Roll Your Own JBC Soldering Station

[Marco Reps] was soldering some boards with a lot of thermal mass and found his usual soldering iron was not up to the task. He noticed some professional JBC soldering stations that he liked, but he didn’t like the price. Even an entry-level JBC station is about $500 and they go up from there. He decided to build his own, but it did take awhile to complete. You can see two videos about the project, below.

How can you build your own soldering station and still claim it is a JBC? [Marco] noticed that the real performance of the iron came from the tip — what JBC calls a cartridge. In addition, the handle provides good ergonomics. You can buy the tips and handles from JBC for considerably less than a complete station. You just have to add the electronics to make it all work.

Armed with a handle and a cartridge, he set out to build the power supply. The cartridge has a heater and a sensor, so a simple PID controller ought to do the trick. However, [Marco] found the wiring is a bit different than in other tips and would require some special techniques.

He started with a Maxim thermocouple chip. Unfortunately, the Maxim part wasn’t for the right kind of thermocouple and had trouble dealing with the tip being grounded. He also found the cartridge rated at 250 watts required about 40V to get to that power level.

There’s more to the design and [Marco] goes through all the details. His initial design used a triac, although he didn’t like the performance. By the end of the first video, he had a working prototype built around a very large transformer.

The second video addresses changes he made and packaged the device in something a little more practical than the prototype. His initial attempt to replace the triac with a solid state relay met with a bad end, but he eventually rolled his own solid state relay with high-efficiency FETs.

This reminded us of the same trick using Hakko hardware. For that matter, we’ve seen people use Weller tips, too.

20 thoughts on “Roll Your Own JBC Soldering Station

  1. This is a great project that Marco Reps constructed! He definitely has skills! However, I would choose to buy a used Metcal iron on ebay for about $150. A set of assorted used tips are about $40 for qty 5. Metcal irons are workhorses that will last pretty much for life. Schematics are available online to repair if it ever breaks down. Just my lazy opinion.

    1. It is funny how even the most logical of us have our buying habits that are hard to explain. For soldering irons, I buy Edsyn. For ham radio, I buy Kenwood. Why? I don’t know. Sure, an Edsyn is better than a $20 Radio Shack special. But so is a JBC or a Metcal or a Hakko or… but for some reason, I just like an Edsyn. I have a dual head set up with the hot air pencil on one side and a contact iron on the other. I do have a cheap Hakko knock off for when I need a large air blower. But 90 times out of 100 I’m heating up the Edsyn.

    2. I only worked for a short time with a Metcal station, I found it quite okay, but not better than the JBCs. I don’t like that you have to change the tip to change the temperature, just like with the ancient Weller Magnastats. At home a hve a Chinese Combi-SMD rework station from Ayeou (or similar) and I am very satisfied with it. 300€ for iron, hot air and solder sucker gun. The iron heats very fast (~10s), the desolder gun takes several minutes, but I don’t need it so often.

      1. I have to agree about the JBC. I have a Nano with the tiny tips and it rocks. I had a Weller Microtouch years back that was also excellent, but this JBC tip heats fast and evenly, maintains heat almost regardless of the thermal mass and just works when you need it too. As the OP said, it was well over $500 but I think it’s paid for itself many times over.

    3. There’s just something so elegant about the Metcal-style induction + curie point systems. In these systems the power unit is just a “dumb” RF source and the thin alloy layer around the copper core of the tip functions as the sensor and heater combined. The control loop uses no electronics whatsoever and the power delivery and thermal regulation are excellent.

  2. When I encounter thermal mass I get the gun, if it’s really thick the big gun. Click click click temperature is fairly easy to control. Work quickly, I’ve done even surface mount. It’s done before you could wait for the iron to get hot.
    For desoldering I use one of those irons with a hole in the tip and instead of the enema bulb attached I have a foot suction bellows for quick endless shots of suck. No “cock and fire” crap. When it burns out I will try hacking the hollow point DC station type but keep with the foot suction.

      1. I don’t know if there is a costly alternative, but most affordable vacuum desoldering pumps (and, yes, I have one; a Taiyo) don’t generate the raw suction a spring does for that fraction of a second.

    1. Oh man, forget the gun. I learned to solder with my dad’s soldering gun. I didn’t even know soldering pens existed at the time. Hold the trigger wait, wait and wait some more for it to get to temperature… make your joint… let go of the trigger… and now it’s cooled off. Repeat!

      I have this thing, it is shaped more or less like a regular soldering pen. But.. it’s several times the size, the handle is made of wood and the thick power cord feels like it’s insulated with some sort of cloth. I do hope that’s not asbestos… Anyway… I have no idea the wattage but I’ve used it to solder large UHF connectors and ground tabs onto metal chassis that made great heat sinks. If this thing can’t solder it… you probably should consider a stick welder.

      i think I paid $2 or $3 for my giant soldering pen at a hamfest somewhere years ago. I still see similar irons at similar prices at hamfests all the time. I can’t tell you what brand to look for because I don’t know. I don’t even know if mine has a brand… it almost looks like somebody made it at home on a lathe. but.. .similar tools are out there if you want one.

  3. I’ve got a JBC (an older model CD-B), it was horribly expensive but has been worth every cent.

    The big thing for me isn’t just the super-fast heat time (although it is nice that it heats from 20 to 400°C in about 5 seconds), but that the tips are also extremely short. I don’t have particularly steady hands, so having the grip only 50-60mm from the tip is so much better than the 100mm or more of most irons.

    The range of cartridges is fairly crazy too, something like 90-100 unique models (C245xxx) available for the handpiece mine came with – conicals and chisels in straight and angled, all sorts of wide ones (for soldering a whole side of a QFP or similar in one go), various things specialised for soldering onto pins, even a selection of hot knife and other similar things.

  4. Own a JBC station since a couple of years, it was pretty expensive but soldering quality is really good and heating times are ridiculously fast.

    Cartridges are amazing, super powerful for their size and last forever, know some professional technicians using them all the time and everyone says they are really long life comparing with other brands.

    At 250W this controller is actually more powerful than the JBC controllers, my DI-2D has an output power of 130W and higher end models have 150W

  5. I was de-soldering yesterday some U.FL connectors off the wifi board from the WRT54GX vers2 (picked up from the goodwill for $5.99 and only needed the antennas) since I don’t have any U.FL males to go on a future board and an MCX connector to swap with a SMA connector. I was wondering, since I was using a big Kawasaki 840015 Heat Gun with two adapters to get down to a 5mm tip which I picked up for under $50, if I can modify the guns heating element(s) to be adjusted with a an old hot plate rheostat or variable transformer and maybe a newer temperature controller… though I’m not sure will be able to find a newer temp controller salvaged one. I was thinking I didn’t want the fan speed modified for heat gun integrity.

    Then I read this article and watched the video which is really excellent detailed. I still haven’t completed my hacked out thermocouple PID soldering iron controller project… though maybe will use the components for the heat gun instead of iron and also will consider the more advanced microcontroller type of design.

    I also like the foot pedal bellow idea or electric pump (i’m guessing using a glass or metal container “trap” if not teflon tubes) for the de-soldering station as noted above. I think the spring loaded thing I’ve used a few times is a hassle. I’ll have to read into those some more.

    That also got me thinking about using a sewing machine or tig welder foot pedal control for temp too. I have to check those current ratings.

    Thanks everyone for the great ideas! Sure beats a wood burner as a soldering iron! :-|)

  6. Interesting. I have been doing electronics manufacturing for 26 years and this is the first I have heard of JBC so this caught my attention. After reviewing the article and then reviewing data on JBC’s site, I am confused as to why these are not known in my industry. Anyhow, from what I can tell, a challenge with JBC units in a production environment is TCO (total cost of ownership). This is a major factor for irons that get used 8-16 hours per day. I currently have specified Ersa iCon stations for our production floor and from a cost/performance perspective. They outrank my long term friends at Metcal (even the iron on my bench at home is an old Metcal SP500). In production environments, I have validated many irons over the years: Weller, Edsyn, Metcal, Ersa, Hakko, etc, and all have pros and cons. Where it ends up is Ersa is on top for daily TH soldering, Metcal for rework when using shovel tips, etc, and Hakko for hot air.

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