We aren’t shy of dangerous projects, but, then again, a large cooking pan full of lead solder might be a bit much, even for us. It goes without saying that you should be extremely careful and you won’t want to use any of the cookware again for any other purpose. You can see the build in the video below.
On the one hand, it isn’t hard to make a solder pot. All you need is a container that won’t melt and a heat source. But it seems like molten metal should be in something a little harder to tip over. The real story here is the technique for using the solder pot as the build is dead simple: a cheap hot plate and an iron skillet are all it takes.
Why do you want a solder pot? They are useful. As [Coalpeck] shows, you can use them to dip solder a through hole PCB easily enough. They are great, too, if you want to tin a lot of wires. They also can do a great job of removing parts from a board or a connector. Check out the old, but good video of a commercial unit removing a PCB connector after the main video.
We thought the temperature measurement technique of letting newspaper turn brown was interesting. Granted, a commercial solder pot big enough to be useful isn’t cheap. You can, though, get smaller pots (50-80 mm) for under $50. These will usually have a tray to catch spills and will be harder to tip over by accident. Not that you won’t want to be careful, though. If you do attempt this, we suggest you use a pan with no handle and set it in an outer pan to catch any overflow. But if you spill a few pounds of molten solder on your workbench, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
We’ve covered several homebrew solder pots over the years but, mysteriously, all the original websites are gone. We hope they are OK. We did look at a host of desoldering techniques that include the solder pot. Or ditch the pot of hot lead and try one of [Bil Herd]’s methods.
15 thoughts on “Solder Pot From The Kitchen”
The nice thing about a proper solder pot is that you can have just enough solder to form a crown of solder. It makes it easier to “roll” the board onto and off the solder, which I find results in a neater finish, and it makes it easier to scrape off the dross that forms as you use the pot.
The biggest downside of solder pots is the cost of solder! You can easily spend as much or more on the solder than the pot!
I suspect the risks of the big pot of molten lead may be overstated. My grandad used to melt lead in an old pan on the gas kitchen stove to make fishing weights. He didn’t die of anything lead related.
Or maybe we’re better at handling new risks and are falling out of practice with risks previous generations knew how to handle?
I was worried more about hitting the handle on the pan balanced on the small hot plate and spilling molten solder everywhere. I have also melted a lot of solder in my life but I have also knocked over more than one pan. Bacon grease is bad enough.
I think the EU has the toughest regulations. Look ma, no masks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUd9_htv9z4
“He didn’t die of anything lead related.”
There is a LOT of distance between “unharmed” and “dead”.
“Or maybe we’re better at handling new risks”
We’re getting better at *recognizing* risks, especially risks of harm other than straight-up death. Wikipedia has this to say about lead poisoning: “The brain is the most sensitive. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, memory problems, infertility, and tingling in the hands and feet.” How much of that might have been dismissed as the natural effects of aging, back in the day?
It goes on to say, “It causes almost 10% of intellectual disability of otherwise unknown cause and can result in behavioral problems. Some of the effects are permanent.”
Just because someone spent a lot of time around lead fumes and didn’t *die* from it doesn’t mean they weren’t harmed by it, and just because one person played with lead and wasn’t harmed it doesn’t mean it’s safe.
How hot does lead need to get before it emits “fumes”? Does it have to approach/reach its boiling point or is there significant vapor emission at or near the melting point?
Melting Lead per-se won’t emit fumes (unless you get it really hot), but will form lead oxide which floats around as dust and will be inhaled.
A blog post online states:
“My bll went up last year so I bought a couple of lead test kits to locate the source. These are the ampules (sp) that you squeeze to release the test fluid onto the cotton swab. I never set my lead pot temp. for over 800′ and smelted in a different area.
I found lead when I swabbed the wood around my lead pot up to a line about 3” on my side of the pot. This was wood fresh from HD that I built my “casting closet” out of. I tested some leftover scraps of this wood and they tested negative for the lead. I had been using a fan behind me but when I found where the lead was I installed a 20″ box fan on the far side of the pot to pull the fumes away from me.
I attached a piece of aluminum to my shirt on my chest that I tested for lead, then cast for about 3 or 4 hours. When I restested there was no lead on the plate. The box fan tested positive for lead after the casting session.
I was an OSHA certified hazardous waste worker for awhile while working for a major city and if I would have found this in a workplace it would have cause for some clean-up and changes.
There is also a warning in Lyman’s 3rd Edition manual about lead dust in the casting area.
Test kits are simple and easy to use and run from about $10 to $20. If you want to know if there is lead in your casting area buy a kit and test it. “
Yes melting lead can be relatively safe, boiling not so much. Best way to check for lead exposure is blood lead testing. However historic limits have been shown to be too high.
My lab training at work states that keep the lead temperature bellow 900*F to avoid fume. The training is required before I can enter an area where solder presents or if I want to do any soldering.
Lead doesn’t instantly kill you, it damages your brain.
Just have good ventillation, and wash your hands (and dont reuse that pan for cooking). And dont let children use it or be around when your doing it. Children and thekr debeloping brains are far far more sensitive to heavy metal poisoning than adults.
And just because it must be said,
HEAVY METAL??!!…. EXCELLENT!!!!
The inimitable Jearl Walker (Scientific American, Flying Circus of Physics), putting his finger in molten lead:
I’ve been casting bullets for about 35 years. Because of an awareness that lead had issues casting was normally done outside. (Electric pot w/spout on bottom.)
One time during rain I set up inside garage w/car door open. Had rest-in-bed headache for three days following. Melt your lead outside!
I would really urge you to tag this pan somehow, like with an engraver or a metal tag somehow permanently attached to it. That way in 50 years when someone finds it they dont end up inadvertently eating some lead bacon and eggs.
Funny that he actually did pull a trace. ( 0:56 second video)
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