About a year ago, I needed to set up soldering stations for a "learn to Solder" class I was teaching to a group of young students. Right off the bat, I was facing a couple of challenges: 1. I didn't have enough time to order items to ship in. 2. I didn't have enough budget to purchase the sort of equipment I wanted. So, I did what any maker would do, I built my own. They worked great, everyone wanted them for their classrooms and makerspaces. I thought they were alright but I knew I could do better. So... I redesigned it and made this Instructable. This new soldering station is easy to build and it uses easily available, inexpensive or (preferably) recycled materials. I wanted to make it as simple and accessible as possible so it's not terribly fancy. I highly encourage everyone to modify hack and otherwise improve this little station. I would also love it if you shared your ideas, please include photos! I plan to build my own with holders for tools and bits and stuff!
I hope this Instructable inspires you to tinker and make, let's get started!
You will need...
.25 inch MDF or Masonite - (it should measure out to about 5.63 mm thick) Masonite is great! It's very flame resistant and typically has no adhesives thanks to it's unique manufacturing process.
A coat hanger - Unpainted bare wire.
A sponge - Just a plain dish-washing sponge, make sure it's free of soap or cleaning products.
An old computer fan - I used a Foxconn Model: PVA080G12Q. They are fairly easy to find in the computer scrap bin of your choice. The important thing (If you use the available DXF or PDFs in this Instructable) is that the screw holes measure about 70 mm apart.
Zip-ties - (several) Small enough to fit through a 4.25 mm hole. Note: I save used zip-ties in a jar above my workstation. You'll see why in a bit.
4 @ 1/4-20 Machine bolts with nuts and 2 washers each - These will be the feet for your station. I chose to use dome headed bolts. Someone suggested that I add rubber feet, I think that is a brilliant idea.
An Altoids tin - Handy for so many things, I keep a collection of assorted tins.
4 AA battery pack - (The side by side style, not the 2 on 2 style) Just the right amount of power, and just the right size for this project.
An alligator clip test lead - I save my bad leads for projects like this.
12 AWG solid core ground wire
Electric Tape or Heat shrink
A small on/off switch - I salvaged mine from an old broken toy.
Heavy duty side-cutter
A metal rod (You will use it for a winding mandrel. Dealers choice, it needs to be slightly bigger around than the hot end of your soldering iron.)
Screwdriver (for the bolts and nuts)
Needle nose pliers (Jewelers pliers if you're fancy:)
Jigsaw and drill (If you don't have access to a laser cutter or CNC)
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Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: Step 1: Making the Base.
My base is made from MDF but I prefer Masonite. Because I was trying to make it as cheaply as possible, I used MDF (It was in the scraps bin).
I have included DXF and PDF files. If you have a laser or CNC, download the DXFs and go to town. If you are using the Jigsaw and drill method, download the PDF and use it for a pattern to cut your pieces out. When they are done, move on to step 2.
Step 2: Putting the Fan Together.
So... you know how you use zip ties, and then you need to cut them off, and then you throw them away? Well, stop throwing them away. I keep the heads from my old zip ties and I use them like rivets. That's how we will be using them on this section of our build.
Get your fan, the front and back panels you made, your zip ties, the battery pack, and that double sided tape.
You will need to solder your battery pack to the fan. Yes, I know... it's a 12 volt fan and only a six volt battery pack. For this application, six volts will do nicely. Solder your negatives together and use heat shrink or electrical tape to insulate the bare wire. Now, place your positive wires through the hole in the face piece that receives the switch. Solder your switch in place, one wire to an outside leg and one wire to the center leg. That will let you use the switch to break the circuit when you want to turn the fan off.
Now, take your zip tie and thread the end through its own head and pull it tight. This is now your zip tie rivet. I use these on lots of projects. They take the place of more expensive or hard to find hardware and they are cheaply and easily replaced if the need arises.
Take the double sided tape and secure your battery pack to the back panel (See picture).
Now, have a mint.
Step 3: Make the Base
Use your 12 AWG solid core wire to make a pair of helping hands.
Cut the wire into two 12" pieces. Strip the end of the wire about 1 cm back. Now, take the alligator clips from your old test leads and solder them to the stripped end of your 12 AWG wire. At the opposite end of your wire, use needle nose pliers to make a small loop, about 1/4 inch across. Use the 1/4 20 bolts and nuts to secure your wire to your base. If you are left handed, the opening for mint tin will be on the left, and right is right:)
Next: Cut about a 9 inch piece of coat hanger wire. Use a metal rod (or similar instrument:) to twist your coat hanger into a spiral. (Take a look at the pictures and it will make sense;). Take a little more wire and make a solder spool holder (optional). I think the holder is handy for the more extended projects. Now use the other 1/4 20 bolts to secure your cradles to the base. Note: The coil that holds your soldering iron will get HOT. Be careful not to touch it after it's been cradling your soldering iron.
Use your mint tin to make a pattern and cut your sponge to fit in the tin. Now you have a sponge to wipe the tip of your soldering iron. One of my friends cut a magnetic strip to fit in the bottom of her tin. she uses it to hold small components. That mint tin goes in the mint tin shaped hole in your base.