Under-bench Timed Outlets Won’t Let You Leave The Iron On

When we used to use firesticks (the pen style plug-in soldering irons) it was always a worry that we might leave them on. But now we use a base unit which has an indicator light to serve as a reminder. Still, [FoxxTexx] isn’t taking any chances and instead built this timer-based outlet which kills the power automatically.

The parts are all pretty common. The timer itself is the same form factor as a light switch and is commonly used for heat lamps or hot tub jets. It feeds the outlet next to it by way of the indicator switches to the right. We like the use of the switches but since mains voltage is still running through them we would suggest using a three-gang box and mounting them on the cover plate so that all the wiring is contained. If done this way you could just have the electrical box siting on your bench, but it is a nice touch to have it mounted this way.

We’ve long been proponents of a timer system. Back when we put together our Hacker’s Soldering Station we just used a plug-in timer unit.

18 thoughts on “Under-bench Timed Outlets Won’t Let You Leave The Iron On

  1. Using a metal decora (gfci) shaped blank in the 3rd space gives you a nice rigid surface to mount lights and buttons too and still allows you to use a cover plate nicely.
    Also, usually our work benches are in the basement set on unfinished concrete- by code that justify’s the use of a gfci protected outlet.
    If you don’t want to use one for the bench tester due to possible interference generated by the gfci, you could at least use it for your tools and such.

  2. I need to do something like this. I’ve been through 6 irons in the last 12 months ‘cos I keep forgetting to turn them off.
    Luckily the elements have just burned out rather than burning my house down. Still annoying though.

  3. My dad built a large (35 ft. long) workshop and wired all of the outlets (except one for a clock) through a 220 volt fuse box with a 7 watt red bulb on top. After turning the lights out, you absolutely could not close the shop door without seeing that red light. A simple and reassuring safety feature!

    1. That was the standard indicator light back in the olden days.

      Power switches had a light bulb socket next to them, you put a 15w red bulb in there. “Are you sure it’s on?” wasn’t much on an issue.

      It made your house look like a bordello, but I guess that didn’t worry people much back then.

      It was also handy if you normally ran your appliances off the light sockets, that saved you looking for the special light bulb double adapters (or you just removed the bulb and ironed in the dark).

      Man the olden days were weird.

  4. When I originally built it I wanted to use a 3 gang box, but I wasn’t able to find a plate at the local hardware store that had a switch hole (the timer uses a small switch hole, not a decora hole), an outlet (or decora) hole, and a blank spot that I could drill holes for the lighted switches. Since the entire project is enclosed in the plywood box, it’s not really an issue that the switches aren’t in an electrical box.

  5. Oh man do I need this. I have left on vacation and come back to find my soldering iron plugged in. I suspect it’s plugged in right now. I’m terrible about it. Strangely it still works fine and I haven’t burned anything down yet.

  6. Wow, what’s old is new again. I never really thought of this as a hack really but I guess what isn’t shared is eventually forgotten. I think a few of my father’s old tools (dating from the mid 40’s as near as I can figure) have similar setups.

  7. Nice concept. A company makes a digital version of the timer switch that allows for 5 or 6 time periods I believe from 5 minutes to an hour. While with the analog timer may give a bit more time flexibility the digital timer one doesn’t have the mechanical parts that can wear out. On a quick search of a home improvement stores site shows that the General Electric # 15318 goes in 5, 15, 30, 60 minutes and 2 and 4 hour preset times and is only a few bucks more than the mechanical type. But there are other ones available as well that all fit in the Decora style plates.

  8. I like the ease of use with this timer but I prefer portability.

    The two I’ve built were made into a small black cases that were spliced in with an extension cord. An LED and a single button to reset the 60 minute timer or turn it off early.

  9. I was thinking about my iron recently. What I’d like is not so much an auto cutoff but a small circuit with a speaker that emits a short sharp half-second ‘chirp’ every five minutes while the iron is on. It could probably be made from a 555 or two.

  10. This is a great idea. I frequently forget a part, and need to go to another room to get it, then get distracted, and forget to turn off or unplug my soldering iron. I need to build one or two of these. One benefit of the analog timer over the electronic ones I have seen – to reset the electronic ones, you need to turn them off. The analog ones, you can simply turn the knob to the end.

  11. i did this with a microswitch that was activated every time the iron was put in the holder, it was a good one that heated up in seconds so didnt have to wait for it to reheat or anything. problem is i now forget that most of the other irons at work dont have that switch :S

  12. My father had a light sensitive switch that could only be turned on when the lights in the room were on. When you turned the lights off the switch would also go off.

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