Let’s get one thing straight. Not every guitar virtuoso is also a master of tools or has a desire to learn the inner workings of a guitar. Just because one shreds like Yngwie doesn’t mean that he or she knows how to fix a guitar or fine tune it to sound better.
That being said, if you're a serious guitar player, having one of the best soldering irons for guitars is just as essential as having a pick, a premium cable, or a capable guitar stool. It’s something that you will end up using once you have it because there’s always room for repair work or modifications.
5 Best Solders for Guitar Repairs and Mods
What’s great about this unit is that it features variable power control (5 to 40 watts). This lets you choose the appropriate heat output for different solders and points, depending on your task at hand.
Mind you that there's no temperature readout. The power control knob has settings from 1-5 and getting the temperature right may take some trial and error.
But once you get it right, there's no looking back. The temperature remains pretty consistent to help you achieve accurate soldering.
It can heat up to 900 degrees which is more than enough for rewiring most guitars. The ST3 chisel type tip it comes with is highly beginner-friendly and ideal for delicate tasks like soldering ground wires onto pot cases.
However, for more delicate tasks like soldering pot lugs, I'd suggest that you order small tips. The tip can turn quickly. So, you'll need to clean and tin it frequently to minimize oxidation. Doing so will keep your soldering iron in good working condition over time.
It also benefits from the ergonomic foam grip which lets you work comfortably and with maximum accuracy.
You also get a soldering iron holder and a cleaning sponge. You may think that’s not a big deal, but trust me, it is. Not all soldering irons come with accessories and once you start working with one, you will find yourself in need of other things fast.
On the downside, it's only 40 watts, so it does take a while for the tip to reach the desired temperature, compared to higher wattage models.
This is a nice little repair tool because it has a small footprint and a decent power output. If you are new to customizing guitars, you'll be probably better off with a light and compact soldering pencil like this.
The tool is rated for 60W and in reality, it's only about 40 watts which is sufficient for basic guitar repairing jobs. For minor guitar repair works, I would choose this compact gear over a bulky soldering station any day.
As far as temperature stability and consistency are concerned, this thing has surprisingly exceeded my expectation.
I'm fan of the incredibly short warm up time of this tool as well. It takes l to ess than 45 seconds heat up to 900 degrees. Note that there's no variable temperature. So if your specific soldering application requires precise temperature adjustments, this one won't be up to the task.
I found the LED indicators super convenient, though. It turns green when the tool is ready to go, leaving guesswork out of the equation. This soldering iron comes with a small conical tip that is ideal for working on tight areas.
Moreover, these are audio jack style tips which makes changing the tips a breeze. Just pull it out and swap it with a new one. Make sure to clean the tip often so as to avoid burning the solder on it.
One negative is that the included tip is less likely to last very long. So don't forget to purchase extra tips with the iron.
The grip on the Weller WPS18MP is one to envy. For other manufacturers I mean. It’s molded for your hand. The design is self-standing which means it won’t need a holder. But some of you may still prefer the extra safety of a holder.
If you don’t feel comfortable working with very high temperatures or your repair work doesn’t require super-hot tips, then the Hakko FX-901/P soldering iron may be a good option to look into
This is a wireless soldering iron which can reach a maximum temperature of 600 degrees which is quite a lot for a battery-powered soldering iron. It can sustain the heat it for a long time and is suitable for outdoor use as well (unless the weather is too cold).
If you switch it on and off between solder joints, you may get over an hour of use in one charge. That should be more than enough for many tasks if you know what you’re doing.
However, the temperature isn't adjustable which renders the tool unsuitable for more demanding applications.
To get the most out of it, you’ll need 4 Alkaline batteries. Or Ni-MH batteries if you prefer rechargeable. I'd personally go with Ni-MH batteries with this tool as they deliver even heating for up to 2 hours.
With really high-quality batteries, you can expect the tip to heat up in merely 20-30 seconds.
Albeit alkaline batteries pack more punch when the batteries are new, they don't provide enough voltage to get the tips adequately hot towards the end. For heavy use, a 4-battery-operated soldering iron like this is a better option than the cheaper 3-battery models.
The box includes a T11-B cone tip whose small shape lets you easily access very tight places. I also loved that fact that you can get your fingers close to the tip for extra precision without the risk of frying up your skin.
Don't forget to keep the tip tinned at all times to ensure uninterrupted, efficient heat transfer.
What I didn't like about the product, however, is that it includes only one tip which will wear out sooner than later. The replacement tips are on the expensive side.
I found the handle to be slightly on the beefier side, probably because of the battery placement. Beefy isn't a bad thing in this case as it provides a better stability when performing delicate tasks.
This compact tool may not be ideal for larger components but its main draw is cordless operation and portability. If your soldering applications are limited to small components and you're prioritizing precision over power, HAKKO FX-901 won't let you down.
4. Vaster AC222
Here’s another kit which has all accessories you can think of, useful for working with delicate guitar components such as the printed circuit board. The AC22 comes with 16 pieces and 60W of soldering power to cater to a bunch of different soldering needs.
The temperature is adjustable from 392 to 842 degrees with the help of a convenient temperature dial. Moreover, it can effectively sustain the heat well throughout the process.
It is a good enough range for PCBs as well as soldering lugs and de-solder. However, for more intensive tasks like modifying a guitar amp, it may not be enough.
The wide array of tips included with it lets you branch out into different applications without having to invest in an extra set of tips. The tips are easy to change and heat up to 450 degrees in a little over 10 seconds.
Its light weight and easy-to-grip handle allowed me to work on tight areas without breaking much sweat.
Among the accessories are a cleaning sponge, stand, and all the good stuff like five tips, solder sucker, anti-static tweezers, and a nifty toolbox. The toolbox has a solid build and allows you to seamlessly travel with a bunch of tips and soldering accessories.
Now, what I didn't like much about is otherwise a stellar kit is the stand. It's not very stable which creates a tip-over risk.
Putting the hot iron down on it briefly can cause some heat loss. Other than that, this is a fairly capable, great value for money soldering iron kit for light applications .
This is a complete kit that should help with almost all your guitar repair work. It too has a variable control function which lets you adjust the output to between 200 and 450 degrees which is a lot of heat for a small equipment like this.
The range should be perfect for those who want to use a single tool for both light and complex components.
It's equipped with a ceramic heating element that's well-suited for circuit assembly. Also, it's dual voltage compatible, so feel free to use it outside the U.S without a voltage adapter.
I loved the ergonomically designed handle of the soldering gun. It aids a good grip and most importantly, never gets too hot to the touch.
The package contains 28 accessories, which might seem overwhelming for those who are new to guitar repairs.
But, setting that aside, you do get 2% flux, enough solder wire, soldering iron stand, as well as a wire stripper and cutter and more. You can keep all the accessories safe and organized in the included toolbox.
The tinned tips are super easy to swap out and reach desired temperature under 90 seconds or so. Brownie points to the manufacturer for including 5 replacement tips which means you don't have to pause your work and rush to the hardware store anytime soon.
The heat retention isn't remarkable, so it's not an ideal gear for temp-sensitive applications. For better heat transfer and overheating protection, you should keep the tips tinned and clean at all times.
But as long as you stick to standard guitar rewiring and small repair works, you'll be fine. On the downside, I'm not mad about the quality of the material. The soldering gun can last for years only if you restrict yourself to occasional light use.
Soldering Iron Elements
Whenever you’re considering buying a soldering iron, the first thing you should think about is the element. There are nichrome and ceramic elements to choose from. Each type comes in a variety of sizes, of course.
Here’s the story on their differences so that you can pick what’s right for you. Nichrome elements can heat up larger components faster and have better temperature sustain at the tip.
Ceramic elements provide faster heating times but may struggle with tasks that involve sustaining heat. So, is one better than the other? – No. Not overall at least. Each type is better suited for specific repair work.
Not All Tips Are Designed for the Same Task
Soldering irons may come with conical, pointed, chisel, or angled tips. Each one shines in its own area but there’s one tip in particular that’s a lot more versatile than others. Call it a jack of all trades if you will. The pointed tip is the best at switch contacts and also performs admirably around cables and wire soldering.
Of course, if the latter is your only concern, then maybe a chisel tip is better for you. Just know that it won’t help too much with other tasks, if you’re also a stickler for aesthetics.
There’s More to them than Wattage
When it comes to soldering irons, the wattage simply gives you an idea of how hot it can get and how quickly it can get there.
Remember how I’ve mentioned that heat retention is influenced by the elements? – Well, the wattage might not show you how long it can sustain that temperature.
That being said, adjustable output can be very useful with a high power soldering iron. You don’t want too much heat when working on capacitors or transistors. But you do when you need lots of solder and for working on cables and braided wires.
Look for an electronic soldering iron if you want to work on transistors, capacitors, pots, and other electronic components. Or, just opt for a soldering iron with variable temperature control to cover all your bases.
Guitar Repair Work – It’s a Beautiful Thing Once You Know What to Do
As you can see, this article has something for everything and everyone.
Each soldering iron on this list is good in its own way. Some may be more versatile than others, some are cheaper than others, and some come with all the accessories you can dream of.
It’s really hard to go wrong either way, as the learning curve to using a soldering iron may be more challenging than actually buying one.