Introduction: The Mini-Melter (now With Control Box)
This project began when I was looking at a used tealight, we use a lot of them in our house and dont necessarily always buy them from the same place. What I noticed is that some burn down totally, leaving nothing at all, while others burn through the middle leaving a wall of left over wax. This made me think it would be good to collect up these pieces of wax , melt them down and re-set them in a new candle.
It is important to note, the final design doesnt necessarily have to use candles, the heat pan will melt all sorts of material for use by hobbiests or crafters alike.
The Mini-Melter allows me to do that. It is essentially a small saucepan using recycled parts from an old set of hair straighteners, a mini camera tripod and a small tin that used to carry coffee sprinkle patterns. The final design is compact, easy to use and safe to handle. I have also included instructions for building an external control box, to house the circuit and make the continual use of the melter easier and safer.
What I appreciated most about this project is that I didnt have to buy anything. I had all the materials in the house, and once I had worked out what I needed/wanted, I simply had to locate the parts.. which leads me on to...
Step 1: Tools & Materials
So for this project I didnt actually buy anything, there was a mixture of my hoarding nature and being lucky with bolt sizes that allowed me to complete this in one sitting. Below is the list with links to the closest options to my original parts.
- x1 'Magnificent' set of travel straighteners (Magnificence is optional)
- x1 Mini-Tripod
- x1 All metal tin with lid (I used this one, look closely)
- x1 Black Electrical Tape
- x1 8mm audio cassette box (remember them ?)
- Hot glue gun
- Soldering Iron
- x2 screws with matching washers/bolts
- x1 6mm bolt (or to fit the camera fitting on the tripod)
- x1 6mm washer (to fit the above bolt)
- Insulated electrical wiring (length up to you)
and that is it !
Step 2: Obtaining the Heating Element
Assuming you have plugged the straighteners in to check they are working, unplug them and let them fully cool down. When you are ready, open them up, you need to see what you are dealing with inside, most will be the same as my example but there may be some slight differences. If you have straighteners with variable heat settings (then you have chosen straighteners too good for this project) and you will most certainly see more circuitry.
To start, you need to remove the screw at the base, where the pivot for each tong is located. It may have a cap over it to make the final product look more finished. These caps were white in my example and can be seen in the photograph.
After removing the screw found there, you need to remove any other screws to pull the casing apart. A good tip is to sometimes look under any stickers or warning labels, as often the screw heads will be deliberately concealed under them. In the example I used, I had about 8 screws to remove. The case should then open quite easily. Be careful to not damage any of the cables, as you need the circuit as intact as possible.
For this project, I needed the two heating plates and the switch circuit attached. The third picture shows the element, once I had removed it from the casing. For the power, this example had a separate connection, this allowed me to remove the 3 pin plug and its cable from the circuit, but plug it back in as needed. Once the project is finished you can wrap the circuit in gorilla tape/black tape, which will keep you from shorting out anything important with your fragile human fingers. Ideally you can house the control separately, I will show you how to do that later in this instructable. For now, clip the heating elements from the circuit board (Black wires) and put the circuit to one side.
Once you have liberated the magnificent heating element, its time to build the structure/heating pan.
Step 3: Heat Pan and Tripod
Starting with the tripod and tin in your hands, decide where you want the fixing hole to be. My tin had a seam that I didnt want to be too prominent, so I deliberately sited the tripod at that point.
While still holding it in your hands, you want to open the tripod and check the legs fold out and that the pivoting top piece (where a camera would usually be fixed) moves without any issue.
Grab your marker pen, you can remove the screw top from the tripod completely exposing a hole. Line the hole up with the side of your tin and use the pen to mark the drill point (pictured)
You want to select a drill bit that matches the screwhead you removed from the above step, it is advisable to select one size smaller, as the fit will be better if its tight as oppose to loose.
Once the hole has been drilled, you can replace the screwhead in the tripod and attach the tripod to the dish (you will want to remove the lid at this point).
Now you know you have a good fit, you need a bolt on the inside that matches your screwhead. It is a very standard sized bolt but may differ from my example, measure carefully and select the right bolt. I also used a washer between the tripod and the dish, this slightly extends the small gap between tripod and tin. This serves two purposes, the first is to allow enough room for you to replace the lid once construction is complete, the second is the additional heat layer it provides. You want your dish to be warm, but for the heat to not travel into the tripod. A washer will take care of a lot of that.
You should now have a free standing dish/tripod combo. At this point test all the 'action' out again, make sure the tripod operates as intended, and that it folds down without obstruction.
Now it is time to bring the heat !
Step 4: Fitting the Heating Element
You need to undo the bolt again and remove the dish from the tripod while we work on the electrics that will provide our heat.
In my example, the heating element was housed inside a strip of metal (pictured), that in its former life provided a safe way to transfer the heat onto strands of hair. I decided to re-use these as part of the fixing. Gently remove the heating element by sliding it out of the metal housing and put it safely to one side. We need to concentrate on the metal plates for now.
I lined the two metal pieces up either side of the fixing hole I drilled earlier, I used a marker to mark out where I wanted to place the heating plates.
I drilled a single hole in the metal plate (Pictured) and replaced the metal plates back on the underside of the tin. I then used my marker to mark where that fixing hole was in relation to the two outlines I had drawn previously.
I then drilled the based of the tin in two places to allow the fixing of the heating plates.
Using x2 small screws with matching bolts and washers (approx 3mm) I fixed the heating plates in place, but did not tighten up just yet. You can then replace the heating elements into the metal plates, twist the metal plates into a position you are happy with, and tighten up for good.
Repeat this for the second heating plate and you should be left with a dish, wired and ready for heat !
Step 5: Constructing the Control Box
Grab your audio cassette box. You want to be able to fit the circuit and the wiring inside the box and only allow the wires you are replacing to exit. The original circuit has low grade wire designed to be housed inside the original magnificent straighteners, You need to pay attention to the original black wires in the circuit, I removed these using a soldering iron and replaced them with hobby grade insulated wire. The close up images of the PCB (printed circuit board) show me replacing the black wires (thin for thick) until I had an exact copy of the original circuit , but with upgraded wiring.
Using a drill, I made the holes in the face and sides of the cassette box. Using my example, I needed a hole for the switch, the LED, the new wiring (top) and the power (bottom). Drill slowly to avoid fracturing the case. Alternative you could melt the required holes using a hot soldering iron, however be aware that melting plastic can by unpredictable, it can spit and it will also create toxic fumes, so do this step outside. It can also damage your soldering iron, so use a spare if you decide to go this route.
Once you have sized and drilled your cassette box, you can install the PCB and cabling inside. I used a hot glue gun to hold this in place. Be careful to not apply glue anywhere its not needed, or where it will interfere with the function of the circuit. With the power, you may need to glue inside and outside the cassette case, to create a nice seal.
Once the PCB and the power adaptor are glued in place, and the glue has cooled, you can feed the new wiring through the opposite end. This gives you a complete control box, once you put the box back together, You can make the box look a little more attractive by giving it a tight wrap in black tape. Be careful to make sure you do not cover your switch and LED.
When complete, you need to re-solder the the new cables back to the heating elements. I have used electrical tape to insulate the solder points at the dish end.
Step 6: Finished Construction
You now have a travel size, foldable heating pan with its own switched control box.
Step 7: Video Example (using Candle Pieces)
This step contains a short video showing pieces of candle wax being added to the heating pan and melting. This was taken prior to the control box being included in the circuit.
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