Michael wrote in with a great question:
I currently have a cheapo soldering iron from radio shack. It’s great for making speaker wire and stuff like that. I am concerned that dealing with these delicate boards if it is the right tool. Do you guys have a certain one that you might recommend? If I accidentally break a board I’d like it to be for something cooler than I used a bad soldering iron.
The iron that you use makes a big difference in how long it will take you to build a kit. Using an ultra-low-end soldering iron can make it take much longer to assemble a kit, and will make mistakes easier to make.
Our favorite soldering irons are made by Metcal, but they start at a few hundred dollars, so they aren’t practical for everyone. If you’re lucky enough to live near an electronics surplus shop, they sometimes have used medium-high end workhorses like our backup and travel soldering iron shown above. Replacement parts are available for these, and they last nearly forever.
For a relatively inexpensive, but still reliable soldering iron for electronics, we recommend the WLC100 by Weller, which is about $40 new. Whatever one you end up getting, we recommend one of this design— a “pencil shape” soldering iron (not gun!) with a reasonably fine point tip, and a base that holds the iron and a wet sponge.