Tool Tip: How to Salvage PCB Parts




About: Sometimes my Instructables are few and far between, but I try to make them as well as I can. Hopefully you can be inspired or helped by the content in them!

If you're like me, you have a ton of PCBs laying around from things you've taken apart. Put them to good use and salvage the components from them.

Step 1: Stuff You'll Be Using

You need:
Either a desoldering iron, a soldering iron and desoldering pump, or a soldering iron with desoldering wick or braid.
Solder (It helps, trust me)
Helping Hands (Optional)
Magnifying glass (Useful if you're desoldering surface mount components)
PCB Board to get components from
Water Bottles (Optional, but you'll need them if you're making the containers)

Step 2: Using a Desoldering Iron or a Soldering Iron and Pump

Find the component you want to take off, then flip your PCB over. Try to find the leads to your component, and hold your desoldering iron on the lead until the solder melts, then suck it up. If you can't get enough solder off, try adding a little. Weird, but it works. Make sure you squeeze the bulb BEFORE you stick the iron on the solder, otherwise you'll blow molten solder everywhere. And you do not want that.

Once you sucked up enough solder, break the leads away from the hole, then pull the component out. In the pictures, I'm desoldering a tact switch from an old stereo. I was lucky enough to have switches with only two leads.

Step 3: Desoldering With a Soldering Iron and Pliers

If you don't have a desoldering iron, you can desolder two-lead components using a normal soldering iron and needle-nose pliers.

Clamp the board in your helping hands, and grab the component you want to take out with your needle nose pliers. Heat one of the leads, and at the same time, tilt the component so you pull the lead out. What you'll get is a lopsided component. The idea is to do this while alternating sides until the component comes out. It's a good idea to use locking pliers.

Thanks to Zaen for this tip. Instead of using pliers, wedge a small screwdriver under the component while heating the leads.

Step 4: Create Containers

This step is for all you green people out there.

We are going to make containers for the components out of old water bottles. Recycling before recycling!

Using an x-acto knife, cut the bottom of the water bottle off, starting 3 or 4 bumps up. Stack three to create a set. Repeat this for as many water bottles as you like.

These containers are pretty stable, and are quite useful, too.

I find I am always wanting tact switches, for simple projects or more complicated ones. And who doesn't like LEDs? Salvaging parts is a great way to save money and get the parts you want. So that's it! Thanks for reading!



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    86 Discussions


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I do quite a bit of desoldering, and there I to things I want to suggest: 1. sometimes wedging a small screwdriver, or exacto-knife tip under the component you want while applying heat does a better job than pliers, especially if the leads are bent over. 2. when I do use pliers, I use a locking pair, that way I can let go of the pliers and free up my hands for holding the board and soldering iron. By the way, nice job!

    7 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I mainly use a pick, or angled needle nosed pliers, roll them up for leverage, when I strip boards. I never use a soldering iron for component salvage. I hold the board itself with goose necked pump pliers over a pool of molten solder myself. I don't let go of my tools until the job is done.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It is called a solder pot. Now you have. It is also the tool I use for component salvage, having critically thought through the process. I've also used irons as well myself, and they are not the proper tool for the job. Maybe if parts only had one lead, or irons had more than one tip, but neither of those is often the case.

    For all other situations the solder pot is the superior tool when it comes to the task of component salvage.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Good tip! (# 1) I'll add that, giving you credit, of course.

    Thanks, nice job! I'm enjoying the fact that we can reclaim our old PC and electronics waste for something new. Another thought for organizing parts - use payment-return envelopes from bills you receive (the ones with the little clear window). Easy to label and I throw most of them away usually since I bill-pay it all. Here's to sustainability through Instructables!!!


    3 years ago

    If the leads are long enough I often attach hemostats to the components lead and then let gravity pull the part out when it's loose! Also helps dissipate heat!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hey how are you supposed to heat the leads? Sorry if I sound stupid. I am a novice on circuit boards and salvaging :/


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Protip to add, based on experience:
    If you want to salvage a large piece (like those IDE or those PCI-E connectors on old boards) and you do not have a desoldering iron, try using a heat gun and direct the heat so that the most pins are heated. Have the board attached firmly, upside down (components down, pins up) and using pliers, grab the components and pull it down slowly.

    It may require patience though, since a heat gun does not heat as efficiently the solder as an iron does. However, once you are all setup, mass desoldering an old motherboard can go quite fast.

    2nd Protip: For a workplace, I used a completely striped down computer case. I lay the board on the frame and arrange so that the component I want to extract is aligned with an opening (which there is everywhere when a case is striped down completely).

    Good luck and have fun.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Holy cow, that's a great instructable! All instructable should be as concise and helpful as this one!

    Thanks bro, I was looking precisely for a good technique on how to mass salvage PCB, which I too have lying around after dismantling just about everything.

    I thought about putting the PCB in the oven, since the solder is eventually all molten, but then, how to get the components out, hmm, haven't figured out yet!

    I prefer your way much better! +1


    9 years ago on Step 2

    Thanks for the "add a little more solder" tip. Worked a treat!


    10 years ago on Step 4

    how to you figure out how many volts the LEDs run off without frying them

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

     In exactly what way do you use a multimeter?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    all leds will work safely up to 3.3 volts,except the ones with built in resistors