By Joe Papa
From RC Driver Issue: 134
Precise heat control
In the world of radio control, soldering is one of the most valuable skills a modeler can learn. Being able to install or change connectors, motors or speed controls is a basic necessity in our hobby. Soldering with the wrong tools can lead to frustration or even damage the components you’re trying to install. In the past, soldering irons used copper coil heating elements and various wattage ratings to handle the needs of light circuit board repairs as well as moderate wire gauges. They required several minutes to heat up and were inefficient at transferring the heat to the screw-in tips. Today we have the benefit of much better technology and soldering has never been easier or more fun.
The TrakPower Tk955 Digital Soldering Station is a complete soldering solution for any racer or enthusiast. Its state of the art ceramic core heats the entire tip from inside and can achieve working temperatures in under a minute. Rated at 60 watts, this unit has an adjustable digital temperature controller and can make quick work of even 8-gauge power cable while still being able to handle delicate work like those found on servos and receivers. Included with the unit is a stand with cleaning pad, the digital control unit, a heavy-duty chisel tip and a pointed tip for fine work. Decals and two plastic “keys” are included to lock in temps from accidental changes.
MANUFACTURER: TrakPower Speed Equipment
DISTRIBUTOR: Hobbico, Inc.
TYPE: Digital Soldering Station
TEMPERATURE: 392-896° F (200-480° C)
DIMENSIONS: 4.7 x 3.7 x 2.8 in. (120 x 93 x 70mm)
WEIGHT: 2.9 lbs.
GET IN AND GET OUT
Soldering sensitive electronics like brushless motors and speed controls can be difficult. Copper posts like those found on the Tekin RX8 ESC combined with 12-gauge wire quickly draw heat away from the soldering iron tip, causing many users to hold the tip to the work piece for too long. Tekin recommends no longer than three seconds of contact with the heat source in order to avoid damage. The TK955 is ideally suited for these jobs. The highly efficient ceramic heating element responds to the needs of the user instantly and is powerful enough to meet these stringent requirements without causing damage.
The business end of this soldering station is lightweight and comfortable to hold. The highly efficient design heats the tip from the inside in just seconds with a ceramic heating element. A temperature sensor is also located in the handle and allows the digital unit to monitor and maintain tip temperature with astonishing speed and accuracy. This all equates to the superior experience the TK955 delivers. A pointed tip for light precision work as well as the heavy duty chisel tip are included and will cover you for any job you are likely to encounter. Tip changes take seconds when needed and require less maintenance due to the high quality tip coatings. These coatings should never be sanded off to clean. Always use the included sponge to wipe the tip for cleaning. The sponge should be wet and the tip should be hot.
Two key cards are included and fit into a slot on the face of the digital controller. The key is inserted to call up a specific temperature you like working with and lock it there.
For my tests I will be soldering common RC components that you are likely to encounter followed by a few that will truly tap into all the available power the TK955 can muster up. Since there is a digital display, I can get an excellent idea of how the station can maintain the set temperature as well as how quickly it can recover from a sudden drop in temp due to a heavy load. If the temperature doesn’t drop significantly while trying to solder 8-gauge wire and 8mm bullets, it’s safe to say this station has more than enough power for all our needs.
To begin, I set the temperature to a moderate 600 degrees and before I could take the plastic wrap off my roll of solder the station was up to full temp. I always try to solder with the lowest temperature possible. Since most solder melts at around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, setting the temperature to 550 to 600 degrees is fine for most jobs. For soldering thin wire like that found on servos, anything above 500 F will just melt the insulation. On the other hand, if I’m trying to solder a jumper cable to a copper lug, this baby is going all the way up. As a rule I apply solder to both the wire and connector separately by touching the tip to the surface and feeding in some 60/40 rosin core solder right at the point of contact. This procedure is called tinning, and it takes just a second or so. With the wire and connector tinned, I join the two together by holding the wire and connector together and then touching the flat side of the chisel tip to both at the same time. In under a second the solder reflows and the two are joined.
The TrakPower TK955 is truly the ultimate soldering station available today. Its versatility and power are ideally suited for any application you will encounter in the radio control industry. If you’re new to soldering or have been frustrated in the past, learning with the TK955 will be effortless or even seem magical. If you’re a veteran to the hobby, you will appreciate the versatility, power and ease of use that come from having the right tool for the job. With a five-year warranty on the power unit and a year on the handle, you can also be sure that TrakPower has you covered with the highest quality internal components available. Since this review, the TK955 has become by favorite soldering station of all time. It’ s probably one of the best investments you can make in having a more enjoyable experience in the hobby. I highly recommend picking one up.