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Charper's Hot Air Soldering Iron
An easy DIY project on a college student budget

This project stemmed from the desire to remove (and perhaps one day re-solder) surface mount components. In it's entireity (pictures and all), it took less that two hours and $20. Even if you have to buy everything, I believe the cost could easily be kept under $30. Comparatively, I could not find a hot air soldering iron retain for under $200. Every entrepreneuring young electrical engineer needs to work on some project to satisfy curiosities and take things apart... right? Well, at least I do!

Step 1: Purchased Items

Picture of Purchased Items
solder 005.jpg
solder 004.jpg
I can't remember where this soldering iron came from, and I've been asked questions about it - if somebody could send me a link or tell me a location where a similar iron could be purchased, I would greatly appreciate it.
Update 2:  A reader, Daltore, suggests the "Hakko 503" soldering iron.  His full suggestion and reasoning is in the comments below.

Also, there has been a lot of comment on the heat exchanger. Instead of the stainless steel, you could try stripped copper wire, solder wick, or purchase actual copper mesh somewhere.

Items Purchased

Aquarium air tubing: $1.13
Aquarium air pump: $6.97
"Chore Boy" Stainless Steel scrubber: $1.37
"Zebra F-301" pens: $4.73

Total: $14.20

Other items needed:
Super Glue
Soldering Iron, 40 watts or higher
Silicone Fuel Tubing

Dremel (or similar drilling/grinding tool)

The silicone tubing is used as a fuel line in model airplanes, it's reasonably cheap and I'm sure you could find it easily at a local hobby shop or from Froogle, Amazon, or Ebay. Fortunately for me, Aerospace Engineering is big here at MSU, so it wasn't hard to find a friend that didn't mind giving me some. Feel free to come up with a substitute for this if you can - but this stuff seems to hold up extremely well to the heat of the soldering iron.
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i was thinking of buying one of those butaine irons are they really that great?
Argh! java.sql.SQLException: Deadlock found when trying to get lock; try restarting transaction ate my post! Again!

If you are in the UK, Maplin do a great one. I just searched for it, they still do it. http://www.maplin.co.uk/module.aspx?ModuleNo=3887&doy=18m12

I've had mine for at least ten years now, brilliant bit of kit. The case means everything stays together. I never wet the sponge because it's a pain inside the kit, but hey. And I own a second one, just in case they pull these off the market for some spurious health & safety reason.

If you want the heat right now, keep the lighter under the tip for 20 seconds to get it started fast. If you are in a hurry to be off, turn it off and take the tip off with pliers, it will be stone cold in about 2 minutes. If you want to change the tip, simply take it off with pliers and swap it, then wait a minute or two for it to be hot again (or boost it again with your lighter)

Great for working outdoors, comes with a flame spreader thing, various tips, a hot knife thing, a sponge and even some solder in a holder. Best thing? They left a space so you could add your own lighter to the kit. There is even a hot air tip, but I've not had much success with it, except for on heatshrink.
floydt100 _soapy_9 months ago
Yeah i have a simular kit from burnsomatic. The main thing i use the hot air tip for is heat shrink too since it shrinks quick but doesnt burn unless you hold it on there for a wile. The solder included is the perfect gauge for small electronics too which is a plus.
yes. i suggest the radio shack one. http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062753&cp=2032058.2032236.2032313&parentPage=family
it is realy easy to hold and i love it. i don't suggest the gun type butane soldering irons because i find them harder to hold.
Yow! Reviews filed since you posted that on RS's site indicating that they've experienced valve failures, or even had the back of the butane chamber blow off.

I'll get the Weller.
nickxab1 year ago
How many watts was this solder iron ? :)
floydt100 nickxab9 months ago
Im guessing by the size of the coils inside that its most likely around 30 watts
floydt1009 months ago
For anyone below interested in a butane-powered iron, home depot sells the burnsomatic straight irons for around $14.99 and includes variable heat, 2 soldering tips, a hot knife, and a hot air tip (yes works just the same as this one). Ive had mine for about a year and so far ive had nothing but good experiences with it. It takes a little hotter to heat up than my electric one but its perfect for automotive electrical and speaker wire because you dont have to bring an extention cord around with you. I highly recommend.
Inlove1 year ago

copper scrubber pads can be bought through many stained glass suppliers.

muddog151 year ago
I would replace the silicon tubing inside of the element with copper tubing.
feka2 years ago
Can somebody post data about the air pump? Or exact models that work so I can further investigate alternatives based on these...?
seraine3 years ago
Most Walgreen's should have copper scouring pads. I use them for cleaning my soldering iron.
carlitoscr7 years ago
Well, I think you can use a piece of copper solder wick as your heat exchange element. you can either place the piece of solder wick as it is (being careful it doesn't offer too much resistence to the air flow) or you can take your time to separate all the copper threads and then make a small ball with them (be carefull not to compress that ball, it has to be porous). Use the porous copper thread ball as your heat exchange element. Good luck!
These wicks usually contain rosin flux, which could be detrimental. On the other hand, you might get vaporized flux that could help with the desoldering.
How about using some of the woven copper or aluminum jacketing on coax cables
The aluminum will corrode quickly in the heat, don't know how much that will affect it. Good idea, though.
The copper would probably work, but I wouldn't use aluminium because its melting point may be too low. That's why it isn't used for model rocket launch stands. Those have steel blast plates.
beehard44 Ian014 years ago
i melted aluminum with the whoosh rocket once
techno guy4 years ago
Can you use steel wool for the heat exchanger?
Thermal lance anyone?
charper (author)  techno guy4 years ago
I wouldn't. Steel wool can be flammable.
charlieb0003 years ago
just an idea, perhaps it is possible to replace the tip with a tube and use that as an air duct. then you can use the iron as a iron again when you want. i have a 40W thats not really suitable for soldering but if i need it to burn stuff again then i can just put the old tip in.
ledartist4 years ago
Amazing. Only if I knew this before I purchased my hot air tool...
Live and learn. Thanks!
Velleman TSS5 50W soldering iron works great. It is almost air tight. Use information in this instructable to make the nossle and heat exchanger. I didn't put a silicone tube inside the heater, I have just drilled a hole in the handle and connect the aquarium hose to it with an aquarium T-piece with the one end blocked.
PetervG8 years ago
I got a ColdHeat yesterday! XD
i pray for your soul. the cold heat soldering iron is probably the worst soldering tool ever created. tips break too easy and are far to expencive. the entire concept of how the cold heat soldering iron works is completly retarded. go to radio shack and get yourself a butane soldering iron.
charper (author)  WesDoesStuff8 years ago
Oh come on... if you use it for what it's really good for, it's great. Quick, short jobs where a low-power resistance soldering iron really shines. You're right about the tips, but I found that a nail file (black emory board?) works realllly well for re-sharpening and cleaning the melted plastic out of it. I've had moderate use out of my cold heat for about 2 years now and have never replaced the tip.
If you use it you know what it's good for. Nothing. The stripper it comes with is worth more.
my stripper broke after 3 uses :/
You should put more money in her panties.
lol. I didn't even get a stripper with my ColdHeat, which was the worst £20 I ever spent. It takes longer to get the darned thing to solder than it does to get my great butane one, and fire that up, unless it is a *single* joint. It doesn't even heat the solder hot enough half the time, even with Duracells. I'd say it was just Cold.
toogers _soapy_6 years ago
lol, coldwarm tool. it solders 2 % of the time!

i had the cold heat, problem is... it's a resistive type of heat generator... if you slip (which i have done with it before) and bridge 2 connections, your dumping your electricity into the device.

Iv'e blown a couple of transistors and leds with the cold heat. I'm a regular iron user now.

MaXoR lilshawn4 years ago
lol, I always thought that could happen! I've never really used it, since mine couldn't even get solder to solidify on it's own, let alone attached to a metal post. I've always wanted to make it into a "wired" iron by giving it a battery pack, so it can have top amperage for the longest time. However since you mention this LARGE draw back (Because lets face it, what other application does the cold heat soldering iron have than to be used on small electronic parts), it's a failed product that sadly can still be purchased today.

If you are just soldering two wires together, then maybe this will be a practical tool for you, however those that need to do computer repair work, just go get a 90W and be done with it. A 90W heats up quickly, allows for almost instantaneous melting of the solder joint, so less time to transfer that heat to the parts.

As well, I want to make a side remark about de-soldering wick, it's made by "Goot" and a few other companies. It takes forEVER to heat up, you have to KEEP it hot enough to melt solder, and if you don't have a monster iron, you will likely just fuss with that sort of thing. I've long since learned a good cheap solder sucker is all you really need.
hore lilshawn5 years ago
are you build this device,hot air, is it work, what type of soldering iron.
aaaaoooo hore5 years ago
it works !
Sync charper8 years ago
omg yes. cold heat ISNT that bad. ive been using mine for a while and nothings broken...
Yeah. I remember my first soldering iron was a ColdHeat... *shivers* Won't use THAT one ever again.
i have the cold heat my god its a complete mockery. it makes a complete disaster you cant solder anything smaller than an inch in diameter.
cold and heat. Mix 'em together you've got a crappy product
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