standard jobs from small SMD soldering up to standard mains cables. For that 16mm², you should have an extra iron, I recommend at least 150W, or more. (Also, that 16mm² stuff is usually not that sensitive to over-temperature.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That confirms my thoughts about it too. As long as you can get a tip and pen size that's fit for your requirements, you can't get a pen that's too powerful. Again, given that the temperature control is accurate. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – ptrn Apr 28 '15 at 14:42
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I'm afraid you won't be able to use the same tool to solder electronic components and a 16mm² cable.

For electronic components, any small soldering station like those from Weller or even a 30W iron without temperature control is enough.

For a 16mm² cable you will need a more powerfull iron, something like 100W, 150W. I have never seen those with temperature control. You can't use them with electronics because they would overheat the components and anyway, the tip is too large, bigger than most components.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm looking at buying a Weller WX 1 with a WXP120 pen, which is 120 watts. The tip that comes with it is fairly bulky, but you can swap out the tip with smaller ones. As long as the tip doesn't get burnt, I can't see why it would be a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – ptrn Apr 28 '15 at 14:37

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