Haako 936 ESD Solder Station - Get one if you can!
I was going to post a nice article about my favorite inexpensive soldering station, Haako 936 ESD, and found that it has been discontinued! It was replaced by a newer model in Feb 2011.
Unfortunately, I cannot attest to the quality of the replacement, the Hakko FX-888 Soldering Station. If I were a maker who wanted to solder, i would search the internet until I found a new in box 936 ESD. You should expect to pay about $90 and buy some replacement sponges so you have them. The 936 comes with a great tip for through-hole soldering and can even do big SMT devices out of the box.
One of the best features of the 936 is a great selection of tips. That makes it a very versatile iron. It also heats up quickly and maintains the tip temperature so it gives great results.
If you cant find a 936 I would try the replacement solder station. It appears to use a similar soldering iron and based on the reputation of the 936 one would expect the same reliability and quality.
I have to add another note. I have used other solder stations such as Metcal and Weller. Metcal is the absolute best solder station I have used and as a company Weller is without reservation the worst. Haako performs almost as good as a Metcal and is 1/4 to 1/8th the price. If someone gave me a brand new Weller solder station I would promptly sell it with apologies.