Soldering is a fun hobby and a great way to create or repair electronics around your home. Someone skilled at this task can quickly join all sorts of things from parts on a circuit board to pieces of jewelry. But you won’t be able to get very far with your soldering if you don’t have the right equipment.
Looking for the right soldering iron is a real challenge these days. With access to the whole global market, you are more able than ever to find different irons that meet different needs. Some are perfect for enthusiasts working around their own homes, while some are designed to be more robust and serve specific professional purposes.
Selecting the right iron for you can be difficult but by considering your project and learning as much as you can about your iron in advance, you can make sure you’re making the right decision.
In this article, we’ll take a look at iron from Hakko, the FX601-02. This iron is perfect for lots of different crafts you might want to work on, but has some deficiencies that you need to know about. Let’s take a closer look.
The first thing I like to look at when it comes to a new iron is the amount of power the product puts into your hand. The FX601 does an excellent job of laying down a quick, consistent bead time after time.
This iron draws 67 watts of power and has a range of 240 to 540 degrees Fahrenheit. It is very easy to adjust between temperatures even on the fly, and the iron does not take a long time to heat up at all. This iron really puts a lot of power in your hands.
If you’re used to using a cheaper iron for crafting, stepping up to this product will be a major improvement. The wide range you have available here makes this a great choice if you work on a number of different materials in your crafting.
Size and adjustability
The body of the iron is a bit on the smaller side, though the tips are a different story which we’ll get to momentarily. The package here is compact and makes for very comfortable use even over a long period of time.
The power supply here is a simple electric cord running out the back of the body, a very standard setup that seems to work well. The line is plenty long enough to reach your outlet and still be easy to maneuver.
Adjusting the temperature is very easy and is done just by moving a slider on the side of the body. The slider seems responsive and the iron adjusts to temperatures quickly.
One thing to note is that the temperature gauge is written out in Celsius. For me, that meant I had to learn how to translate the temperature I was looking for. Of course, that’s not a difficult task but if you really have trouble making conversions like that, you might want to avoid this.
The size of this iron fits very comfortably in most people’s hands and it is about as heavy as you’d expect an iron like this to be. That means you can count on being able to comfortably use this product for long stretches of time without a break if need be.
It is worth noting that the body of the iron is itself a bit thinner than others you might see, which means that over time there can be some heat transfer from the heating element to your hands. It’s nothing outrageous, but the handle does get steadily warmer as you use the iron.
If you are purchasing this product from a retailer, know that it will come with a first tip that is quite large. It’s suitable for bigger projects like stained glass work and things of that nature, but not ideal for electronics work.
This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the issues of tip compatibility. Normally I’d assume I’ll need to get a specific tip for any project I work on, no big deal. But with the FX601 it isn’t always easy to find the right tip for what I want to do.
Hakko produces several kinds of irons which are compatible with different tip series. For this model, the iron is only compatible with the T19 series of tips, which has about 10 options in it. That series is much smaller than the T18 series, which contains dozens more.
This means you’ll simply have to be willing to accept whatever tip is closest to the size you’re looking for when using the FX601. For those skilled at soldering, this should have minimal impact on the results of your craft, but for newer users, this might not be ideal.
One thing you should know before jumping into this iron is that it is produced by a Japanese company and apparently they only print their instructions sheets in Japanese. Using the product is very intuitive, so I didn’t even have to look at the instruction sheet before jumping in, but if you plan to read the instructions you’ll have to either know Japanese or look on Hakko’s website for a translation.
Heating element longevity
One of the major issues that customers have reported when using this Hakko iron is that the heating element does not last as long as it should.
In a well-produced and well-maintained iron, the heating element should be able to last for years. Only defects in manufacturing or specific stresses in its use should really cause the element to stop functioning as expected.
Hakko has built a strong reputation for producing quality parts over the years, so it seems possible that user error has something to do with the complaints about this element. But they are widespread enough that it is worth considering when you think about buying this product.
Pros and Cons of the FX601
- Great heating element warms up quickly
- Easily adjust temperature for range of projects
- Comfortable and easy to use
- Easy to clean
- Changing tips is simple
- Works well with different substrates
- Concerns with longevity of heating element
- Small selection of tips
- Thin body
- Instructions only in Japanese
Who should buy this product?
As we discussed earlier, picking out the right iron really has more to do with the projects you’ll be doing than with the iron itself. The FX601 is great for some work but not for others.
If you are working with larger materials, as on stained glass or larger jewelry projects, this is exactly the right iron for you. You’ll have access to a wide range of tips that will suit whatever size project you’re working on, and your iron will consistently perform the same way on each item.
Having a wide temperature range and easy adjustment makes this the perfect iron for when you’ve got a bunch of different substrates you’ll be soldering.
If, however, you’re working on much smaller projects like electronics or circuit projects, this might not be the iron for you. Because the tip selection is below-average, you might not be able to find one that fits where you need it to. This iron really is geared more towards those larger projects.
Bringing it all together
If the work you’re doing on stained glass or jewelry needs a boost, switching to this Hakko iron could be exactly what you need. You’ll get great control over solder, lead, and lots of other metals. You can adjust your temperature on the fly and lay down perfect beads of solder that will make your projects look great and feel strong.
Give the Hakko FX601 a try and see if it is the perfect iron for you!