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!