Guide to Field Soldering

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Introduction: Guide to Field Soldering

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.

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)
1 lighter
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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    241 Discussions

    Thank you so much for this. During the middle of my english exam, my calculator broke and I needed to solder some of the wires back together. I couldn't find an outlet to plug the soldering iron I keep in my backpacK into so if it weren't for you, I would have never been able to finish it! Thank you!

    4 replies

    It was probably one of those hacked calculators that you can play Gameboy games on

    Really cool instructable! I built one, but with a few changes:
    1. I didn't use a butane lighter; instead, I used a mini, normal lighter. The normal lighter didn't really effect the soldering process, it was just difficult sometimes not to burn the insulation right off the wire, or overheat something. It sure helped heat the hot glue though.
    2. I used a mini nail clipper (wire cutter).
    3. Using a mini lighter and nail clipper gave a lot of extra room, so I included a hot glue stick which can be heated with the lighter, then smeared onto the area where it's needed. It can also be used as wire connection insulation.
    4. More room was still available, so I add a small spool of various wire.
    5. I modified the (awesome) helping hands so it was basically a thick solid wire (not stranded) with aligator clips on both ends so I could clip one to the tin, and the other would be free for holding. I could probably even secure the middle of the wire down to the tin with a magnet or hot glue so both helping hands are free.--(Maybe I can put a magnet in the tin so stuff won't clink around...hmm...)
    I still have a lot of room in my tin so any more suggestions on what I can stuff in mine is welcomed.

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    1 reply

    i woke up this morning thinking what if the world went dark (no electricty) and we had to make our own electrical equipment to produce electricity/heat.. and then I was like how can we solder to make these things if there is no electricity.... i imagined it would be possible with a lighter, and I also imagined that there would be an instructable about it... and of course there is one, actually a few. and it is a pocket sized solution as well !! thank you for sharing, very nice stuff

    Read the warning label people, lol, keep away from children!!

     also adding fine grain sand paper is a good idea so that you can get a better connection

    3 replies

    Why fine grain sand paper? I'm new to the whole soldering thing and I don't quite understand. Could you please explain?

    Oh yeah, since you are new, there is another point I want to make, soldering copper wire is 50% easier than the aluminum stuff. It also holds solder better in my experience.

    1) Solder "Wick" isn't worth your money, a solder sucker IS!
    2) Don't use a 60W soldering iron, get a 90W and you'll thank me.
    3) Remember to use flux, if you don't already have flux core solder.
    (If it smokes when you solder, it contains flux, if it doesn't really smoke to much or at all, then it's flux-less.)

    And remember to put your shrink tubing on BEFORE you solder.... sounds funny to say, but you'll be surprised how many times you forget.....lol, memories!

    Even better than a 90w iron: get a soldering station with thermostat temp controll. Best thing I have ever bought!