So I just completed a Glass Cutting and Breaking Tutorial over at GlassSupplies41.com which includes an awesome video by me!
The Hakko FX-601 – The CADILLAC of Stained Glass Soldering Irons
I would call this a “product review” but basically I’m going to tell you why I drool over this iron. But please note: I am using this iron for STAINED GLASS and JEWELRY. Not electronics or anything else, even though it’s useful for a list of things.
What do you need in a soldering iron for stained glass?
For basic starters, a 100 watt iron. Any lower wattage than that ain’t gunna cut it, honey. You need that power to melt copper, tin, nickel, lead, and silver.
You can get a basic 100 watt iron one from a hobby store or even Home Depot as well as various places online. You know the source I love: Soldering Irons from GlassSupplies41.com
This Choice Soldering Iron is only $18. It was my first soldering iron. I wasn’t willing to make a HUGE commitment to the hobby because… well it’s expensive and I had to make sure that I liked this new craft.
But what makes you move from an $18 iron to a $62 iron (the cost of a Hakko)?
This is how I took my soldering skills up a level. Temperature control is KEY. Without it, you have one working temp: Flippin HOT. I prefer a cooler iron, and it’s alllll about preference, people.
- For stained glass I turn my iron up a bit more than my jewelry setting, unless I’m working with a Silvergleem solder, which has sterling silver in it.
- 460ish degrees Celsius for stained glass and 410ish for jewelry
The Hakko FX-601 has the Temperature Control unit right in the handle. Just a cute little dial! Very easy. The dial is in Celsius, but hey, look what they made for you:
Not all temperature control units are the same! This iron is supposed to keep an accurate temperature by adjusting how much electricity it is using. So if it needs to cool down it lowers the electrical output instead of turning on and off. (Essentially working like a dimmer switch for all you electrical nerds.) It’s supposed to stay true to just a couple degrees! Pretty ideal when you are trying to run a smooth solder bead… JUST SAYIN.
You can buy a Rheostat for the Choice Iron or another cheap iron, but they work by turning the power on and off. Not only does this use more energy, it is WAY less accurate. They cost about $20. So you are paying $48 for the cheaper iron with the temp control abilities, even if they aren’t as accurate. This is not a bad way to go for someone with a tight budget or just beginning.
- Easy Tip Changing: To change the tip, loosen the nut at the base of the ceramic core all the way off. The tip slides out the bottom and the iron will come apart into these three pieces:
- Durability: With proper care, they last soooo long. At $14 a pop, they better last! I seriously have had my tip in my iron for over a year. And I solder A LOT. What does tip care look like? At the beginning of each solder session, tin your tip by rolling your hot tip on top of a Sal Ammoniac block while smothering it in some solder. Sal Ammoniac is a basically a salt block that aggressively cleans. Handling it will make your hands kinda itchy, so put it on a piece of wood or in/on a dish/saucer/ plate/etc. Gouge out a hole with a screw driver or a nail so that your soldering iron tip can bathe. Like this:
So why is my block ugly as all get out? Well I’ve had it for over 2 years.. annnnd I got it wet. Try not to do that.
I have 2 solder bathes: one for 60/40 solder and one for lead free solder. I tin my tip before switching different solders.
Also having a simple wet kitchen sponge next to your soldering area is key. Wipe the black gunk off your tip by rubbing it into the wet sponge.
Extra Bells and Whistles:
- “Durable Strain Relief” – See that funky black grill thing around the base of the iron and cord? That’s reinforcement so your cord doesn’t wear at that connection. It’s one of those little things that will keep your iron working longer.
- The LIGHT – I have a very serious and dangerous problem of forgetting to unplug my iron. I have left my iron on for almost 48 hours once. Don’t tell my new roommate…. 😉 But this light SAVES ME. It’s a visual cue. Hey the blue light is on, my iron is plugged in. — The choice iron and most cheap irons don’t have this tiny detail. You can’t tell if the choice iron is on unless you burn yourself, someone else, or you melt something. Sometimes if they are on for a long time the tip turns red. You’ve pretty much ruined that tip at that point. It gets super corroded when it cools down.
- Design – It’s a pretty iron! It’s light weight, easy to hold, maneuver, and the cord is beefed up so you don’t pull it out of the socket. (Not just the “durable strain relief”, the whole cord is just QUALITY.)
Hakko Customer Service is RAD!
First off, when you call, they say:
Hello and thank you for calling Hakko-USA, how can I make you smile today?
It’s sweet. I don’t care how corny you think it is. I’m from the midwest and I know sweet.
Anyway, my experience began because I had bought a few irons to collect for teaching stained glass classes. (Which I am about to start doing in Mancos, CO at The Painted Turtle Community Art Studio this summer… AHHHH! ) Unfortunately, a fork lift or something huge with treds ran over my package in transit. Thank you USPS. Perhaps that day they were shipping an elephant and he accidentally stepped on it. Two of the Three precious ceramic cores were TOAST. Remember how expensive they are? Luckily:
The Hakko FX-601 comes with a year warranty!
The irons came with instructions on how to use the warranty. This is how it went down:
- Talked to someone within a minute.
- Explained the situation on what happened.
- She at first was going to have me email her pictures and then changed her mind. Instead she immediately sent me a UPS shipping label.
- I sent the 2 irons back, padded well.
- They called me when they received it and were like:
Yup, they are broke. We are going to replace the broken cores and send them back to you repackaged. This won’t cost you anything as it is under warranty. They should be repaired and in the mail within 5 days.
- And that is exactly what happened. They sent me a tracking number of the return UPS shipment within 4 days.
- I received the irons a few days later and they work perfect.
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 5 STARS HAKKO FOR DOING THE RIGHT THING!🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
So real fast review:
Accurate temperature control tip
Easy tip changing
Fancy lights that help you not burn your house down
Awesome customer service
And that is why I LOVE MY HAKKO FX-601 SOLDERING IRON!
One product that makes my life easier, much easier, is these little hand foilers by Glastar.
My foil size preference for most projects is 7/32″ (blackback always from Venture Tape )
But to be honest, loading foil into these things can be sort of frustrating, if you aren’t patient or as a first-timer. I’ve seen people give up on these little puppies out of anger before they ever got to feel the ease of use and the gentle, reassuring roller bit. Plus perfectly centered foil, 2 – 4 times as fast as hand foiling…. Gah duh!
You will need:
I’m going to link everything to my stained glass supplier, GlassSupplies41 because she is awesome and works her little tail off to make crafters lives easy, fun, and affordable. She even breaks down things in case you want to “test” out a new market. (like a new foil color or size or different solder.. etc.)
- Isopropyl Alcohol (mine is in a spray bottle – best glass cleaner on the market)
- Paper towel/ glass cleaning towel
- copper foil tape (size must match Glastar Foiler Size)
- Glastar Hand Foiler
- Coffee. Always Coffee.
Start by CLEANING your Glass
Use the alcohol and paper towels to clean your glass. Clean it well. This will make or break how well the foil sticks to the glass. The edges clean with extra love.
Loading the Foil into the Hand Foiling Tool
Cut the foil so that a small amount of backing sticks out further than the copper tape. Press the Foil to the backing as to make the end smooth and flat. Insert foil through small slit at the end of the tool.
At the 2nd opening, using a tweezers, push the backing paper into the slit. The copper foil tape will seperate at this point from the backing paper. Pull the tape up a little bit. Yes, the tape is sticky, it’s going to stick to anything it touches, including the tool if you don’t work slowly and carefully. The more you mess with the tape, the less sticky it is too.
Pull the tape down the channel to the end of the rubber slide. Tuck the tape down under the rubber slide sticky side down. Copper part will run along the rubber slide. Grab it on the other side with a pair of tweezers. Your fingers won’t cut it, for reals.
Foil is loaded! Let’s Foil!
To start, hold and press the foil down with your fingers, about a half inch from the tool. Center the tools rubber roller down on the glass. The hand foiler will fit around the glass like a glove, just grabs on. Sticky side is down, on the glass.
As you start to roll the roller down the edge of the glass, keep the tool pressed firmly to the glass at a 45 degree angle. The picture below isn’t a correct angle, but its hard to take pics and hold all my stuff. (excuses!) Follow the roller with your finger to ensure that you are pressing the foil down to the glass. The first 2 inches are crucial. This is where you might have to start over a few times. GET THAT TAPE TO STICK!
Go around corners the same, just make sure you don’t lift away from the glass.
Inner curves you REALLY need to go slow and press the foil down..
When you end of the glass, go over where you began about a quarter inch. Try to lay the edges down so they match up seamlessly with the foil edges that are already there.
If you accidentally get a sharp corner where your end/beginning is, use an exacto knife and just slice off the corner that sticks out to make it flush.
^someone needs to make hot pink nylon burnisher and call them this. Take your burnisher and run along the edges of the glass. Like the skinny EDGE, not the surfaces. Use your burnisher to slightly bend the foil around the edges to meet the surfaces. Be smart on your corners! Make sure the black part is on the glass, if it is showing, solder WILL NOT stick to it! Burnish so everything is flat, but remember your pressure… you are working with glass, so don’t push so hard that you shatter your glass. Your hands will probably die. Also, do not OVER BURNISH. It’s a thing. Continuously going over the foil can literally break down the sticky black crap. Making it not sticky anymore. YOU NEED THE STICKY.
Again, heed your corners and boom! Using the Glastar Hand Foiler saves me lots of time. I think I’m twice as fast. And the perfectly even edges of foil are worth the $11. Go pro people.
This tasty little tutorial is just the beginning. I’m going to start making it a priority to get more tutorials up. Hopefully this product review kinda thing was helpful!
Extra Video Treat!
Try to keep up as a foil and burnish this glass piece!
Guilt? What is this CrAzY lady talking about?
For the last two months I have been GLASSING MY FACE OFF. I quit the full time shipping job I had to go after something passionate in my life. Stained Glass. Yup, I walked away from a full time, with benefits, well paying, industrial job to try my hand at being an artist. <— This is where the guilt comes in.
I have been CONSTANTLY fighting my brain space about this decision. An artist? You aren’t saving the world! You aren’t putting enough into society! This is selfish! You won’t make enough money! YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH.
And you know what we need to do about these thoughts?
Going after a dream was never going to be easy, but if you can believe in impossible things, you can succeed at anything. It’s important to not let the negativity win. It’s a battle everyone faces every morning they wake up.
And hey, you might fail the first time! How many times did Donald Trump go bankrupt before he MADE it? 4 Times. Just don’t give up, little duck!
Speak only what you WANT to be Truth.
Stop with the negativity because WORDS ARE POWERFUL! Want proof? Check out Danielle Laporte’s experiment on the impact of positive and negative words. The results are incredible, moving, uplifting, amazing. She’s a real positive lady.
“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
My favorite graduation speech is from Jim Carrey. Here’s a short clip from it. It’s inspiring to say the least. GO AFTER WHAT YOU LOVE. JUST TRY. Do not be afraid of failure because FAILURE IS NOT THE END. Failure is another beginning. Everything you do will make you smarter and get you closer to your ultimate goal. What worked, what didn’t? How can you make it work the next time? Was this what I wanted to do anyway? Don’t immerse yourself in the fact that it did not work! What did you learn?
Inspiration on Not Giving Up has been thrown at me all month. The universe believes in me, I believe that because it would not continue to put inspiring people in my life.
My friend John Skinkis has been a great friend and an inspiring individual to me and every person he encounters. Though he comes from a small tiny farming community, he is going to do big things. This is a truth because John BELIEVES it to be true. I recently had a great ‘catch up’ conversation with him. He inspired me to work hard and find my passion so that I can focus on it.
Some advice from John:
GIVE YOURSELF SPECIFIC GOALS – You can’t say “I want to be successful” and expect gold to rain from the sky. You need to go after something. This was where my big problem was coming from. I couldn’t figure out where to focus. After speaking with John, I cried for 3 days. I was so frustrated at myself, at the world, at my bank account, and at John. I was so mad at him for stirring this up in me. But you know what? Moving forward is painful sometimes. This frustration was my fuel and I began making my plan.
John listens to this video EVERY DAY. To remind himself. This was the question I needed to ask myself: What did I want as bad as I wanted to breathe? For me, it’s not millions of dollars. It’s comfort. It’s a family. It’s being able to wake up every day and do something that I love. It’s using my craft to create Joy.
So I made myself THIS to remind me:
I’m not saying that I have “MADE IT” as an artist, but I did get my art into a gallery… and that’s one step in the right direction. My next post will be about my new glass and such. I did update my portfolio and glass art, so check those out!
This post was more for me, than anyone out there. It was a reminder for me that I know all these truths and I have to keep remembering to believe them.