A long time ago I picked up this 50W Soldering Station from SparkFun, and it’s worked well over the years. (Also, props to SparkFun for still listing retired products on their site!) The nice thing about this iron is that it can use Hakko tips, and since I can get Hakko-compatible tips super-cheap on eBay, I’ve got a lot of tips in the shop so I’m never without one.
I could have got a Hakko, but they are more than twice the price, and while I do use a Hakko at work, I went cheap at home because sometimes I’m cheap. (You may remember the time I had to fix a Hakko FX888D Soldering Station.)
The one thing I didn’t like about the SparkFun iron was that the handle seemed a little flimsy. Not at first, but after years of use. It finally got to the point where the heating element was wobbly on the handle, and when I took it apart, I couldn’t get the tip off easily, and when it came off, the end of the heating element broke. (I should note that I probably solder things a few times a week, so it definitely got some good use.)
I had to find a replacement handle, and it requires one with 7 pins. After browsing around eBay for a bit I found the 7-Pin 907 Soldering Iron Handle For AT936b AT907 AT8586 ATTEN Soldering Station, which seemed like it was the right one. I figured that for under $8.00 I’d just order it and hope it worked. And it did.
I also learned that the SparkFun iron is basically an ATTEN 937b Anti-static Rework Soldering Station, which you can find cheap on eBay as well. (I mean, lots of things are cheap on eBay, because they may be knock-offs or just not that good. YMMV.) Also the ATTEN 937b is basically a knock-off of the Hakko 936 ESD Soldering Station with Medium (907) Handpiece. Oh look, the “907” handpiece. Of course.