Introduction: Pocket Sized Soldering Kit (Cold Heat Hack)

Picture of Pocket Sized Soldering Kit (Cold Heat Hack)

It's the final two minutes of the best football game of the season, your team is up by seven and the opposition has the ball on your 10 yard line. The football is hiked, and as instantly as the ball leaves the centers hands, the TV looses power due to that loose wire you have been putting off fixing for months. Even worse, your regular soldering setup is all the way in the basement and will take too long to retrieve. What do you do?

Luckily for you, you have followed this instructable, and created the most useful tool package of all time, and even better, it is small enough to fit in your pocket, specifically, the pocket of the pants you are wearing right now. With a minute to go, the TV is up and running and your team has intercepted the ball. Way to go.

Sound like a situation you would like to avoid or a solution you would like to have on you at all times? Good, read on.

This instructable will document the steps necessary to modify and fit every tool and useful accessory required for an emergency soldering job in the hacker-essential, pocket-sized, minty-smelling, Altoids tin container.

Within one tin, you will be able to fit:
One Cold Heat soldering iron with two extra batteries and a spare tip (hardware store)
One clip anywhere helping hand (hardware store)
Several inches of multiple sized heat-shrink tubing (hardware store)
Several feet of electrical tape (hardware store)
Cable ties (hardware store)
Flexible standing light and laser pointer (because it's not worth doing if it doesn't have lasers) (pharmacy; tool aisle)
Small Phillips and flat head screwdriver (hardware store)
Small Wire stripper and cutter (electronic or hardware store)

This instructable will feature:
Hack your Cold Heat soldering iron
Hack your alligator clip wire leads
Hack your Strippers
The Rest
Pack your box
Video on Final Page *coming soon*

Step 1: Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (1 - Disassemble)

Picture of Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (1 - Disassemble)

Contrary to popular belief, this Johnny 5 is meant to be disassembled.

For this step you will need the following parts:
Cold Heat Soldering Iron ($19.99 from a hardware store)
Two CR2 Lithium-Ion batteries ($9.99 from your film processing/prescription providing superstore)
Short length of thin gage wire (24 or smaller)
Electrical Tape
Altoids Smalls box

And the following tools:
Soldering Iron
Small Phillips screwdriver
Wire cutter and/or stripper
Dremel with standard accessories

First and foremost, in the words of Norm Abram, "Before we use any power tools, let's take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these - safety glasses." What good is a mini soldering iron if you have no eyes?

Begin by disassembling your cold heat soldering iron (CHSI). Even though I will post photos of my iron, it is recommended that you photograph your CHSI before cutting any wires or removing any components. This way, if your CHSI differs from the example, you will be able to track the changes later when you discover the differences.

Remove the screws holding the CHSI together, including the screw accessed from the battery compartment holding the blue grip to the housing. Separate the two halves of the unit, and observe. You will note the tip apparatus in the front of the unit, several wires running to the back circuit board, battery terminals, a switch, and a few LED's. All of these parts will be saved and reused, so as you remove them, place them in your handy pocket sized Altoids tin screw organizer that will soon become the case for this project. To remove the wires from beneath the fused plastic fastening method chosen by the manufacturer, use an X-acto knife. To avoid cutting the wires, hold the knife at an angle, and pull the wires behind the blade before applying pressure (see photo below). You will find a few more screws holding the tip in place, remove these and remove the internal components in one piece.

Step 2: Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (2 - Dremel)

Picture of Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (2 - Dremel)

With your CHSI components to the side, it is time to make the housing. Quickly eat all of the Altoids that are in the way of completing this project contained in the Altoids Smalls container. Save room, there will be more later.

From your collection of spare parts, find the black tube that surrounded the white CHSI tip holder. If you cant find it, you may have not removed this from the white portion of the device yet. Use this to mark the diameter of hole needed to fit the the tip holder through on the outside of the box. Use the photo below for rough dimensions. Placement does not matter too much with any step, just be aware that any changes you make in dimensions will need to be accounted for in future steps.

I do not recomend using a drill to make this hole. The drill bit will begin to penetrate the tin, then immediately bind causing abrupt rotation of the box and a rough non cylindrical hole. The correct tool for this job is a Dremel with a cutting wheel and a grinding stone. These accessories come standard with most Dremels, and are, in my opinion, the only useful tools for a Dremel. Cut the hole and a groove for the switch on the side. Note, you will probably need to cut an arc out of the lid where the lid mates with the hole (refer to photos for clarification). You will also need to cut a flap on the bottom. This flap will be used to bend into the case and hold the batteries in place. Use the batteries as a marking gauge. In the photo, three sides are cut, and the fourth side, closest to the center, is only marked with a sharpie.

Step 3: Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (3 - Modify)

Picture of Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (3 - Modify)

With your case modified and your components removed, it is time to make modifications and integrate the parts. First, scuff the inside wall (opening side, not hinged side) of the tin where the batteries will be installed. I chose the right side. Place the battery terminal designed for both positive and negative on this wall, heat it up, and solder the battery terminals to the wall. Since the tin is essentially a large heat sink, it will take a lot of heat to get the solder to stick to the wall as well as the terminal. Again, refer to the photos for dimensions. With this in place, cover the entire interior of the case with tape. The tin is conductive, and these batteries have a lot of energy in them. If you do not tape the walls, you could complete the circuit, drain the battery, and create a potential fire hazard. Do not be scared of this, just respect the power of the batteries and be safe.

Next remove the positive terminal (no spring) from the LED, and connect the red wire directly to the LED. At this time, you can shorten all of the cables as much as you want for packing convenience. It is not necessary, but it is recommended.

Add a short length of wire to the LED terminal with the red wire to attach to the just removed positive terminal. You will also need to solder a wire from this same junction to the center tab on the CHSI tip holder (thick yellow wire in image).

Replace the center terminal wire from the switch with a longer wire, and attach this to the negative battery terminal (with spring). Cover all exposed metal with electrical tape, tape the white LED (near the tip) to the tip so the light shines through the hole in the case for the tip, and cover the circuit board with tape. Attach the red LED to the tape covered circuit board, and stuff everything into the case as shown below. You may need to tape or epoxy the switch in place depending on how your installation worked out. It is possible to use just tape and friction from the wires, but use adhesive if you are looking for a more permanent fix.

You are now done with the Cold Heat Soldering Iron hack.

Step 4: Hack Your Alligator Wire Clip Leads

Picture of Hack Your Alligator Wire Clip Leads

Tools Required:
Soldering iron
Wire cutters

Parts Required:
Solid core stiff wire - 3"
alligator clips

This is a simple step. Take one perfectly good alligator clip wire lead, remove the alligator clips from the wire and discard the wire, remove the covers from the clips, and solder a short length of solid core wire to each clip to act as a supportive but flexible connector between the clips.

To use this tool, clip one gator to a fixed object, and use the other to hold a wire while you solder.

Step 5: Hack Your Strippers

Picture of Hack Your Strippers

I found a small yellow wire stripper at the local electronic depot that seemed difficult to operate and more or less useless, except for its size. This wire stripper is not to be used as your every day stripper, but in a pinch, it will work wonders. If there were ever a place to store such a wire stripper, a small form factor, emergency use soldering kit is it.

This modification is simple. Cut off as much of the stripper as possible leaving only the mouth section of the tool with the scalloped top side and razor bottom side.

Step 6: The Rest

Picture of The Rest

So now we finish the preparation for the pocket soldering station. Here, we will modify the tape, heat shrink tubing (HST), cable ties, wire, solder, and spare batteries.

Take one length of larger diameter (.25") HST and three lengths of small diameter (.125") HST, and insert the three lengths of small tube into the large tube. Cut this assembly into lengths the width of the box (hinge to unhinged side) and put them aside. You can refer to this step to create more HST bundles at any time.

Take another piece of HST, cut a larger than tape width section, and unroll a foot or two of electrical tape. Wrap this tape around the HST, and continue to roll until the tape is coiled. The goal is to make a smaller inner diameter tape roll, so HST is not required, but you should have some around from the last step. Put this aside.

Gather five to ten 5" cable ties, and trim the ends off where the ribbed section meets the smooth section. Place these to the side.

Next cut a foot of a few different color lengths of wire, as well as a foot of solder. Coil these into flat coils and hold them to the side for later.

Last, wrap each of the two spare batteries with tape over the terminals, and put these to the side.

To prepare for the next step, obtain all objects to be packed in the case including the flashlight and batteries mentioned only in the first step.

Step 7: Pack Your Box

Picture of Pack Your Box

Now that your helping hand and CHSI are complete, they can be packed into the main Altoids housing.

Gather together:
Hacked CHSI
Helping hand
Heat shrink tubing
Hacked Wire cutters
Small screwdriver, multi tip or other
Small electrical tape
Solder coil
Wire coil
Spare batteries
Flashlight w/ laser

Start by inserting the CHSI into the case such that the aspect ratio of the small box matches that of the large box. If it doesn't fit, press the internal components further into the box, or remove the tip.

Place the flashlight in the case so it is parallel to the long side of the box and perpendicular to and covering the CHSI tip.

Place the cable ties and helping hand on top of the light.

Insert the batteries perpendicular to this light at the end of the container.

Insert all other components however they fit best. If done right, the container should close with no issue, and stay shut on it's own. If needed, wrap the container in electrical tape to ensure closure.

Finally, place this in your pocket. You will not need it until you forget this final step.


TheAntiHeroHimself (author)2011-01-10

You added HST, but nothing to shrink it. Wouldn't it need a lighter?

kannanstark53 (author)2011-01-10

hi this is cool man

i like it man.


tzq33tdq (author)2010-09-07

i think this is a great instructable!!!

threewheela (author)2010-08-07

great ible. but im gonna have to make an iron in a can with some old school iron because i could never get my cold heat one hot enough to melt any solder :(

capn_midnight (author)2009-07-20

Your sentence, "Hack your alligator clip wire leads (or crocodile clip leads for those of you in FL)" makes no sense. Florida has alligators, not crocodiles.

Paki7491 (author)capn_midnight2009-09-23

actually, in south Florida, we have both. The everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles live in the same place.

agis68 (author)capn_midnight2009-07-23

technicalities my friend! ;)))

capn_midnight (author)agis682009-07-23

Uhm, I hope you can appreciate the value of paying the utmost attention to "technicalities" when dealing with basically anything related to the purpose of this site. I'm just saying, taking a laissez faire approach to technicalities is how one gets a 120V surprise.

Javin007 (author)capn_midnight2009-07-27

You know what REALLY "makes no sense?" Your statement that "Florida has alligators, not crocodiles." Yes, Florida has alligators TOO, but it also happens to be the only place in the U.S. that HAS CROCODILES. The Florida crocodiles are estimated to be some 400-500 and are on the rise. I find your whole "You shouldn't say crocodile clips instead of alligator clips YER JOKE ISN TEH FUNNAY" to not only be asinine, and pointless, but you're also "technically" wrong. Despite his statement being an obvious joke that you, for whatever reason, decided to get your panties in a twist over, his statement was also "technically" correct. You didn't do your homework and decided to jump on him for his correct and tongue-in-cheek joke. I won't even get into the fact that you then go on to suggest that by his joke (allegedly) being incorrect that this could equate to someone getting electrocuted. Are you for real?

Javin007 (author)Javin0072009-07-27

Ah, I stand corrected... Their numbers are now in the thousands, and they're being considered for removal from the endangered species list according to National Geographic and the NPR.

agis68 (author)Javin0072009-07-28

HAHAAHAHAHAHA.........excellent risponce dude

FunkNattidelic (author)agis682009-09-15

So much for "i dont have bad language" eh?

agis68 (author)FunkNattidelic2009-09-16


agis68 (author)capn_midnight2009-07-28

OK maybe u have right but any other site than here, go to and say this and then i will agree with u 150% but here no. Focus on the job, the spirit and the gnessis of this idea coming project. And don't spoil the spirit of any member here. They deserve the best, and from us looki an advice and some claps, to aplause their job, else u remember me the guy who was looking the tree and was forgot all the f.... forest. Iam not bitter in my feelings or havi bad language but that's the spirit of go to the MIt forums...and make yourself feel better;)))

iculus (author)capn_midnight2009-07-20

I suppose I got this wrong. I think I had begun typing one thing, edited it, and forgot to run the coherence checker.

mettaurlover (author)iculus2009-07-21

they have a coherence checker?

Rimwulf (author)mettaurlover2009-07-23
mettaurlover (author)Rimwulf2009-07-23


qballcat (author)mettaurlover2009-07-22

yup, and someone wrote gullible at the top of this ible'

mettaurlover (author)qballcat2009-07-22

no; i was just wondering cause it would be nice if they did, in fact, have one.

qballcat (author)mettaurlover2009-07-22

oh, lolz

arduinoe (author)capn_midnight2009-07-23

meh , there both big , long and dnagerous , this reminds me of something...

bustedit (author)capn_midnight2009-07-20

i think he was being politically correct so as not to insult the alligators. you wasted your time arguing semantics, and i just wasted time replying to you.

Colonel88 (author)2009-09-21

Lol you had me laughing at "Hack your Strippers" no offense.

WarSaw (author)2009-08-30

awesome intro

Arbitror (author)2009-07-23

I really hated the Coldheat... The brittle tips kept breaking, and I couldn't do micro soldering easily...

static (author)Arbitror2009-07-30

II find the cold heat unit a dissapointing purchase myself. I had one of these when I was doing a lot repairs in the field. I loved it but, it looks like inflation occurred in the mean time, and they where a boring gray color back then.

struckbyanarrow (author)static2009-07-31

i got a WELLER butane soldering iron for 15 bucks at home depot and i love

static (author)struckbyanarrow2009-08-12

I have been eyeballing those. I like the Wahl because it was quick to come up to operating temp.Also quich to cool down so so worries about melting any plastic in came in contact with after putting it in the tool box.

albylovesscience (author)2009-08-09

so how good does that cold heat soldering iron work does it do as much as a regular soldering iron

iculus (author)2009-07-31

This note is in reference to the two posts below should they still be there when this is read: The Cold Heat Soldering Iron and the wire strippers used in this instructable are less than ideal. They are finicky, brittle, the wrong tool, and underpowered. This said, they were used in the making of this instructable, and are only intended to be used in a pinch, where small size and convenience are more valuable than user friendly operation and frustration free work. I do not recommend either of these tools for your everyday toolbox.

arjo (author)iculus2009-08-01

yeah yeah i know, no diss intended.

just letting the folks know of a useful purpose of the tool intended and how to use it properly or an alternative with broader uses

*peace* bro :-D

iculus (author)arjo2009-08-03

No diss taken, I agree with you.

arjo (author)2009-07-27

just a point on those wire strippers. they suck pretty bad for normal wire, but they're designed for removing the outer layer of insulation from coax or multicore wire such as cat5. the plastic bracket applys just enough force to cut most of the way through the outer layer so it can be easily removed with a bend and a yank. personally id be looking for somthing like some fold-out scissors from a sewing kit. that covers you for all manner of stripping, cutting and gouging, all sure to be useful in an emergency. look around for a good set tho, there are some very bad examples that will only make you cuss and or hurt your fingers. a better pair wont be much easier to use (teensy tools in man-size hands never are), but at least will work.

iculus (author)arjo2009-07-31

Fold out scissors would be a great improvement in the future. I will have to look around. I used the wire strippers to do all of the wire stripping seen above, and had a tough (but successful) time with them.

Javin007 (author)2009-07-27

Iculus: Great 'ible, and I'm sorry I didn't manage to see it previously. (Glad you're in the finalists stage, and good luck in the judging!) I think I may have to actually do exactly this with my cold heat gun. Currently, my "soldering kit" consists of a shoe box with a bunch of crap in it. The other day I needed to do a quick and simple solder job to test a hobby engine and ended up having to pull everything out and make a wreck of my table. This is just brilliant.

Skittles22 (author)2009-07-25

Such an awesome idea, so cool!

1up (author)2009-07-20

With all these awesome pocket-sized entrys, I'm running out of pockets to put them all in! :D Nice Instructable.

adamvan2000 (author)1up2009-07-23

*cough*cargopants*cough* ;O) ~adamvan2000

iculus (author)1up2009-07-21


isaac gs0 (author)2009-07-20

I love this idea, its great. I am always taking a bag of computer parts or electronics with me where ever I go along with the tools to work on them now i will be able to solder them while on the go. The only thing i see in this that i don't agree with is wrapping the shrink tube in electrical tape, that tape tends to leave a real sticky residue. Great ins

iculus (author)isaac gs02009-07-20

The piece of heat shrink tubing wrapped with tape is designed to be sacrificial and is only used as a smaller diameter tape core. The remaining pieces of tubing should remain un-taped, to prevent exactly what you are describing. Sticky tubing would be terrible.

Rimwulf (author)iculus2009-07-23

Stop using electric tape and try masking tape no residue. unless you had plans on using the black tape. (author)isaac gs02009-07-20

you could just as easily use a toothpick, or straw, or what have you...that piece of heat shrink used as the e-tape core is no longer meant to be used as heat shrink, although in an emergency you still could. he used it because he had some left over from cutting the rest of the heat shrink down to size. the only function it serves is to make a smaller core for the e-tape included in the kit.

wwlaveck (author)2009-07-23

I too have tried to use a ColdHeat iron. You have to keep both sides of the split tip touch metal or wire for the iron to heat up and that is not always easy to do. As soon as the tip loses contact the iron is cold. The small battery irons work much better and I think mine only takes 15 seconds to heat up. But you can't put it in your pocket just after using it. However, I never felt the need to carry a soldering iron in my pocket and I am smart enough not to touch the tip of a hot iron.

Esmagamus (author)2009-07-23

And after you've fixed the wire the hard way (the quick way would be having some wago clips and a wire stripper), you pack everything, anxious to get back to your game and put shove the hot soldering iron in your pocket!

MITSeaPerch (author)Esmagamus2009-07-23

It's a dangerous situation, this is why this uses the cold heat iron, so it cools off before you can even get it in your pocket.

tongpu (author)2009-07-23

First off: this is £€@¥ing amazing!
Second: I'm just wearing underwear, what pocket will I fit it in...


arduinoe (author)tongpu2009-07-23

make sure its not on , oh and customs might get a bit funny if you have a soldering iron up uz a**

notveryreal (author)2009-07-20

I heard cold heat soldering wasn't good, compared to the old standby.. :/

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