When you're starting your adventure into the hobby of FPV quadcopters, soldering can be one of the most daunting hurdles. This article will help you choose the right tools when starting out soldering. Be sure to get educated with our article that teaches the basic soldering skills you'll need to build quadcopters.
These tools (the iron especially) are an investment and something you'll use for a long time. Because of that, we have cut out all the really low end options as they cause more harm than good. We may earn a commission from the outbound links in this article. The products we recommend we've used, recommend, and come highly rated.
The iron is the heart of your soldering setup and should be given careful consideration. We've cut out all the low end direct plug irons. These weaker irons won't give you the heat you need.
This 40 watt iron from Weller is the lowest you'll want to go in order to get the proper heat. There is good reason that the WLC100 iron is so popular. It comes with a station, iron, sponge, and ST3 tip at a sub-$40 price tag. The only thing missing is additional smaller tips for soldering small components like through holes. Otherwise this iron is a solid workhorse that will give you lots of life. Crank the iron up to the highest power setting and go build that new FPV racing quad!
The Hakko FX888D is a digital soldering station that is packed with all the features that you'll need for building quads. The 70 watt iron can heat from 50 up to 480c which is sufficient for all the soldering situations we will need to handle. The base comes with both a sponge and wire tip cleaner which saves you from needing to buy an additional one. At just under $100 this station should be the one and only you'll need to buy.
For the most serious pilots, a butane iron is a great idea. This iron won't replace your electronic station at home, but it allows you to make quick fixes on the field. There is nothing worse than showing up to fly, breaking a wire, and having to head home. The Weller P2KC is a solid portable soldering iron that comes as a complete kit with case. Throw it in your gear bag and bring it to the field next time you fly - you'll thank me later.
Having the right tip for the job is essential. Soldering pin headers on a flight controller and tinning a large pad on your power distribution board are two jobs that require two different tips. Depending on the type of tip(s) that your iron comes with, it would be a good idea to grab some more options and even some spares. At a minimum you'll want some smaller flat tips as well as a super-fine pointed tip.
Now that you've picked out an iron, you'll need some solder. It comes in rolls and you'll see the term 'rosin core' - this is what you want. The rosin flux is a cleaning agent within the solder itself. As the solder burns the rosin cleans the work. For working on drone components, we recommend 0.7mm diameter solder. There are tons of options depending on the brand and how much you need. You can get started for under $10
Even with the fanciest iron and best solder you can buy, you'll struggle without a helping hand. This tool simply helps you hold the pieces of equipment that you're working on. Simple things like soldering a wire to a pad can become very difficult if your work is moving around and slipping as you solder. A helping hand holds the pieces you're working with in place, allowing your hands to work freely and elevating the work off the table.
Something super basic like this will handle most of your needs for under $10.
If you're serious and do lots of bench work, these 4 hand octopus style mounts are next level. You'll pay for that level of convenience at upwards of $40. For power users, this is well worth the investment.
Keeping a clean tip on your iron is essential for creating good solder joints. For cleaning smaller bits, a wet sponge is ideal. If you have big chunks of solder on your iron, a wire cleaner like the Hakko 599B is a lifesaver. By scrubbing the tip in the mess of gold wire, large pieces of solder are removed and fall to the bottom of the container. You can then finish the clean with the sponge. Again at less than $10, these are a must have for anyone who is serious about building quads.
It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an old pro, we all have accidents on the bench. Getting the solder onto your components is important, and getting it back off after a mistake is too. These two tools are great to have in your toolbox if you need to clean up your work.
Removing solder from small spaces, near components or in a through hole requires a solder sucker. This small syringe like spring powered device sucks solder into a chamber using air pressure.
This woven copper wick is a series of small strands braided together. This design captures and sucks solder off components much like a sponge does. For removing larger bits of solder, this wick is the perfect tool for your kit.
Last updated on January 9, 2017