Introduction: Quick & Easy DIY Solder Pot

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If you need to tin the ends of wires, nothing beats a solder pot. The problem is a solder pot is a pretty expensive investment. You would need to have large production requirements to justify buying one. The other issue with a solder pot is that it is somewhat dangerous when it is fired up. You need to have a nice clean workspace and exercise a lot of care when using it.

To overcome these problems, I came up with this quick and easy solder pot. It has these features:
  • It doesn't require an elaborate heating element as it uses your own soldering iron for a heat source.
  • If you have a temperature controlled station, the solder pot is also temperature controlled.
  • It is just big enough to tin wires, so it is safe to use on a crowded desk.
  • As added protection, the small amount of solder quickly solidifies when done using, minimizing the chances of spilling.
You can see what it and the set-up looks like in the photos shown. The video demonstrates its use.

Here are the details:

Making it:
  • Buy a soldering iron holder or make some means of holding your soldering iron as shown in the photo.
  • Using Air-Dry Clay (you can buy it from Walmart or a craft store - it is very cheap), mold a crucible with a dent just big enough for your soldering iron tip and room enough for dipping wires.
  • Let it dry for a day or two. You now have a fully cured ceramic pot.
  • Add solder scrapings from your solder station's sponge and melt it with your heated iron. Add more solder if needed.
Usage tips:
  • For just dipping wires, you don't need to fill it to the brim. I chose to use as little solder as possible so it would heat faster and be safer in case of upset.
  • You probably need to add some solder to your iron as you hold it to the frozen slug to improve the heat transfer until it starts to melt on its own.
  • It takes a bit of time to melt. Make sure you have good thermal contact with the iron.
  • A temperature controlled station is better than a fixed rate soldering iron since it will maintain the solder pot's temperature perfectly.
  • The surface when melted should be shiny. If it isn't dross has accumulated. Simply skim a 3x5 card across the surface to remove it.
Using it:

Tin Bare Wires
Dip your wire into some flux and then dip it into the pot for a few seconds. It will come out perfectly tinned.

Tin Magnet Wire
I had some trouble getting magnet wire to tin, but finally got results. Here are some tips:
  • First make sure you have wire that uses heat sensitive coating, that is solder-able.
  • Next, crank your heat up. I found 450 degrees C worked fairly well - hotter might be even better. I don't think the solder actually reaches anywhere near the temperature indicated on the station display.
  • You don't need flux. Just hold the wire in there until it gets shiny silver (you can remove it and check it over and over again). It may take 20 seconds or so and the wire might get pretty hot to hold (use needle nose  pliers if necessary).
  • Since heat stripping the insulation is pretty slow going, dip multiple wires at the same time. That will speed things up.
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