I have been in the market for a hot air station for some time now. A bit of research quickly showed that many people recommend JBC stations. Sadly their price point is a bit above what I consider acceptable for my hobbyist use case, and since I am very happy with my Weller 81 soldering station I decided to go for the Weller WHA 900.
While browsing for it I saw that Weller had just announced a new line: the WTHA 1! A quick spec check later, I decided that I did not need the WHA 900’s foot switch and that the new unit had a much sexier design than the 900. I was sold, so I quickly placed my order…
… and started to wait.
Even though the distributors’ site said that the item was in stock, it was not, and shortly after the credit card charge went through I received an e-mail telling me that the station was on backorder. Why thanks a lot, Reichelt! (Apart from this not-so-stellar experience I’m pretty happy with them and I’ll order from them again, so don’t get the wrong idea.)
Anyway, a couple of E-mails and two months of waiting later, the WTHA 1 finally arrived. So let’s have a look.
|Power output||900 W
|Maximum power dissipation||150 W|
|Temperature range||50 – 600 °C (+/- 30 °C)
|Capacity||5 – 110 l/min (300 °C)|
|Dimensions||212 x 172 x 122 mm|
If I’m honest, 900 W and a maximum temperature of 600 °C is a bit much for my needs. On the other hand I have learned long ago that you get what you pay for and that buying underspecced gear usually ends with my initial purchase collecting dust in the basement while I’ve resigned myself to order the pricier item I should have gotten in the first place. In any case, I plan on keeping this station for many years to come so having a bit of headroom power-wise might not be such a bad idea.
Unboxing and first impressions
The station comes very well packed. The main unit and the wand are wrapped in film foam for protection and everything is held in place by molded pulp.
In the box, you get the main unit with the hose and iron preassembled, a mains power cable, the safety rest, a 4 mm soldering tip, and an Allen key. You also get an IKEA style users guide with almost no text but lots of funny pictures, a safety leaflet, and some Weller promo material telling you that they’re the best and now you are too since you bought their gear. Good to know.
The unit is surprisingly light, it weighs in at about 2 kg. On the one side this is obviously a good thing, moving it around the bench single-handed is not a problem. But its low weight makes it not overly stable: as you can see on the pictures I have put the main unit on the top of my shelf. Without the soldering station on top of it, I could easily pull the WTHA 1 off by tugging on the hose.
The quality of the plastic housing of the main unit is ok, the buttons have a good feel to them and provide excellent feedback. The liquid crystal display is gorgeous, readability is excellent even if you install the unit overhead. The wand is made of hard plastic and feels a bit cheap. Its heat insulation is excellent though, you can hold this thing for hours and not burn your hands. The silicon hose is super flexible, and the spring at the wand’s end prevents it from getting in the way. Moving the iron around the bench is easy and natural. Finally, the safety rest can be installed on either side of the housing. In a nutshell, ergonomics is very good.
The top op the main unit is flat and sports a silicon mat; this is where you’re supposed to put unused tips or other soldering equipment. But there’s an even better use for this space: the new Wellers are stackable, which is great if your bench real estate is a bit cramped (whose isn’t!) Fortunately this works great with older gear as well: even though my soldering station is an older model 81, it fits nicely. As an added bonus, stacking these things gives more mass to the whole system which helps tremendously with stability. Without the 81’s added mass I would probably not have placed in on the top shelf.
Working with the WTHA 1
I’m not going to tell you how to use this thing. If you’re still reading, chances are you know how to anyhow.
Nevertheless I’d like to note a few points that might be of interest :
There is no footswitch, you turn the air flow on or off using a pretty large and easy-to-reach-for trigger button on the iron. It’s a toggle switch, so there is no need to keep the button pressed. Airflow can be regulated in 1% steps from 10 up to 100% – the amount of air that each specific setting delivers depends on the nozzle that’s currently installed on your iron. At the time of this writing, Weller offers 6 types of nozzles of different size and shape. I know that noise in a lab can be a very subjective thing so I’m not going to talk in absolutes here, but believe me when I say that this thing is quiet – at 10% airflow. Turn it up to 100, and you have a small passenger plane taking off in your lab.
The heater element may be turned on or off manually, and the time before the standby mode kicks in can be configured using the on-screen menu. Note that the safety rest does not have an actuator, so there is no automatic standby if you put the iron down.
You can store up to 5 soldering profiles. A profile is a combination of temperature, air flow rate, and time. What’s nice about this is that you can let the unit cycle through each profile automatically, enabling you to precisely follow a specific solder paste’s reflow profile.
Soder and desolderwise the WTHA 1 does what it’s designed to do, there isn’t much to write home about there. It does its job well, it’s easy to handle and due to the stackability it doesn’t take up a lot of room. All in all I’m very happy with my new toy. It’s a treat to work with, and it makes SMD work so much easier.
Please note that this is an unsolicited review and that I am not affiliated in any way with Weller, its subsidiaries, or any distributors stocking this item. I have paid for this item with my own dime and it is being used in my private lab. The views expressed are my own.