Field Expedient Soldering Iron Will Do In A Pinch

If you think [Dubious Engineering]’s moniker is just a name, have a look at the pretty terrible soldering iron hacked out of a lighter in the video below. No one is suggesting this is a good idea but in an emergency, maybe it would come in handy. We liked the use of a chopstick and the formation of a heat exchanger with the copper wire coil. It was a mild disappointment that you had to drill out the chopstick, but we think you could have figured out a different method with a little thought.

The use of duct tape, of course, lends it instant hacker credibility. We suppose this might be useful not just after the robot uprising, but if you had to make a few quick solder joints far away from power and you don’t have a battery-operated iron.

The helping hands didn’t seem very helpful for this. We have a bad habit of just holding the wires with a solder spool against the bench. We’ve also used this 3D printed jig, but you do have to be careful not to drop hot solder on the plastic or put some foil in the gap to catch drips.

If you really wanted to use this in an emergency, a candle might be more useful than a lighter. Of course, battery irons aren’t as uncommon as they once were, so maybe just get one of those. There is also a crop of irons that you can power from USB to varying degrees of success.

16 thoughts on “Field Expedient Soldering Iron Will Do In A Pinch

  1. Got desperate one day my wife was out and the soldering iron was in the car and I NEEDED to solder up a db25 connector for a serial link.

    Screwdriver heated up in the flame of the gas stove. It was terrible but it worked

  2. I’ve done this exact thing in a pinch, but minus the chopstick and duct tape, just some sharpened copper wire wrapped around the metal part of a Bic and bent so it passes through the flame.

    An even bodgier method I’ve used involved heating up a generic AC-powered soldering iron over a small wood fire. It would hold just enough heat to solder one joint, quickly, before it had to be returned to the flames…

    1. What “crys” are smoked? Do you mean a small “windproof lighter” type butane torch? I know some people use this to smoke pipes with e.g. weed.
      I already used this several times successfully for soldering. The most demanding repair was a speaker – the flexible wires from the terminals to the cone were broken right at the paper (or plastic?) cone. I had to protect it with several layers of Al foil but an hour later we had music again. :-)
      Not much later I added a cheap soldering iron to the tools in my car :-)

  3. Years ago, Radio Shack sold packs if solder that was in the form of flat solder. Kind of like when you shake excess solder off your iron against a surface.

    You’d wrap this against your joint,and use a match or lighter to melt it. Seemed to work fine. Meant for emergencies only.

    I have a little butane torch, it includes a solder tip. I’ve use tge flame to solder heavy gauge wire. But if you leave it at home, not so useful.


  4. That’s two mentions of battery powered soldering irons but zero mention of “real” butane powered soldering irons which are not hacked together out of a lighter.

    I used to use a battery powered soldering iron at work. I used it quite a bit actually and liked it. Then one day curiosity got the better of me and I bought a butane powered one. There is no comparison. I never looked back.

    At the workbench you can wait a minute for your mains powered iron to heat up. That just gives you time to get other tools out, move messes out of the way, etc… When you are using the portable iron you are probably in more of a hurry. Battery powered irons take a while to heat up though and, at least the ones I have used did so with a momentary push button. Take your finger off and it starts cooling! I get it, that’s to save battery. But when I am away from the bench soldering I am probably not in my most patient of moods anyway. Butane on the other hand goes from room temperature to melting solder much quicker.

    Then there is power. Battery powered soldering irons have just about the right amount of power to tack down a delicate surface mount IC. I’ll do that at my bench though! I’m far more likely to be soldering a wire to a tab or some worse form of heat sink when I am using a portable iron. The extra heat from a butane iron really comes in handy for such things.

    1. TS-100 and a Li battery pack. “wait a minute for your mains powered iron to heat up” It heats up from RT to 340 in 10 to 15 seconds. You should recheck the market for new options.
      I don’t use mine with a battery, but I watched a few videos from people who do. They compared it to other battery and gas powered irons and their conclusion was that it is the best, or at least very good option (depending on preferences).

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