Homemade Soldering Stations for Cheapy Irons

Homemade Soldering Station for cheap Soldering Irons

Everyone reading this post has had a cheap pencil-style soldering irons that plug straight into the wall at some point in their lives. Even if you’ve upgraded to a professional soldering station, you probably have one of these cheapy irons kicking around that are slow to heat up to an unknown temperature. [Pantelis] thought he could fix the latter problem with his Homemade Soldering Station for those basic soldering irons.

Since the intent of the soldering station was to control the temperature of the iron [Pantelis] had to figure out a way to sense the temperature. He did this by strapping a thermocouple to the iron near the tip. The wires were run back through the handle and then along the power cord.

Homemade Soldering Station for cheap Soldering Irons

Both the stock iron plug and the thermocouple leads plug into a box put together specifically for this project. In the photo you’ll notice the LCD screen that displays both the target and actual temperatures. The linear potentiometer below the LCD screen is used to set the target temperature. The LED to the right alerts the operator that the iron is heating up and when it is at temperature and read to go.

Although there isn’t a lot of schematic or part list information, [Pantelis] did do a good job photo documenting his build. Check it out, it’s worth a gander.

Ask Hackaday: What’s an easy way to build a potentiometer for a soldering iron?

diy-potentiometer-2

[Lee] wrote in to share the work he’s done in building a controller for his soldering iron. The idea started when he was working with an ATX power supply. He figured if it works as a makeshift bench supply perhaps he could use it as the source for an adjustable iron. To get around the built-in short-circuit protection he needed a potentiometer to limit the current while allowing for adjustments. His first circuit used a resistor salvaged from an AT supply and a trimpot from some computer speakers. That melted rather quickly as the pot was not power rated.

This is a picture of his next attempt. He built his own potentiometer. It uses the center conductor from some coaxial cable wrapped around the plastic frame of an old cooling fan. Once the wire was in place he sanded down the insulation on top to expose the conductor. The sweeper is a piece of solid core wire which pivots to connect to the coil in different places. It works, and so far he’s managed to adjust a 5V rail between 5A and 20A.

How would you make this system more robust? Short of buying a trimpot with a higher power rating, do you think this is the easy way to build a soldering iron controller? Let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comments.

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Putting the flex back into the RDS 80 soldering station

ersa_soldering_iron_fix

[Markus] was looking to upgrade his soldering station, and having had good luck with Ersa in the past, opted to purchase one of their new stations, the RDS 80.

Once he got the iron home however, he was very disappointed to see that while his previous Ersa model used a silicone cable to connect the iron to the base station, his new iron used a stiff, non heat-resistant PVC cable instead. He found plenty of people complaining about the same issue online, but no one seemed to have a fix, so he set off to figure it out for himself.

He thought that he could disassemble the iron and change the wiring out once it was apart, but it seemed that there was no way of doing so without destroying it. Instead he chopped the wire off at the end of the soldering iron, replacing it with a new silicone cable. He did the same thing at the base station end, since he was forced to reuse the proprietary 4-pin plug Ersa decided to use there.

His modifications worked out nicely, and he is now happily soldering away.

If you happen to have one of these soldering stations, be sure to swing by his site to get a closer look at how he swapped out the cable.

Tools: Aoyue 968 3-in-1 soldering and rework station

aoyue968-front

The $10 “fire-starter” is the most common beginner soldering iron. These are simple irons with a hot end, a handle, and little else. There’s no temperature control or indication. Despite their simplicity, they’ll do just about anything. You can solder any legged chip type with this type of iron. We used fire-starters in the lab for years.

Eventually, we wanted a hot air rework tool to salvage SMD parts and solder QFN chips. Aoyue is a relatively unknown Chinese brand that makes soldering stations very similar in appearance and function to Hakko. Aoyue stations are recommended and used by Sparkfun Electronics, something that factored heavily in our decision to buy an Aoyue. Read more about our experiences with this tool after the break.

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