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Old 4th Feb 2021, 12:02 pm   #1
John_BS
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Default Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

I've used the old Weller TCPS 50w 24V irons for many years.

I see there is currently Weller a soldering station with 80W adjustable temperature irons, but they are serious money. Are these worth the premium over the 100-ish look-alikes (presumably from China)? If the Weller is reliable and long-lived I might give it a try?
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 12:16 pm   #2
Max Power
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Horrible things, I was given one at work some years ago. We found that with extended/continuous use, the tips become loose.

IMO, either stick to your TCP, or get a Metcal.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 12:35 pm   #3
Uncle Bulgaria
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

I got one from Gumtree perhaps 4 years ago as my first 'soldering station' rather than one of those red-handled Wellers that I always got to eat tips rather than solder.

I think it's fantastic, but then I've not soldered professionally. I've got a selection of tips and haven't noticed the loosening problem mentioned by Max Power, despite it being second-hand and not in the first flush of youth. The only thing I've found difficult is there not being a useful guide table for what temperature to set it at for different purposes. I've dialled it in by eye but don't know if I'm doing it properly.

I wouldn't get one new for hobby use, as Weller stations come up on eBay and the classifieds. I got mine for <50 with some bits, a couple of stands and two WSP80 'solder pencils'. You could put a 'wanted' on here as perhaps someone has one languishing they aren't using. Posting a 'wanted' on Freecycle/Freegle etc. is the other handy option.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 12:39 pm   #4
Radio Wrangler
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

They were using one at work when I joined. The 80W was a joke. The heater might do that, but heat flow was poor down to fine tips.

So I took in one of my Metcals. The difference startled them. Easy to use, plenty of power where you actually use it. Cost more, tips cost more and aren't terribly long lived unless you are careful not to leave them on.

They immediately bought their own metcal, and haven't used anything else since. They bought a Chinese hot air machine that worked well, but blew glass fragments over things after the handpiece got dropped off the bench They tried a Weller hot air thing which was better, but a second-hand JBC hot air machine proved best of the hot air bunch.

So, I wouldn't bother with it. I once picked up a second hand Metcal for 70, so keep your eyes open. The little JBC irons are quite good as well.

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Old 4th Feb 2021, 12:53 pm   #5
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Looks like there will be a mix of opinions on this one...

I have three of these Weller irons although mine have the digital display for temperature and the up/down buttons to adjust it. They have WSD81 written on the base unit.

Many years ago at work we (thankfully) got rid of all the classic old Weller TCP irons and replaced them with the Weller WSD81 model. A few years later Farnell sold off their WSD81 stock really cheaply and I bought one for something like 130 new. I think Farnell sold them cheap because this model had a fragile stand for the iron that could easily come apart. The price rocketed back up to normal once they had cleared stock of the units with the dodgy stand.

I've since bought another WSD81 on ebay and the other one is ex-works. I do like these irons although there are better options nowadays. At work nearly everyone now uses Metcal or JBC irons although we still have a few WSD81 models.

The good points for the WSD81 are:

The iron handle and tip section is slimmer and shorter than the TCP and it is clearly designed for fine electronics work. By contrast, the TCP iron is much chunkier and optimal for people who have large hands and who mostly solder larger components.

The tip life is hugely improved compared to the TCP iron and the quality of the soldering is much more consistent with the WSD81 as it does a much better job at regulating the tip temperature in my opinion.

However, the WSD81 is outclassed by modern opposition like Metcal and JBC. These irons are even slimmer and the tip temperature is controlled even better. The tip section is even shorter than the WSD81 and this makes them better for fine SMD rework etc.

It's fairly easy and reliable to change the tips for the WSD81 as long as you have somewhere suitable to drop the discarded (hot) tip safely. You can also select the tip saver option (ON/OFF) and this will turn off the heat to the tip after a period of inactivity. This saves tip life but it can be annoying if you you are in a hurry to reuse the iron. The reheat time is about 15-20 seconds from cold.

There's an extensive range of tips and they are fairly cheap to buy. I guess one area it might not be able to compete with a TCP is if you want to fit a huge tip and use it for soldering metal screens together. With a 4mm chisel tip the WSD81 does surprisingly well here but a JBC iron will outclass it easily for heavy duty stuff like this.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 1:04 pm   #6
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

I just had a closer look and the image in post #1 shows the dodgy type of stand for the iron handle. If you look closely the main holder is held into the base with a springy piece of bent 'wire'. You are supposed to push this firmly in place into the base of the stand and presumably Weller thought it would stay like that for the life of the iron. In reality this bent wire section works itself loose especially if you move the iron around a lot on the bench. So there can be times when it comes apart and the iron holder can fall sideways onto the bench. This really is a poor piece of mechanical design in my opinion.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 1:46 pm   #7
Wendymott
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

My Weller TCP 24v iron needed another Mag switch.... so I looked online for some sort of replacement. I selected a temp controller China special...... but although it does work ok, occasionally the temp sensor sticks and the tip temperature soars..... so.. I switch it off.... tap the stem on the bench, re apply power and its ok.. till next time. I also get fed up of changing tips for larger or smaller ends... so I just bought another iron assy... saves me messing about. and at about a tenner.......no contest.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 3:25 pm   #8
barrymagrec
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

I have long used TCPs for larger work but was more or less forced to get something smaller for surface mount so bought an MLR21 / PU81 and it`s excellent - of course they`ve now discontinued the MLR21...

I can`t comment on the stand as I didn`t buy one, having a long dead old Weller PSU with a suitable spring holder lying around.


I have used Metcals, can`t get on with them at all.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 4:31 pm   #9
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Likewise Ive always or mostly used Wellers over the years and minor niggles now and then but being active 8 to 10 hrs a day in the workshop they stood up very well.Metcals! Hmm tried one on lone and went back to supplier in a week didn't rate it at all. Had some good and bad Pace ventures but Hakko have always scored well. Tad expensive to get a full rig but great kit
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 4:39 pm   #10
John_BS
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Thanks for all the feedback. I'm inclined to Weller, but unsure of compatibility of irons & power supplies: is the PU81 output (connector) the same as the WS / WSD81? I've spotted a PU81 with an iron which has a blue band; is that the WSP80 iron?
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 8:23 pm   #11
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

My WSP80 irons have a pale grey band on the handle. It might have been a white band at some point but my irons are quite old now.

The connector on the WSD81 PSU is a fairly flimsy plastic type with 7 inner pin sockets. One pin socket is in the centre and six more pin sockets around it. However, if I look into the WSP80 iron lead connector it only has 6 pins that engage with the 7 way connector on the WSD81. The centre pin is not fitted on the WSP80 iron lead.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 8:31 pm   #12
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Note that there is a chunky/retro TCP style iron that (kind of) works with the WSD81 PSU. It has the same connector type and this does fit the WSD81 PSU connector. However, there are only 5 pins in the connector for this chunky iron.

From a distance, the chunky iron looks just like a black TCP iron but it uses subtly different bits to the TCP iron. At a glance they look just like TCP bits but they are hollow inside. I've got one of these irons here but rarely use it. It does seem to work OK with the WSD81 PSU but it takes much longer to heat up the tip. The WSP80 iron is much faster, slimmer and nicer to use.
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 8:43 pm   #13
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Here's an old link to the RS site where they have a doc about the change to the stand for the WSD81/WSP80 station. This stand with the classic chrome spring is much more reliable than the earlier stand.

https://docs.rs-online.com/3e22/0900766b80f59568.pdf

I suspect that this safety issue with the earlier type of stand was the reason Farnell sold off their older WSD81+WSP80 stations at about 1/3rd the normal price many years ago. I was lucky to get one before they sold out.

Page 19 of the WSD81 manual below shows the range of irons that are compatible with the WSD81 PSU base. I think the chunky TCP type iron is the 50W LR21 type.

https://docs.rs-online.com/1317/0900766b801a3916.pdf
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 9:00 pm   #14
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Page 16 of the WS81/WS51 datasheet below suggests that the PU81 PSU is compatible with a similar list of irons. The WSP80 iron is there along with a few others.

https://docs.rs-online.com/9c84/0900766b801a4050.pdf
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Old 4th Feb 2021, 9:59 pm   #15
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Jeremy: many thanks. I think that clears up what might work with the two power supplies. This is the image of the WSP80 from the CPC site.

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Old 5th Feb 2021, 11:52 am   #16
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Edit: that isn't quite what my WSP80 looks like but maybe mine is an older version? Also the band colour on mine is white or very pale grey. To give you some idea of the heat transfer to the WSP80 tip take a look at the basic test fixture below. This uses SMA end launch connectors soldered direct to a sheet of PCB material. With a 1.5mm chisel tip and the tip temperature temporarily increased to 400degC the WSP80 iron can be pressed onto the top of one of these connectors and within 8 seconds the whole connector is hot enough to be moved around the PCB like an SMD part on molten solder.

It would be faster with a chunky 4mm chisel tip but this is still quite impressive in my opinion. A JBC iron would probably do it in half the time or maybe even quicker. The JBC irons combine the heating element into the tip so they are really good at maintaining the tip temperature.

Even though the JBC irons and the Metcal irons are technically better I still wouldn't swap my WSP80 irons for them. The bits are very expensive for the JBC irons and they don't last as long. The Metcal irons I've used don't have temperature control on them and they often seem to shut down and reheat the tip each time the iron is put into and removed from the holder. If I'm too quick at this the tip isn't quite up to temperature and this can be annoying.

At first, the WSP80 iron will feel a bit light and possibly fragile compared to a traditional TCP iron. The unscrewable tip holder thingy has a plastic knurled ring on it that does look and feel flimsy for example. However, I've not had to replace anything on my WSP80 irons and I've had them for many years.

My WSP80 irons look like the RS image in the link below:

https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/solde...E&gclsrc=aw.ds

They may have improved the design since.
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Old 5th Feb 2021, 12:05 pm   #17
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

My WSP80 irons look like the image below taken from the RS website.
The knurled plastic ring near the tip is there to help unscrew the tip holder section. This does feel brittle and fragile when rotated but so far I've not broken it.
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Old 17th Apr 2021, 9:57 am   #18
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Wrangler View Post
They were using one at work when I joined. The 80W was a joke. The heater might do that, but heat flow was poor down to fine tips.

So I took in one of my Metcals. The difference startled them. Easy to use, plenty of power where you actually use it. Cost more, tips cost more and aren't terribly long lived unless you are careful not to leave them on.

David
With a lot of surface mount soldering on the horizon, I realised that my now-obsolete Weller WTCP wasn't man for the job.

So I (with weeping wallet) have just sprung for a Metcal GT90-HP-T4 . These seem to be a thing of beauty. Punishingly accurate temperature contol, and a real 90W from the tiny iron.

And they get around the leaving it on problem by having a motion sensor in the handle; you set a time to switch the iron off when the handle is stationary during set up. But since it is induction heated it (apparently) heats back up again in just a couple of seconds when you pick it back up.

With a couple of tips, the thick end of 450.

I'm quite excited!

Craig
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Old 19th Apr 2021, 11:33 am   #19
Craig Sawyers
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

I swore I would never buy another Weller after my TCP started blowing fuses. Since I was in the middle of doing something, and couldn't afford to faff around I shoved a higher rated fuse in. That won me a couple of hours - then pop - the fuse went again.

Desperate to continue soldering I put in another, even higher rated fuse. Then smoke came out of the transformer.

It was then I found that the wires inside the cable had crumbled, and were shorting. And because Weller do not have a thermal cutout in the transformer it self destructed with melted windings when the 24V output feeding the iron was shorted. Shockingly poor safety, low temperature rated winding wire insulation, no thermal cutout, and marginal power rating.

Weller pretty much walked away, and even though I sent them photos of the crumbling insulation simply did not want to know. "You should have sent it back to us for repair".

Because I'm a tom fool sometimes I bought a new WTCP about two years ago. Which Weller have since obsoleted. They no longer offer magnastat irons.

Regarding the dead TCP. Because I have something of the animal in me, I took the old burnt out transformer out, cut a rectangular hole in the bottom, and screwed a rather large ex-BBC 4x6.3V transformer I had kicking around on the bottom. I bought a cable to replace the crumbled one and fitted it to the Weller handle. So it is now a blue Weller box screwed on top of a massive transformer, the mains side of which is wired into the fuse holder and IEC socket. But the whole thing is very much a Franken-iron. In spite of its steam punk appearance it course works perfectly.

But given their shocking quality, and dreadful after sales performance, and just to reiterate, I will never, ever buy a Weller product again.

Craig
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Old 19th Apr 2021, 11:45 am   #20
G0HZU_JMR
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Default Re: Weller PU81 / WS81 - opinions?

The old Weller TCP irons are dreadful things in my opinion. Just about everyone at work hated them (handle too fat, distance to tip too long and poor soldering performance) and nobody wanted to save any of them when we threw maybe 150 TCP irons in the skip at work maybe 25 years ago. I think there was some issue to do with ESD or ROHS which meant they couldn't be used and the company bought the WSD81 as a replacement. I already had a couple of TCP irons here at home and soon got tired of the various failures. Sometime the bit gets welded stuck, sometime the internal gubbins fails and I have heard of transformer issues as well. The tips had limited life and there was the annoying click sound from the inside of the handle each time it regulated the temperature. I can still remember hearing the ringing sounds of the iron being put back in the noisy spring holder. My desk at work used to be near the model shop and TCP irons were in use by several operators and I could hear the sound of TCP irons being taken out and put back in the holder all day long. Definitely a Room 101 contender for me...
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