Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday Tool Time - Small Soldering Iron

After an X-Acto knife, a track nail hammer, cutting pliers, and a small screwdriver, one of the first "sophisticated" tools you purchase as a new model railroader is probably a soldering iron. I got mine probably a little earlier than my airbrush, but I've used it extensively ever since for all sorts of projects - wiring feeders, soldering rails together, etc. I've even used it for decoder installation. And it's still going strong after all these years.

So why did I bother purchasing a new & different soldering iron? Well, ask my buddy Bill. He brought a couple of his newly "decoderized" steamers over to the layout to do some test running and decided, pretty quickly, that they needed "Keep Alives" (aka capacitors) installed. "No problem," said I. "Not only do I have a couple on-hand, but I have a great soldering iron you can use if you want."

Well, let's just say beauty (or, in this case, "greatness") is in the eye of the beholder.

After exclaiming how he couldn't believe that anybody could use such a beast for decoder installation, and expressing his awe (or was it incredulity?) that such a newbie installer as myself would even attempt using it on such delicate wires and soldering pads (at least that's how I remembered the conversation), I asked him what he uses. "Something with a much smaller tip and adjustable heat settings - and, by the way, it's pretty inexpensive."

He had me at "it doesn't cost much." At least that's how I remembered it.

Anyway, here's what he recommended and what I got - a Vastar AC222 Soldering Iron Kit.

To have a proper "unboxing" you need a box - in this case, the kit comes with its own toolbox.

Ahhhhh..... pretty

Lift the top tray, and you see all the other cool stuff that's included.

Here's everything, all laid out.

And not only is the iron fully adjustable heat-wise, it comes with a handy on/off switch right on the cord.
One thing I didn't take a close-up photo of is the main reason I got the iron - the fine tip. I've already used it for some decoder work, as well as soldering together some wire to make finescale railings. 

Definitely worth the $23 bucks - even though that's double what I paid for my old Radio Shack iron - over 30 years ago(!) But my old iron will continue providing yeoman's service on rails and feeders.

Let me know what you use for soldering the teeny-tiny wires that come with decoders. I may no longer be in the market for a new iron, but - like Bill - you may be helping someone else get a more-suitable tool in their hands.


  1. So adjusted for inflation this is cheaper...

    Love the box. Now I want one, even though I have a nice small soldering iron!

    1. We should compare them when we get a chance. May be that I'll prefer yours!