Out with the old…

Tools and in with the new.  While I don’t presently have a layout, I am always busy with many modelling projects, some of which I detailed here.  So while I’m not expending energy or money on building a layout, I am putting it into things that will be useful when I am building a layout, like buying good quality tools to either replace lower quality ones, or expand my supply of tools.  Having the right tools for the job makes things so much easier.

The most recent upgrade arrived last night.  While I’m far from any kind of expert at soldering, I’ve been using an ancient iron from Radio Shack (remember them?) that I bought circa 2003 when I was building a layout.  It’s not a “bad” iron for a starter, but over a long period of use, it had limitations, and it was impossible to find the proper replacement parts like new tips as Radio Shack evolved into The Source and has an ever shrinking amount of electronics hobbyist supplies.

IMGP2270RawConvRadio Shack 20/40 Watt Soldering Iron.  It’s been a fine tool, but long in the tooth now.  It will go to Value Village so hopefully someone who needs an iron but can’t afford a new one can give it more use.

So, with that, I had sought advice from several friends, which confirmed what I pretty much knew, that I wanted to buy a Weller.  I did a fair bit of research, into options and pricing, and decided upon the WES51 Soldering Station.

IMGP2271RawConvThe new Weller WES51, still waiting to figure out where it’s going to go on the workbench. As part of a cleanup/reorganization happening in the office, it may find a home where it comes out when it’s needed rather than always being on the workbench.

It’s a big leap up from my previous iron, and I’ll need to find some wiring projects to work on to learn its behaviours, but it will last me a very long time hopefully, which is the point of buying good tools.

The second recent upgrade was a new drill/impact driver set.  I’d been jonsing for this for years.  My previous drill was a $50 Canadian Tire Black & Decker special that I’d bought when I moved out of my parents for good after university, and needed my own things.  Back then, making entry-level money, I bought the cheapest/most expensive tool I could afford.

IMGP1613RawConvMilwaukee Hammer Drill/Impact Driver set.  Quality tools that have already been handy on some small jobs, waiting on helping build a future layout!

My new set is a Milwaukee Hammer Drill and Impact driver set.  This is something I really could have used five years ago when we moved into our new apartment.  Drilling holes in the 1960’s vintage concrete of our building with the old drill to hang pictures and curtains wasn’t fun!!  The couple of things I’ve done in the month or so I’ve had the new drill have been so much easier.  As with everything, having the right tools makes so much of a difference.  A friend has had the Milwaukee M18 series tools for years, and I’ve used his doing restoration at the Toronto Railway Museum.  A next purchase for me will be a Jig Saw the next time it’s on sale.  I love the Sawzall as well, but I have no real use for that particular tool at this time!  I may look at the M18 Circular Saw though whenever layout building time comes for ripping plywood and the like.

There will be more small tool upgrades to come as well, like a new pair of sprue cutters for kitbuilding as the ones I had are gone (presumed lost moving 5 years ago and just never replaced), and new rail cutters, as I’ve somewhat embarrassingly managed to chip the edges of the Xuron cutters I have.  I’m also looking to upgrade my styrene/strip chopper as the one i have has a partical board base that has gouged beneath the blade.  Lots of little tool shopping things that i can do so when I am in a bigger building mode in the future, I’m spending money on the project rather than the right tools for the jobs.

7 thoughts on “Out with the old…

  1. GREAT choice of soldering iron. I’ve had one for a few years now and I’m so glad I made that investment. It will do everything for you – from soldering track and feeder wires to small welding jobs (grin).
    I particularly like that it’s almost instant heat, which means I no longer have to leave an iron plugged in and hot for hours at a time while working on a project. That just seems safer to me, in so many ways.
    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

  2. Thanks Trevor for the confirmation of my selection. It had been reccommended by other modellers as well. I turned it on briefly yesterday, and was confused when it was to heat within 30 seconds!! I’m so used to waiting 10 minutes on my old iron to maybe be hot enough to melt solder!! It will really change my work flow when i do get to using it!


  3. Yup. New iron is something I’d like to invest in. I had a really great one that was also of a Radio Shack pedigree. I tried replacing it with a couple of options from The Source but the heat just is weird to predict. Even if only for fussing with turnout projects…it’s time.

    I like the ability to adjust the heat of the iron so I can leave the iron cooler while I’m fussing with something but then bring the heat back up when I need it without having to wait too long. This might help with the life of the tip and keep if from burning – a problem I’m having with the current irons I own.

    And on the drill situation I’ve been hanging on to an old Black and Decker that I found in the trash when I was in my early teens and rebuilt (back when the world was still only in black and white, pre-internet, and you could actually buy B&D parts right here in Charlottetown!). You could start a tractor with the thing. That said, in the lifetime since i rebuilt it so many great advances have been made and I’d sure like something I could reverse so I could back a screw out using the same tool that put it in, in the first place.



  4. Chris, based on a couple of quick tests with the Weller, its hot in less than 30 seconds from turn on, there is no need to even worry about leaving it on at a lower heat, just on, solder and off if its for a quick job.

    I’d say the B&D you rebuilt was a far better tool than the cheap plastic one i had, but reverse is a really nice feature!!


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