Introduction: Make a Battery Powered Soldering Iron! in an Altoids Tin?

With this instructable, I am going to show you how to make your very own soldering iron! This entire iron can be built for less than fifteen dollars. There is no catch, and this is just as good at soldering as almost any other inexpensive iron on the market. This iron has a maximum temperature of 1050° Fahrenheit and is equivalent to a 15 watt iron. It works the same way as many other battery powered irons (like this one), but doesn't cost nearly as much.
This is also battery powered so it is portable and you can use it when there is no outlet available. I'm eventually going to put a relay in mine so it automatically turns off the battery pack, when I plug in the adapter. But for now, I'm just going to show you how to build a functional soldering iron that just works. This is not to difficult of a project so i'm sure you can get it done.
If you are going to build this you will already need to have a soldering iron so you can solder the battery holder, switches, etc. If you do not have one you could probably twist the wires together and put electrical tape around them, but I don't know how well that will work.
Disclaimer: Soldering irons can be dangerous if not used properly, do not let the hot tip touch yourself anything flammable. You can easily burn yourself or start a fire if used improperly. I am not responsible for any damage or injuries that occur. 
Now that we got that out of the way, let's head on over to the next step to show you what part's you'll need.

Step 1: Materials

All of the part's needed can be found at RadioShack and shouldn't cost any more than 15 dollars.

1. This soldering iron tip (This is what actually heats up to melt the solder. No other tips can be used besides this one, unless you are certain that it has a built in heating element.)
2. A 6 volt battery holder. This one has a built in switch so you don't need to buy one of those, but it is also big. Remember this is what you will be holding on to when you solder. I prefer to use a battery pack like this one, which is more comfortable to hold on to, but you will need to buy a separate switch. If you are buying the second one I told you about then you will also need to buy a battery clip to attach to the battery. 
3. A switch (Only if your battery pack does not include one). This is a good one if you want your iron to stay on until you turn off the switch. If you don't want the iron to be on unless you are holding down a button then go with something like this.
4. Anything to mount it in. You can use a project box if you are crafty, or just a block of wood as long as the tip doesn't touch it. I used an Altoids tin.
5. An E-10 lamp base. You can use any kind as long as it has a way to be mounted and electrically wired.
6. A soldering iron to assemble the project. If you don't have one, then you can try tying the wires together or borrow someone else's.
7. Solder for assembling and use of the iron you are building.

Step 2: Prepare to Build

Before you start building, you should probably lay out a design for you're iron. The one that I am using to show you is just a quick one that I made for the sake of this Instructable. I am currently planning a nicer one but I wanted to do this Instructable before someone else takes my ideas. I put a diagram on here to give you a basic layout on how to assemble the iron. This iron draws up to 1.7 amps so don't use any components that can't handle that. Most can though, so don't worry about it to much. I could have put a schematic on here, but since this is supposed to be an instructable that most people can understand. Try to collect all the materials that you need and see if you can find a nice enclosure for it. As you can see, I modified, and mounted components on that. What I will eventually do is to use a fancy necklace box and mount everything in there. That make it fancy, portable, and easy to change the batteries. You just flip open the cover. I'll post a picture of my started project with this enclosure. Also, if you want to make this a plug in iron, you will need to replace the battery pack with a 6 volt 1.5-2.0 amp D.C wall wart.

Step 3: Start Assembly.

If you know anything about electronics, you can do what I am going to do and modify this circuit to suit your needs. If not, don't worry, just follow the diagram that I posted. It is the simplest possible way to get this working. If you have any questions, just ask. You can post a comment or e-mail me at adammanick@gmail.com

Happy soldering!

Step 4: Troubleshooting

If you're iron doesn't work, don't worry, that's what i'm here for. There are many things that can go wrong with your iron. I'll post the most common ones below.

1. "Iron doesn't get hot but is slightly warm."     You might be using the wrong kind of batteries. The only batteries that you should use are rechargeable NiMH, alkaline, or lithium (haven't tested). I highly recommend the rechargeable NiMH even if you don't have some. Go buy some. They should be rated at 1500-2000 mAH. Don't worry, most are. This iron (as all battery powered irons) will suck up batteries, so make sure that you can recharge them. Also consider using a wall transformer.

2. "Iron isn't hot at all."     Still try replacing the batteries incase that is the problem. Try to touch the leads of the batteries to the tip directly so you can see if it get's hot. If it does then it is either a bad wiring connection, you wired your switch wrong (If your switch has 3 connections, then wire the ones that are closer together, not the ones that are on opposite sides), or you burned out your tip.  Burning out the tip is unlikely unless you cracked the heating element with too much pressure or gave it to much voltage.

3. "Batteries get hot, but tip doesn't"     You are shorting out your batteries. Take them out immediately to avoid any chemical leaks, explosion, or fire. Try to find the connection from the battery holder that is shorted out. The two leads from the battery holder can never touch. Put tape or heat shrink over your connections.

If I didn't get your question, just ask it in the comments section below. Im always checking my inbox.

Comments

author
Adam Manick (author)2012-05-01

My Instructable has been featured on hackaday.com! Im actually pretty exited about it. Heres the link.

author
Mário Césard1 (author)2016-08-09

What soldering iron tip? The links are broken. :/

author
selkkie (author)Mário Césard12016-08-10

https://www.amazon.com/RadioShack%C2%AE-GH-150-Sol...

This one, according to the Internet Archive of the link.

author
abhinaw gupta (author)2016-01-04

ita a great project but i cannot find any of the materials on radioshack
are they available a t a ebay or amazon

author
Project Upcycle (author)2016-01-02

I looked the parts on Amazon, here are the links:

Pre assembled cordless soldering iron
with light ($15): http://amzn.to/1VxvqJv


Altoids tins (12 pack):
http://amzn.to/1JQjo7c

E10 Bulb Bases (12 pack):
http://amzn.to/1VxwfC0

E10 Soldering iron head (1 pack):
http://amzn.to/1VxwHjY

4xAA battery holder (2 pack):
http://amzn.to/1Vxwugs

Momentary push button switch (6 pack):
http://amzn.to/1VxxvFf

I'm looking to build a more compact unit. Do you think a 3.7v 35A 2900mAh high drain e-cig battery could power it? 3.7 x 35 = 129.5 watts

Battery: http://amzn.to/1VxyEgb

Holder: http://amzn.to/1JQkRdW

I figure it can heat multiple coils red hot, wouldn't it have enough juice to heat up the tip sufficiently to solder?

author
LightningStrike32 (author)2015-11-01

could u give links for these things to amazon or ebay? radioshacks online store is down.

author
LorenzoB (author)2015-10-10

Hi, could i use the same circuit only instead of the battery, use a USB cpoweer supply @ 5V with 500mA? Or do i need to modify the circuit in any way? Thanks a million, anyhow! Very good and clear instructable!

author
UnMundane Arts (author)2015-10-02

Your links with pics of what each item to buy looks like are broken. ..can you fix this?

author
SubDude350 (author)2014-11-30

This is a great idea! I will be making an instructable soon about a battery powered soldering iron inspires like yours! Keep on creating and inspiring!

author
sarmadishtiaq (author)2014-08-25

Can i use it to solder wires to my micro usb cable? Working on a project and my soldering iron doesn't seem to work.

author
bergerab (author)2014-06-15

Wow, what a great idea. The final pictures actually look really sleek, probably my favorite altoids tin project!

author
dferguson10 (author)2014-02-11

Would it be possible to run a series-parallel battery pack made with 3.7 v lithiumbatteries as the power source.

author
kishore136 (author)2013-09-28

what is the tip made of??

author
broskiz (author)2012-12-21

what is the min and max power requirements for the soldering tip? along with amperage

author
Adam Manick (author)broskiz2013-07-15

From my testing, I found that the Iron will work down to 3 volts, and will safety operate up to 7.5 volts. The lower the voltage is, the lower the temperature of the iron will be. It should ideally be run anywhere from 3 to 6 volts, because that is what the tip was designed for, but if you will not be keeping it on for a long period of time, 7.5 should not be a problem. The ideal amperage is 1.5 to 2 amps. You may be able to run it at a lower amperage, but you risk stressing your power supply, or not getting sufficient heat output on the iron.

author
avella1 (author)2013-07-15

can u tell me a link from ebay.com which has this type of tip tnx

author
pkeenan1 (author)2013-04-29

Adam, great post, I even saw you got some press on the hackaday site. Nice!

I built one this weekend and had it working great on a couple sets of 3 AA batteries all weekend. (so much easier and better than my finicky butane torch iron! And more precise)

I tried using a 16 VDC wall wart, the smallest one I had laying around, and it wont heat up. In fact using more than three AAs seemed to give me problems too.

Any ideas? I wonder if the heater is somehow voltage regulated above around 6 volts. I also tried using a single 9 Volt thinking it would keep the size down, but that only lasted a few minutes before it stopped working. Perhaps some internal battery resistance challenges?

Anyway, great write up, thanks!

author
Adam Manick (author)pkeenan12013-07-15

Thanks for the compliments! Try not to supply the tip with over 6 volts to avoid shorting it out. 7.5 volts may be ok, but it can possibly shorten the life of the tip if used for extended periods of time. Also, it seems that the other power supplies you are using might not supply enough current to power the iron. Typical AAs supply around 1 amp hour of current, while a typical 9 volt battery would supply around half that. The wall wart you are using is probably not rated for at least 1.5 amps, which should be the minimum capacity for the power source for this to work properly.

author
Schoening (author)2012-09-25

I did build this now ^^

But only with 3 x 1.5V works fine though!

author
Adam Manick (author)Schoening2012-09-26

I'm glad you got it working! I hope it turns out to be use full someday.

author
Schoening (author)Adam Manick2012-09-26

Well yeah, I tried to burn some Weed with it. Works ^^ So I use it as the heating element for my vaporizer now :p

author
artifus (author)2012-08-26

why not use a switched jack socket rather than a relay to disconnect battery power when running from a wall wart? 3.5mm mono audio jack, for example.

author
Adam Manick (author)artifus2012-08-26

I was going to head over to All-elecronics to buy just that. However, I decided on using a relay for some reason. I don't remember why though. :P

author
Adam Manick (author)Adam Manick2012-08-26

Oh, I remember. I think it was because I wanted to use a relay with multiple switches, so when I plugged in the wall wart, it would also switch on a charging circuit for rechargeable batteries. I have never gotten to this point. I king of gave up on the project. I will resume soon though.

author
donmatos (author)2012-04-19

Parece mesmo bastante simples. Minha dificuldade: ponto 1 da lista de material. E como mero hobbysta, pergunto: eu poderia utilizar a ponta de um ferro de solda comum - 15 watts? E se puder, solicito orientacão de como proceder! Agradecimentos antecipados ao expert pela dica.  

author
Adam Manick (author)donmatos2012-04-19

Usted lamentablemente no se puede usar cualquier punta. Usted debe usar el de Radioshack que muestro en mi instructable. No sé de ningún otro que va a funcionar. Lo siento. La razón de esto es porque el calentador está incorporado en la punta.

(English) "You unfortunately cannot use any tip. You should use the one from Radioshack that I show in my instructable. I don't know of any other one that will work. Sorry. The reason for this is because the heater is built into the tip."

author
donmatos (author)Adam Manick2012-04-20

Ah! bom, macho, assim até eu! A ponta já pronta, é muito fácil! (Brincadeirinha, Zé). E outra coisa: eu sou brasileiro, macho, pra que aquela ruma de espanhol? Também é só onda, Zé? Agora é sério! Eu já li tanto esses instructables e comentário de vocês, inclusive o cold iron, que eu, nem que seja por osmose, já tô até sentindo no clima! Eu tenho outra pergunta. Tá preparado? Então, lá vai: você disse que a ligação da ponta "pronta" parecia com a de uma lâmpada de lanterna. Algumas das lâmpadas que ligamos na rede elétrica seguem o mesmo princípio (gostou do principio?), sendo que seu filamento aquece, antes de brilhar. Será que uma ponta de cobre não chegaria, pelo menos ao aquecimento, se a ligássemos nas suas baterias ou na rede elétrica? Não vale tirar onda! Eu tô falando sério, eu já disse que sou hobbysta, portanto, leigo. Blz. Mas só em você haver respondido, satisfez a minha curiosidade, e eu agradeço, sinceramente, pela consideração. Obrigado, mesmo.

author
TheRoyalJester (author)donmatos2012-07-30

u speak portueguese

author
Adam Manick (author)donmatos2012-04-20

I am terribly sorry, but I was not able to translate what you were saying. Is there a way that you could translate it to english?

author
donmatos (author)Adam Manick2012-04-20

Ah! Well, brother, so until I! The tip of the iron made, is very easy. (I am kidding, brother).And another thing: I'm Brazilian, man, Why buy the whole Spanish ? ate've read both these Instructables andcomments from you, including the cold iron, which, even by osmosis, I'm going into theatmosphere (beginning to understand). I have another Question Are you aware? So pay attention. You said that the binding of iron tip was similar to the binding of a flashlight bulb, SOME of the lamps that we connect the power grid follow the same principle (Like thebeginning?), And its filament heats beforeShine. Does a copper tip come in, at Least, heating, if the ligàssemos OR IN THEIRbatteries in the electric grid? Not worth takingwave! I'm serious, I said that I am hobbyist, solayman. Blz. But not until you have answered, satisfied my curiosity, and I thank sincerely forconsideration. Thank you, really. EDITING: I replace some terms by the adjective "brother", which is almost the same thing, but do not havethe same amount of sarcasm. Let's see now is a little better.

author
Adam Manick (author)donmatos2012-04-20

Desculpe sobre o espanhol. Traduz Google deu-me a linguagem errada. Se eu entender que você está questão, você está perguntando como a dica funciona e como se relaciona a uma lâmpada normal. A relação apenas a uma lâmpada normal é que ele tem o conector mesma forma. Há um elemento de aquecimento no interior da ponta, mas eu não sei o que a tecnologia é utilizada. Eu sei que tem que ser eficiente para que ele possa ser de carbono. As duas ligações estão na parte inferior da ponta e da base inteira da ponta. (English) "Sorry about the spanish. Google translate gave me the wrong language. If I understand you're question, you are asking how the tip works and how it relates to a normal light bulb. The only relation to a normal bulb is that it has the same shape connector. There is a heating element inside the tip, but I don't know what technology is used. I know that it has to be efficient so it might be carbon. The two connections are on the bottom of the tip and the entire base of the tip. 

DSC_0114.JPGDSC_0114.JPG
author
donmatos (author)Adam Manick2012-04-20

BEAUTY, I'll buy that tip. The mnha reciprocated, though, unless you have many thanks for abdais important, is not buying: it's learning to do. This is important, "very important" in addition to the exchange, another positive aspect. Although in this case, I have nothing returned, unless you many thanks for your time to have abdicated affordably. Grateful. Gratias. Thank you, very math. Greetings more.

author
donmatos (author)donmatos2012-04-20

TRADUÇÃO ALIENÍGENA, SINISTRA... VALEU GAROTO!

author
donmatos (author)Adam Manick2012-04-20

O google transformou o texto que eu digitei. O resultado você já viu: ininteligível, que nem eu mesmo entenderia. Mas eu vou traduzir, substituindo alguns termos, sem alterar o sentido e mantendo todo o texto, inclusive algumas brincadeiras que estão no início, Ok? Espera só um pouco.

author
Schoening (author)2012-07-10

Hey Man, I am Working on a SteamPunk Inspired Vaporizer, and this seems like one of my only Options for the Heat Source.

Any though on this?

I need it to be about 160 - 200 degrees CELSIUS.

Feel free to email me oliverschoening(at)hotmail.com

author
forestar (author)2012-05-10

Thanks for the design. I think I'm going to try this and have a couple of questions. You describe above how to get a hotter temperature using higher voltage.

Would this work with 1, 2 or 3 batteries and put out less heat?

author
Adam Manick (author)forestar2012-05-10

Yes! Im not sure how hot it gets under 3 volts, but for me 3 volts worked fine.

author
donmatos (author)2012-04-21

Have you seen this: http://eletronicos.hsw.uol.com.br/soldador-cold-heat1.htm It is similar to "cold heat" of Photoos (the method of welding), and also to your (the power - the batteries). Incidentally, the graffiti tip (cold heat) are isolated or make contact with the two copper strips? Thankx

author
donmatos (author)2012-04-20

Actually, I do not want to buy a soldering iron, because I already have six that EsAO defective, and I can not reattach them, because they do not understand how è made ​​CONNECTIONS coil (winding). If you can give ANY HINT ABOUT IT, it would be great. I work in public safety, higher education, and practice various hobbies (DIY away for a little xdepressão. I'm always looking for useful information, it takes me some practical knowledge: llidar with many tools and and all kinds of material: wood, metal, glass, plastic, PVC, fiber ... It works as a distraction and get several ways to help people: relatives, friends, poor members of the church

author
Tkdwn (author)2012-04-17

This is grate, and i need it, but i have one question:
Witch part here is the heater? Can you say something about the circuit?
Tnx!

author
Adam Manick (author)Tkdwn2012-04-17

The part that heats up is the tip itself. It has a built in heating element. The two connections to the heating element are on the part of the tip that looks like a flashlight bulb. Negative is on the bottom and positive is the base.

author
abuthemagician (author)2012-04-16

Could this be done with a 6v 8ah sla battery? Would there be any issues? I have a few lying around and have been trying to find a use for them...

author

Absolutely! I think that it would work great.

author
hore (author)2012-04-16

i like it.

author
blkhawk (author)2012-04-15

What do you need to do in order to make a 30 watts soldering iron? Assuming you are able to connect the soldering iron to a wall plug in or a rechargeable battery. Great Instructable by the way!

author
Adam Manick (author)blkhawk2012-04-15

Also, This is not a 15 watt iron. I't a 15 watt equivalent. That means that it gets just as hot as most 15 watt irons but does not draw as much power. This iron only draws 9-10 watts depending on your power source. On a wall wart this iron gets red hot, and this is warmer than batteries because batteries will not let it draw it's full amperage due to internal resistance. If you are looking to get this to about a 30 watt equivalent, then I would experiment with a 6 volt 2 amp wall transformer and see if that gets hot enough for you. If not move up to 7.5 volts. Can you tell me what you are trying to solder that needs a 30 watt iron? I'll test it for you and see if it works.

author
blkhawk (author)Adam Manick2012-04-15

Well, for the most part 30 watts are needed for electronic soldering. Although 15 watts would work it will take longer to melt the solder.

author
Adam Manick (author)blkhawk2012-04-15

This will work on almost anything you can throw at it. It is more powerfull than almost every other battery powered iton on the market. I wouldn't worry about solder not melting. I tested it on house wiring and lamp cord. Both worked fine.

author
blkhawk (author)Adam Manick2012-04-15

I had some reservations since I have never worked with a soldering iron less than 30 watts. I will try to replicate your project. Thank you for posting!

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