Review: Iroda Solderpro 70 gas soldering iron

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ajs

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Had this one a few days now so figured I'd post a first impressions review of it. Had a couple of gas irons before now but to be honest they've been cut price impulse buys and while they've been useful they were also essentially disposable in that spares are not available. Looked around at what was on the market and the Solderpro 70 seemed a good option - it's been on the market for long enough I feel confident I'll be able to get a new bit three or four years down the line and they're not asking for hundreds like Weller are. Looked at the Antex options who I used to rate, but like the rest of their range these days they simply don't appeal to me somehow.

So, the Solderpro 70, just under £22 for the basic non-kit model from CPC. Filled it up with gas and... oh it's leaking. These instructions say not to fill it more than 90% full and while there isn't a maximum fill level line I can see I'm well within that. Try tightening up the valve but I can see through the window the entire valve assembly is simply rotating when I do that. Take it outside to vent before I get too light headed...

Fortunately I live a mile from their trade counter so pop down the next day and get it exchanged. This time I fill it only half full. Valve appears to be initially leaking again, much more subtle this time and it seems to stop after a couple of minutes. OK, maybe the first was pure bad luck and this one needs to bed in, maybe it was simply leaked gas from the filling evaporating, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

The basic model comes with a fine conical tip and blowtorch adapter. I don't get on with concical tips for most jobs so I got a 2mm angle tip and a hot blower adapter at the time of purchase. The replacement bits are slightly ouchy in price, £5.40 a throw at CPC, but they include the catalytic heating element so you're getting a new one of those with every bit. The element seems to be on a metal scaffolding as opposed to the white cloth gas lantern style elements in the cheaper irons. Time will tell how they last.

I fit the 2mm bit and light it up. There is a flint sparker on the end of the iron's protective cap and yes it does work, but a regular gas lighter is easier if one is to hand. It take perhaps 30 seconds for the heatign element to get up to temperature and start catalysing, before that time you're stuck holding the iron away from anything potentially flammable as the flames erupt from the vents. Once it's up to temperature and the element glows orange there's a small built in stand that can be unfolded to put it down safely on a flat surface. It doesn't have the best feel in the hand of any iron I've used, slightly bulky at the rear of the iron, but perfectly usable for through hole electronics stuff. The hand-to-tip distance is fine for precise work. If my hand seems slightly unnatural in the relevant photo bear in mind it's at a slightly odd angle, had to hold the iron at arm's length to get it nicely in frame of my phone camera. I found I only needed power on low for circuit boards so there is plenty of reserve power for larger jobs as you'e epect with an iron that claims an 80W maximum power rating. Although I haven't done so yet I plan to pick up a 4mm chisel tip bit for larger and mains soldering jobs - the 2mm bit it likely a bit on the small side for larger switches and so on.

As for the blowtorch and hot air adapters - I found the blowtorch adapter initially seemed to flare up unpredictably in operation but seems to have settled down now, so hopefully I'm justified if I say that just needed to bed in. Hot air blower was fine when used it for heat shrink. I've not tried using it for reflow soldering of SMDs - at 650C it should be capable but the lack of precision regulation would suggest it's an emergency option rather than something to depend on day to day. It comes with a protective cap but possibly a trick was missed there in that you have to allow the iron to cool completely before it can be stowed.

If this lives up to expectations it'll be a great buy, with a few extras I'll have a grab-and-go soldering toolkit that will do the full range of tasks. A 12" pencil case with the iron, spares and the essential soldering accessories comes to around £40. Then you have the blowtorch, hot air (and indeed hot knife) function you don't with an electric iron. Hopefully the issues I've so far attributed to bedding in are exactly that. If anyone's reading this in twelve months time feel free to DM me prodding for a long term update.
 

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