Hakko 936 Soldering Iron

Hakko.jpeg For someone looking for a high quality soldering station at a reasonable price the Hakko 936 is hard to beat. I've had mine for a few years and use it mostly for electronics and instrument cable work. I think I paid around $80 new for it, and the price included a separate cast metal pencil rest with an integral sponge tip wiping pad. The power supply is a transformer type, controlled by a rheostat mounted on the front panel graduated in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. The only other control is the on-off switch mounted on the right side. There is a red LED pilot lamp on the front which illuminates only when regulated power is actually being applied to the pencil. The pencil's cable plugs in to a 5-conductor receptacle and locks in via a threaded collar. The extra wires going to the tip are for a thermocouple near the tip for precise and stable temperature regulation.
The pencil itself is very lightweight and is attached to a lightweight, flexible silicone rubber-insulated cable.The tip heats up very rapidly upon turning the unit on and setting the temperature on the dial. The user is informed when the desired temp has been reached when the LED goes out. During a soldering session, the LED will be observed turning on and off as the selected temperature is being accurately maintained. There is nothing fancy about it such as a digital temp readout; just a solid, no nonsense, precise and stable soldering tool. Before acquiring this unit, I thought of soldering as something of a chore. With the Hakko I can do precise, quality soldering with minimal effort. The manufacturer has recently discontinued the 936 but they still seem to be widely available on eBay. [Note: The Hakko 936 has been replaced by the newer and slightly more expensive FX-888, but can still be found new and used online.-- OH] --David Zarn Hakko 936 Around $80, but price varies Don't forget to comment over at Cool Tools. And remember to submit a tool!


  1. We used the Hakkos when I worked at the *large test equipment manufacturing company* and they worked fine. Heated up quick, held their heat.

  2. I scored a deal on a pair of Metcal rework stations over a decade ago and have loved every minute of owning them. A good soldering station is light years beyond a simple pencil iron. Metcals are even beyond that, but one look at a price sheet would show you why, so they ordinarily don’t deserve a mention next to an affordably priced unit. (But $75/ea was cheap enough for me to pounce on both .. and I managed to get a pile of new tips military surplus years later!)

  3. I’ve been using these for years, and they are fantastic. They go for about $120 up in Canada.

    The ceramic element heats up in half the time as other soldering stations (about 5 seconds instead of 10) It also recovers almost instantly after you clean the tip on the wet sponge. I find other stations sometimes require a few seconds to get back to temperature.

    If you are forgetful like me, and leave it on over the weekend, when you come back to it Monday morning, it hasn’t burnt itself out, it still works!

    Personally, I don’t find the tips to be quite as good as a Weller tip, but everything else about the Hakko is so much better, it’s worth the switch.

    I second this recommendation.

  4. I just checked out the updated FX-888, an from the looks of it, they got rid of one of the 936’s best features: it’s stackability. If you have multiple unites, they can stack on top of each other, saving valuable bench space.
    Why would they drop a great feature and replace it with an ugly shell?

  5. Has anyone who has used one of these high-end station also used a butane-powered iron and can give a comparison of the two? After moving from $10-cheapie electric irons to butane I can’t see ever going back unless a solder station like this happens to be very, very good indeed.

    Butane irons are cheap ($25 USD), truly portable and can be as hot as you want. They can also double as torches to do large-scale reflow world.

    Downsides are there, of course: you can easily ignite your work area, it’s hard to keep the heat steady until you learn your iron and when you’re using them as a torch to reflow you can singe your work.

    Still, for me, I prefer them.

  6. Circuit specialists sells a thermostatic iron (“CSI-STATION1A”) for $30. I finally replaced my wimpy radio shack pencil iron with one of these; less than half the price of the one in the article, and it works well.

  7. Anyone who uses a wet sponge to clean their solder tip should try using brass shavings instead. You can get a scouring-pad-like metal puff that scrapes solder and other detritus off the tip without losing heat or getting dissolved minerals on the iron.

  8. If you are soldering pipes, joints or wires, butane is fine, but for soldering delicate electronics, I wouldn’t trust butane. (Then again, I’ve never actually tried butane for delicate electronics…)

  9. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use a potentiometer to control a SCR instead of using a rheostat?

  10. When I first started DIY projects, a good friend recommended that this was the best soldering kit to get. I bought it from a Fry’s Electronics in LA and it is amazing. Gets really hot rather quickly and works really well.
    I also really like the sleek black design, the new FX-888 just looks really ugly and childish in comparison.

  11. I have a Hakko FX-951. Like the people above said– heats up fast, stays hot. Tons of different tips to choose from. The tip holder on those things is sort of flimsy, though, and the UI is straight out of 1986.

    It’s not as nice as a JBC irons ($600 for those, however), with the quick-change tips.

  12. A little off-topic: I recently took a strain gage installation class, which included a little soldering, and the instructor said that the wet sponge was one of the worst things ever for a soldering iron. Any comments?

    1. You really want to use the brass brillo-pad things. They don’t dry out, they don’t change the temperature of the iron, and they work better, and faster. You can take a couple of distracted swipes at the brillo pad and your iron will be shiny clean, every time.

      I’ve never heard of the sponges outright damaging a soldering tip, though.

  13. I use one of these to solder together everything from 0603 chip components and 0.4mm pitch quad flat packs to big antenna connectors. Works great, although it could heat up faster.

    At the office, there’s a Metcal that puts the Hakko to shame. It uses RF to heat the element. Gets hot in a few seconds and makes more heat when needed. But the Metcal has no heat control – you buy a tip rated to run at a certain temperature.

  14. I got a used Metcal for $80 off craigslist, and it’s blown away every single iron I’ve ever used previously or since. I hear they’re quite spendy when they’re new, but you may be able to pick one up cheap if it’s used.

  15. It’s not a rheostat, it’s a proper electronic temperature controller (thermostat). I think it probably does use an SCR.

    The Aoyue irons don’t seem to use the same type of DIN connector so it doesn’t look to me as though you can swap irons and bases with Hakkos. Besides it’s a Chinese ripoff; I’d rather support the original inventor of such a good product. And I read somewhere that the iron shaft tends to come unscrewed annoyingly often with Aoyue’s version. So I got my first 936 a few months ago at Fry’s Electronics (it was cheaper than online, if you consider shipping). Sorry to hear that it’s now discontinued.

    I’m planning a move to Europe so I’m interested in making it work on 230V. It will work on a step-down transformer until I figure out another solution, anyway. I was thinking of designing an open-source board that runs from DC power, using a FET rather than an SCR, so that it can run from a 24VDC power supply; the 24VDC could be supplied by a switching universal supply. Of course it’s a more expensive design but seems to me Hakko could make one like that too, or at least use a transformer with dual primary taps so that voltage is switchable.

  16. Not going to get into the rheostat/potentiometer/SCR discussion, since there are many here more qualified than I.

    Can anybody compare the Hakko to a high-end Weller? I pulled my variable-temp/temp-controlled WES-50 from a trash can, but I’ve had it forever and it’s still going strong.

    1. There was an old soldering iron in the back room of my lab, and whaddaya know, it was a WES-50! I turned it on and melted some solder with it, and here’s my comparison:

      1.) The WES-50 took about 30 seconds to heat up. A nice Hakko takes around 5-10 seconds.

      2.) The WES-50 has tips that are held down by a piece you have to unscrew. With the FX-951, changing a tip is a matter of squeezing latches and pulling the tip holder apart. You get a heat-resistant pad to do this when the iron is hot.

      3.) The Hakko tips are a bit thinner.

      4.) The Hakko has a sleep feature that turns the iron off after a programmable number of minutes.

      I don’t have a tip thermometer, and I don’t think measuring my WES-50 would be useful anyway, since it’s old.

      I think the advantage of the more expensive Hakko products is speed; the FX-951 is really meant to be part of an assembly line. If you have a lot of soldering to do, enough such that that 20 second delay after tip changes is going to get really annoying, then the Hakko is probably a good thing to have. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother considering an upgrade.

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