When thinking of stained glass, imposing images are evoked of Gothic cathedrals and their intricate and colorful windows permitting golden bars of light into the hallowed sanctum.
You think of ancient scenes of fabled stories or perhaps tales of wealth and splendor, but the truth is, glazing is emerging as one of the most exciting and popular hobbies of the present day.
No longer is it thought to be an elegant relic of bygone days. Nor is it reserved just for the houses of the holy and uber-wealthy.
It’s a fully fledged fun and modern pastime enjoyed by anyone with the passion for the craft and the drive to have a go.
So, if you fancy yourself a stained glass guru, excellent! You’re in the right place.
I’ve rated and reviewed five of the very best soldering irons for stained glass you can buy.
Once you’ve given them a good look over, we’ll run through some of the things you should consider before buying your new soldering iron for glazing, then close things up with an illuminating FAQ section.
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Got your tesserae all ready to go?
Awesome! Here’s our top pick so you can get soldering right away.
- Review of The Best Soldering Iron For Stained Glass
- Other Great Soldering Iron For Stained Glass
- Buyer’s Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Summing Up
Review of The Best Soldering Iron For Stained Glass
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The champion window welder is an incredibly popular 67-watt variable-temperature control soldering iron perfect for keen beginners and talented intermediates.
It’s widely considered the best entry-level iron you can buy, although ‘entry-level’ seems like a bit of a slap in the face considering the quality of this iron.
Combine the featherlight 0.08 pound construction with the ergonomic handle, and you’ve got yourself a serious soldering tool.
It’s designed to relieve strain on the hand so that you can work faster for longer.
Accelerating matters to an even further degree, you get the temperature control on the hilt of the handle itself rather than the station, so you needn’t move or break concentration to alter temperature.
It can be a little hard to turn, but once you’re used to it, it’s no problem.
The FX601 has a super-fast, responsive ceramic element.
There’s no waiting around for this thing to really get going, and even though ceramics typically aren’t the best for holding temp, the FX601 is always within 10 degrees above or below the allocated setting.
Even when you wipe it down with a wet sponge, it surges back to full temperature really quickly.
If I were to be really picky, I’d prefer a looser cable and more compatible tips, but these minor flaws are a small price to pay for the overall quality.
- Super lightweight.
- Ergonomic handle.
- Super-fast ceramic element.
- Holds temperature well.
- Temp control on the handle.
- Perfect for beginners through intermediates.
- Affordable for the quality.
- Cable is really stiff.
- The tip is quite large, and there aren’t many compatible alternatives at the minute.
Other Great Soldering Iron For Stained Glass
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Weller is one of the leading names in the soldering iron industry at the moment, so it was inevitable that they were going to dominate this list.
The W100PG is a set-temperature iron with 600°F, 700°F, and 800°F tips.
If you’re looking for insanely accurate temperatures and heat retention, look no further.
Utilizing Weller’s proprietary closed-loop system to hold the stated temperature, it’s a very safe instrument, and thanks to an impressive nichrome wire element, you’re looking at just under two minutes to reach max temperature.
It’s a 100-watt iron meaning it’s just powerful enough to take on those medium to moderately heavy tasks, but it’s more than capable of handling lots of intricate work as well.
One thing’s for sure, if you start with this Weller, you’re not going to outgrow it anytime soon.
The W100PG is noticeably more rugged than the Hakko, which is fairly delicate.
You should still treat it with care, but it’s good to know it can roll with the punches.
- Perfect for beginners and intermediates.
- Capable of tackling mid- to heavy-duty tasks.
- Weller is popular in stained glass communities.
- Three set temperatures.
- Closed-loop system keeps it safe and stable.
- Durable design.
- Powerful nichrome element.
- Set temperature irons are normally avoided by beginners.
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Coming in at third place, we have an even heavier duty iron capable of taking on some industrial level jobs.
Not really appropriate for beginners, this 500-watt Goliath is best off in the hands of skilled workers and masterful hobbyists.
AB has taken a really innovative approach here in terms of elements. They’ve compression wound a unique nichrome alloy onto a steel spool.
The casing is also made of tempered steel, making this by far the most durable iron on the list.
The paragon iron-clad chisel tip isn’t only guaranteed to be harder wearing than other standard tips, but it’s a better conductor of heat, so you can expect super-fast heating and reliable heat retention.
By far my favorite thing about the AB 3198-550 is the hardwood handle.
It adds a level of craftsmanship and aesthetic value almost entirely absent from the industry.
Moreover, it acts as a more effective thermal and electrical insulator.
This is truly a great bit of gear, and if you have any objections to the parts, thanks to its modularity, you can just switch them out with a preferred component and keep going.
It’s pretty pricey, but considering the design, it’s understandable.
- Hardwood handle.
- Great for super heavy-duty projects.
- Compression wound nichrome element is strong and efficient.
- Paragon iron-clad tip is a great conductor and adds even more durability.
- Modular construction.
- Great for experienced solderers.
- Not for beginners.
- Quite expensive.
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Our penultimate soldering iron was designed specifically for use on stained glass and other small-scale hobbies and tasks.
It’s a suitable option for absolute beginners who are only interested in soldering in order to live out their stained glass dreams.
It’s an 80-watt iron, which is pretty impressive considering the price.
With an adjustable power range that maxes out at 900°F, you’ll be able to take on a vast array of projects from light and simple all the way through to relatively heavy-duty stuff.
The WC200 isn’t quite as customizable as our third pick, but you can replace the heating element and tip at any point rather than buying whole new irons.
There’s a good chance that you won’t even need to replace the tip. Customers report that it holds up beyond two years of fairly frequent use without even losing its shine.
The corner is great for fine beading and precision application, and the full edge can handle some pretty intensive larger jobs.
The WC200 is, of course, a full soldering station, which is fantastic for newbie stained glass hobbyists.
The station includes a temperature control, a sponge well, and a really cool coiled iron holder – everything you need to start your glass adventures.
- Designed for use on stained glass.
- Fast element.
- Element and tips are replaceable.
- Great price.
- Comes as a full soldering station.
- Station has sturdy iron holder.
- 900°F max temperature.
- Chisel tip can be used for a wide range of projects.
- Not hugely precise temperature wise.
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Our final pick is a magnificent digital iron.
Digital irons have slowly, but surely, taken over the market due to their displayed temperature accuracy and because you can dial in very precise temperatures.
This particular iron even has password protection so that nobody can fiddle with your settings.
Made from heat-resistant silicon, the cable is impressively skinny and flexible.
It won’t impede your movement or grip in the slightest, which means your work is going to look smoother than ever.
Anther practicality included is the ergonomic, textured grip.
No matter how hot under the collar you get on those difficult sections, you’ll always have full control of this iron.
Another great thing about going digital for your stained glass soldering is that it comes with various preset modes to make life easier.
The Weller WE1010NA comes pre-programmed with a lock function, stand-by, and auto setback.
All your information is displayed on the LCD screen, and the ‘intuitive navigation’ layout of the panel makes using this station to its full potential really easy.
It’s a 70-watt iron, which isn’t the most powerful at this price point, but it’s more than enough for light to medium jobs and perfect for beginners who want to jump right up to a quality iron.
- Digital offers a far more accurate representation of temperature.
- Digital allows you to dial in very specific temperatures.
- Comes with a precision tip.
- Sold as a full station.
- Password protection.
- Different modes make the job easier.
- Flexible, heat-resistant cord.
- Really easy to use.
- Ergonomic grip.
- A little pricey.
- 70 watts isn’t too powerful.
It can be difficult shopping for a soldering iron.
They all seem pretty similar, and there are loads on the market, but take into account some of the key considerations below, and you’re sure to find something perfect for your stained glass work.
For a soldering iron fit for use on stained glass, I recommend putting aside at least $60, but if you can go higher, great!
You don’t necessarily need to break the bank on an incredibly powerful iron, but searching for a moderately powerful one made with quality components is a must.
There are two main elements used in soldering irons: ceramic and wire nichrome.
Ceramic elements are quicker to heat up, but generally speaking, they don’t hold their heat quite as well.
Wire nichrome elements are equal but opposite.
They don’t heat up quite as quickly because there is a greater amount of materials involved, but they hold their heat better, meaning wiping the tip won’t slow you down as much.
Many beginners choose to start with a wire nichrome iron as they tend to have a slightly larger range of applications, but you can’t beat a good ceramic element for small-scale, detailed work.
There are variations of these two kinds of elements, so be sure to dig up as much information as you can.
Nichrome elements can be coiled with other metals, which, if done correctly, will improve their conductivity and durability.
Ceramic isn’t actually a single substance.
It’s more of a blanket term and can refer to one of three main materials: molybdenum disilicide, silicon nitride, silicon carbide. These vary in conductivity and durability.
Like any piece of electrical equipment, a soldering iron’s power is measured in watts, but wattage should never be confused with maximum temperature.
What wattage does tell you is how fast an iron will be able to hit the desired temperature and how well it will hold it.
The minimum wattage requirement for working on stained glass is 65 watts.
To give yourself a little more flexibility and to prevent outgrowing your iron, it might be better off aiming for the 70s or even 80s.
Wattages of 100 or less are generally seen as entry-level, providing you enough power to tackle small to light-medium tasks.
Wattages below 200 are middle of the park.
If you already have some more intensive projects in mind, jumping straight to this range is definitely preferable.
Irons more powerful than 200 watts are considered heavy-duty. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to avoid these for now.
The three most popular solder types used for stained glass are 60/40, 50/50, and 63/37 in a ratio of tin and lead.
60/40 solder melts anywhere from 183 – 188°C, 50/50 melts somewhere between 183 – 212°C, and 63/37 melts at 183°C.
It’s a good idea to get an iron with a higher maximum temperature than the one you absolutely require.
Therefore, I recommend looking for one with temperatures that exceed 260°C.
Temperature Controlled Vs. Adjustable Temperature (Variable Wattage)
These are the two types of soldering iron.
Temperature-controlled irons – usually the more expensive of the two – have one set temperature per tip.
They normally come with at least three tips giving you three overall temperature options.
Temperature-controlled irons are generally seen as more advanced as they’re consistent in their wattage, but they themselves are not all made equally.
TC soldering irons with a temperature sensor closer to the tip are far more accurate.
Adjustable-temperature or variable-wattage soldering irons are more suited to beginners with smaller projects.
They utilize a temperature dial on the hilt or station that lowers or raises the wattage to adjust temperature.
Digital Vs. Analogue
While most soldering irons marketed toward stained glass enthusiasts are analogue, customers are seeing the emergence of digital across the wider market for several reasons.
Digital stations have LCD screens that offer enhanced clarity, making them user friendly. They also offer a far more accurate representation of true temperature.
Lastly, digital irons and stations allow you to set temperatures more precisely (if they’re adjustable models).
There are two main shapes to consider when it comes to iron handles: inline and hatchet. Inline irons are a straight line held like a pencil.
Hatchet irons feature heating elements and tips at a 90° angle that can reduce a certain amount of hand strain.
It’s also important to find an iron with a grip that suits you. Something with a textured finger zone will be great for longer, more arduous projects.
Most soldering irons come with a chisel tip perfect for beginners.
They’re reminiscent of a flathead screwdriver and they’re often used by stained glass artists.
While you may not feel the need to use any other tips for a while, you should still consider the array compatible with the iron before purchase so that you’re set up for future advancement.
Cords, especially those of analogue designs, can be pretty stiff, which ultimately is going to limit your movement.
A flexible cord means a flexible hand.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Temperature Should My Soldering Iron Be for Stained Glass?
You should set your iron to a minimum of 260°C, although, Somewhere between 350 and 370°C will optimize your workflow.
Will Solder Stick to Glass?
Not directly. You’ll need a base layer of copper foil before applying solder to the sections.
Can You Use Any Flux for Stained Glass?
You could probably make any flux work albeit it at the expense of the quality of the finished project.
A better idea would be to shop around for one of the many flux formulas developed specifically for use on stained glass.
Can I Use a Dremel to Grind Stained Glass?
Not always, but some Dremel rotary tools are designed for use on glass exclusively.
There you have it, glazers, five amazing soldering irons for starting or advancing your stained glass artistry.
As long as you think hard about the level you are and the projects you see yourself doing in the foreseeable future, you should have no problem finding an iron that’s perfect for you.
So, what do you think…was there a particular soldering iron on the list that stood out, or did nothing quite hit the spot?
In case of the latter, use what you’ve learned here to continue your search.
You’re closer than ever to that mythical wand for creating some pure stained glass magic.