Homemade Soldering Station Does it Better

Soldering stations are probably one of the most important tools in the hacker’s arsenal. Problem is — good ones are expensive, and sometimes the only difference between being okay at soldering versus being great at it, is the quality of the tool you’re using! Which is why [Albert] and [Matthias] decided to make their very own home-made Weller clone.

Since the most important part of the soldering iron is a good tip, they’re using a needle from Weller — they just need to be able to control it. They designed a 3D printed housing (source files here) for a small 1.8″ LCD screen, an Arduino Pro Mini and a MOSFET shield, and the 12v 8A power supply they chose. There are only two controls — on/off, and a potentiometer for adjusting the temperature.

They spent a while prototyping it and the end result is a pretty slick product. They actually sold a few but realized they weren’t making any money, so they stopped offering it — instead, you can get all the source files yourself from their GitHub. There’s also more information on [Matthias’] blog.

For a cheaper build, you could use a regular iron with a thermocouple strapped to it… but we like this one better.

[Thanks for the tip Luis!]

34 thoughts on “Homemade Soldering Station Does it Better

  1. A quick poke around Amazon.com reveals a whole pile of inexpensive Hakko clones. I managed to score a nice hot air rework station for my birthday this year simply by pointing some of them out to my wife and begging like a fool for several weeks. I can’t speak for all of them, but the one I got, “Yihua” brand model 878AD, is actually pretty good and seems quite solid. It’s certainly good enough for hobby work, and it cost around $60 USD.

    This DIY station is great, but for those of us who don’t have the skill, time, or materials, obtaining a decent soldering station is easier than ever.

    Worth a look, cheap doesn’t always mean junk:

    1. Really, no. Just spend the $88 on a WES-51.

      I bought knockoff hot air station that had the same iron attached. Hot air works great, the iron ended up disconnected and in the junk drawer before I even got through two of the cheapo tips they sent. It’s junk. Can’t hold a temp when on bigger components, tip gets cruddy and pitted no matter what you do to preserve it. I hated it. Went back to my Weller and have never been happier.

      1. It’s great that you can get WES-51 for 88 on Amazon in United States of America.

        But .. USA is just one (small) part of the world. In my country cheapest Weller soldering station (the toy WHS-40) is 120 US$. The soldering station in question, WES-51, is 300US$

        I have WES-51 an 81 at work, and I know they are great soldering stations. But unless you’re job depends on it, there is a huge list of replacement stations which will do the work just fine. Hakko clones are OK for hobby use, and they cost almost nothing.

  2. Darn, am I the only one who is still changing tips for temperature control ?
    All those posts about homemade soldering stations makes me want to build one too but my Magnastat controlled Weller station is just great :(

    1. Modern soldering irons are purely resistive loads as incandescent lamps, so you can safely use a cheap triac light dimmer to vary the temperature. If you want stable temp over time and thermal load (touching anything with the tip changes its temp) you can add a temp sensor with a negative feedback circuit driving the heater.

    2. It’s interesting, but I think soldering irons are a very personal choice. I use Metcal exclusively because you don’t have to set the temperature and I have never once burned up a tip. Weller, Pace and others seem to operate a lot more open loop. If you’re not actively soldering, the tip oxidizes and you’re screwed. Metcals seem to operate very closed loop and don’t seem to burn when they’re in the holder. I have never had a lack of heat either. If I need to heat a ground plane, I just switch to a big tip for more thermal mass.

    1. Yes is not a new thing! We made it a year ago. No one said so.
      And yes the Github repo is a copy of the one you shared. I am quite new on sharing things on the internet unlike Matthias who has been doing for a while.

      1. If you are part of the original project, then my bad. And only wanted to avoid missing credit to the original work.
        I want to say as well that it is awesome! We are building some in our Hackerspace :-)
        And concerning GitHub, there is a Fork button that allow you to copy a repository in your space, but then it is possible to see where it come from and if others are forking it as well.

    1. I gotta be honest – I hate these posts because of the implications.Quality is not defined by the country of origin. If you want high quality you can pay for it in china too.

      Just because a yellow man made it does not mean it has to be awful just like if an american man made it it does not have to be perfect. Six sigma, Fabrication Practices, and other Quality Engineering practices are global these days, it’s mostly a matter of cost.

  3. I would love some kind of retro-fit or firmware upgrade for the ${pick_a_name} 898D+ soldering station I got from ebay. The thing is basically functional, but the temperature readout is clearly not correct (jumps straight to 300C and stays exactly there? suuuuuure).

    1. SB is for the Standby wire that goes to the tip holder. When the tip touch it, it pull it to GND, and the firmware switch to standby mode.
      POTI is for the potentiometer output (middle pin) used to set the temperature. It is connected with wires as it is mounted on the front-panel.

        1. Fantastic, thanks! makes sense. One more question, where does JP4 on pin6 go? I see references in code for it to be the PWM pin, but that is ultimately assigned to pin3. I take it that it was left over from development?

  4. I use the Weller WX2021 Station at work and i’m really happy with the RT solder tips (and the tweezers!) for small SMD work. The only “problem” i could see with a DIY solution is the 3.5mm headphone connector. They are usually optimized for low current audio applications and not to deliver several amperes of current to a solder iron tip. Has anyone found a headphone jack built to support large currents of ~4A, or would it be better to buy the WXMP handpiece made for the RT tips and just replace the connector at the end of the cable?

    1. Hi, the headphone jack connector and specially the cable was a problem we were facing as well. Thats why we had to go the hard way, and assamble our own cables from high quality connectors and ultra flexible microphone cable. The problem then just is that we have to use 3x 0,5 qmm cable which is not to easy to fit into the small connector. A stresstest with about 6A (constant) (in the real application we use a duty cycle more likely to 10%) showed no problems at all with the connectors or cables.

      1. Something like the NATO U-174 or GPO Type 420? Those are much chunkier 1/4″ TRRS connectors, although I can only find people selling thing as finished items, not the manufacturers (who would have actual specs). They are both intended as telecoms connectors originally though.

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