Task: Purchase a Soldering Station for Atari Electronics and Hardware Projects
Needed: Web browser
Time: 10-15 mins
I took a year of electronics in high school and did a lot of soldering. In fact, I used to fix tube televisions which people from the community would bring in. I also installed “The Chip” in my Atari 810 drive. I am surprised my father let me take it school and crack it open. I don’t think I soldered again until the early 2000s when I made my own Atari SIO2PC.
I am now wanting to do some Atari hardware projects so I decided to invest in a good soldering station. There seem to be two very popular solutions which most people in the community go with. The first is the Weller line. Weller is a German company that makes solid soldering stations. The second is the Hakko line. Hakko is a Chinese company that also makes very popular soldering stations. I decided to go with the Weller listed below and have been very happy with it.
I purchased the Weller WE1010NA Digital Soldering Station from Amazon for around $100 (see photo below). Setup took just a few minutes and I was up and running in no time. It comes with the main unit and a nice stand to hold the iron when it isn’t being used. The unit feels very solid and nicely constructed. You can set the temperature and it comes with other features such as an automatic timer to power down the iron after a set amount of time. This is a nice feature in case you walk away or get distracted and forget about it. Mine was set to two minutes out of the box I wondered why it kept cooling down.
Here is an equivalent Hakko if you want to go with that one. People love these too.
The next step is to purchase some solder. I went for the lead-free solder so I wouldn’t have to worry as much about safety. This Mudder brand solder (see photo below) was recommended to me by an Atari hardware pro. I found working with the lead-free solder to be really easy. Don’t let the old school leaded folks scare you. Set your iron to about 750F and you are good to go. I had no problems. A nice roll cost me about $12.
You might also need some soldering iron tips for different jobs. This is optional but I went ahead and bought a set for about $25.
Another optional purchase is a set of helpful tools to assist with electronics project. I bought this set for less than $10. A few of them are pictured below.
Another optional purchase is a soldering iron cleaner. I bought this one made by Hakko since it has a nice steel wool-like insert. The Weller comes with a cleaning pad (see yellow in soldering iron stand below) so this isn’t absolutely necessary. These cost around $10.
Finally, another optional item is a silicon mat for your projects (see photo below). I bought this one which has lots of nice places to put different parts including some magnets for keeping track of east to lose screws, etc. It costs a bit over $25.
I have taken this setup for a spin on several hardware projects including building my own Atari cartridges. Everything worked like a dream. You may of course need other tools such as wire cutters, screwdrivers, etc. I didn’t list all of those. Also, I found my Dremel tool to be useful for some projects. I can say that the Weller is infinitely better than the cheap soldering irons had used years ago. Well worth the investment.
If you need a refresher or introductory course on soldering I highly recommend YouTube. I watched several videos before I jumped back in. There are many good ones.