Choosing a good stained glass soldering iron involves considering many factors, not least the cost. You also want a soldering iron that reaches the correct temperature quickly and holds that temperature. The feel of the iron is important, too, because a heavy iron will be difficult to handle over long periods of time. All of these factors will determine which soldering iron is the best buy for your stained glass project.
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Consider the wattage of the soldering iron. A good soldering iron will have wattage of 80 to 150. A wattage lower than 80 is not ideal for stained glass. You need a soldering iron that will melt the solder fast enough for your project. Consider the type of temperature control you want. Some irons will have a temperature control built into the tip. When the temperature drops, it will turn on and when the temperature is reached, it will turn off. Other soldering irons have a built-in rheostat so you can control the temperature by turning the dial up or down. A separate rheostat can be bought to plug your soldering iron into. This lets you match the temperature to your soldering style and the heat needed for decorative effects.
Consider the heating element. There are two types of elements -- ceramic or wire-wrapped. Ceramic core irons maintain heat more efficiently than wound wire heaters. In a ceramic core, the heater core extends into the tip for faster heat transfer. This will keep the tip hot for a longer period so you can work quickly and faster. Ceramic irons maintain their temperature longer and heat up within 30 to 60 seconds.
Consider the weight of the soldering iron. You want a soldering iron that is lightweight and balanced. You will have less fatigue when using a lightweight soldering iron for long stretches of time. Check to see if it fits your hand comfortably. Check to see if it has a good rubber cushion for your hand.
Check for the ease of changing tips on your soldering iron. When soldering stained glass, you must match your tip to the technique you want to use.
Check the soldering iron to see if it has a heavy-duty cable and the correct three-pronged plug.