What’s the #1 best soldering iron for stained glass?

Soldering is both the toughest part and, once ya get it down, the most relaxing part of making stained glass art. But if you want good solder lines, ya need a good iron. So what’s the best soldering iron for stained glass?

The Hakko 601. But waaaaaaaaiiiiit!

Before ya run off and buy it, or decide you’re not going to cuz you’re broke, there’s a few things ya need to know.

What’s the difference between the Hakko 601-1, 601-02, & 601-03?

There are several different variations of the 601. The only difference between them is their plugs.

If you’re in America (or use the same style electrical outlets as the U.S.), get the 601-02.

In Japan? 601-01

In Europe? 601-17

Just be aware that online listings aren’t always specific. If you’re buying from your local glass store, they’ll have the right one for your country.

If you’re in America & buying online, this is the right one:

Hakko 601-02

Hakko 601-02 Soldering Iron

$89.95

In stock

Can you use any soldering iron for stained glass?

Yup. Sure can. However…

Crappy iron = crappy solder lines.

When I first started out in stained glass, I was suuuuuuper broke. The guy at my local glass store helped me find the supplies I needed to start and he said “You can get the cheap stuff for everything else, but don’t get the cheap iron. They suck.”.

Did I listen to him?

Nope.

Was that a terrible idea (the not listening part)?

You betchya!

I worked for hours and hours and hours trying to get my solder lines to stop looking like my mom’s lipstick after she was trying to put it on in the car and my dad kept tapping the brakes and giggling.

It was lumpy and bumpy and it kept leaking from one side into the other.

I had to go over the lines so many times to get them even sort of half decent, I heat fractured the glass.

A few days later, I was back at the glass store to buy the Hakko 601.

And now I tell everyone the same thing the dude at my glass store told me…

Don’t cheap out on your iron! Get the best soldering iron for stained glass right off the bat & your life is gonna be a whole lot easier.

What makes the Hakko 601 the best soldering iron for stained glass?

A couple of things in fact!

  • Temperature control right on it
  • It’s small & easily fits in your hand
  • It has a ceramic core, so it keeps even, consistent heat all the time
Hakko 601 best soldering iron for stained glass with power light ceramic core and temperature control

Why is this stuff important ya ask?

Well…

You can buy a rheostat (an external temp control) for most irons, but they’re big, not terribly cheap, and take up a bunch of space.

Most soldering irons are pretty big. They’re not exactly lovely, ergonomically speaking. The more glass ya do, the more your wrist will thank you for choosing a smaller iron!

And most importantly…that ceramic core!

Most any iron that doesn’t have it will lose heat as it goes along your solder line, especially when you’re working on larger projects with longer lines.

Speaking of heat, the first question everyone asks me about soldering is…

What temperature do you use for soldering stained glass?

It depends! Imma give you some roundabout numbers here, and then explain why.

The Hakko uses Celsius.

If you’re using lead solder, start around 360ish C on the Hakko and work your way up til it’s flowing well.

If you’re using lead free solder (here’s a post All About Lead Free Solder), start around 410ish C on the Hakko, and again, work on up til you have a good flow.

soldering stained glass leaf mountain woman products

I tell beginners to start on the lower end of temp because when you’re starting out, you’re slower (and that’s absolutely ok!).

Because for soldering…

The slower you go, the lower the temp. The faster you go, the higher your temp.

Now we’re gonna get into the technical side of stained glass soldering irons. If you’re not into technical, just skip this next section and go to the end!😁

But if you’re dorky like me & need to know why & how evvvvverything in the freakin’ universe works, this part is for you.

But I heard that you need to solder at 900 degrees F and a 100 watt iron for stained glass…

Ya don’t 900 degree temperatures to melt lead. In fact, if we were actually running that hot, we’d be burning flux & crackin’ glass left and right.

If you check out the SDS sheets for your solder, you’ll see that lead melts around 375ish Fahrenheit and lead free (depending on metal composition) melts around 410ish degrees Fahrenheit.

But there’s melting temps, and then there’s workability/flow temps. The workability/flow temps are generally more in the 700ish F (375ish C) for lead solder & 770=860ish F (410-460ish C) for lead free.

Old school irons required a higher wattage and higher temperature setting because they didn’t hold heat long enough to stay in a good flow temperature. Basically, ya needed to start high so you could maintain a half decent heat through your solder lines.

You used a 100 Watt iron and a rheostat to help control the amount of current coming through your iron so it was a bit of a guesswork kinda thang.

That’s where the ceramic core and temp control on the Hakko 601 comes in to play. Because of the ceramic core, you get even heat. Which means you get away with muuuuch less wattage and lower temps.

Let’s wrap it all up with some…

Quick Tips for using your new Hakko 601 iron

Just another reason I think the Hakko 601 is the best soldering iron for stained glass… they’re very low maintenance & easy to use.

Getting Started

Your tip is tinned and ready for use right out of the package. Just set the temp, plug ‘er in, and you’re ready to roll!

Powering Off/On

But, like most soldering irons, there is no power button. It has a blue indicator light to show it’s on & it flashes when it’s up to temp.

Though I maaaybe might have maaaybe left mine plugged in overnight two times now without incident…electric/heat/studio fires are generally considered a bad idea.

Now I keep mine plugged into an outlet with a switch so I don’t forget to turn it off. The orange indicator light on it makes it really noticeable when you turn your studio lights off.

Here’s the ones I’ve used:

3 Prong outlet Switch

I use this one now so I don’t forget to turn my fan off either.

Single 3 Prong Outlet Switch

This is the one I used for just my iron.

*I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through these links. My integrity cannot be bought, so I will never link to anything I don’t love &/or know to be quality.

Keeping Your Soldering Tip Clean

Don’t use a sal ammoniac block on your tips. It’s super acidic and well wreck your tips.

When I first got mine, I used to use a bronze scrubbie when my tip would get really schmecky. Hakko does say you can use them (heck they even sell them) but I found that I was running through tips pretty quickly.

A wet sponge works great for keeping your tip clean, and if ya need a lil extra oomph, use some tip tinner & your tip will be like brandy new!

Thermaltronics Tip Tinner

*I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through these links. My integrity cannot be bought, so I will never link to anything I don’t love &/or know to be quality.

Let me know if ya have any questions! I’m always happy to help.

And don’t forget to grab your Free Beginner’s Guide to Stained Glass. There’s a ton of info in there to help you get started in stained glass! And you’ll be on my newsletter so you’ll keep getting tips from me right in your inbox.

If you’re a bit further along in your stained glass journey, or you’re ready to hang out with some other glass hoarders and want tutorials, one-on-one help from me and access to Live Events, come join us in the Peace, Love & Stained Glass Community!

As always…

Peace, Love, & Stained Glass,

-Shannie 😘

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