A good soldering iron is essential for putting together circuits onto a pcb.
For some time, I’ve had a 50W soldering iron. This has temperature adjustment via a knob but no indication of what the temperature is set to. It also came with a soldering tip that was a pencil point shape. Why manufacturers think a pencil point is a good shape is beyond me. Next purchase was a pack of different shape tips for the iron – the chisel shape is much better for heat transfer. Getting the right temperature for consistently good joints was a process of trial and error. Having an iron with a visual temperature read-out is much better.
Have a look at a good tutorial on soldering tools. As discussed in the video, the Hakko 888D or something similar is ideal.
I’ve gone for the Ersa i-Con Nano along with a few sizes of chisel shaped tips. This is a really nice iron to use and to set up. Having a few different tip shapes and sizes to suit the type of parts and the surface area that you’re soldering onto really makes it easy to get great results. I have a choice of 1.6 mm, 3.2 mm and 5 mm width chisel tips. These all work great and the ability to change tip size depending on the surface area you’re wanting to solder to is really useful.
At the same time as changing my soldering iron, I moved on to using lead-free solder. After some internet research, I opted for SAC305 solder with a no-clean flux (Weller WSW SAC M1, 1mm dia.). I’ve set my temperature to 380 deg. C. After some practice, I’m getting pretty nice joints.