Desoldering through-hole components with two or three legs, is pretty straightforward. Apply heat and some fresh solder to the underside and pull them out from the top. But when it comes to chips and modules with more pins, this approach doesn’t work. Some people manage to master the use of the small pen-shaped ‘solder-suckers’. The idea is that you melt the solder with an iron, and as soon as the solder is molten, place the solder-sucker over the joint and release the spring to suck up the solder. I’ve tried and failed to learn that skill.
Enter stage left, the desoldering station.
These use a hollow tip soldering iron and a vacuum pump, so that solder removal is a LOT easier than trying to use a pen-style solder-sucker.I bought the model shown (Katsu ZD-8915 Desoldering Station) from Amazon, but they are also available on eBay and I’m sure elsewhere too.
The package included:
Everything fitted together very well and actually felt like it was pretty good quality. The solder chamber containing the spring-loaded piston has to be occasionally emptied of solder and at first time is a bit confusing, as the wadding and metal disk just sit against the spring and fall out when you open up the chamber. Putting it back in, it took me a while to realise that the wadding pad goes in first, followed by the metal disk. After using the gun for a while I realised why there were spares of the wadding, as it gets spattered with solder.
I gave up on the instructions, which don’t really explain how to use the gun and just watched a few YouTube videos.
Here’s what I found to work for me, desoldering some DIL 7-segment LED modules for practice.
Feeling very pleased with my new purchase, I turned it off and went and had some lunch. When I came to start again, it didn’t seem to be sucking.
If I had read the instructions properly, I would have noticed the section warning me to ALWAYS ROD OUT THE NOZZLE BEFORE YOU TURN OFF THE HEAT!
I had bunged up the nozzle, just where it meets the cylinder. It then took about an hour of poking, changing the temperature, running in more solder and even pouring in liquid flux. Eventually I unblocked it by taking the front off the gun and poking the solder out by rodding it from the other side.
Obviously this was entirely my fault and I’d like to say I have learned my lesson, but its quite possible that I’ll forget again.
Admittedly, this is the only desoldering tool that I’ve ever owned, so I don’t have anything except the solder-sucking pens to compare it with, but I have to say I was very impressed.This has already more than paid for itself because I had some expensive modules that I really needed to reclaim. Overall, the quality is pretty good and I didn’t expect it to be as easy to use as it was.
If like me you have some high value components, or a PCB that can’t easily be replaced then I can recommend this tool. It really does work.
Just remember to clean it out before you turn it off.