Sunday, March 9th, 2014

soldering ironMy soldering iron gave up the ghost yesterday and, as it turns out, it’s just about impossible to find a good soldering iron within walking distance of my house, in spite of the fact that there’s a Menard’s and a Radio Shack so close by that I could just about spit on them from where I’m sitting as I type these words.

A good soldering iron would be an Antex, the kind of soldering iron that I’ve been using for the past fifteen years. It was very slender and light-weight, very easy to handle. It was a 15-watt iron but I wouldn’t mind upgrading to a hotter 25-watt iron or even an iron in the 15- to 25-watt range with a controller to vary the heat. Sometimes that 15-watt iron would take forever to get a rail hot enough to solder a lead to. Finally, I really need an Antex so I can keep on using the interchangeable tips I’ve collected.

A bad soldering iron would, as it turns out, be anything available within walking distance of my house.

Okay, that’s just a little unfair. I brought home a 25-watt iron from Radio Shack that I can make do with until my on-line order goes through. “If you order from Amazon,” My Darling B pointed out, “it should be here in about ten minutes.” She’s not that far off. We have gotten next-day delivery of orders we placed with Amazon. It was a little creepy, as if they were waiting outside our door like teenaged boys with a gift for their favorite crush. “I thought you might like this so I bought it for you three weeks ago and I just happened to be in the neighborhood so here it is, do you like it?” But they can’t do a 10-minute delivery. They can’t even do the 1-hour delivery Jeff Bezos hinted at until they get clearance from the Feds for drone delivery, which should be happening any day now, but not soon enough to fill my soldering needs.

Before I went to Radio Shack, I stopped by Menard’s on my morning walk to see what they had. Searched the tools section for about twenty minutes before I gave up and wandered over to the section where the electrical stuff was. Couldn’t find it there, either, so I badgered a couple of the blue-vested drones stocking the aisles until I found one who seemed to know what a soldering iron was. I followed him to an aisle where there were just two kinds of soldering iron I might be able to use: a cheap, made-in-China off-brand 15-watt iron that I would probably use a couple weeks before I threw it in the trash, and a slightly better 40-watt iron that was, surprisingly, made in the USA. 40 watts was way too hot for the work I was doing, though, so that wasn’t an option. All the rest of the soldering irons that Menard’s had to offer were actually blow torches which put out enough heat to solder copper pipe. Which was not what I wanted to do. And I’ve already got one of those. So, no.

Radio shack had a much wider selection, as far as wattage goes, but they were all house brand irons made in China. The problem with the Chinese knock-offs is not that they’re made in China, it’s that they’ve all got the same clunky tip, thick as my pinky and ground to a rough, conical point like a pencil. Some have tips you can unscrew and change for another tip, but the optional tips I’ve seen don’t offer much. The Antex I’ve been using had a wonderfully delicate tip as slender as a pencil lead with a beveled end. It turned out to be perfect for the work I did soldering electrical connections. I’m making do with the clunky Radio Shack iron until my new Antex is dropped off at my door step in three … two … one …

solder | 8:35 am CST
Category: hobby, play
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