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Guide to field Soldering

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This is a kit that will allow you to do many soldering tasks in the field, cost about $8.00, and it all fits in an Altoids tin! I've used this same set of stuff for years now and was inspired to share it based on a recent instructable on soldering (an outstanding one). This instructable goes one step further in building a portable helping hand, solder dispenser, and assembling all the other tools that you will need to get things done in the field.

Let me add at this point I know this not the best way to solder and this method has its limitations. It is however the best way to fix surveillance equipment at 3 a.m., in the back of a van, in the dark. I can testify to that. Good times. I was a tech for an undercover narcotics unit for five years and this method came through for me many times.
 
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Step 1: Building the Dispenser

I hate having to carry a whole spool of solder into the field. When I first started having a need to do these tasks in the field I would just cut off a couple of feet and throw it in the bag. It soon became a tangled mess. So I came up with this. You will need:

1 ink pen (metal tiped is the best)
2 feet of thin solder

First take the pen apart and cut it down so it fits in the tin. Next wrap the solder around the ink cartridge that you just removed from the pen. Pull the solder off the pen and insert it into the portion of the pen that you have retained. Cap off the end with the pen cap or whatever you have. I got a ton of these little platic caps (shown in the picture) someplace that are my favorite. I like the metal tips the best because they don't melt if you use this with a regular iron. The result is a compact solder dispenser! I'm always amazed just how much solder you can fit in one of these suckers.
Mariska Botha7 months ago
Amazing idea.
BunnyRoger7 months ago
Read the warning label people, lol, keep away from children!!
Nifty, handy, super cool...
MAApleton7 months ago
Very cool instructable!!!
Kjata10131 year ago
This is easily the coolest kit I've seen so far.
spystealth12 years ago
Really cool instructable! I built one, but with a few changes:
1. I didn't use a butane lighter; instead, I used a mini, normal lighter. The normal lighter didn't really effect the soldering process, it was just difficult sometimes not to burn the insulation right off the wire, or overheat something. It sure helped heat the hot glue though.
2. I used a mini nail clipper (wire cutter).
3. Using a mini lighter and nail clipper gave a lot of extra room, so I included a hot glue stick which can be heated with the lighter, then smeared onto the area where it's needed. It can also be used as wire connection insulation.
4. More room was still available, so I add a small spool of various wire.
5. I modified the (awesome) helping hands so it was basically a thick solid wire (not stranded) with aligator clips on both ends so I could clip one to the tin, and the other would be free for holding. I could probably even secure the middle of the wire down to the tin with a magnet or hot glue so both helping hands are free.--(Maybe I can put a magnet in the tin so stuff won't clink around...hmm...)
I still have a lot of room in my tin so any more suggestions on what I can stuff in mine is welcomed.
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riobpz4 years ago
 also adding fine grain sand paper is a good idea so that you can get a better connection
Why fine grain sand paper? I'm new to the whole soldering thing and I don't quite understand. Could you please explain?
Oh yeah, since you are new, there is another point I want to make, soldering copper wire is 50% easier than the aluminum stuff. It also holds solder better in my experience.

1) Solder "Wick" isn't worth your money, a solder sucker IS!
2) Don't use a 60W soldering iron, get a 90W and you'll thank me.
3) Remember to use flux, if you don't already have flux core solder.
(If it smokes when you solder, it contains flux, if it doesn't really smoke to much or at all, then it's flux-less.)

And remember to put your shrink tubing on BEFORE you solder.... sounds funny to say, but you'll be surprised how many times you forget.....lol, memories!
Even better than a 90w iron: get a soldering station with thermostat temp controll. Best thing I have ever bought!
i agree with the last bit. i onece spent an hour soldering a circuit at school and i then went to get the heat shrink then i asked my teacher wow that must be fairly complicated stuff! i wonder how i get it on the wire! ( my first time soldering)
Sandpaper is used to clean the wires before soldering. If there is any grease, or dirt on the wire, including skin oils, it will make a bad connection. Sanding a little on each bare wire will allow a quick, solid connection to form.
x86Daddy riobpz4 years ago
Adding to this good suggestion: I stock emery boards (found near nail clippers as disposable nail files) with my soldering gear...  and they'd be easy to break a couple in half to fit in this kit with the added benefit of rigidity.
stone3408 (author)  x86Daddy4 years ago
Great idea as you can pick these easier than sand paper.
MaXoR stone34083 years ago
tell me "Pick" doesn't mean "steal"
Roblazed MaXoR2 years ago
I'm hoping he meant "Pack"
I think that a quick substitution of a (admittedly more expensive) butane jet lighter for the cheap disposable lighter would provide more pinpoint heat and a lot less wasted heat that ends up heating the entire work area.

Other than that, this is absolutely brilliant. I'm making a pen holder for use all the time.
tledgerwood2 years ago
i love this!! all the essentials for quick repair on the go, and no electricity needed ( apart form in the device, of course!)
potterrandy4 years ago
 I love how everyone just corrects each other in these after posts
You forgot your period.
Nice to know!
pbman1232 years ago
might i suggest adding a small amount of electrical tape, i have been in situations where i was out of solder and heat shrink and electrical tape works fine




blade972 years ago
If you heat up the wires with the lighter first and then rub the wire on it the solder goes deeper into the wires giving a stronger and more lasting connection
Hi this kit is great at scout camp this helps a great bit for our battary powered item some time the wires disconect and i pull this out and the are amazed on how far i fix the problem but i added a micr screw driver for unscrewing als i have to helping and attatched to the lid
A better lighter choice would be an El Cheapo butane cigar lighter. It has a much higher btu output and therefore heats faster and because it's butane it has a focused flame. I put this kit together and the lighter I chose has a metal casing and fits perfect inside the tin.
Thank you so much for this. During the middle of my english exam, my calculator broke and I needed to solder some of the wires back together. I couldn't find an outlet to plug the soldering iron I keep in my backpacK into so if it weren't for you, I would have never been able to finish it! Thank you!
You were using a calculator during an English exam?
swilus drevt2 years ago
hahaha good follow up question!
BGreenHVAC3 years ago
this "kit" doesn't do me any good, because I usually need to solder on a circuit board, but it is a good idea when you need to solder wire ti wire. It's nice to see people actually use shrink tube instead of electrical tape.
Good idea.

I see people mentioning sandpaper and emery boards. Personally I perfer the sandpaper. You can just wrap it around the bare wire and pull in an easy step. The emery board would be more cumbersome on a wire to wire connection.

I have a similar kit, but I have the little leatherman wire stripper from Radio Shack instead of the nail clippers. It works great for tiny tasks and cramped spaces. I have used nail clippers in a pinch, but only if I have to.

Thanks for the instructable.
mr.space4 years ago
Very handy, i was wondering if anyone knows, can you get metal, heatable syringes? Because if you can you could heat one of those up full of solder then... well, its obvious. ty in advance
Even if you could, you'd have to re-heat the whole syringe in order for the solder to become liquid. I don't know about you, but I'd hate to handle a red-hot syringe.
and it would have to remain hot or you have to re-heat every time you need to use the smallest bit of solder.
Friscky3 years ago
My first thought on seeing this was McGyver.
I thought that as soon as I saw the picture.
To those who are crazy about doing things really specifically(like me, haha), the pen he used is a PaperMate FlexGrip. By the way, I bought a bag of tiny alligator clips from RadioShack to make a helping hand, and I was thinking; Wouldn't it be more useful if instead of using just 2 clips(1 on each end), you would take 2 pieces of wire(whatever length you want as long as they are the same length), and solder an alligator clip to only 1 end of each wire individually, and then put the 2 no-clip ends of these wires and solder them both onto 1 (possibly bigger)alligator clip? It would be shapped like a V(or a Y, whichever you want), and you would clip 1 clip part on either the altoid tin,(or if you're working somewhere with a lot of wires, onto another wire[as a base]), and clip the other 2 clips onto the 2 wires you're soldering together. I was also thinking of maybe taking a really flat, thin magnet, soldering something that and alligator clip could clip on onto the magnet, and then when you need it, you could just clip the base clip of the V onto the magnet. With this, you could put it inside the tin and it would/could keep all the metal contents from rattling around.

Tl;dr 2 identical, same length wires, solder them in a V shape(or more of a Y shape) and solder alligator clips onto all 3 ends, and clip base clip to altoid tin/something close to where you're working.

Also, either clip base clip onto a flat magnet(which would've been equipped with something to be clipped on) and magnet to altoid tin or any metal surface(for table soldering) or onto a metal surface if you're working on a job somewhat vertical, like a wall mounted fuse box or something. Magnet inside tin would keep metal contents from rattling.
jweirs3 years ago
if you're feeling really special, you can adapt a mechanism for a mechanical pencil to spit out 3 inch solder sticks!
19charbel963 years ago
great idea!!! 5 stars
2x more effective than my friend's emergency kit, but his is the size of a matchbox! because he keeps the kit in a matchbox in the first place lol. Nice kit btw.
frodobot5 years ago
1 prob. :-( how would you solder PCBs with method? i mean, the lighter would really burn your fingers.
stone3408 (author)  frodobot5 years ago
This would not be very effective on a pcb.
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