Introduction: DIY Soldering Fume Extractor With Articulated Arm

Like many of you I love building things. For me that means that I spend a lot of time soldering. It is advised to solder in a well ventilated area because of the fumes. When simply opening a window is not an option you can try to extract as much of the solder fumes as possible by using a fume extractor.

The principle for these devices is simple: You try pass as much of the (soldering) fumes through an active carbon filter using a fan. This filters out most of the toxic fumes. What comes out is filtered air, in principle much less toxic than before.

I looked at the commercially available versions and thought: "This looks like a nice DIY project!", so I started to make a small list of requirements for the fume extractor:

  1. It should be powerful enough to work even when it is not directly next to the soldering area
  2. It should be easy to position near the soldering area

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

Required materials

This DIY fume extractor consist of the following items (Prices at time of writing):

    • 1x 120 x 120 mm 230V axial fan (X-Fan RAH1238S1-C), € 29.99
    • 1x Active carbon filter pads (TOOLCRAFT 79-7201), approx € 2.00 a piece
    • 2x 120 x 120 mm fan guards, € 3.70
    • 1x IKEA Tertial, € 8.99 (I used an old version I had laying around)
    • 8x M4, €0.80
    • 8x M4-15mm Panhead Bolts, €0.80

    To create duplicate the ON/OFF switch to a more convenient location

    • 1x On-Off Switch (Marquardt 1881.1103), € 2.10
    • 1x piece of acrylic glas
    • 1x Black spraypaint
    • Heat shrink tubbing and/or black electrical tape
    • 1x Small zip-tie

    The switch can also be replaced by a simple inline light switch, but I opted for a more clean and finished look. The grand total is around € 50,00 but most of the items can be found for a lower price online or salvaged. I had an older model IKEA Tertial laying around so it differs a little from the one shown in te picture but the principle remains the same.

    To be abundantly clear: The fan I am using is not the 12 V/DC module commonly found in computers, but a fan capable of running on 230 V/AC!

    When searching for an alternative fan, it is important to look for one that displaces at least 180 m3/h to get a decedent result. Lower displacement values require the fan to be closer to the soldering area.


    The following tools are required for creating the fume extractor and modifying the IKEA Tertial:

    • Screwdrivers
    • Pliers
    • Soldering iron
    • Iron saw (I used a Dremel, but a handsaw should work fine)
    • Scissors or an exacto knife

    To create the ON/OFF switch cover the following tools are needed:

    • Hand held Jig-saw
    • Drill and a small drill bit
    • Heatgun
    • Fine grid sandpaper

    Step 2: Safety Warning

    Before we start I want to point out the following:

    This instructable requires working with 230 V/AC which can be dangerous when handled improperly.

    When you are unsure about something, please ask an adult who is experience with working with 230 V/AC. I cannot be held accountable for any damage that may results when attempting to recreate my project.

    Stay safe:

    • Do not work on the device when it is plugged into an outlet
    • Wear the appropriate safety gear for your tool (Glasses/gloves/etc)

    Step 3: Adding the Filter and Guards to the Fan

    Alright! Lets finally start building the fume extractor.

    We will start of by cutting the Active Carbon Filter to the size of the fan. you could simply put the fan on top of the filter and cut along the fan, but I was afraid that cutting along the fan might scratch of the paint. That is why i laid down the carbon filter with the fan on the top and used some cheap masking tape to indicate where I needed to cut. Now I was able to cut the filter to size without (possibly) damaging the paint on the fan.

    Once cut to the correct size, I used a punch tool I had to make small holes in the filter so we can later attach it to the fan. This can also easily be done using a small screwdriver.

    Now that the filter is prepped, we can start assembling. We secure one of the fan guards to the front of the fan using the M4-15mm panhead bolts and nuts. The filter is sandwiched between the other fan guard and the fan, again using the M4-15mm panhead bolts and nuts.

    For the fan I bought I ran into a small problem. One of the corners had a small bulge containing the fans circuitry, which did not leaf sufficient room for the bolt. Although it is not required from a technical point of view to add a nut and bolt to this corner (fastening the three corners should suffice), aesthetically I wanted to add the fourth nut and bolt.

    To cut the bolt, I secured it in place on a scrap piece of wood using some clamps and cut of a section of the nut using a Dremel and a cut off wheel (You could also use a hand saw). As the bolt does not come under a lot of strain, so it should be fine.

    Step 4: Prepping the Articulated Arm

    As we will be mounting the fan on the articulated arm of the IKEA Tertial, we need to prep it for use.

    The first step is to cut the power wire as close as possible to the head of the IKEA Tertial and strip of the wire about 0.8 mm to show the connections. I dissembled the entire head to remove the wire as seen in the pictures, but in the end, cutting the wire close to the head would have been much easier.

    At this point, simply undo the two screws connecting the head to the articulated arm. I used one the screws to connect the arm to one on the mounting hole in the corner of the fan. I properly tightened the screw creating a firm connection between the two parts. I have used mine for quite some time and it has not come undone yet.

    Now that the arm is sorted, we are ready for the electrical work!

    Step 5: Sorting the Electronics (and Testing the Fan)

    Now that the fan extractor unit is assembled and the articulated arm prepped, we can sort out the electronics.

    The fan I bought could be wired up in two direction (sucking air in or blowing air out off the front). With the model I bought, you can simply connect 230 Volts to the wires black and yellow wire, the red wire remains unconnected. If you connect the black and red wire, than the fan will spin in the opposite direction. Always check the documentation beforehand, as the hookup scheme of an other fan may differ from mine.

    Again: The fan I am using is not the 12 V/DC module commonly found in computers, but a fan capable of running on 230 V/AC!

    When you want to use the existing ON/OFF switch of the IKEA Tertial you can simply connect the wires using screw terminals or soldering and some heat-shrink tubing. Connect the black wire of the fan to the brown or blue wire (either should work, as we are supplying a AC voltage without an DC offset) and connect the yellow wire to the remaining wire. The red wire remains unconnected and should be taped off securely. I tested it out at this point to see if the fan was spinning in the right direction. You can keep the wires connected like this and skip the next (optional) step.

    Step 6: (Optional) Adding a Custom ON/OFF Switch

    As I wanted the ON/OFF switch near the fan and wanted a nice factory finish look I used a round ON/OFF rocker switch placed in a piece of left over acrylic.

    ON/OFF switch mount

    The size depends on the size (most importantly the hight) of the rocker and the geometry of the fan. I cut out a round portion of the acrylic to fit around the curve of the fan, after which I bend the acrylic in a 90 degree angle using a heat gun. Unfortunately I got a little bit carried away and did not make a lot of pictures of this. Using a 4 mm drill and a hand-held jigsaw I cut out a hole the size of the ON/OFF rocker on the top of the piece and drilled a 4 mm hole in the cut out side to be able to attach it to one of the corners of the fan. I used a fine grid sandpaper to rough up the surface of the acrylic and some mat black paint to get a nice finished piece. Insert the ON/OFF switch in the switch mount.

    Wiring the the ON/OFF switch

    Now that it looks pretty, lets make it functional: Zip-tie the power wire of the articulated arm to the switch as strain relief and solder the brown wire to one of the pins of the ON/OFF switch. Isolate the pin and wire with a piece of heat shrink tubing. Solder the yellow wire from the fan to the other pin of the ON/OFF switch, again isolating it with a piece of heat shrink tubing. Solder and isolate the blue wire to the fans black wire. I used a short piece of heat shrink tubing to cap off the red wire and added some black electrical tape as additional isolation to make sure that everything was safe.

    Step 7: End Result

    That is it! The pictures above show the fume extractor installed in my work bench and an example of the solder fumes being sucked away from the soldering iron. To give you an idea of the distance, each square is 1 cm x 1 cm, so it is approximately 8 ~ 10 cm away from the tip of the soldering iron. I have not tested the limits exactly, but the distance in the picture is sufficiently far away to not be in the way when soldering.

    In the pictures I have it installed on the workbench using the clamp on the front but at the moment I have it fixed in a mounting hole near the back of my bench so that is is out of the way when I am not soldering.

    I have been using it for quite some time and I am trilled with its performance. It is very convenient that I can easily position it near the area that I am soldering and when I am done I can simply push back into its corner to get it out of the way.

    I hope that this instructable inspired you to create your own version. If you do, I would love to see the end result. Please post a picture below of your own version to show it off to the world!

    Future improvements

    To conclude the instructable I have added a list of possible improvements for a future version:

    1. Instead of having a nut and bolt, tap the holes in the fan to receive a larger bolt to get an even nicer finish. I wanted to do this from the start but did not have a tap available at the time.
    2. Use different size bolts on the front (shorter). They do not have to be as long and the bots used in the back.
    3. Look for a quieter fan to reduce the noise. At the moment is isn't to loud, but any reduction in sound is a good thing.
    4. Use the new black version of the IKEA Tertial, only for the looks.
    5. Perhaps add some lights, to further eluminate the piece that you are soldering.
    Workshop Hacks Challenge 2017

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