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One of the most important tools to have in the custom mechanical keyboard hobby is your handy dandy soldering iron. While hot-swap (solder-fee) connections are becoming increasingly popular in the hobby, you will find that most PCBs will require you to take the time to solder in in your mechanical switches manually. Although it may seem intimidating at first, it is a fairly simple process once you get the hang of it (Soldering 101 Coming soon! Please subscribe to receive the notification.).
Please note that these recommendations are based on building a custom mechanical keyboard and isn’t necessarily be a full solution for general electronic DIY projects.
Best recommended soldering irons and stations for soldering keyboards:
You’ll be adding an removing a lot of switches and solder. Soldering Starter kits can offer a lot of bang for your buck and can definitely do the job but I genuinely believe- that once you’ve had a bit of practice and kind of know what you are doing– upgrading to a soldering station is the way to go. You’ll be able to heat up your soldering equipment much faster and apply more consistent heat to the solder. The temperature control features are also fantastic for peace of mind you are operating at the right heat and looking after your components.
Here is a list of the best Soldering Irons Kits you can purchase now from Amazon:
Best Soldering Kit for Beginners
- Soldering Iron Kit for many applications – necessary tools for soldering projects, home DIY fixing jobs, electrical, electronics and appliance repairs, circuit board welding, for home DIY hobbyist…
- Premium Quality Components with safety features – high quality soldering iron, stand and all other accessories; soldering iron with adjustable temperature knob (200℃ – 450℃), 5pcs replaceable…
- Bonus Accessories – more than 15 extra items such as desoldering pump/solder sucker, tin wire solder tube, tweezers, mini wire stripper, mini screwdrivers, mini PCB, heat shrink tubes and more plus…
1 x Temperature Adjustable Solder Iron: It has an ON/OFF switch and the controls are on the handle.
1 x Desoldering Pump (“Solder Sucker”)
1 x Tube of Solder Wire : Should be enough to solder two 60 percent keyboards, given that you have minimal waste.
1 x Soldering Iron Stand with a handy sponge to remove excess melted solder from the tip
1 x Tweezers
1 x Wire Cutters
1 x Screwdriver
1 x Carrying/Storage Case
2 x Electronic Wires
5 x Soldering Tips
This is a great beginner kit just to get you started. It is a very cost effective way to understand how the tool works with all the auxiliaries you need. It is NOT made for heavy use and I ran through 2 of these kits when I was getting started (mostly from noob mistakes). This is the perfect solution for you to solder your first keyboard and get a good feel as to whether or not you want to do more (in my case I did. I wanted to do a LOT more).
The iron itself is fairly good quality and it comes with 5 extra soldering tips in case yours get worn out. This kit comes with everything you need to solder your first board and some other tools that you will probably keep and use long term.
The included solder sucker also comes in handy and good enough quality that I still use it to this day. One of the most important peripherals included is the soldering iron stand. The last thing you want is to have a 600° F Iron rolling around your desk. In fact, it is scientifically proven that having contact with the hot iron on your skin is regarded as unhealthy.
Best Daily Driver Soldering Iron Kit
1x Solder Station: Includes iron, cleaning station, and stand
1x Copper Solder Wick
1x Spool of Solder Wire
1x Desoldering Pump
1x Solder Tip Cleaner
This is the kit that I currently use for my projects. It is reliable and I see no reason to upgrade from here. While it doesn’t include the other extras in the beginner kit above (tweezers, clippers, etc.), it has all of the essentials that you can expect to be able to use long term. My favorite extra that is included is the steel wool solder tip cleaner (way more effective than a wet sponge in my opinion).
The controls on the iron are located on the base which I have found to be an improvement from the beginner kit since there is less chance for you to accidentally move the temperature dial. It also includes a useful little container of FLUX. Flux is useful especially if you are getting beads when you solder. It helps keep the flow of melted metal smooth between surfaces.
Also included is an extremely useful roll of copper wicking wire. This is very useful to “clean up” what the solder sucker could not get. Copper wick can be used to desolder a board from start to finish and can entirely replace the solder sucker. I personally prefer to just use wick when I have to but in general, people use a combination of both.
Best Premium Soldering Iron
Includes: No extras. This listing only includes the soldering iron.
I have personally tried a few other, more expensive, soldering irons before but this one had the best feel by far. If I were to ever upgrade or if my current one broke down, I would definitely purchase the Hakko FX888D. I had the pleasure of using it when I was… between tools due to a recent move. The build quality is excellent and the product feels sturdy enough to last a lifetime.
The best thing I recall when using this soldering iron is the ramp up time. The previous two recommendations do take a few more seconds to heat up but this one felt almost instant! The sturdy build gives you a lot more confidence that it won’t tip over and burn your fingers off or worse, damage your precious keyboard gear (I’ve had a few too many melted keycaps).
The only thing that could use improvement on this one are the controls. It comes with two buttons on the base unit to program the soldering iron. With just two buttons and so many more features, the setup is not intuitive but after getting the hang of it, this soldering iron does not disappoint. I had it for just a weekend and it took a few minutes to find out exactly to make it do what I want.
Some Other Great Soldering Tool Essentials
I am definitely a fan of copper solder wick because it is a very effective way to “desolder”. This brand of solder wick has great reviews and is my go-to. You may find others that are more finely braided that I would NOT recommend if you are soldering a mechanical keyboard. They simply require too much heat and for the precision required, this looser braided wick is just right for your DIY mechanical keyboard.
This… Is expensive. BUT it is also a dream come true. If you have way too much money, a desoldering tool is a dream to have. Especially when it’s time to sell a keyboard or replace the switches on a PCB, removing switches can be a GIANT pain (even with the copper wick). With the desoldering tool, you can go quickly and easily speed through desoldering and cut the time it takes in half. It’s basically a solder sucker or desoldering pump with a built in vacuum so you won’t have to load it each time.
If you are going to be soldering, you will need to have some good solder wire (duh!). I personally like to purchase these tubes and refill them later since they are much easier to hold than a roll of wire. It can be held like a pen and there is a hole on the tip of the tube where you can feed the solder wire through. This allows for more stability and keeps your finger tips further away from the hot iron. It is a bit more expensive to buy these in packs rather than the role. I would suggest keeping the tubes and refilling them if you prefer using it. Otherwise, you can just skip this and get the last essential on this list:
Lead free solder
If your room, shed or man cave has poor ventilation, it could definitely be worth investing in non-lead solder to make sure you aren’t breathing in any nasty fumes.
This Austor Lead free solder has a slightly higher price point that also comes with a slightly higher melting point (of about 422.6°F/217°C for lead free solder vs 361°F/183°C for leaded solder. Therefor I’d suggest investing in a soldering station that will comfortably be able to achieve the heat necessary on the soldering iron to easily melt the lead free solder. I do think soldering stations are a worthy investment as they allow you to work a bit more effectively- they heat up faster and the ergonomic experience is arguably quite improved.
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Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API