Comparing Desoldering Tools

[Lee] has a Hakko FR301 desoldering gun and a Duratool knockoff. He freely admits that the Hakko is probably better, but he wonders if it’s good enough to justify being four times as expensive. He shows both of them off in a recent video that you can see below.

Often, desoldering doesn’t get as much attention as soldering, but for repairs or if you make mistakes —  and who doesn’t — it is an essential skill. Many of the differences will be either good or bad, depending on your personal preference. For example, the Hakko is an all-in-one unit, so it doesn’t have a bulky box to sit on your bench. However, that also means the Hakko is larger and heavier. It also lacks controls and indicators the other unit has on the base station box.

What doesn’t come down to personal preference, though, is usability. The Hakko seems much easier to clean and if you’ve ever used a gun like this, you know how often you do have to clean it. If you ever forget to ream the nozzle out regularly during use, you probably won’t forget a second time because unclogging any of these guns can be a nightmare. We like to use a long, stiff wire to push through the barrel frequently when using a tool like this to prevent having to clear it like [Lee] did at the eleven-minute mark.

[Lee] mentions that the Hakko also has more suction and sustains it better. That seems like a clear win. We’ve had expensive guns and cheap ones, and if they don’t suck well or long, you are as well off with a spring-loaded solder puller. In fact, for our money, buying a high-quality hand unit is probably a better deal for most people. It is hard for the pumps to equal the amount of pull you get from a spring.

Nozzle changing is another area where the Hakko shines. Our impression is that the Hakko is clearly better when it comes to creature comforts. However, the real question is how they desolder. The end of the video shows a face-off, and while the Hakko does seem superior, the cheap gun certainly got the job done. [Lee] mentions it may come down to volume. If you desolder constantly, you will likely be happier with the Hakko. However, the cheap gun would be fine for occasional use. Or save your money and invest in a good spring-loaded sucker.

Of course, everyone has their own favorites. We’ve seen custom soldering iron tips that heat whole areas efficiently if you don’t want to use something like Chip Quik. We are always surprised we don’t see more desoldering needles. Meanwhile, if you want to examine all your options, ask [Bil Herd] how he does it.

26 thoughts on “Comparing Desoldering Tools

    1. I totally agree. I always liked the Weller desoldering tools the most, although they look like something a travelling dentist would’ve used a 100 years ago.
      The Hakko stuff looks slick in comparison, but is overpriced and more difficult to clean.

  1. Here on the other side of the pond in the States, I’ve seen them for sale as low as $205 (before tax.) The retail price on Hakko’s USA site is $340.67. For some reason, the 240v European variants are crazy expensive vs. the 120v North American variants.

  2. After 40 years of desoldering, I’ve never found anything better than a large manual solder sucker. Units with built in heaters are, however, very efficient at removing pads and traces from boards…

    1. Agree on the manual solder suckers for through hole work. My big blue and yellow SoldaPullt continues to give good results with occasional cleaning. I have tried several heated units and found them disappointing.
      For surface mount work, solder wick with a little flux is my choice.

  3. In 1980 I started a small computer repair business. Early on I acquired a Pace desoldering tool. Still have some of the later models I use today. Some have mentioned these types of tools are good for lifting pads. I would be lying if I said this never happened to me. I will say this was related to the quality of the board or operator. A bad tip would contribute to this problem also. I had an employee or two that were pretty good at lifting pads. At one time I was doing memory upgrades by replacing memory chips and literally desoldered thousands of pins with no lifted pads. I later automated the process modifying an XY positioner and still never lifted a pad on those boards. I would also add that the current FR4 boards seem to be MUCH better than the G10 and especially the early paper laminate stuff. Still use a solder sucker for large jobs though.

  4. I have used a few types of these. I am not positive what brand I first used back working in industry (maybe weller?). Ended up with a couple of the Metcal ones, they work great.
    At my station I also have a Soldapult (recommended) and a couple old radio shack manual suckers…they also seem to work fine (on the cheap suckers it sometimes helps to cut a notch for your iron to go in).
    Like any other desoldering your results may vary depending on the PCB. Some boards just lose pads.
    Be sure to use plenty of flux, careful about the amount of time you are heating the board and it seems counterintuitive but at times it helps to add solder to the joint you are desoldering as you heat it with the gun. More solder allows a more airtight seal and gets all the way down into the barrel better.
    If you are desoldering through hole it also helps at times to wiggle the pin in a circle once the solder starts to flow.
    Here is a video of the Metcal in action

    1. Adding low melt solder early has, more or less, eliminated board damage from de-soldering.

      Doesn’t come up much, I get by with an old school sucker, plenty of flux and copper wick.

  5. I used to use a Soldapult manual sucker – didn’t like it, managed to damage boards, ICs and pads pretty often when desoldering (OK, that’s probably due to my lack of skill with it). Got an FR-301 two months ago – it works easy, fast, and I haven’t damaged anything with it. I’m sold on it.

  6. Desoldering braid is better than either, and better than spring driven solder suckers too. Place it on the solder joint, heat with an iron tip (a larger higher power tip) and it draws the unwanted solder in to itself via a wicking effect.

    1. For SMT, I agree, but it’s not always suitable. I tend to use braid for all of my surface-mount work, the desoldering iron for general through-hole work or in crowded boards, and the spring sucker for the huge blobs in in old point-to-point stuff. Watching a small IC disappear up into the solder sucker is amusing, but inconvenient. Plenty of flux makes a huge difference.

  7. It’s a shame that Edsyn’s de-soldering stations aren’t more widely known and used. My ZD500DX has served me faithfully for nearly 20 years. Unlike many others, spare parts are inexpensive and available. The manual has complete maintenance and repair instructions. I got one for myself after using one in my first job out of university for 8-10 hours a day repairing huge test fixtures for months at a time without it breaking down. Price-wise, $800 isn’t cheap, but it’s not a few thousand either. Mine has been as temp-stable as the other more expensive stations I’ve used. It can pull huge pins out of a 14 layer board with multiple solid ground layers and also safely de-solder delicate vintage Germanium parts. They are also made in the USA.

    Oh, and I do love my two SOLDAPULLTs (regular and ESD-safe). Those suckers are unbeatable for the price. They did drive my college roommate a bit crazy, so I had to do my de-soldering on the patio.

    1. They will have to pry my Edsyn Loner and Atmoscope from my cold dead fingers. I don’t have a desoldering one though. Honestly, as I mentioned, while I have two guns similar to these, I only use them if I’m attacking a huge problem. Normally the SOLDAPULLT (but not cheap knock offs) or wick soaked in flux can do everything I need.

  8. I have tried xytronic, goot and Weller desoldering tools and undoubtedly Weller is so much better.
    i have weller ds 701 station and this gem is working for more than 25 years with no problem.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.