[REVIEW] Handskit T12 PID controlled Soldering Iron

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jeff51
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[REVIEW] Handskit T12 PID controlled Soldering Iron

A 72w PID Soldering Iron with a reduced feature set at a very low price. With a possible safety hazard that can be corrected.
I bought this last week on Amazon during a flash sale for $17. It’s now up to $20.
https://www.amazon.com/Soldering-Function-Adjustable-Temperature-Ergonom...

It was shipped in a plastic envelope. Inside was the cardboard box containing the kit.
Included is the power supply/temp control, a handle, two T12 compatible tips, tool holder with brass tip cleaning pad, second holder to attach to (?), ground strap, sponge, Allan key (for ?), some stick on feet, instructions, and a computer type power cord.

The Instructions – Not
The instruction sheet is a single pair of pages. Each about the size of a business card. Other than directions as to how to apply the stick on feet, press the temperature adjustment knob to adjust the specific temperature (whatever that means), and few hints at something else – That’s about it.

Actually I’m most impressed with the press it was printed on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 0.25 point type size before. Bring your magnifier! In one of the tiny pics I see the second iron holder attached to the main chassis. But no indication of how to do this.

It’s apparent from the Amazon ad that this thing has various functions. Good luck with that. There is no mention of them in the instructions.
I have asked (twice) on the Amazon site about instructions. Neither seems to have made it to the actual questions section. They seem to have vanished mysteriously. Hummm…

The instructions indicate that there is a “Sleep Mode Socket” plug on the back.
That does – And I quote “After inserting the hole, the connecting bracket can be put to sleep“

Well, the only thing included that fits there is the banana plug ground strap.
Inside the chassis this plug is isolated from the chassis and is connected directly to the ground of the PC board and the (earth) ground for the 120v wall cord.

This iron only has a 3 digit display. The more expensive ~ $90 irons have multi character displays that make using the kit way easier. But you pay for that convenience.

What I have discovered…
Pressing and holding in the temp button – puts you into the “P” menu.
So far:
P0 – P3 Unknown. I’ll bet the tip type and calibration are hidden in here.
P4 – Temp adjustment steps. 0 (Lock Temp?), 5, 10 degrees
P5 – Auto Sleep Timer, 0 (never), 1 – 60 minutes
P6 – Auto Shut down Timer – 0 (never) or 1-180 minutes
P7 – Unknown
P8 – Wake Up Method – 0 = Shake and Dial, 1 = Dial only
P9 – Temp Boost Amount – Set the degrees to boost the tip temp when activated
P10 – Temp Boost Duration – Set the amount of time to boost the temp – 10 – 250 Seconds
P11 – Unknown
P12 – Beep – 0 = On, 1 = Off

On the more expensive units it is possible to set the tip type in the menu. I assume one of the unlisted “P”s does the same. Along with temp calibration and ???
Unfortunately I have yet to discover any other info on the Handskit version.

Using the Iron
The tips slip into the holder with just a bit of pushing required. The two included tips are a fine needle point (type BL) and a diagonal knife point (type K).
These heat up PDQ. From off to melting 60/40 solder takes about 10-12 seconds. The display shows the current tip temp. The unit beeps when the desired temp is reached.

Spin the dial to adjust the temp from 200C to 480C. The thing has memory, so at next power up it returns to the last used temp.
When the iron goes to sleep, the temp drops to 200C. When waking up, it heats to the desired temp very quickly (2-3 seconds). This is a useful feature to extend the life of the tip.

Sometimes you just got to get a bit more juice. Pressing the dial starts the boost temp cycle. Quickly the iron will heat by the amount set in the boost setting. Then it will return to the normal temp after the cycle is finished.

Button Pressing
Sometimes pressing the button seems to do something else. What? Got me… A second or third press sets things right again.

Iron Holding Thingies
The spring looking things that hold the hot iron do not allow the iron to seat to any great depth. I would like a more secure hold.

Is it warm in here or ?
The tip holder gets warm during use. So far it’s not been too hot to use.

Safety
The chassis is not connected to ground. In the unlikely event that something hot inside shorts to the chassis, this box becomes 120v worth of old sparky. And the path to ground could be through you!
This is a possible danger. Looking inside we find the ground strap connection is isolated from the chassis.
The fix is to create a chassis ground connection point and connect it to the earth ground on the power plug.

Opening the Box And…
Using the included Allan key (so that’s what it’s for) and a Phillips screwdriver it’s easy to open the case. The PC board slides into some slots on the box. What did I find?

FUBAR – the PC board was mounted to the top of the chassis so that the heatsinks were pointed at the bottom. So the heat would migrate upward into the PC board.
When I put it back together, I mounted the PC board in the bottom of the case with the heat sinks facing up. This required flipping the font face plate 180. No biggie.
BTW the pics in the Amazon ad show the PC board mounted in the correct position.

So, I pulled the PC board (with the rear plate attached) out of the case. You will need to unhook the front panel connection first.
I then masked off the PC board (to keep metal shavings off the board) and drilled a hole in the rear panel to fit a #6 screw. I tapped the hole, but this isn’t necessary. I crimped short length of wire to a connector. Then attached this to the rear case plate. The other end I soldered to the ground pin on the plug. Yes I used a soldering iron to fix a soldering iron.

Scraping Bare Naked Metal
The chassis box is anodized. This is non-conductive. I scrapped the anodizing off the area where I added the ground connection. In addition I scraped the areas where the box and front/rear cover plates are joined by the screw holes. Thus making sure the entire box is connected to ground.
The front connector for the iron is also isolated by the anodizing. I loosened the mounting nut and scraped the front plate where it contacts the nut. Now the front iron connection is also connected to ground.

You can see the added chassis ground, the green wire in the image below

I buttoned it all up and powered it on. To my relief, everything worked and the magic smoke stayed inside.
During reassembly it became apparent that the second iron holder is designed to mount to the rear of the chassis via two of the Allan screws. I’m leaving it off for now.

Build quality
I’m impressed as to what you get for the money. I mean it’s not a Hakko, but the one I got isn’t falling apart like some other cheep irons I’ve seen reviewed. YMMV depending on the QC at the time other units are built. In mine the PC board was mounted upside down. Perhaps this is for the AUS-NZ market?…

So is it worth buying?
Yes I think so as long as you take the limitations into consideration. Heck, this thing is cheaper than many single temp soldering pencils. It heats fast and is temperature controlled to boot.
Add in the possibility of using one of many T12 compatible tips is just icing on the cake (or should I say flux on the joint?).
For occasional hobby use? Or a second (or third) iron to keep at another location? Go for it!

Is it better than the zillion or so other versions that sell for close to this price? Haven’t a clue. But it’s one of the lowest cost ones out there.
So, yer pays yer money and yer takes yer chances.
Make the mod to ground the chassis and away you go.

BUT – If this is going to be used a bunch, I think I’d spring for the more expensive version where there is access to, and directions for, the additional features.

What I really need is a good cheep desoldering station. I’ve got a spring loaded solder sucker, but I’d like something better. If the price was right.
Any of you found a cheep one that works?

All the Best,
Jeff

Edited by: jeff51 on 07/25/2021 - 13:26
jeff51
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And wouldn’t you know it, Handskit came through on my Amazon question post.
P0 is still MIA, but here are the others:

P01 [operational amplifier gain (200~350 times, the first step, the default value is 270.]

P02 [Op amplifier bias voltage (0~250mV, step 2, the default value is 100, which means that the soldering iron tip maintains the inherent output voltage of the room temperature operational amplifier. If you do not measure, please keep the default value.]

P03 [Increase the temperature, adjust the temperature 30-50℃.]

P04 [Temperature step adjustment (0, 1, 2, 5, 10 degrees optional, 0 can lock the temperature of the soldering iron)]

P05 [Sleep repair time (set time for entering sleep state) (0~60 minutes, step 1 is 0, sleep function is disabled)]

P06 [shutdown time (0~180 minutes, step 1 is in 0~30, step 10 is in 30~180, 0 is disabled)]

P07 [Temperature correction (-30~+30 degrees, the first step) (Because the NTC resistance is in the chassis, the soldering station will cause the detected NTC temperature to be higher than room temperature, resulting in high compensation for the cooling capacity) thermocouple junction Point, and the temperature of the soldering iron is not accurate (you can use this parameter to correct. For example, if the detected soldering iron temperature is 20 degrees higher than the actual value, set this parameter to -20)]

P08 [Wake-up mode during sleep (0, 1, 0 means that the encoder can be rotated in shutdown mode, and the handle can be awakened by vibrating the handle. For 1, only the rotary encoder can wake up)]

P09 [Temperature plus strength (click on the encoder to input the temperature of the solder joint suddenly needed)]

P10 [temperature enhancement time (enhancement time…)]

P11 [Automatic save time of parameter setting mode and return to the effective time of heating mode function.]

P12 [Buzzer switch (0 means off and 1 means on)]

nottawhackjob
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Silly Question: If it’s inherently unsafe why would you promote a potentially lethal product because of shoddy non-UL (UL test lab or its equivalent) construction?

This is regardless if one has the technical background to reverse those issues the right way. You do. Most don’t.

I don’t get it. I mean we all like a bargain butt is it worth it to save a buck or two and end up looking like the Bride of Frankenstein? LOL

If I come across too Frank sometimes it’s cuz that’s my middle name. LOL

Facepalm Shocked

PS. So how could you get realistically jolted by this iron? My first guess would be ya spill your tall mug of frosty Beer all over it while holding the iron or turning the dial and yer barefoot standing on the floor in a puddle of said liquid. So yeah the potential is really there. LOL Shocked

“In many things in order to truly understand the small picture you have to understand the big picture first.”

True Color Rendition (TCR)/Simplified Definition: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest rating, a TCR will equate to what true colors you see in sunlight vs the same object’s colors you see when illuminated with a flashlight. The closer the two are, the higher the TCR rating will be.”

The TCR Reference Standard is the Walmart Ozark Trail OT 50L , Model No. 6103.
It has a TCR rating of ‘10’. $1.00 including batteries.

jeff51
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Nottawhackjob, not a silly a bit. A valid set of questions/comments indeed.

Well it is posted in the DYI & Modding forum. Where some of our members perform at the wizard level as far as mods, electronic knowledge, and skill sets go.
I would think adding a wire and scraping some covering is within the DYI realm.

I did state that it would be an unlikely event that an internal short would occur. And yes one would have to have a very specific set of circumstances to create a dangerous situation.

Say something inside the power supply did short to the chassis – however unlikely. Bare feet in a puddle of water is not needed. Just touching the power supply and another properly grounded piece of equipment – say a bench top O-Scope, a power supply, a grounded work surface, or even a metal light fixture would create a path to ground using me as a jumper. In other lands where 240v is the line voltage could make this even more exciting…
Now the anodized coating would add another layer of safety to the mix.
But why not add a simple mod to improve matters?

As far a UL rating. It is my belief that virtually all of the sub $100 PID controlled irons are not UL listed and that they too do not have a chassis ground. Youtube is full of vids showing how to make a chassis ground on these PID stations.
Besides the many many variants of these PID irons, lots of the electronics sold on ebay lack UL ratings and may have some inherent danger if used improperly.
For example the many lasers that exceed the US maximum power rating.
And many of the “as seen on TV” lights (and other stuff) are so poorly designed or constructed as to be a hazard. I’d worry more about a system that overcharges a LiPo than one of these irons.

These cheep PIDs or the ~$90 versions use T12 type tips that are used by the fancier and way more expensive soldering stations. These place the heating element very near the tip itself and with the PID control keep a more constant temperature compared to a typical barrel mounted heating element.

Spending $20 – $90 is within the budget for someone wanting a good iron. Where several hundred $$ for a name brand that does basically the same thing perhaps is not.

All the Best,
Jeff

PS, The more I think about it, the less I would worry about using the iron in it’s out of the box format. It would need a rather specific set of conditions to make it a hazard. I would check to see if PC board was mounted upside down to insure a longer life span for the components.

nottawhackjob
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Thx for more details on watt to look out for on these less than $100 PIDs. Learn something new everyday. Thumbs Up

“In many things in order to truly understand the small picture you have to understand the big picture first.”

True Color Rendition (TCR)/Simplified Definition: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest rating, a TCR will equate to what true colors you see in sunlight vs the same object’s colors you see when illuminated with a flashlight. The closer the two are, the higher the TCR rating will be.”

The TCR Reference Standard is the Walmart Ozark Trail OT 50L , Model No. 6103.
It has a TCR rating of ‘10’. $1.00 including batteries.

jeff51
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I really like the sleep function and the temp boost. Messing with lead free solder (the devils brew) being able to get some extra heat without constantly cooking the tip is really nice. I have an old pencil iron that the lead free stuff just laughs at.

I left the iron on long enough last night to have the auto-off kick in. The tip cools to room temp and the display shows “OFF”.
A shake of the iron turns it back on and it acts in the normal manner. Nice and a big plus if I wander away and forget to turn off the iron. I tend to wander aimlessly more as I get older.

Weller used to be my go to brand. My very old single temp station is like 45(?) years old and still plugging along. Then I went to a Hakko 888. Both of these are barrel mounted heating element stations. They heat quickly compared to a pencil type iron, but nothing like this PID iron.
This cheepie PID station (if it lasts) is really nifty. I needed a 3rd iron for occasional use in another location. The $17 flash sale made me jump on it. I think I like it best.
If I didn’t have the other two stations, I think I would spring for one of the $90 PID jobs that have a better display and menu screens.
All the Best,
Jeff

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I bought one of those T12 stations recently (ksger), the performance is really good, I chose one without the AC/DC PSU because I didn’t want to deal with some safety modifications, I use a Dell laptop PSU so I don’t have to worry about safety (it’s grounded too so no issue with ESD either)

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I have a Quicko T12 station. I got it without the built in PS because they’re junk and dangerous. I run it off an HP 95W power supply. It’s the oled screen one and it’s awesome. Heats up fast and has all the functions. Had it for 3 years so far. 0 issues.

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A little further info.
I found out what the:
“After inserting the hole, the connecting bracket can be put to sleep”
means.
What I thought was a ground strap – which it sorta is – but isn’t. Can be used as an accessory to the standby function.

Put the banana plug into the back of the power supply. Then connect the alligator clip to the spring looking thing that acts as a holder for the hot iron.

Put the hot iron into the holder and if (note the word if) the iron body makes an electrical contact with the metal holder, the iron will immediately go into standby mode.
The tip temp will drop to 200C.

This overrides the timeout setting in the menu.
Pickup the iron and give it a shake and the temp will return to the previous operating temp.

Placing the iron in the holder does not necessarily make an electric contact every time.
You could set the iron to rocket hot for those tough jobs, and it will cool down when placed in the holder.

Still fussing and learning about this station. Still like it. But becoming less enchanted with the lack of clear instructions as far as setting things up.

I’m also finding that the setting range on my iron for the different “P” values is not the same as what Handskit posted in the Amazon reply.
For example, they say the temp step value can be set to 0,1,2,5,10.
Mine only has 0,5,10
And the temp correction “P07” is from -30 to +30.
Mine is from 0 to 20.

Think the BLFs who are using the OLED version with the external power supply may be on the right path.

All the Best,
Jeff

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Just got mine today and it’s very decent. I’m sure that the more expensive version with the OLED screen is much more precise and better built, but for $17 this thing is a steal.

Mine didn’t come with the iron holder that’s supposed to go on top of the sponge tray, only the one with 2 holes that installs on the back of the main unit.

Since it heats so so quickly I set mine to sleep in 1 minute and to shut down in 3. P12 is set to 1, which allows the iron to wake up with the movement sensor but requiring turning the knob to come back ON after 3min. I don’t mind that and it helps preserving the expensive T12 tip. “Turbo” function is handy and I set mine to +80C for 30 seconds, which give it a nice boost for soldering leads to copper MCPCBs.

Temp correction in mine unit also ranges 0-20, not sure what it means. Step value only 0/5/10 same as yours, but I leave it at 10 anyways.

The iron itself feels a bit cheap with the silicone overmold and stress relieve coming off before even I used it. The top piece appears to be high temp resistant fiber reinforced plastic, but there is no real insulation and gets uncomfortably hot after 15 minutes. I might wrap it with automotive high temp cloth tape later. For the price I can deal with it.

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Do yourself a favour and buy a set of 10 T12 tips for about $2 each. Make sure you request your preferred tip shapes.

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32861315653.html

Unless you’re using real Hakko T15 tips, these T12 tips are some of the cheapest tips around for a decent soldering iron.

jeff51
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thefreeman wrote:
I bought one of those T12 stations recently (ksger), the performance is really good, I chose one without the AC/DC PSU because I didn’t want to deal with some safety modifications, I use a Dell laptop PSU so I don’t have to worry about safety (it’s grounded too so no issue with ESD either)

Which one did you get? The only ones I see that have a separate power supply seem to have a 24v input.
All my old laptop bricks all have 19.5v (or less) outputs.
Thanks,
All the Best,
Jeff
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I see that it’s now up to $33.33. At $17 or $20 it is a deal.
I’d pass at this price and pony up the extra $$ for the Ksger (or other) OLED version.

The biggest plus of the more expensive versions is the ability to do a temp calibration for each tip and store it.
Other than having a menu system that actually makes sense…

All the Best,
Jeff

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Hi all, first post.

I picked this up a few days ago. Also added the ground wire like @jeff51 did. I also replaced that 100uf 400V Chong capacitor with a Nichicon cap.

Only thing that bugs me is it does not appear to be ESD safe (tip is not grounded.) I also have one of the more expensive KSGER T12 irons and that one has the tip grounded (I did have to ground case as well though.) Looks like pin 3 on iron is connected to tip, but not to ground inside case. I could add it but would need a tiny wire…..

For $20, it’s pretty good.

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Urshurak776 wrote:
Hi all, first post.

Welcome to the BLF.
Yeah, for the price it’s hard to beat.
All the Best,
Jeff
raccoon city
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It's nice to see you, Urshurak776!

209_milla

chops728
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What holds the Tips on the Iron

Urshurak776
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Thanks for the welcome everyone!

@chops728, the iron is a Hakko T12 style, so the tips just go in the hole and are held in with a couple of clips.

jeff51
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chops728 wrote:
What holds the Tips on the Iron

Yes, they just slip in the holder.
Nothing to to it.
Some holders are a tighter fit than others,
All the Best,
Jeff
chops728
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Thanks — My Hakko clones have a threaded collar to hold the tips on