A DIY Mobile Soldering Iron

Cordless soldering irons are, as a rule, terrible. A few months ago, you could pick up a cordless soldering iron from Radio Shack that was powered by AAA batteries. You can guess how well those worked. There are butane-fueled soldering irons out there that will heat up, but then you’re left without the requisite degree of temperature control.

[Xavier] didn’t want to compromise on a mobile soldering iron, so he made a desktop version portable. His mobile temperature controlled soldering iron uses the same electronics that are found in inexpensive Hakko clones, and is powered by a LiPo battery.

The soldering station controller comes directly from eBay, and a DC/DC boost converter accepts just about any DC power supply – including an XT60 connector for LiPo cells. A standard Hakko 907 iron plugs into the front, and a laser cut MDF enclosure makes everything look great. There were a few modifications to the soldering station controller that involved moving the buttons and temperature display, but this build really is as simple as wiring a few modules together.

With an off-the-shelf LiPo battery, the iron heats up fast, and it doesn’t have a long extension cord to trip over. With the right adapter, [Xavier] can use this soldering station directly from a car’s cigarette power port, a great feature that will be welcomed by anyone who has ever worked on the wiring in a car.

17 thoughts on “A DIY Mobile Soldering Iron

  1. Eh, Butane irons are the best thing to have if you’re working with wiring, especially in a car. I’ve got one of the nice Dremel ones, that thing is awesome.

    Also, would there be any difference in time needed to reach the set temperature depending on the power source on uses? I’ve got some packs of Sony SE US26650VT configured in 6S8P kicking around.

    1. Seconded. They’re perfectly fine even for the random SMD work if you know what you’re doing, and they work just as well as a heat gun with the torch head provided, which an electric iron can’t do.

      –“There are butane-fueled soldering irons out there that will heat up, but then you’re left without the requisite degree of temperature control.”

      There’s usually a tiny slot under or near the main valve. There’s an adjustment gear there that can be moved. You’re supposed to light the torch, open the main valve to about halfway, and then with a thin piece of metal, like a little screwdriver, you click the adjuster left or right until the catalyst in the tip is just barely glowing.

      Now you have temperature adjustment.

      1. I just tried mine (Iroda solderpro 70) and it can be set so low you can’t even see the glow anymore. It’s just barely melting solder. It looks as if it’s turned off, but it isn’t.

        The mesh inside the tip is the same stuff you find in white fuel hand warmers – it burns the fuel catalytically at relatively low temperatures, so you can adjust the temperature quite well by adjusting the fuel feed. Most people using these irons think the tip has to be glowing inside when it’s working, but that’s already too hot and you’re just wasting butane and wearing the tip out quicker.

        The thing you don’t have is any indicator how hot the tip is, so you just have to go by feel, or get an IR thermometer.

      2. I have used my butane hot air tool for reflowing parts on a few projects. The issues I have is that because I am operating it facing down for too long, the tool starts to splutter because of too much fuel. Sometimes I have to light the darn thing when it is hot which is asking for trouble. There are also supply and replacement parts issues:
        – I can’t get the Weller replacement parts for it without having to go to ebay and pay $20+shipping as the torch is no longer sold by Weller.
        – My local Walmart store no longer carrying refills and the local smoke shop disappeared from the mall. The price of the tiny refills also gone up to about $7 these days.

        So I did the most logical thing by getting myself a Chinese reflow station which is a lot cheaper to operate long term. The issues I have is that the air flow even at lowest setting s too strong, as it can move parts around. I am slowly getting the hang of it.

    2. Yup, I have Dremel VersaFlame and it’s very nice for soldering wires and big electronic elements. I also plan to buy VersaTip for fine work. For now I have some Chinese eBay butane soldering iron, it is usable.
      However lithium battery powered option is very nice, those batteries can provide some seriuos amps and have very good capacity for their size.

  2. I use the exact same controller for all of my soldering work. I run if off my laptop adapter which works great. If I want to use it out on a job I made an adapter that it clips into a Makita 18v Lithium battery. That will run it for a long time. These things are great, and didn’t kill my luggage flying out to Africa.

  3. When soldering heavy wiring in a car I get out the gun. A real Weller at 100-140watts, or I can get my hands on the big gun 200 or greater watts. Do not buy one of those wimpy guns.
    Most small stuff in a car can be removed and brought to a real workbench with a stool and lighting.

    1. i made a similar iron to this but with no temp control. little boost controller and a 50 watt heater. if i leave the power too high it’ll glow red hot. plenty for most of the automotive stuff i work on, seems to get hotter than the weller pyropen i have.

  4. I love my Portasol butane iron. The temperature *is* adjustable, from just-barely-enough-to-melt-eutectic-solder to could-probably-braze-a-copper-pipe-in-a-pinch. One charge of butane lasts a couple of hours depending on how hot you get it, and one $5 can of butane refills it at least a dozen times. Has a piezo igniter, and with different heads, it also serves as a hot-air gun and a jet-torch.

    I use a Hakko at my Workbench, but the Portasol is ideal for working on my car or motorcycle, or really anything where cords are inconvenient.

  5. I wouldn’t dare plug that into a car and solder on the same car! That boost converter doesn’t look isolated, so I expect the tip of the iron is electrically connected to either power or ground through the controller. If you try to solder your power source… I hope you have a spare fuse!

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