Kester flux pens are fluxing fantastic!

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Personal Firsts The Diary of Lupin Pooter
Kester 951 and 186 flux pens made in Singapore, bought from a seller on the Mainland.

Late last month, after needing to re-do a substandard bit of my own soldering work and finding it quite a challenge to get the solder to melt and flow, I did a of reading and concluded that I ought to try another solder alloy from a different manufacturer and that de-soldering might be a heck of a lot easier if I used some flux. The pen form factor seemed most promising and Kester appeared to be a popular brand, so I read up a bit on the the flavors of flux pen sold by Kester and settled on their 186 Flux-Pen® and 951 Flux-Pen® products.

This is the part of my tale where, as is often the case when attempting to do anything even a little outside the HK-normal norms, living in Hong Kong means that some facet of the activity in question will be needlessly time-consuming, expensive, or frustrating. Checking again just now, I see that Amazon.com has sellers offering the 951 pens for US$9.49 a pop and Amazon itself seems to be selling 186 pens for US$15. As far as I knew, the only retail source for Kester flux pens in HK was HK’s Element14, which doesn’t offer the 186 pens at all but does have Kester 951 flux pens, at HK$146.34. That works out to US$18.86. Yup, double the Amazon seller’s price.

Meanwhile, on Taobao, the same pens are available for much less — around $US 1 per pen, give or take a dime and a nickel. Even with shipping and the extra $HK 30 surcharge for delivery to a residence, I paid around $US 10 for the four made-in-Singapore flux pens pictured above.

So what’s the deal with the two, slightly different looking, 951 flux pens in the picture down below? Where do they come in?

Kester 951 and 186 flux pens made in the USA, bought from a seller in Hong Kong.

In a nutshell, the exceedingly reasonable pricing of the Taobao-sourced flux pens tended to exacerbate certain nagging doubts.

To allay these concerns, it seemed wise to procure a couple of flux pens from a source in HK to serve as backups and for purposes of comparison. Because I still wasn’t interested in paying $US 20 for one flux pen, I went back to Google and found contact information for Kester’s one and only HK distributor. When, with my Canto-fluent spouse’s assistance, I gave them a call, I was disappointed to learn that (1.) they didn’t have any 186 flux pens, (2.) the 951 pens which they did have on hand were a few months past their early-September-2016 expiration date, and (3.) they weren’t going to be ordering any fresh stock of either product any time soon and wouldn’t order a handful of pens just for me. However, they were willing to part with some of their past-use-by-date 951 flux pens at (what I presume was) a discount. I took them up on their offer and bought a couple for $HK 86 even — just over $US 11.

Fast forward a few days. Oftentimes, accidentally sending a handheld remote control clattering to the floor is consequence-free. Sometimes it isn’t. One of the battery terminals inside our DVD player remote control had snapped, just above the point where it was affixed to the circuit board, leaving a d-shaped stump of wire inside a solder blob that filled a rectangular hole in the board. I had saved the spring-like, +-end-touching contact with the intention of reattaching it.

Last night, feeling optimistic, I gave one of the Singaporean 186 pens a shot and am pleased to report that it worked beautifully. Having gotten the flux flowing and applied a little of it to the joint in question, only brief contact with the tip of my soldering iron was required to melt away the entire lump of solder toot sweet. Afterwards, the wire stump was easily removed and I had already extended the spring part of the original terminal, using a short length of AWG 26 wire just sufficient to replace the broken-off portion. With some bending, positioning, and a few mm worth of solder, it was done. The remote is working again.