USB fume extractor takes stink out of soldering sessions


Our homemade shop tools rarely reach this level of finished quality. We probably would have stopped with assembly of this USB powered fume extractor. But [X2jiggy] went for style points by adding a coat of paint.

There are several nice features included in his build. He wanted it to be very easy to power the device so he settled on the 5V USB standard. But a PC fan running at 5V won’t pull much air. He used a boost converter board to ramp that up to 12V. The enclosure is a wooden hobby box. He drilled mounting holes and an airflow opening in the bottom of the box for the fan. The lid of the box has a rectangular opening which accepts a carbon filter meant for aquariums. The rocker switch and LED seen above are also nice touches, but not strictly necessary if you build this for yourself.

We’re still in the habit of gently blowing the fumes away from us as we solder. So the question is, will this device save us from a gruesome disease down the road, or is it mostly to capture the odor of the solder fumes?

Looking for a more permanent setup? You should build a solder hood for your workbench.


  1. biozz says:

    i started soldering when i was 12 … .. im now almost 22 and im still debating buying one XD
    granted i also started smoking when i was 12 … …

  2. Mike says:

    I just use a 12v fan hooked up directly to a 12V wall wart. Nearly all electronics come with 12V wall warts.

  3. Phil says:

    I have built similar but I have a switch on the stand so it turns off when my iron is down, I hate fans running near me.

  4. vonskippy says:

    So the assumption here is that quickly blowing the toxic air over a cheapo carbon filter made for WATER is going to significantly remove the toxins?

    If so, why doesn’t the auto industry just use a cheapo carbon filter on their exhaust instead of uber expensive catalytic convertors?

    • Tony says:

      You solder with petrol as a flux? Fascinating.

      • Sven says:

        Easy the über expensive catalytic converter lasts … well over 10 years … the cheapo carbon filter in an car exaust … maybe 10 hours if it is not burnt by high temperatur fumes.

    • John says:

      A catalytic converter doesn’t filter anything, it contains a catalyst to create a specific reaction. You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Alex says:

        vonskippy is a permanent fixture of ignorance here at hackaday… better just to ignore him.

        • vonskippy says:

          “Activated carbon is the most common adsorbent used in HVAC systems and portable air cleaners to remove gaseous contaminants. It has the potential to remove most hydrocarbons, many aldehydes, and organic acids. However, activated carbon is not especially effective against oxides of sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, low molecular weight aldehydes, ammonia, and nitrogen oxide.”

          In other words, this “hack” is basically just blowing the stink from one location to another (something Alex I’m sure can relate to).

    • Eirinn says:

      Different chemical compounds.

  5. HackJack says:

    Am I the only one who think the fume smells good?

  6. mjrippe says:

    Using the “5V USB standard” is a complete waste if you are not running it off of a computer and just step it up to 12v. Use a 12v wall wart and be done with it. Every conversion wastes energy.

    • mjrippe says:

      Hmmm, no edit comment button…
      Just use a damn 120vac fan and simplify further 8-}

    • Nova says:

      Agreed. 120VAC –> 5VDC –> 12VDC

      Although USB can be fairly common this is a rather ineffecient and needlessly complex setup. It is however safer if you did something dumb like melt the cord with your soldering iron.

  7. HC says:

    I grabbed one of these seven inch fans from lowes. Unscrew the hinge and flip it around, and you have the perfect fume remover.

  8. Jim says:

    Am I the only one who just blows continuously over my work while soldering? After all most of my soldering time is spent lining things up, applying flux etc.

    • John says:

      I just inhale, and then exhale slowly in the direction of the iron tip as I solder.
      Blows away the flux fumes, and if a joint takes more than a couple of seconds, you are doing it wrong.

  9. Jared says:

    I had to laugh at the comment that said they liked the smell of the fumes. My dad used to say that when he taught me soldering and I would complain about the smell.

  10. Why waste the money, Just inhale with your mouth and exhale through the nose, Instant filter!

  11. sneakypoo says:

    Here’s my version. Maybe a bit over designed but why not try to make it look fancy if you can :)

  12. Levi says:

    I’ve never used a fume extractor…

  13. hemalchevli says:

    I just mounted a fan on thirh hand tool, with 555 for speed control.

  14. echodelta says:

    I have a 110v equipment fan that I get out when doing big work that breath alone can’t cover.

  15. defaultex says:

    With a small fan from an electronics shop, talking less than an inch radius, you can mount it on a tube and clip it to the iron with one of those metal clips used to hold ground wire against water pipes. This way it doesn’t have to be a strong fan, and detaches easily for filter swap and cleaning.

  16. soundman98 says:

    lol @ all the effort to use 5v/USB with a 12v output right next to it..

    fume extractors are interesting.. i built one a while back out of curiosity, but really haven’t used it– just a 120mm fan with some leftover bits of carbon rod for legs and a carbon filter strapped to the front. the only extra cost was the filter, everything else was left over from old projects.

    all that said, i’d rather solder the joint and get out instead of making the entire thing even more of a process.

    • pcf11 says:

      If you’re just doing one joint. Personally I am not a big believer in these filters people are trying to attach to fans so unless one is exhausting fumes outside I consider it worthless anyways.

  17. Flame Soulis says:

    Seriously? I already made one of these. You just follow KipKay’s MAKE magazine tutorial along with HouseHold Hacker’s tutorial for the USB A/C.

  18. Rob says:

    As an avid aquarium enthusiast, it is worth pointing out that the filter being used isn’t even the “activated carbon” that is is claimed to be. It is simple a mesh pre-filter that helps keep the actual carbon (which is contained in a different pouch-like product) in place.

    Normally I wouldn’t make the point, but when something is made under the guise of making something safer, its important to do the homework, both biologically, chemically, and in this case, understanding the product being specified. This project will blow the smoke and fumes a few feet somewhere else, but there is no filtration going on at all.

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