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Actual Real Review. Others=FAKE
IF you can keep these working, they work well. IF you are electrically and mechanically inclined enough to make semi-regular repairs, it can be very very useful, because it's performance characteristics WHILE WORKING PROPERLY are excellent.
1.It gets extremely hot, extremely fast. Great for on-demand light to medium duty soldering.
2.The tip is very durable, and easy to clean.
The nickel coating on the tip will last for months before wearing out to the point that you need to start filing it to get acceptable heat transfer. I use my irons for hours every day, so that's saying a lot, in fact the tip has outlasted any tip I've used for any of my irons, ever.
3. Built-in light above trigger.
4. 10 foot power cord is pretty handy.
5. Saves power. I would normally just leave a soldering iron on as I worked on other parts of a project, so that I wouldn't have to wait 5 minutes every time I needed to solder.
1. While it does get extremely hot, extremely fast, the tip is on the smaller side. It's the perfect size for actually engaging a broad range of targets, but because the tip does not contain much mass it can store much heat. For big soldering tasks you need an iron with a big chunky tip, the more copper you have in the tip, the more heat it can build up and STORE allowing you to instantly dump more energy to your target when you make contact, which allows you to solder faster and remove the iron faster, reducing your risk of collateral damage. So if you're considering this soldering gun because it's rated at 400-WATTS and you're looking to do larger work, keep in mind the 400-watts in play here mostly just serve to achieve peak temp faster
2. The light.... was a nice thought. But it's almost too dim to be of use. And it's an incandescent. Why not just install a 3 or 4 watt super bright led? They're not expensive anymore.
3. My first one quit after one day.
The heating element is a removable/replaceable part (the front half of the shiny "barrel" on top slides out the front) so I removed the top screw and pulled it out. With it came white crumbs and pieces of the ceramic insulator which protects the 2 electrodes that plug into the base unit. That connection, where the element assembly plugs into the base unit, is the main problem area. BECAUSE this thing gets so hot so fast, and see's so many hot/cold thermal cycles, the internal quick-disconnect electrodes experience a lot of metal fatigue from expanding & contracting whenever you pull the trigger and let go. These contacts fail early and often. As they loosen the connection gets weaker and you get less power to the iron-tip due to resistance. Then for the same reason the connection becomes a hot-spot and just degrades even faster. So when my first gun quit after one day, I repaired it by cleaning those contacts and tightening the connection. It lasted another month or so, with at least one more tightening/electrode cleaning, before it completely quit again, and this time I decided I resented the idea of the extra homework and wasted time of maintaining it, and I remembered Sears always had a legendary warranty policy, so I went to swap it out.
The girl at the register barely had the brain power to form words with her mouth. And when she did, it was only to say she didn't know anything about anything, or to arbitrarily make up answers to deflect me, much like when I called in 30 minutes earlier to make sure I wasn't wasting a trip she seemed to arbitrarily say yes to everything just to get me off the phone.
2 managers come over finally. First they had no idea what a soldering gun was, and insisted they didn't stock anything like that. I explained that I checked their in-store stock online before I came. Then they claimed they couldn't warranty it because it wasn't a hand tool. So I had to show them their own return policy. And it just went on and on for about 45 minutes. They tried everything they could to get out of honoring the warranty, from playing dumb, to being dumb, from bizarre interpretation of the terms to just plain making things up, and even walking off for 5 or 10 minutes at a time to check this or that, hoping to tire me out. They even accused me of using it too much, because I mentioned I work from home making solar panels and custom batteries.
"Well the warranty doesn't cover your kind of usage." she said.
"Define those terms" I said.
"Well you said you work 7 days a week, 18 hours a day, it's not meant for such heavy usage" she said.
"I'm not soldering the entire time that I'm working. But it does say heavy duty on the box." I said
"Well it's not for commercial use." she said
"It says PROFESSIONAL." I said
"Yeah but you're using it every day, to make things to sell, that's industrial. It's not for industrial use." she regurgitated.
"I'm not an industry." I said " I'm a PROFESSIONAL."
The whole ordeal took a total of at least an hour. And when she finally did give in and exchange it, she seemed to take an odd amount of pleasure in telling me that since it wasn't a hand tool that the next time it craps out I would have no warranty at all.
The replacement had the same problem with the contacts becoming loose, intermittent, dirty/charred. I completely disassembled it, re-wired it, triple insulated the wires, modified the connections to account for thermal cycles. Worked great for a month or so. Dropped it one time and the plastic frame snapped. Re attached using 1700-degree rated adhesive. a month later light stopped working. Fixed that. a few days ago sparks started shooting off of the handle while I was using it, found that the insulation for the power cord, where it exits the handle, was dry rotted and cracked all the way through, exposing the cheap thin gauge wire which broke and was making intermittent contact. So now I've replaced the power cord with wiring that's not garbage. Today I noticed a brand new problem. Another connection that I didn't know existed, and it's the same concept.
The heating element assembly, that slides into the top of? With the bad connections that I fixed? Well apparently there's another connection inside the heating element that's suffering from the same problem. Apparently the tip itself detaches from the heating element assembly for replacement, so this connection is essentially shot from the expansion/contraction fatigue as well. When it's cold the contact is strong, and the iron starts up red hot. Shortly thereafter, when different metals begin expanding at different rates under the high temp, the connection begins to separate, and the iron does not produce enough heat to do anything but very light duty work, without fiddling with it. I realize now that this had been making work miserable for me for months and I never realized what it was... So now I'll fix THAT, and continue using it. Because, like I said, if you can keep it working like it's supposed to, it's awesome.
But if you're not an incredibly mechanically inclined self-destructive lunatic OCD mad scientist shut in that needs constant adversity to drown out the sounds of the howling demons in your head, like me, I would advise buying something else.
By the way, Sears/Craftsman doesn't make these. If you peel off their label, directly underneath it, MOLDED INTO THE PLASTIC is the name of the real company that makes them and the real product name. "WALL since 1864" product name "Trig R Heat". actual company name "Wall Lenk" product model number "LG400"