This is a kit that will allow you to do many soldering tasks in the field, cost about $8.00, and it all fits in an Altoids tin! I've used this same set of stuff for years now and was inspired to share it based on a recent instructable on soldering (an outstanding one). This instructable goes one step further in building a portable helping hand, solder dispenser, and assembling all the other tools that you will need to get things done in the field.
Let me add at this point I know this not the best way to solder and this method has its limitations. It is however the best way to fix surveillance equipment at 3 a.m., in the back of a van, in the dark. I can testify to that. Good times. I was a tech for an undercover narcotics unit for five years and this method came through for me many times.
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Step 1: Building the Dispenser
I hate having to carry a whole spool of solder into the field. When I first started having a need to do these tasks in the field I would just cut off a couple of feet and throw it in the bag. It soon became a tangled mess. So I came up with this. You will need:
1 ink pen (metal tiped is the best)
2 feet of thin solder
First take the pen apart and cut it down so it fits in the tin. Next wrap the solder around the ink cartridge that you just removed from the pen. Pull the solder off the pen and insert it into the portion of the pen that you have retained. Cap off the end with the pen cap or whatever you have. I got a ton of these little platic caps (shown in the picture) someplace that are my favorite. I like the metal tips the best because they don't melt if you use this with a regular iron. The result is a compact solder dispenser! I'm always amazed just how much solder you can fit in one of these suckers.
Step 2: Helping Hand
If you've soldered much you know that this is necessary. There isn't much to instruct on here. There have been many instructables on making these but, this one folds flat. This is how I built mine. Very simple. Heavy gauge copper wire with an alligator clip. Very easy to use, just bend the clip up over the base. (picture in a moment)
Step 3: Rounding Out the Kit
You will some additional things to complete the kit:
1 nail clippers (great foldable small gauge wire cutter)
various lengths and diameters of heatshrink tubing
The nail clippers are the cheapest and most compact flush wire cutters that you can buy. After 9/11 I was in a surveillance engeniering class and they took all my tools for the course at the gate at the airport. A nice aiport cop held them for me but, I was still without tools for the course. A quick trip to wally world yielded a cheap multi tool and nail clippers for $6. I've been a fan ever since.
Step 4: Using the Kit
First you have to twist the wires to be connected together. A good eletrical connetion is impartaive before you can solder. Next place the connection in the helping hand. I like to wrap the solder around the connection prior to heating. This makes the heating process very easy in the field and yields a great distribution of solder over the joint. Fold the joint over and heat shrink it. I couldn't have done it better in the shop.
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