Harvesting Surface-Mount Components




Introduction: Harvesting Surface-Mount Components

There are some things you should just never, never, do...

As a kid I used to take apart old TVs and Radios and cut out the discrete components. These were all what would be considered 'through-hole' components, but some were not even used on circuit boards but were part of a metal chassis piece of electrical equipment with point-to-point wiring.

It was really easy to pull components out of those old sets, it just took a pair of wire cutters!

Now we have densely packed circuit boards and now even surface mount components. Here is a way to 'harvest' surface-mount components....

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

You will need:

- 1. A cardboard box

- 2. A Popsicle stick

- 3. A butane Lighter, or propane torch

-4. The circuit board you want to get surface mount devices off of.

(In my example an LED off the board)

Step 2: Apply the HEAT!

Select the component you want to 'harvest' and fire up the lighter or torch! You need to apply heat only for as long as it takes to liquify the solder. Make sure you have removed any through-hole components or other flammable devices/items from the side you are applying the flame so that you don't get a flare-up and a large fire.


Step 3: Give It a Flick

When the solder has softened and liquified, take the popsicle stick and give the component a nudge or even a flick to get it off of its solder pads. The cardboard box is to catch your liberated component.

Step 4: Congratulations!

Congratulations you have successfully harvested your SMD component!

Now you can use it in your new project!



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19 Discussions

and what about resoldering back? with hot gun? iron? what temperature?

The instructable I've posted is for those who don't have the nice equipment. Even a heat gun may be out of reach to some of us. This is the 'down and dirty' way to get your hands on some SMD components to experiment with. By all means if you have a heat gun or hot air desoldering station you don't need to read this instructable. Thanks!

I prefer using a hot air gun. The components literally slide off the board and no danger of fires or noxious fumes.

4 replies

Can you tell us more about how you do that? Do you apply heat to the top or bottom?

Obviously with surface mounted components, to the component side, that's where the solder is. Simply apply heat until they slide off the board with a wipe.

I wouldn't think you could use a hot air gun without cooking the PCB board and making it release fumes. Avoiding fumes would be a major advantage. Those fumes can be nasty.

Well obviously you've never tried it. I base my comments on facts and personal findings, not what I assume would happen.
We're talking about "Harvesting" components, what condition the PCB is in afterwards doesn't matter. However, the PCB suffers no harm whatsoever.

As for "nasty fumes" I can't say I've ever experienced any except perhaps after a heavy night out. My workbench and workshop is well ventilated anyway. Perhaps you could explain exactly where and how these naughty fumes originate. For someone who's never tried it you seem to know a lot regarding the practice. Surely they couldn't be any worse than the smoke generated whilst soldering. I've been soldering for just on 58 years and it hasn't had any effect on me so far.

So kindly refrain from making wild assumptions and making me out to be a liar. I have never "Cooked" a PCB, simply heated it enough to melt solder. I leave the cooking to my wife. :-)

I have been using this technique professionally for years in board repairs where we can only recycle components from old boards.

I use low melting point solder and a temp controlled iron. Flow a blob of LMP solder on each side/end of the component - experiment to find temp that is just enough but doesn't melt the chip. Turn the temp up about 20C and then you do a little dance with the iron alternating quickly from one blob to the other and the chip just floats off. Flick to one side with the iron or a small paintbrush. The use de-solder wick if req. to remove any surplus.

This method might work for a single device, but if you want to salvage several devices from a board, solderwick or a heat gun will probably be a better choice. Personally, I love SMDs. They're the way of the future.

I don't use SMD. I have my reasons. Too many to adequately explain here. Landfill that trash!

4 replies

SMDs are the bane of experimenters. Just think of how many more people would be building their own circuits if SMDs didn't exist. May they forever fry their little hearts out!

I 1/2 agree / 1/2 disagree.. It depends on the device.. I've dong the lighter/butane torch harvesting of both SMD & through-hole.. The drawbacks

are not having anything to solder the harvested SMD to. None of the hobby boards, except for a choice few, and Very expensive suppliers, are what the hobbyists are looking for.. But, by the same token, You run into something you need a replacement part for. In my case, I had the top of the reset button of a Parallax 'Homework' board (Basic Stamp-II all SMD) fall apart, and trying to replace the reset switch with a through-hole switch with the leads bent outward. I managed to find a usable switch on an old TV remote that had all SMD momentary contact switches.. The fun from there, was tweaking a hot-plate enough to get it to melt the solder, without scorching the board.

Though, I have to admit, SMD LED's, are no fun unless they're the >=1W version.) It's like picking grains of salt off a board, and if your vision is as weak as mine now (52, wearing 2.75X reading glasses) that's painful!

Hell, your vision is good... 62 wearing 3x, when working on something like this, I put a second pair of same....I saw an advertisement for 1600 times, think I'll Google it and buy a pair, might be a little extreme though.... Go to a hobby shop, some carry a headstrap w/changeable añd sometimes coupled swing out magnifiers.... lata,
Your's in CHRIST'S HOLY name!
Have a Blessed life !!!!
Ronald W. Spears

Certainly one of my reasons is the difficulties in working with SMD. It is sure tough to plug the little buggers into solderless breadboard for instance, or attach a test lead to one, in order to see what it is up to.

It's better to use a [small] solder bath, just like the circuit board manufacturers use when they flow-solder all of the components onto the circuit boards. Just make a small solder bath and hack the circuit board [with all of the components on it that you want] down until it's small enough to fit into the bath.

2 replies

There is indeed nothing like the wet heat transfer of liquid solder. I have a 5 pound solder pot I use for parts reclamation. When I put a board with some surface mount parts on top of that, those parts just float right off. Then I skim them off with my putty knife, and throw them all away. I let them cook for a while in the molten pool of lead first though. Just to make sure they're good and done.

Drawback, as I mentioned before in the previous comment, is even with a solder bath, You risk either melting the component, or scorching the board.. I'm still trying to tweak the elements from an old toaster oven, and putting the boards on a rack above the elements, to at least make the board hot enough to melt the solder, without scorching/bubbling the board itself.. I've done the blowtorch/lighter method, and it gets too brutal sometimes, even with through-hole. The drawback with the toaster over elements, is getting the thermostat to adjust to the right temp. And then you end-up with non-lead solder, which requires just a little more heat.. OH-CRAP! there smokes the board again!

Basic, yet quite useful! Thanks for sharing!