Stained glass work is one of the crafts you can get into from the comfort of your home workshop. Whether you do it professionally or plan to do it as a hobby, there are some tools you need. One of the most essential is a soldering iron. In particular, you need a high-precision soldering iron that can retain heat for extended periods. How then do you choose the right soldering iron from the numerous models available? To make it easier for you to choose the best soldering iron for stained glass work, we have carefully selected and reviewed some of the best models available on the market. We will also discuss some additional facts on stained glass.
Comparison Table of Soldering Iron
Top 5 Soldering Iron for Stained Glass
1. Weller WLC200 Soldering Station
Temperature control is a critical thing to consider in any soldering iron to be used for stained glass work. The Weller WLC200 Soldering Iron features an adjustable power range of 5 watts - 80 watts, making it possible to adjust the temperature depending on the task at hand and the solder being used. It comes as a complete soldering station with important accessories and replacement parts included. It produces up to 900° F temperature and heats up quickly.
2. Hakko FX601-02 Soldering Iron
If what you need is a lightweight soldering iron with an adjustable temperature feature, the Hakko FX601-02 Soldering Iron is one of the best options available. What makes it particularly suitable for stained glass work is the heat accuracy and range it offers. As it features a ceramic element, it is relatively lighter than irons with metal elements. Furthermore, it doesn't take much time to heat up, and it retains temperature for considerable periods of time. The variable temperature control feature is what we love the most about this tool.
3. Weller W100PG Heavy Duty Soldering Iron
The W100PG Fahrenheit Heavy Duty Soldering Iron is another heavy duty soldering iron from Weller that is perfect for stained glass work. It employs the unique Weller closed-loop method of temperature control to prevent the damaging effects of overheating. Interestingly, it comes with three different tips that can handle 600, 700, and 800 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature. Thanks to the Nichrome wound element, the iron heats up very quickly and gets to 700 degrees in just 110 seconds. For a heavy duty iron, it is so lightweight and portable.
4. Choice 100W soldering iron
The Choice 100W Soldering Iron comes with a chisel tip that can reach a maximum temperature of 1000 degrees. Like all the other models on our list, it is a portable and lightweight tool, weighing a mere 4.8 ounces. With a wattage of 100, the 120 volt iron doesn't sacrifice functionality for its simplicity. Also, it is the best budget soldering iron on our list. So, if you have a minimal budget, this is the perfect option for you. It heats up quickly and gets to the maximum temperature in a matter of minutes.
5 Weller SPG80L Soldering Iron
Weller soldering irons dominate our list, and the SPG80L is just one of the several Weller tools suitable for stained glass work. This is an 80 watt iron that has a maximum temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The ¼" and ⅜" chisel copper tips are perfect to work on the intricate seams of stained glass. The 5 feet power cord is not the longest but is long enough to solder comfortably. Like you would expect in any good soldering iron, it has a very comfortable grip.
Compared to a lot of the other irons we have reviewed, it is quite basic but still as functional as you would like it to be. One of the major drawbacks of this tool is the absence of the adjustable temperature feature. It works only at a temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are new to stained glass work or an amateur, you should find it sufficiently functional. Nevertheless, it is one of the top-rated soldering irons you can get on the market today.
Overall Best - Weller WLC200 80 Watt Hobby and Stained Glass Soldering Station
The Weller WLC200 80 Watt Hobby and Stained Glass Soldering Station is our best stained glass soldering iron. It features an adjustable power range that makes it possible to regulate the temperature level, depending on what the task at hand requires. It is a complete soldering station that consists of a station base, the soldering iron, two chisel tips, an iron holder, and a cleaning sponge. One of the features that make it stand out the more is the replaceable heating element. It heats up fast and retains heat for extended periods as well.
Features and Factors to Consider When Buying a Soldering Iron for Stained Glass
To make the right soldering iron choice, a proper understanding of the critical attributes and features required for stained glass work is necessary. Typically, the process involves cutting of the glass, grinding, and then soldering. Let's discuss some of the things to consider if you hope to make the right choice.
Soldering irons are heating tools, and thus, they feature heating elements. Two common elements are installed in soldering irons: ceramic elements and Nichrome wire elements, and they both have peculiar properties.
They are used to heat large metal bodies, which in turn conducts heat and transfers it to the mouth of the iron. In theory, the large metal body implies better heat retention. Long continuous soldering requires sustained heat, and the heat retention capability of Nichrome element iron elements make them perfect.
They are usually smaller than Nichrome elements, and by design, they heat up areas close to the pointed tip of the iron. They cannot retain heat for extended periods, but the interesting thing about them is that they heat up fast. Short and quick soldering tasks can be handled by soldering irons with ceramic elements.
Wattage is a reflection of how powerful the tool is. Soldering irons for stained glass projects range from 60 - 300 watts. A consideration of the proposed stained glass projects will help you is essential when choosing the wattage. However, it is essential to know that a high wattage does not necessarily translate to better performance. There are several other factors that will influence the functionality of your soldering iron.
Soldering irons vary in sizes and weight. As stained glass work requires precision, a portable and lightweight model is the best option you have. Large and heavy irons cannot be perfectly maneuvered to achieve the precision required, and little mistakes will negatively influence how the project comes out eventually.
In addition to weight, the grip is another factor that will affect the functionality of a soldering iron. The handle should be comfortable enough to hold for extended periods. Holding the tool for a long time can cause hand fatigue and pain if the handle is not comfortable enough. We advise that you go for models that feature ergonomically designed handles, as they are made with the user's hand comfort in mind.
What Type of Solder Is Used for Stained Glass?
There are several types of solder that can be used for stained glass projects. Nonetheless, you cannot use just any solder you can get from typical hardware stores. Stained glass professionals use tin/lead combinations the most. They are identified/classified by a combination of two numbers, with the first indicating the weight tin component, and the second indicating the lead component. Here are some solder types that are perfect for stained glass craft.
If you need to make flat seams between two joints, this is your best bet. 50/50 solder is characterized by a very long liquid time, as it melts around 420° F and sets around 365°F. Because it produces flat seams, it is one of the best solder types for lead and copper foiled pieces.
This is more suitable for copper foiled pieces because it produces a high bead and has a very short liquid time. It melts around 374°F and sets at 361°F.
This is another type of solder that sets quickly. It is commonly used for decorative purposes. The solder sets as soon as the soldering iron is taken away.
Lead free solder is not so common among stained-glass professionals. However, some use it as a substitute for the 50/50 solder as it has similar characteristics. In lead-free solders, Copper replaces the lead content.
How to Clean a Soldering Iron?
Soldering iron tips and bodies get so hot during use that oxidation cannot be avoided. The repeated heating and cooling is another reason why they require regular cleaning and maintenance.
- Turn off the iron and allow to cool for 15- 20 minutes
- Clean the soldering iron's tip with a damp sponge immediately after it cools down, but before the solder cools down entirely and builds up.
- If you notice rust stains on the tip, you can clean them off with a slightly dampened steel wool pad.
- Some soldering iron tips can become so oxidized that it doesn't get clean quickly. Special tip cleaners, made from a mixture of powdered solder and aggressive flux, can help remove the built-up oxidation.
Can I Use Rosin-Core Solder for Stained Glass?
Rosin-core solder has a mild flux content and is typically used to solder points where flux residue cannot be removed entirely. It is more suited for soldering in electronics. As a result of the high acidic nature, it is not suitable for stained glass craft, and will only leave a mess. Solid-core solder is a more suitable option.
What Is the Best Temperature to Solder Stained Glass?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How to clean stained glass after soldering
It is necessary to clean the glass after completing the project. Flux buildup and other residues should be removed as they can affect the aesthetics of the entire project. Rust and corrosion will build up eventually if the flux is not removed. To clean, use mild detergents or special cleaners. However, make sure not to use any abrasive material on stained glass.
Can Lead-Free Solder be used for stained glass?
Lead-free solder is not commonly accepted among professionals for stained glass projects, but yes, it can be used without adverse repercussions. Like the 50/50 solder, lead-free solder makes flat seams.
How hot do soldering irons get?
The most common soldering irons have a maximum temperature range of 850- 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonetheless, some high powered soldering irons can get as hot as 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to the maximum temperature, you should consider how quickly an iron heats up and how well it retains heat before you buy.
We hope you find it less confusing to select a good soldering iron for stained glass work. These top rated soldering irons we reviewed have the perfect balance of comfort, stability, heat time, and heat retention needed for a successful stained glass project. Also, if you are new to stained glass work, we have discussed some critical things you need to know before you get started. These various models of soldering irons have varying features, but they are all suitable for amateur and professional stained glass artists.