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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Turn a soldering station into a reflow tool, using an old aquarium pump and length of silicon tube a bit of wire wool.

I have just replaced my old soldering iron (Maplins N78AR
( solder station) it is 50W
so great for big PL259 connections and making PCB enclosures, has a grounded tip
and it does have spare precision tips too... they have it on special promo right
now for £14.99 which was half what I paid originally. I find the 1mm fine tips
are fine for SMD work.

Anyway the old one the element gave in after 5 years use so I thought try to see if
I can use the old one as a reflow soldering iron instead with a little home-brew effort.

To confirm the element had gone I had dismantled
the old one and I saw that the element and another old iron (Weller maybe?) are
hollow and almost identical construction wise, I have an old fish tank air pump
and just out of curiosity fed some blue high temp silicon tubing (so will not
melt) into the handle base and into the base of the heating element tube. Air
passes up through the tube where it is warmed on the way to the tip which is not
there now just a 5mm diameter hole. The air flow can be controlled with a simple
pinch on the tube with a thumb screw.

I tried this for real and it sort of works, old PC motherboard components reflow
quite easily once set to about 75-80% on the control and adjusting the air.
Adding a little extra wire wool at the tip of the tube seemed to help with the heat
and the dimmer control (basically just a current control) adjusted the air temp.
You turn on the iron, get it to temp and then turn on the air and adjust until
flow/temp is right. The wire wool smoked a very little initially but is fine now, whole thing
almost silent apart for a little hiss and the pump buzz.

Seem to have an extra tool for SMD.

Anyone else done this?

Will post some pics soon.

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