Home-made Soldering Station For $15

A proper soldering iron is one of the fundamental tools that a good hacker needs. Preferably one that has a temperature control so it can handle different types of solder and connectors.

Decent soldering stations aren’t cheap, but [Code and Solder] show you how to make one for about $15 in parts. This uses a cheap non-temperature-controlled USB soldering iron, an Arduino and a few other bits that they got from AliExpress. The plan is to add a thermocouple to the soldering iron, and let the Arduino control the temperature. A rotary dial and LCD screen control the set-point, and the Arduino switches the feed to the heating element on and off through the FET.

It’s not the cleanest build in the world, and these USB soldering irons aren’t suitable for large joints or long soldering jobs, but it’s a neat little hack for the builder on a budget. We’ve seen teardowns of these rather neat little USB soldering irons before, but this is an interesting way to expand its capabilities.


28 thoughts on “Home-made Soldering Station For $15


      @ Hackaday Editors — thank you thank you thank you for not including such a graphic(al) construction. Keep it up and I might have to send a box of chocolates :P

      1. I highly agree. Sometimes the GIF appears to portray some other meaning than what may of been intended.

        i.e. a lawnmower leaf-box modification (added to the lawnmower) had a GIF and the first sound in my head was formula 1 car sounds and then I thought I was going to read about “Extreme lawn cutting sports”… Was both disappointed and surprised at the same time after realizing.

    1. Nah, needs less flux.
      When you need a more controlled soldering iron, but you only have a parts bin with a hackable USB soldering iron and you only have a smoldering iron to melt and merge all the parts into each other (or onto, as long as it also works in the end)

    1. I’ve been using that same style of iron (from FleaBay) for the last few years, and I agree that it’s a good value. The first one had quality issues (the thread connecting the heater to the handle didn’t work very well), but it was usable. The replacement I bought about a year ago is put together much better, so I retired that one (although it still works fine). I actually bought two at the time, so I have one in reserve if this one ever conks out.
      I leave mine set to the “275” position, and it seems to work for any soldering task I throw at it (I even had a small, “at-home” repair business for a while).
      My favorite tip is the 45-degree angled chisel.

    2. Not a lot of thermal control there – too much mass in the tip over-damping the control loop, making it slow to respond to demand. When you put the tip on a ground pad with insufficient thermal relief the tip can actually initially melt the solder then stick because the tip went below the liquidus of the solder faster than the heating element could deliver more heat to the tip.

      1. I haven’t had that issue, although I run mine at the 350 mark most of the time. Perhaps it just needs to be set to a higher temp if it’s cooling down too much. For $15 it’s a problem I can afford :)

  1. This is a cool hack I only have two issue’s with it, You will have to remove the thermocouple & Kapton tape every time you change your soldering tip and I would have liked it to have been compatible with Hakko or Chinese Hakko tips. Apart from that I would happily use this.

    1. Of coure it’s not the most practical thing ever. It’s not even in the top 100. The project started when I got the USB iron and thought “Huh, adding temperature control to it would be could and could get me on Hackaday!”. I am currently working on a reflow oven controller so I had all the parts on my desk. Three days later this video was uploaded.

  2. 5 volts times one amp max at USB 2.0 rating, not much math to do here. Maybe with the smallest surface mount stuff while not breathing on the iron and not on a ground plane. Good learning with the control loop though.

  3. ——— DO NOT REPLICATE!!1!7 ———

    Do not build this, you will be disappointed and end up with shit tool. This USB soldering iron is only good in a “omg I cant believe this actually melts solder” sort of way, but is useless for actual work. Might be a nice afternoon project for a novice, and Im sure author had fun putting this together and is proud of it, but the end product is simply not worth it :(. This needs adapting to use proper cartridge type tips (cheap hakko clones or even proper jbc C245).

    Meanwhile you can get 80% close to $250 Hakko FX-951 for $15 and a laptop power brick.
    Just google “Soldering Iron Station Temperature Controller Kits for HAKKO T12 Core Handle” and look at ebay or banggood. Chinese T12 tips are practically indistinguishable from the brand name ones, and are miles better than anything under $200 on the market (easily better than original Hakko 888). $10 buys you 4 most useful tip types (T12-K T12-B T12-BC2 T12-D24) on banggood. The best part is you avoid Hakko total shit user interface: setting temperature = programming VCR, WTF were they thinking?

    I gave 3 of those controllers to young people interested in electronics. One even “upgraded” to hakko 888d and promptly went back to using chinese kludge.

      1. That would be great, anything to move people away from 30 year old soldering iron design aka hakko 936 clones.
        T12 tips are soooooo good you really need to go another couple hundred dollars up (jbc, pace, metcal, ersa, hi end wellers etc) to feel any difference.

        Thanks to your video I realized Chinese finally cloned MAX6675, at $2 its definitely not a genuine maxim part :) last time I checked (~year ago) they were still ~$15. At $2 it makes total sense to use them instead of screwing with opamps.

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