Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Awful Soldering Iron With Unpronounceable Name

 There's been a rash of small, DC-powered soldering irons in the past decade. Some of them, like the TS-100 I own and use for well over 90% of my electronics assembly, are a very well-designed product that do exactly what you would expect them to do. There are use cases that require an iron with more "intestinal fortitude", as my father would say, usually tasks where you're trying to get a good solder joint between a wire or component and a large mass of metal or large area of PCB cladding. The little DC iron just doesn't have the oomph, the thermal mass and heating element output, to melt the solder and flow properly to make a good connection.

In those cases, I break out the inexpensive $14 mains-powered temp-controlled soldering pencil and the job is done in no time. The beefy element and tip with significant thermal mass make quick work of the heavy connection.

Then there's the really massive soldering job, or the soldering job out in the field, like repairing antenna connections at Field Day or some other event. For those cases, I have a Dremel butane soldering iron that has even more oomph than the mains powered device. I've soldered lugs onto 14-gauge antenna wires using that iron, and it has no problem heating up that much metal to make a good connection.

But this week, I started seeing a Kickstarter for Yet Another DC Soldering Iron. I do like a couple of its features, such as PD/QC compatibility, so it can be used in the field with a hefty PD power bank. It has a nice, large display showing the temperature. But there the good points end, and the puzzled forehead wrinkles begin appearing, only to multiply as the pitch video goes on and on.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you...SOLNIOOER!


Before we get into the problems with this weird little beastie, I'd like to point out that the "Other Products" soldering iron in the picture on the right is very similar to the mains-powered temperature-controlled iron I use for heavier solder joints. Mine is the Mustool brand from Banggood. It works fine for the purpose I bought it to serve.

Problem #1: The name. It's "Solniooer". WTF is a "Solniooer"? How do you pronounce "Solniooer"? It sounds like a Chinese word got into a fight with an Arabic word and produced a sound that threatens to strangle the speaker, or at least sprain their tongue!

Sorry, guys, the name is silly, difficult to pronounce (or guess HOW to pronounce), and I have to keep referring to the Kickstarter page to make sure I'm spelling it correctly. It starts ok, with "Sol" from "solder", but takes an emergency Bat-turn at that point, jamming the "l" up against a nasal consonant. Your tongue wants to file for separate maintenance the first three or four times you try to say it. Then the vowel your brain keeps wanting to put after the "l" shows up, like the Knights Who Say "Ni" suddenly appeared. But why end the word with "ooer"? Is it a "or" sound, as in "floor", or an "oor" sound as in "sure" or "entrepreneur"? It's a mystery, because they don't have anyone actually SAY the name in the pitch video.

(As an aside, I had to go back and edit this because even having checked the Kickstarter several times, I had still managed to misspell the darned name. I had to add the "e" to the left of the "r" at the end.)

Problem #2: The default tip. Believe it or not, the basic product does not come with your typical chisel-tip or conical soldering iron tip. It's a knife tip. It's a flinkin' thick-ass X-Acto style scalpel-shaped knife tip. This is a soldering iron, right? It's for soldering electronic components to a printed circuit board, or for soldering wires together? It is?

Then why are half the use cases shown in the pitch video things like cutting foam, poking holes, and burning wood?

But wait, there's more! And this one is gonna be a screamer! (I know I did.)

Every single example of the device being used to actually solder electronic things was the worst sort of neophyte fumbling. They actually tried to melt solder with the stupid knife tip thingie. Oh, it melted all right, into a shiny, shimmering bead on the end of the wire solder. It would not coat the tip of the iron. At all.

You CAN get additional tips for the thing. They're an extra charge of about $20. That's half the cost of the actual device. You still get the knife tip, but you also get a "needle" tip (very small conical tip), a "conical" tip (what you'd usually expect as a general default tip), and a "horseshoe" tip (a conical wedge tip, a rather large one). They provide lovely animated GIF clips of each of these tips being used to solder things. NONE of them worked properly. Whoever was demonstrating the thing didn't get solder to stick to the tip even once during these demonstrations. Nor did they get solder to stick to the board, wires, or components being soldered! Just clip after clip of melting little beads of solder and trying in vain to scrape them off the end of the wire solder and onto the connection, but failing.

Yes, I know, insufficient heat and probably insufficient flux on parts that have not been cleaned properly to remove the passivating layer of tarnish. But someone making a soldering iron should know this, why it's happening, and how to fix it. Especially for the pitch video to those they want to invest in it with their backing bux!

Problem #3: The thing is HUGE. And RECTANGULAR. Yes, they radiused the edges and corners, but it's way too damn big for the poor performance it gives. It looks bigger and clunkier than my butane iron, and that needs a tank of butane on one end in order to function. I wouldn't want to use it. Who knows how that would interact with my arthritis, my carpal tunnel, and my nerve damage. I'd probably need a prosthetic by the time I was done making a solder joint.

Problem #4: It doesn't seem to WORK. Going back to #2, I want to make it crystal clear that at no time in the pitch video did this device actually make what I would consider to be a proper solder joint. Most of the time the solder wasn't flowing onto the component, wire, or board well enough to make even a cold solder joint. They even show this thumb-fingered demonstrator trying to solder two twisted wires together in a basic splice, and the solder simply would not flow into the twisted wire join. It just bunched up on top of it in a weird, low-temperature version of a bad welding bead. They were trying to spread the solder onto the wires with this silly knife tip that nothing was sticking to, as if it were metallic honey or glue. And it wouldn't stick.

For all I know, you'll watch this travesty unfold and it'll be exactly what you want. If you find it to be so, good luck. You'll need it. But MY opinion (yes, Solniooer, it's my opinion, so don't you @ me, dangit!) is that this thing is just a TAD below the performance level of heating up a cheap screwdriver in a lighter flame and trying to solder with it. I wouldn't back it with YOUR money, much less my own! If it doesn't function properly in the pitch video -- and, even worse, they don't realize it's not working! -- then it works BAD, and you should FEEL bad!

Don't waste your money on this spooky honker. It's a literal hot mess. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it...unlike the solder in the pitch video.

Here's the campaign page, so you can see just how bad bad can get.

Solniooer Kickstarter Page


  1. Only just found your blog - IT'S GREAT! Some really well written and interesting posts - just not enough of them, LOL.

    Love to see more from you.

    73, Tom, M7MCQ

    1. Story of my life, OM! I'm disabled, and my disability frequently gets in the way of any sort of scheduled activity because I can never tell how mobile or functional I'll be from one day to the next. Sometimes it changes by the hour! I do try to put stuff up here when I think people will be interested, and when I'm physically able.

      Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you'll pop back from time to time to see if there's something new.