You may have seen ColdHeat, Cool Touch, and other brands of “cold” soldering irons advertised to hobbyists and electronics buffs. The tips of soldering irons typically reach extreme temperatures in order properly flow the solder and create a sturdy joint. Cold soldering irons claim to return their tips to a cool temperature quickly, making them safer to use.
While such a device may be convenient for hobbyists, especially those without safety training for handling soldering tools, the graphite tips in cold soldering irons can break easily and cannot be used for professional techniques like continuous-flow soldering or desoldering. They also do not allow the user to choose the right soldering tip for the job, as these can vary in temperature, size, and shape. For example, single- or double-sided PC boards require a lower temperature tip than multiple boards.
Professionals recommend true soldering kits, such as the Hakko soldering iron, which are more versatile and reliable than cold soldering irons. Hobbyists can learn to operate a Hakko soldering iron just as safely as the pros do, such as with the Hakko FX888D Safe Digital Soldering Station. Quick thermal recovery and a comfort grip make this model easy and safe to operate. Another option is the Hakko FX601, which allows for longer reach than most cold soldering irons allow along with a wide temperature range and fast, efficient heating via a ceramic heat element.
Whether you choose a cold soldering iron or a professional Hakko soldering iron, remember that you are working with high-temperature materials. Always read manuals carefully and pay close attention to every project you work on.