I couldn't face a return to the computer last night, so it's a post-event write-up... They say that trouble comes in threes, and yesterday proved the truth of that. After the gearbox glitch, and the tender hornguide hiatus, came the soldering iron woes!
I thought that I'd do something very straightforward and knock up some wagon suspension for a little side-project (of which more in a couple of days time). I switched on my Antex TC660 soldering station, the "heating" light flashed once, and that was it :-(
Much switching on and off, dismantling, probing, etc, etc, and it still did exactly the the same. Flashed once for heating, the element got _slightly_ warm, and nothing more. My suspicions are that the temperature sensor in the element has died, so that it gets to the minimum level of heat (75 degrees C) and then switches off. Replacement elements are available, but not readily on a bank holiday evening.
Fortunately, my nearest Maplin is only ten minutes drive away, and after a quick phone call to confirm that they woul be open until 6pm, I whizzed off down there for a replacement soldering station. It's Maplin's own model, 48W, and with a digital temperature display. With a packet of spare bits, it cost me 55 quid as an emergency purchase, versus about £30 for a replacement element for the Antex - not that I could have got one until the New Year anyway.
It does the job, but I have to say that I don't like it as much as the Antex. The iron itself is more bulky, and somehow feels more "clumsy" to use. The bits don't seem as well built, and are not as fine to use and don't seem to hold the solder on the bit cleanly. And the up/down temperature control is not as quick to use as the dial on the Antex.
All this makes it sound as though the Maplin iron is rubbish. It's not. However I've clearly been spoiled by the Antex, and I'll be getting a new element for it as soon as I can. I can then keep the Maplin station as a spare in case the Antex dies again.
So that is my three items of bad luck out of the way! Let's hope that is it for the festive season...