Nawal Husnoo's personal blog

The price of cheap

They say a bad craftsman blames his tools. I think this phrase may have been coined at a time when tools were something you saved up for, and only expensive, high quality tools were worth making. I think buying "affordable" tools in the last 10 years has restricted my ability to create/fix things.

The latest example is a soldering iron. Years ago, I bought a Maplin 30W Mains Soldering Iron for about £10, but never quite enjoyed soldering with it. There was no temperature control, so I'd wait for a while and guess how hot it was, and then try to melt a bit of solder. Then, I'd be using it for several minutes, and it would get too hot and start burning the PCB/other item. It was very frustrating. I also had a Silverline Soldering Iron Stand, which would simply not stay put when I put the iron in it, because the stiffness of the cable was too much for the stand, which was too light.

Eventually, I got a Maplin 8W Battery Powered Soldering Iron, thinking it would be nicer to use, as it doesn't have a thick and stiff cable to get in the way. Unfortunately, the lack of temperature control, and the fact that you have to keep pressing the button to keep it heated meant I spent ages just waiting for it to warm up every time I put it down to adjust a wire or a component.

Recently, I decided to buy a more expensive soldering station - the 48W Mains Solder Station for £40. This has made a huge difference - the cable on the iron is very flexible, so it doesn't get in the way. the stand is built into the heavy base, and thus holds the iron very securely when I put it down. The temperature is controlled with a pair of buttons, and although I have not used this function much, the LCD display shows the temperature as it heats up, and the device holds the temperature roughly constant as I work.

There are more examples like this, where a more expensive tool made work that was frustrating and unpleasant before become very easy and rewarding to do.