How to Make a Solder Buddy (from sheet plastic)

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[UPDATE - Thank you to everyone who voted in the UP! 3D Printer Contest - I was lucky to win an UP! Plus, so now I can proceed with Solder Buddy Mark III (Mark II is improving Mark I with you suggestions below) and then release the CAD files*.
*I am also looking for CAD software to do this in [sponsorship welcome if you know anyone who works for a CAD company!] - as Sketch-Up is going to take forever!

The full videos are up in a playlist, here.   Everything is free on Design Modelling, so thanks for your support!

Hello, I'm Jude - and I'm a Design Engineer. I've been making models of all sort of things since I was a kid... however, I've been doing it professionally for it for about 4 years now and I'm still enjoying it immensely!

I created a website called Design Modelling  and I’ve been running workshops showing people how to use simple materials to explore their ideas, be it for professional work or personal creative projects... as some point it really helps to get ideas out of your head and into your (or someone elses) hands!

Solder Buddy was a quick project that I did one evening to show the possibilities for what could be made with ABS plastic sheet. I’ve had a few requests on how I did this so I have uploaded an Instructable. However, if you are new to working with plastic or would like to know a few ‘pro’ tips I’ve picked up along the way, check out the techniques first.

This instructable should be a good example to show the possibilities of working in plastic, but if you are really serious about learning, I have a full video going into more detail of how I made this and explaining some of the design thinking behind it, here. The combination of the techniques covered and the application will be valuable to anyone trying to create robust models for the design industry.

Please let me know how you get on (Design Modelling on Facebook) - and have fun!
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Hey Jude (author) 1 year ago
Wooo! Made the finals. At last - my own Instructables T-Shirt. Will be worn with pride =)

Thanks for everyone who voted - and especially to those of you who posted your awesome creations of your own Solder Buddy. I've learned some great tips from you guys!

I look forward to working on the CAD for the Mark II soon. Stay tuned.
macobt1 year ago
Very good tool and good instructable how to make it.
Here is my version:
Hey Jude (author)  macobt1 year ago
This is OUTSTANDING. Love it!
Really excited to see it working so well. Will you put up a few details...
...I have actually made a alternate speed controller using the potentiometer out of the Servo (HS 311) which will change the speed. I will show it on the Mark II, I think, as it's a nice way to 'recycle' the guts of the servo.

However, it looks like your electronics skills are far more advanced than mine! - as it looks like you used a 555Timer Chip and some other stuff to control the speed, right? Would you kindly upload your circuit diagram for everyone to see.

Really excited to see this, thanks so much - and hope you enjoy using it! Please let me know of any 'bugs' with the design I should consider for Mk II.
demond1011 year ago
well hello i have now made my own solder dispenser pen /solder buddy it works great and has a reverse off and on switch i used recycled parts from my parts bins and around the area im am going to add a power in put connector so i can run it off my pc bench top psu and save on batterers thank you for making such a great instructable here's a photo of it
Hey Jude (author)  demond1011 year ago
This has truly made my day. Thanks =)

If you fancy taking a few more pics from different angles/close-ups, this would also be great on the Design Modelling Facebook, if you'd like to add them there as well as here?
This is so well documented and the solder buddy looks a joy to use. Now I'll have to have one! I'll try to make a spring loaded wheel so that I can use different thicknesses of solder.
Hey Jude (author)  bricabracwizard1 year ago
Awesome - I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I think I confess in the video that I had considered it, but was not sure how to do it just yet. Certainly one for the Mark II version!
WOW, incredible project, I laughed with joy watching the solder move forward in your video, this is awesome :)
Lucif3r9458 months ago


Best. Dispenser. Ever. I am so going to build one of these, although I know it wont be nearly as good looking as yours (mainly because I dont have the patience :/). I think Im going to add a motor/servo to the solderholderpin-thingy as well so it can also be reversed without tangling itself up :)

Also great 'ible, and awesome vids.

Hey Jude (author)  Lucif3r9457 months ago

That's a really cool idea - the reverse thing. In many ways, I recon the 'reverse' has become an issue as I have to re-wind the [un-used] solder from demo-ing it to people...but when I use it as intended it is not really needed. That said, I've got a cool trick I'm working on with an electronics-boffin, which should be cool when we show it! Do post some pictures or email me if you have any questions - always cool to see how you ideas take shape! Good Luck!

ohararp1 year ago
Dude, you totally need to crowd fund this. I'd totally buy if price was under $50.
Hey Jude (author)  ohararp1 year ago

Thanks for the suggestion.... For now, I'm working on a Mark III version that will be in CAD - so it will hopefully be available for 3D Printing. Finger's crossed!

You might also like the Ergo Mouse I just did:

But also if you are in the UK - I'm also doing a workshop in Brighton 8 Sept and you can see all these things and more on the day.

Hope you have a go at making one, or check out @Jude_Pullen for updates on the MkIII. =)
tjesse11 year ago
What kind of soldering gun is that?
Hey Jude (author)  tjesse11 year ago
It's a 'VersaTip' - gas powered iron. I did a review of it here:

Not as accurate as a pro-soldering iron, but very handy for quick tasks.
This is a fantastic item, it's like having a mini MIG welder.
Hey Jude (author)  sofiadragon19791 year ago
Thanks very much. I'll be doing a new version shortly - so let me know if you have any suggestions for Mark II.

(I have not MIG welded, but I did realise I may have been inspired by this or perhaps 3D Printer nozzles...makes you wonder what else you can feed - strawberry lace?)
3D printed strawberry lace yum yum lol. What I was thinking of doing when I make it is making the whole shell w/a 3D printer & also adding a bar roller guide @ the spot before the solder meets the rollers kind of like a guide on a threading machine. I am still working things out since I saw the way that you have this set up. A MIG welder basically feeds out welding wire & pumps out an inert gas to contain the reaction of the welding & keep the weld from oxidizing, it's funny how close the machine looks to this if you think about it lol.
Hey Jude (author)  sofiadragon19791 year ago
That's really cool - Thanks for the info! Please take any pic for me and other to see, if you have the MIG.

My plan is to make a Mark II version in plastic to resolve things like:
- Variable wire diameter
- Working with a Solder Reel
- Variable Feed Speed
- Reverse
- Improve aesthetics / functionality in general.

Following people's reaction to Mark II, I will then freeze the design and make a Mark III in CAD. I will make it so it works with the UP printer I won for this Instructable.

Looking forward to your ideas!
For the variable wire diameter I'd use an auto adjusting tension wheel, to make the solder spool move easier you could make the mount that it sits on rate w/ a bearing as well. For the variable speed there are two ways around that one that I can think of 1: using a potentiometer only & 2: using a micro controller & a flexforce pressure sensor, that will basically adjust the flow speed dependent on how hard you press it. The reverse is going to need a micro controller from what I am thinking.
Hey Jude (author)  sofiadragon19791 year ago
This sounds really interesting - but if you felt like uploading a sketch for the tensioning mechanism, that would be cool. (I was thinking of something with a spung bearing mount).

As for the speed control - you are right with the POT. In fact you'll see that when you take appart a Servo you will have this as 'waste' - so I intend to re-use it. It needs some modification which a friend helped me with. Alternatively, I will also try out macobt's 555 timer verion of speed control as this will work nicely, but is more complet for people. That said a good soldering lesson, perhaps.

The full videos are up here:
I've got a few projects that I'm designing on my own @ the moment so I'll drop you a pic when I get a chance.

I've signed up for your YouTube page, it is really nice how well your videos are done, they are very clear & very informative.
mrmerino1 year ago
Oh, it that what... Oh wow, that's brilliant. I'll take six.
Hey Jude (author)  mrmerino1 year ago
Out of interest - how much would you think pay for:
a. kit you RP (I would upload CAD to thingyverse, etc).and assemble yourself?
b. kit supplied with injection moulded parts and all included?
c. off the shelf / online hobby shop?
thanks. just curious to know what people think =) I might do one or more of the above in time.
Printing the plastic bits myself, but you sending all the non-printable parts: $10.
Injection Molded Plastic kit with all parts: $15.
Hobby store: Naaaaah. Online is where it is at.

Shipping would be the biggest killer I think that is why I would just like the CAD model to print out myself, and i'll suss out the details with other bits and bobs I got laying around.
Hey Jude (author)  Spokehedz1 year ago
OK cool - good to know.

To be honest I'm sure that would be cost price at $15, given a servo on ebay is about $7 at least, possibly more.... so you see my point for making this an Instructable and not a Kickstarter! You are right - postage is killer. Tricky, the will is there, but not the money to even break even at $10 I'm afraid.

However, may main motivation for doing this was to get people hands-on with different materials. I'm happy to release the CAD when I finish it and will document how and why I made certain feature on the model. I would have found this more exciting than modelling a Mouse at Uni in CAD to be honest, so hope it might get used as a simple teaching aid, or whatever?

Going back to sales - perhaps I guess I could put a fill kit on Tindie?(
for anyone who really wanted to just make it that way - or more likely buy it for a gift.

Let me know if you (or anyone reading this) have any other good ideas.

Thanks for your thoughts. Much appreciated. Jude
Well I don't know what RP is, but I would probably pay fifteen-twenty for a kit and maybe thirty for a fully assembled unit.
Hey Jude (author)  mrmerino1 year ago
Sorry, should stop doing that!
RP = Rapid Prototype - as in 3D Print or something similar....
Thanks for the comment. Interesting to know.
Congratulations on your UP win! Enjoy your 3D printer mate!
Hey Jude (author)  technovative1 year ago
Hey - thanks a lot. Am actually working a new one right now. It's tricky (for me - hopefully not for others!).

I did a 'simple' one to relax:

Got any new stuff cooking yourself?
I saw your boot carrier, that's clever.

I will have a new Ible up soon. I recently got my first RasPi and I have an idea for a li-ion battery/power supply/charger circuit for it that I will be sharing.
Hey Jude (author)  technovative1 year ago
Thanks - glad you thought it was clever and not blindingly obvious =)

I guess it's nice to mix up the super-complex with the supe-simple.

Really looking forward to seeing the charge circuit - I don't know much electronics, but am learning - so would love to see this. email me when you post it!

Jayefuu1 year ago
Hey Jude!
Excellent instructable, I'm definitely going to make one of these. I like your ABS guide, can you recommend somewhere in the UK I can get some A4 sheets of the plastic you used?

Also, you might like to check out Randofo's handy guide to making a servo continuous.
Hey Jude (author)  Jayefuu1 year ago
Hey Jayefuu,
Thanks for the support and enthusiasm - would love to see a result!
I put a Materials page on my website for such an occasion:

Though if you want larger quantities and have a business account, RS Components a better value in bulk.

Thanks for the servo guide, I followed a similar process myself. Thought I worked with a friend on a way to use the Potentiometer (that you removed) as a speed controller for the Solder Buddy....

...Stay tuned for Marke II.
Nicapizza1 year ago
Ok thanks. I made this for invention convention, and it took about 5 months, and I don't ant someone to steel my hard work.

It is encased in a glasses case and has a heating element from an old soldering iron and I guide tube coming out. When a small rubber wheel turns, it uses the same principle of yours to push the solder onto the heated tip. It opens and you can see the innards. The drive mech is a heavily modified servo with some rubber lego wheels for the pushing mechanism. It was designed so I could solder with one hand. It uses 2 AA batteries. Any questions, please ask. I'll post an 'ible soon.

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Hey Jude (author)  Nicapizza1 year ago
Hi Nick,

As for your great work - it seems many of us have had similar frustrations. Following my Solder Buddy post a while ago, I had a nice comment from tgferreira184 - who it turns out has also made a great version of solder feeder (it's manual, not automated). But also uses a brake cable - but not in the same way to create an electrical circuit as I have. Check it out:

Your version actually seems to be a combination of mine / Macobt's work and tgferreira184. Though I would still we might both benefit from Macobt's electronics, as they are clever and I will try them myself.

I had wondered about how to create a solder gun (like a glue-gun) myself, but had trouble in managing the flow of solder. This would be the 'challenge' for me - perhaps you can have a go as well and we'll see which works best?

I think it's exciting to explore this global community of development of ideas. Thanks for sharing.


PS - Not sure if you intended to direct message me these pictures or post them for everyone to see. Just thought I'd say. Otherwise - thanks for sharing with the Instructables community - Looks cool!
I haven't tested this yet, but I think it will work. I'll share my findings!
Before I posted the pics, my mother started freaking out that someone would see them and try to make their own. I replied "Yes mom, it's called open source!" I meant to share them to all and I hope others try to replicate/improve my design.

Also, what specifically dos your l
Oops.. acidentially hit post without finishing. I was wondering what your line of work involves and what exactly a design engineer does? I like the design aspect of engineering but it does not seem as hands on and does not involve as much of the actual building as I would like.

Hey Jude (author)  Nicapizza1 year ago
Hi Nick,

I'd say respectfully that you probably have more to gain by sharing your ideas with the diverse community that is Instructables. Having even been through the Patent process, I can say that you need not rush into over-protecting your ideas just yet, as often they require more work than one expects (and is pretty expensive) But then again - who am I to lecture you, with only a few years more experience!!

I can say from my 4 years study + 4 years work, that engineering is hugely hands-on and staggeringly diverse. I have worked on a range of things you can see at If you click on 'contact' you are welcome to email me any questions, should you wish. I'd rather not publicly talk about the design company I work for, but as you will see, it's a cool place to work.

Nice work. Keep on inventing... I'm sure it'll pay off one way or another,

PS - Please be safe with your experiments. Let your parents know your plans/experiments. I've had a few near-misses with electricity/sharp things/etc. and I assure you it's sobering. Sorry to be a bore.
Nicapizza1 year ago
First, congrats!!!

I made something very similar to this for my invention convention this year. Instead, it used a case with an old soldering iron and the solder spool inside. When a button was pressed, the solder is pushed between 2 similar rubber wheels through a tube and onto a heated tip, allowing one to solder with one hand.

If you are intersted, I'd be glad to post some pics or even make a guide on it!

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