Picture of Don't throw solder away
Save it, and cast cool solder sculpture with it. Save all that lead from polluting the environment.

In short, Go Green.

The picture shows the result of my experiment in casting a solder ingot: inside the mould its says "instructables" but sadly, solder does not take details very well.

The movie shows the process: the loose solder in a stainless steel dish is heated and stirred with a hot (50W) soldering iron, and then poured into the mould.

I have gotten into the habit of saving all the solder that comes my way, and I keep a receptacle (with lid) on my table for this purpose. When it gets to a respectable amount it is cast into some shape and stored. Some day I might attempt making a really big sculpture with reclaimed solder.

Lead is not poisonous. The compounds of lead are, however. If you keep all the lead containing alloy that comes your way as the metal, in some pleasant shape, cast or sculpted into some form that is pleasant to the eye, you will be helping the environment by keeping at least some of its potential pollutants at bay.

Start saving your solder today. Read on to find out how.
If you really want to help the environment, collect tire weights that have fallen off of vehicles while you enjoy a long walk. All that lead is oxidizing along the roads and washing into our water supply. just a thought.

now that is a great idea I see those things everywhere whenever I go for a walk around town. I had no idea they were lead, but did wonder about them.

iwilltry8 years ago
Why use lead solder at all? There are many good lead free solders on the market. Digikey is a great source. Lead based solders are not just bad for the environment, they are bad for the user. Electronics containing lead are now illegal in many countries that implemented RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliance requirements in July of 2006. For more details see http://www.rohs.gov.uk/.
n0ukf iwilltry7 years ago
even when lead is being replaced in electronics, anything made for the military still uses lead because of reliability of the connections. If you can find something that solders as easily as lead and has the same reliability in the soldered connections as lead, and isn't much more expensive, then let us know. Who knows, it might even make you rich. Personally, I think ROHS is going overboard about the hazards of lead-based solder. I've read somewhere also that the lead alternative solders have their own environmental problems, whether it's in the manufacturing process or whatever else.
etkoehn n0ukf1 year ago

Lots of things like ROHS is from lobbyist so that way they can sell their product. Lets face it a lot of stuff wouldn't have a chance unless the other was outlawed and the best way to do it is say it's harmful. But in my short time here I found most things to be harmful if not used properly

iwilltry n0ukf7 years ago
Lead based solders are only marginally more reliable than lead free solders. Everyone talks about tin whiskers that "sometimes" form but the difference in reliability is so small it is only important in highly critical applications (military, life support, outer space) where the consequences of a failure are huge. In 99% of applications lead free solders are just as good. I've been involved in electronics manufacture for the past 7 years. In 2006, we switched everything to lead free components and solders for RoHS compliance since many of our products are sold in Europe. Lead free solder takes a bit of getting used to since it looks and behaves a little differently, but we haven't had any issues with reliability. Whether the new solders are any better for the environment, I can't say for sure. But I'm pretty sure they're better for the guy doing the soldering.
I disagree :P I have been using lead-free solder for awhile, and recently I bought 60/40 lead solder, it becomes liquid it a lower temperature, so there isn't as much of a risk of overheating parts, and it seems to flow a bit better to, the fact is, I think leacd solder is better than lead-free solder! :)
I'm not sure what it was I said that you're disagreeing with. I agree with you 100% that lead based solders are easier to use. So are lots of harmful substances compared to their less harmful alternatives (don't get me started on acetone). What I meant when I said lead free solder is "better for the guy doing the soldering" is that it's less likely to harm you. Look up lead poisoning on wikipedia. It's probably not a big deal for the home hobbyist but if you solder for a living (or employ people who do) lead based solder poses a serious health risk. Given the amount of electronics that end up in land fills it also poses a wider health risk due to ground water contamination.
yea I know, but thats why they have things called "Fume Extractors" they suck up those nasty fumes and save your lungs! :D
9.6 Volts n0ukf6 years ago
If you don't like lead solder, there is something very wrong with you
waif69 n0ukf7 years ago
Actually due to EPA restrictions very few mil-spec electronics are made with lead based solder. Pure tin is a very common solder, however tin has been known to grow whiskers resulting in potential short circuits of the components.
pfred2 iwilltry3 years ago
Old post but I have to reply. You know that defense and aerospace contractors are exempt from lead regulations don't you? The law makers figure you can use the garbage but they reserve the rights to using the good stuff for themselves.
awang8 iwilltry6 years ago
Lead free soldering is very very difficult to melt on a ordinary iron and does not conduct as much as lead. If you're making military grade stuff you need lead or else it's just hobby grade.
lburrow awang83 years ago
I think most hobbyists aren't necessarily aiming for 'military grade'. A better way to put it might just be that your projects will not be as reliable without the lead.
DYLEGO awang86 years ago
Dude, how many of us are making military grade stuff? Also, lead free solder melts just fine. I use it with no difficulty.
awang8 DYLEGO6 years ago
It doesn't melt much on a normal iron. And what's better than proving your project is military grade?
Alien grade?
Well... for one reason, lead free solders tend to form 'tin whiskers' sure your project works today but some number of months or years later a whisker forms a bridge and your circuits go up in smoke.

Try doing a Google search for 'Tin Whiskers' if you haven't already heard of them.

Also, lead free solders require more heat which even if it doesn't immediately break your components it might still reduce their lifespan.

There are plenty of ways lead has been used in the past which have resulted in too much lead exposure and poisoned people. I've known plenty of people that have used leaded solder for a lifetime with no problems and I have done so for a couple decades myself.

If you expose yourself to enough lead to cause a problem just by soldering components you are doing something very very wrong. On the other hand, if you want to build something nice that will still be functional decades down the road when you try to show it to your grandchildren then you do not want lead free solder.
Lead free solder is better for the enviroment, but that's where the goodness ends. It is difficult to solder, becomes "sticky" and wont form up well. If you are using leadfree solder on surface mount components, you will see the development of tin whiskers, microscopic crystalline structures of tin that without the presence of lead can lead to these. They can cause shorts and mess up your experiment. Stick to Lead but make sure you save it and be careful with it.
I don't know what your talking about. I have used both normal and lead free solder and I have found silver bearing solder to work just as good on electronics. if you have trouble forming it that just means that you may not be heating up the solder or the parts connector enough. you should try turning the temperature up on your soldering iron just a little bit.
thx, use non lead solder! Protest against lead! :-P .................word.
etkoehn1 year ago

would be great for casting bullets or sinkers

Machine1 year ago
That's a nice instructable, thanks for carefully explaining it to us. I'll stop wasting my solder and re-use it.

I have an old toaster oven that heats to 240 C and should be able to easily melt solder off PCBs. I think if I just put a stainless dish under the PCB the solder should melt into it and be collected that way. Any thoughts on that?
"Lead is not poisonous. The compounds of lead are, however."
Lead IS poisonous, no matter if it's alone or in s Lead/tin blend.
That's why they tell you o wash your hands after doing some soldering.
So far lead hasn't poisoned me for the 40 years I've been using it. I think you're going to hurt yourself worrying about little stuff more than lead will ever hurt you. Unless you get in front of a speeding bullet made out of it or something.
NATIVEBOY3 years ago
metallic lead is very toxic in it's pure state, and in lead alloyies because it stays in bones for years because your body mistakes some of it as calcium and that goes into your blood. then lead stays in your muscles and fat's for months and it stays in your blood for weeks. if lead is in it's ore form it's very hard to absorb into your body.

orangetj3 years ago
... are you saying that the metal in most electronics is literaly dangerous to our health... no wonder the local hospital always fails health inspections
static3 years ago
In the event you can accumulate enough solder scrap, it also has cash value.
alexanderm4 years ago
The solder i use has 4% silver content... i never throw it away! Now, if i could just find a reasonable way to separate the silver out...
No doubt the metal in the alloy melt at different temperatures, and has a different weight. How about melting the scrap in a crucible that has a way to drain off the heavier metal at the bottom? You may have to go through severe runs to get to,and refine the silver. Just guessing on my part
rgbphil8 years ago
Nice Instructable, I remember having lots of fun making toy soldier moulds out of plaster and casting solder into them to multiply my armies. Interesting comments about using violin rosin to help. I would recommend though a warning at the start of the instructable to make sure any casting/melting be done in a well ventilated area. Lead and resin fumes can be dangerous, there are a lot of problems in some countries with people taking old PCBs and melting them on hotplates to extract various metals. Also could you follow up the "Lead is not poisonous. The compounds of lead are, however." comment with a reference please...lead is usually regarded as hazardous so a clearer definition of what you mean would be handy. In either case, I would not assume any melting/casting would make pure lead, so another warning about possible compounds/impurities and toxicity would be helpful, along with washing hands afterwards and not using implements for preparing food....common sense I know, but some people don't have sense that is all that common. When making toy soldiers I used to coat the lead with paint and lacquer so bare metal was not exposed to the fingers.
neelandan (author)  rgbphil8 years ago
"bullets lodged in the body rarely cause significant levels of lead poisoning"
from the wikipedia
Why would it matter a corpse got lead poisoning or not??!!?
static dagenius3 years ago
So who goes around shooting corpses anyway? The living person about to get a fatal dose of lead may care a great deal
not necessarily a corpse. Not all bullet wounds are fatal. Even bullets that are not jacketed with copper (solid lead, nothing else) rarely cause lead poisoning. Lead is a heavy metal, and takes time to dissolve in the body. Lead fumes, however, are rather easily absorbed into the body. That is why I work with a ventilation fan. Its just a computer fan hooked up to a 9 volt (or scrapped power adapter) and ventilation tubing. Works great for sucking away nasty fumes. Just put the other end near a window and it all goes away.
Not that I'm saying that the fumes associated with soldering aren't nasty, but they aren't lead fumes. The fumes are from the flux not the metal.
fumes from "solder" are not actually lead fumes, they are flux vapors. that is why if you heat a joint too long it boils off the flux, which cleans the two surfaces, and you get a bad joint.
the fumes do contain some amounts of lead. However, you'd have do a lot of soldering, and breathe the fumes a lot. The lead can build up in your body and once heavy metals enter your body they can be difficult to remove.
8bit geekzerone5 years ago
Can you prove fumes contain lead? I keep hearing that they don't.
lol, gotta love wikipedia, i am sure that when you get shot your immediate thought is not "oh noes am i going to get lead poissoning?!?"
I hate to say this, but Wikipedia isn't correct all of the time. Lead is toxic. It takes the place of other metals in biochemical systems. It is a particular problem when lead is ingested (oral or respiratory.) Yep, do not like your fingers when working with lead. Never, ever sand lead but filing away is OK. I think you get the idea.
RaNDoMLeiGH6 years ago
any tips for desoldering a circuit board all in one swoop? I'd put it in the oven at 500 F, but I cook food in there! And I'd like to not mess up the components.
Sometimes people use microwaves for solder reflow, so I am assuming that someone could devise a method to actually suck off all of the solder.
nawg dagenius3 years ago
DO NOT use metal things in microwaves! all kinds of things will happen; all of which will be far from heating- Microwaves heat only water they're designed that way.
Umm, I think you might be mistaken.  Trust me (or don't; try ityourself!), semiconductors won't last long in a microwave oven :-) 

But what _is_ cool in a microwave oven is a grape cut in half, thenslit again.  Search youtube for Grape and Microwave; it's quiteentertaining and actually works!
I actually have not used a microwave oven befor for the purpose I described, so you are probably right. Microwave radiation being introduced to metals is not such a good idea. I just recall at the end of my memory reading something in instructables about desoldering using microwave. Most likely not a reliable source.
ratgod dagenius5 years ago
i've never heard of using a microwave, but I have used a cheap $20 walmart toaster oven.
This seems to be a good instructable on that.
Heat gun. Same concept as reflowing a PS3 board, just drop it while its hot and most should fall off.
heat up the component using a blowtorch or a bunsen burner or just your stove. It won't mess up your stove
There are hot air soldering irons on instructables, but in most cases to melt solder you actually have to touch the joint with heat, not just blow on it.
ratgod4 years ago
Grind it down and mix it with flux paste, make your own solder paste:)
dagenius6 years ago
I use lead-free solder with no problem at all... Except maybe for the little black specks that form on the surface after I melt it.
use tissue to get it off
you are aware that lead is ToXiC, right? Therefore it is probabally a horrible idea to leave it lying around your house like that. you would be better off throwing it away.
yeah, throw it away so it can get washed out of landfills and into the rivers and lakes you get your drinking water from. If your gonna do that, dispose of it properly. (no idea if there is a proper way lol)
maybe making a long mould to make solder wire from old solder?
hifatpeople4 years ago
Make bullets out of the lead, just get a bullet mould, cast them, put the bullets through a die/dye (whichever way you spell it), and, ummm, whatevers next.
Shadow13!5 years ago
Try holding a lighter to solder and then as it liquefies let the liquid solder drop into a container of water. You get these cool mini shapes formed from the solder cooling as it hits the water.
T-K7 years ago
How do you get a solder 'ingot'?
sharlston T-K6 years ago
collect loads of solder then melt it into a yorkshire pudding tray
edfel016 years ago
can we just get the solder melt it and put it in a mold do we need the flux or anything else?
Flux is only used to deoxidize the surfaces that you are bonding on a board or something, not for anything else. If you melt the solder in a mold, the flux would boil off anyway.
scotty37857 years ago
I have to have my soldering Iron up at 450 degrees C to use lead-free solder rather than just 400 for lead based stuff, how good for the environment is that?
Only one thing against that, adjustable temp soldering irons are a hastle, my 40 watt one works fine for lead and lead free solder.
lol, ok so you just pretty mutch made a big hunk of lead. i might do this with silver, make a big hunk lol, cause i went to pan for gold and got like 2lbs of silver :D doesnt silver melt at bout 1,500 *F? and doesnt it NOT odixize? my mini scuba torch will work great!
it doesn't oxidise much, and once you've cast it and left it for a while, you'll get a nice patina on the surface. Where did you find 2lbs of silver?
I got a cabbin up by ******* Canada (for vacation kinda), that was my grandfathers. so this year my friend and i spent 1 week panning for gold :-D and found some gold but 2lb silver, i cant tell you the exact place, cause its on my property and dood its a silver vein cmon! Oh also its not like a nugget of silver it is silver,rock, etc that was desolved in sulferic acid then ran threw electolisis to get lil micros of pure silver! oh, also my dad has got like 10 lbs also he says, cause he is a photographer and he used to use chemicals that contained desolved silver, witch instead of thrown out when used hed get the silver out by electrolisis! (10 or so lbs was from mabe 10 years of photographic use lol)
heh, so it's actually YOUR silver, then fair nuff, i couldn't have got to canada anyways. ther's plenty of instructables for making things out of silver. I could always make something, of course...lol
In the United States, Silver sells for $50 per ounce (troy ounce to be exact)



As of 25 Jul 08, silver is being sold at 17.35USD/oz.
dagenius waif696 years ago
That is still exceptionally expensive. Pretty much the only use for silver solder would be to get bragging rights against your tech friend that you now have expensive gadgets, and so that you have an exuse on ebay to raise your prices...
oh, one more thing, any sort of mini torch won't melt 2lbs of silver. You need a proper ceramic crucible and a proper furnace.
just to help, the reason that the solder doesn't grab details is because the mold was cold and the solder quickly cooled. when casting any molten metal, you should heat the mold to prevent cracks from rapid thermal expansion. hahah i had a 2.2kg bar of (assuming it was) solder. then i got into casting of low melting metals :)
wazupwiop6 years ago
It is for the environment.
I sometimes make stained glass, wind up with loads of extra solder all the time (I'm kinda heavy handed with it sometimes). I stick the leftovers together on a tile and then stick that onto a piece of unused solder (a "handle"). Reused solder is not any better or worse than virgin stuff, but the rosin does really help.
You could always use leftover solder to enrich your lead when you cast bullets. Anybody worried about lead wheelweights contaminating the environment with lead could send them to me so that I can dispose of them one ounce at a time. All kidding aside, when lead comes into contact with corrosive conditions, it weathers and ends up with an inert surface coating compound. If lead was really such a problem, the people who live around Civil War battlefields, such as Gettysburg; which could be turned into a lead mine which would make a profit, would have died of lead poisoning years ago. The form of lead that they used to put into gasoline to make it leaded, is far more deadly than an inert piece of metallic lead. Also lead is also found naturally occurring in metallic form where you find gold and silver, and often with them.
sockeye1017 years ago
this is a bad idea, the flux in the solder cant be constantly melted and cooled, and the solder will eventually burn/ not melt/ something.
rimar20008 years ago
This is a way to combat the environmental contamination and the global heating. Congratulations.