Heat Guns

There are many different variations of heat guns, most of which we'll review in this guide. In addition, we also answer a few frequently asked questions about heating guns.

Traditional heat guns -- A traditional heat gun resembles a heavy-duty hair dryer, and in many ways, it's constructed like one. Its primary difference is that it emits a very high temperature stream of air that's a little more focused than a hair dryer's. Traditional heat guns are commonly used for stripping paint, softening adhesives, shrinking heat-shrink tubing, drying damp wood, thawing frozen pipes, heating plastics for bending or shaping and for de-soldering circuit boards. Heat guns typically produce temperatures ranging from 200 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, with some models producing temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees.

Soldering guns -- A soldering gun is a pistol-shaped tool used for melting tin-based solder. At the tip of the soldering gun is a loop of copper wire through which flow several hundred amps of current when the trigger is depressed. Inside the gun, a transformer is used to control the output, which heats up the tip of the gun instantaneously. When shopping for soldering guns, it's important to look for ones that are identified as fast switching; this means that the gun cools down in just seconds rather than minutes. Common uses for soldering guns include fabricating stained glass windows, working sheet metal and soldering heavy-duty electrical connections. Many models come with tip attachments for cutting or shaping plastics.

Soldering irons --A soldering iron is similar in premise to a soldering gun, but it's not shaped like a gun, and it doesn't get as hot. A soldering iron is designed to fit in the hand, and it's shaped more like a large pen. With a soldering iron, the tip gets heated as the electricity flows through the resistant material in the heating element. Because this tool is used primarily for joining circuits, many models come with an assortment of tips ranging from highly precise tips to larger, wider ones. Low-power soldering irons typically range from 15 to 30 watts, while more elaborate models come equipped with their own temperature-controlled soldering stations. Some cordless soldering irons are powered by butane, and many new battery-operated cordless models have recently become available.

Welding guns -- Welding guns provide the point of contact for welding two pieces of metal together. Welding guns come in a wide range of types, including air-cooled, HD air-cooled and water-cooled models. Welding guns are typically used for large-scale welding jobs that require high-strength bonds. Because of the intense arcing associated with welding guns, the user must wear a welder's mask to prevent damage to the eyes and must also wear heavy-duty body, arm and hand protection. For welding with aluminum wire, which is soft and can therefore be difficult to use, there are spool welding guns, which keep the aluminum wire coiled and accessible for short-feed welding.

Plasma cutters -- Plasma cutters, sometimes called plasma torches, are used to cut through steel and other heavy-duty metals of varying thicknesses. The torch is created when the plasma cutter blows an inert gas out of its nozzle at a very high speed, while at the same time, an electrical arc is passed through the gas. The combination of the arc with the gas causes a reaction that turns the gas to plasma. The plasma is so hot (45,000 degrees Fahrenheit) that it cuts a swath through the metal with relative ease while simultaneously blowing the molten metal away from the cut so it leaves a clean line. Individuals who use plasma cutters are also required to wear heavy-duty protective clothing including welding goggles and face shields.

Frequently Asked Questions about Heat Guns

  • What is a variable temperature heat gun? A variable heat gun is one that has different heat settings, making it more versatile and capable of multiple jobs requiring from low to high heat.

  • What is a cold heat soldering gun? A cold heat soldering gun is one that is typically powered by batteries, and since the tip is an open circuit, it doesn't heat up until solder bridges the connection. Once the solder is melted and removed from the tip, the circuit is once again broken, and the tip remains cool to the touch.

  • What is a soldering station? A soldering station offers complete temperature control over your soldering iron. It has a temperature dial that can deliver precise temperatures and an LED readout so you're always sure you're using the appropriate heat for delicate jobs.

  • What are battery-operated soldering irons used for? Battery-operated soldering irons are nowhere near as powerful as their plug-in counterparts, so they are usually used for very minor soldering joints, such as in arts and crafts or jewelry making.
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