Introduction: Reclaim Wasted Solder

Picture of Reclaim Wasted Solder

Whether you're soldering copper pipe or stained glass, you will drop beads of solder onto your workstation. Over time, these droplets can accumulate. With the price of metals going up, get the most from your materials by easily reclaiming that wasted solder. Here's one way how:

Step 1: Let's Get Burning.

Picture of Let's Get Burning.

TOOLS:

-Crucible (The one pictured is graphite.)

-Crucible Tongs (Or any tongs that can hold onto the crucible safely.)

-Propane Torch

-Aluminum Foil

-Thin piece of metal or wood for making a channel mold

-Scrap Solder

Step 2: Make the Mold.

Picture of Make the Mold.

Use the rod of metal or wood to create a channel in the aluminum foil. This will be the mold into which you pour the melted solder. Pinch off both ends to prevent the solder from flowing out of the mold, off the table and onto your foot.

Step 3: Prepare the Melt .

Picture of Prepare the Melt .

Have the mold nearby. You will need it as soon as the solder is ready to pour. Put the solder scraps into the crucible.

Step 4: SAFETY WARNING!

This is about to get hot! Protect yourself with eye protection. If there is lead in the solder you are re-melting, use a fume extracting fan and mask.

Use a heat shield to protect your work surface. I used a fire brick.

Step 5: Fire and Pour.

Picture of Fire and Pour.

Solder melts at relatively low temperatures so this step will only take a minute. Aim the torch into the crucible until all solder is melted and flowing freely inside. Use the tongs to pour the solder into the mold and let it cool for an hour or two.

Step 6: Finished.

Picture of Finished.

When you are done, you will have a nice rod of solder. Mine is thick because I will use it for stained glass. If you were going to use it for copper pipe, you may want a thinner rod.

Note: Unfortunately, this process would not be effective in reclaiming rosin-core solder for electronics. The embedded flux needed for a smooth solder joint would be destroyed. You can only use this for proposes where the necessary flux can be applied separately.

Step 7: Gratuitous Photo of Fire.

Picture of Gratuitous Photo of Fire.

Playing with my camera while shooting this instructable, I couldn't pass up a shot of the cobalt blue torch flame in the dark. Enjoy!

Comments

zaphodd42 (author)2015-12-29

What kind of solder? For electronics, plumbing or stained glass? Use can re-use it, but regardless of for what, you will need to re-suply it with flux.

sir woodster (author)2015-03-01

can you melt plastic this way ?

i want to melt plastic for 3d printing so you can melt failed project`s

zaphodd42 (author)sir woodster2015-03-01

I wouldn't think so. Regardless of whether you are using ABS or PLA, both "melt" or soften at 400 to 430 degree F. Butane burns at over 2000 degrees. It would render the plastic useless. Your best bet would be to buy or make a filament maker. It recycles these plastics and reforms it into feed-able filament for 3D printing:

http://makezine.com/projects/guide-to-3d-printing-...

https://gigaom.com/2013/10/08/its-about-to-get-eas...

Good luck!!

snoopindaweb (author)2015-02-26

Can the solder chunks pulled from carpeting be reused? ~(:-})

zaphodd42 (author)snoopindaweb2015-02-26

HA! Honestly? I dont see why not! Nylon or polyester should completely incinerate in the "hell fire" of a small crucible and propane torch. Any irregular material should be left behind as slag. It's worth a shot!! Just watch out for fumes.

Tom Howbridge (author)2015-02-22

I wanted to do it with hot glue but it turns out its quite hard but I may try again !

zaphodd42 (author)Tom Howbridge2015-02-22

Remelt and reconstitute hot glue? Interesting. Allot of that goes to waste with the glue gun just sitting idle. Let me know if it works!

Tom Howbridge (author)zaphodd422015-02-22

Will do, I am Doing a restoration at the moment of a planer\jointer as this is a big project I can't put a project out on a regular basis on youtube so having a couple of projects to do inbetween would defiantly be a good idea + it will be a while until I get a motor so thanks for reminding me of a project to do
Tom.H.

mitchellguyon (author)2015-02-20

https://www.instructables.com/id/Reclaiming-Usable-...

We had similar ideas, maybe this would help with some of that slag?

zaphodd42 (author)mitchellguyon2015-02-21

Oh man! We had very similar ideas. Right down to the title. Sorry! : ) Well, it seems we're working in two very different levels of metal work. And by that I mean, yours is actual real usful metal. Well done.

ekarako (author)2015-02-19

actually what you got is molded and casted oxidized lead. soldering material usually contains an amber based mix called flux, which helps to create clean and air-sealed electric connection, it is also cleanup oily residue on both end points, you can make flux yourself and drip it but this is one of the reasons you can't use reuse this quite well, flux burns away on the first usage, and without flux soldering is gets really horrible results..

zaphodd42 (author)ekarako2015-02-19

This may be true with rosin-core solder, to which you are referring. The solder I am using for this purpose is 60/40 (tin/lead) solder. The flux you need for it is applied separately to the project before soldering, like in stained glass or copper pipe welding.

You make a good point that I was wrong to state that you could effectively reclaim solder for electronics (rosin-core). I will fix my 'ible to omit that fact. Thank you.

Wired_Mist (author)2015-02-17

Finally!, A use for all those solder puddles Embedded in my bench :D

Thanks for the share !

zaphodd42 (author)Wired_Mist2015-02-18

My pleasure!

caitlinsdad (author)2015-02-17

Any problems with reusing bits of solder that have burnt bits of flux mixed in or do you get a slag to pour off?

zaphodd42 (author)caitlinsdad2015-02-18

Great question. Yes, any oxidation and impurities stay behind. Here's a pic of what I threw out from the crucible afterword. (Next to good clean solder.) Other remintants of flux might just evaporate in the melt. Good reasons to have a fume fan and mask.

BeachsideHank (author)2015-02-18

Arguments about the economy of doing this aside, It's just plain good stewardship of planet earth, not tossing the starry bits of lead into the landfill. Bravo!

zaphodd42 (author)BeachsideHank2015-02-18

Thank you very much! The heat is so direct and intense, you can melt a years worth of solder bits with less than 60 seconds worth of propane. Well, a years worth of my solder bits at least. I'm just a hobbyist. But true, there is no "free lunch" in energy.

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Bio: I live in suburban Pennsylvania with my wife and puppy. I pass the time building robots, photographing microbes and directing live TV. I enjoy learning ... More »
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