For today's How-To:
- Radio-Shack de-soldering Iron ($10)
- Small fish tank air pump ($7)
- Six to eight feet of vinyl fish tank air hose ($1)
- De-soldering braid or steel wool
- Zip ties
Modify the de-soldering iron
The tip of the iron needs a little bit of work to efficiently heat the air flow. We lightly pinched the tip of
the tip with our vice. Crushing the tip seemed to help direct the airflow, but we're not calling it necessary. Let us
know what works best for you.
The next trick is to add some heat exchanging material to the tip of the iron. Cut off a length of de-soldering
braid or get a small bunch of steel wool. The braid is copper, so it should conduct heat more efficiently.
Roll up the braid/wool and lightly stuff it into the tip of the iron. Don't push so hard that you restrict the air
flow to much. The material will slow down the air flow slightly, and help radiate the heat of the iron into the
air. Gently re-install the tip, it's made of soft metal.
Get airflow to the iron
Since we don't have any heat resistant tubing, we used the suction bulb as a bulky, but simple heat insulator.
Drill a hole in the end of the bulb with a 5/32 inch drill bit or something similar. The hole needs to be round for a
Insert the tube
Cutting the end of the vinyl tubing at a 45 degree angle will help a bit. Wet the end of the tube lightly and
push the end into the hole you drilled in the bulb. Attach the other end of the tube to the outlet on the air pump. To
clean things up, secure the airhose to the iron and along the power line with the zip ties. Later we replaced the
zip tie on the handle with some stylish red electrical tape.
To use the gun effectively, allow the iron a sufficient warm up time without turning on the air pump. Once it's
toasty, plug in the air pump and it'll be ready to go. In order to get a feel for the way the heat transfer works, we
tried out our gun on a few workbench materials.
Heat shrink tubing
The tubing shrinks instantly with none of the burn marks we gotten with more primative methods.
If you've ever used a soldering iron to slice through some stubborn hot glue, you'll love this trick.
glue is great, but sometimes it gets in the way. The heated air liquifies the hot glue without burning it.
But what about actually soldering surface mount components? Our solder paste is on order, so we had to test it
on a pre-assembled board. It easily melts the solder joints on this chip.
Working with surface mount hardware has been a recurring challenge for us. We hate to admit it, but we may have
actually resorted to crushing certain SMD resistors to enable some features in our hardware. Aside from the mad
scientist look of our new tool, we can't wait to offer to mod someone's console with, um, parts from the fish tank. And
that, friends, is reason enough to go through with this How-To.
Yes, they built one before
over at gideontech. Ours won't melt the
hose; Nope, we didn't read yours first.
To really give credit for the earliest one we
could dig up, check out this one from 2001
If you don't like buying stuff from RadioShack, they rolled their own
after sacrificing the microwave
for science. [Via dansworkshop.com