It's the final two minutes of the best football game of the season, your team is up by seven and the opposition has the ball on your 10 yard line. The football is hiked, and as instantly as the ball leaves the centers hands, the TV looses power due to that loose wire you have been putting off fixing for months. Even worse, your regular soldering setup is all the way in the basement and will take too long to retrieve. What do you do?
Luckily for you, you have followed this instructable, and created the most useful tool package of all time, and even better, it is small enough to fit in your pocket, specifically, the pocket of the pants you are wearing right now. With a minute to go, the TV is up and running and your team has intercepted the ball. Way to go.
Sound like a situation you would like to avoid or a solution you would like to have on you at all times? Good, read on.
This instructable will document the steps necessary to modify and fit every tool and useful accessory required for an emergency soldering job in the hacker-essential, pocket-sized, minty-smelling, Altoids tin container.
Within one tin, you will be able to fit:
One Cold Heat soldering iron with two extra batteries and a spare tip (hardware store)
One clip anywhere helping hand (hardware store)
Several inches of multiple sized heat-shrink tubing (hardware store)
Several feet of electrical tape (hardware store)
Cable ties (hardware store)
Flexible standing light and laser pointer (because it's not worth doing if it doesn't have lasers) (pharmacy; tool aisle)
Small Phillips and flat head screwdriver (hardware store)
Small Wire stripper and cutter (electronic or hardware store)
This instructable will feature:
Hack your Cold Heat soldering iron
Hack your alligator clip wire leads
Hack your Strippers
Pack your box
Video on Final Page *coming soon*
Step 1: Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (1 - Disassemble)
Contrary to popular belief, this Johnny 5 is meant to be disassembled.
For this step you will need the following parts:
Cold Heat Soldering Iron ($19.99 from a hardware store)
Two CR2 Lithium-Ion batteries ($9.99 from your film processing/prescription providing superstore)
Short length of thin gage wire (24 or smaller)
Altoids Smalls box
And the following tools:
Small Phillips screwdriver
Wire cutter and/or stripper
Dremel with standard accessories
First and foremost, in the words of Norm Abram, "Before we use any power tools, let's take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these - safety glasses." What good is a mini soldering iron if you have no eyes?
Begin by disassembling your cold heat soldering iron (CHSI). Even though I will post photos of my iron, it is recommended that you photograph your CHSI before cutting any wires or removing any components. This way, if your CHSI differs from the example, you will be able to track the changes later when you discover the differences.
Remove the screws holding the CHSI together, including the screw accessed from the battery compartment holding the blue grip to the housing. Separate the two halves of the unit, and observe. You will note the tip apparatus in the front of the unit, several wires running to the back circuit board, battery terminals, a switch, and a few LED's. All of these parts will be saved and reused, so as you remove them, place them in your handy pocket sized Altoids tin screw organizer that will soon become the case for this project. To remove the wires from beneath the fused plastic fastening method chosen by the manufacturer, use an X-acto knife. To avoid cutting the wires, hold the knife at an angle, and pull the wires behind the blade before applying pressure (see photo below). You will find a few more screws holding the tip in place, remove these and remove the internal components in one piece.
Step 2: Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (2 - Dremel)
With your CHSI components to the side, it is time to make the housing. Quickly eat all of the Altoids that are in the way of completing this project contained in the Altoids Smalls container. Save room, there will be more later.
From your collection of spare parts, find the black tube that surrounded the white CHSI tip holder. If you cant find it, you may have not removed this from the white portion of the device yet. Use this to mark the diameter of hole needed to fit the the tip holder through on the outside of the box. Use the photo below for rough dimensions. Placement does not matter too much with any step, just be aware that any changes you make in dimensions will need to be accounted for in future steps.
I do not recomend using a drill to make this hole. The drill bit will begin to penetrate the tin, then immediately bind causing abrupt rotation of the box and a rough non cylindrical hole. The correct tool for this job is a Dremel with a cutting wheel and a grinding stone. These accessories come standard with most Dremels, and are, in my opinion, the only useful tools for a Dremel. Cut the hole and a groove for the switch on the side. Note, you will probably need to cut an arc out of the lid where the lid mates with the hole (refer to photos for clarification). You will also need to cut a flap on the bottom. This flap will be used to bend into the case and hold the batteries in place. Use the batteries as a marking gauge. In the photo, three sides are cut, and the fourth side, closest to the center, is only marked with a sharpie.
Step 3: Hack Your Cold Heat Soldering Iron (3 - Modify)
With your case modified and your components removed, it is time to make modifications and integrate the parts. First, scuff the inside wall (opening side, not hinged side) of the tin where the batteries will be installed. I chose the right side. Place the battery terminal designed for both positive and negative on this wall, heat it up, and solder the battery terminals to the wall. Since the tin is essentially a large heat sink, it will take a lot of heat to get the solder to stick to the wall as well as the terminal. Again, refer to the photos for dimensions. With this in place, cover the entire interior of the case with tape. The tin is conductive, and these batteries have a lot of energy in them. If you do not tape the walls, you could complete the circuit, drain the battery, and create a potential fire hazard. Do not be scared of this, just respect the power of the batteries and be safe.
Next remove the positive terminal (no spring) from the LED, and connect the red wire directly to the LED. At this time, you can shorten all of the cables as much as you want for packing convenience. It is not necessary, but it is recommended.
Add a short length of wire to the LED terminal with the red wire to attach to the just removed positive terminal. You will also need to solder a wire from this same junction to the center tab on the CHSI tip holder (thick yellow wire in image).
Replace the center terminal wire from the switch with a longer wire, and attach this to the negative battery terminal (with spring). Cover all exposed metal with electrical tape, tape the white LED (near the tip) to the tip so the light shines through the hole in the case for the tip, and cover the circuit board with tape. Attach the red LED to the tape covered circuit board, and stuff everything into the case as shown below. You may need to tape or epoxy the switch in place depending on how your installation worked out. It is possible to use just tape and friction from the wires, but use adhesive if you are looking for a more permanent fix.
You are now done with the Cold Heat Soldering Iron hack.
Step 4: Hack Your Alligator Wire Clip Leads
Solid core stiff wire - 3"
This is a simple step. Take one perfectly good alligator clip wire lead, remove the alligator clips from the wire and discard the wire, remove the covers from the clips, and solder a short length of solid core wire to each clip to act as a supportive but flexible connector between the clips.
To use this tool, clip one gator to a fixed object, and use the other to hold a wire while you solder.
Step 5: Hack Your Strippers
I found a small yellow wire stripper at the local electronic depot that seemed difficult to operate and more or less useless, except for its size. This wire stripper is not to be used as your every day stripper, but in a pinch, it will work wonders. If there were ever a place to store such a wire stripper, a small form factor, emergency use soldering kit is it.
This modification is simple. Cut off as much of the stripper as possible leaving only the mouth section of the tool with the scalloped top side and razor bottom side.
Step 6: The Rest
So now we finish the preparation for the pocket soldering station. Here, we will modify the tape, heat shrink tubing (HST), cable ties, wire, solder, and spare batteries.
Take one length of larger diameter (.25") HST and three lengths of small diameter (.125") HST, and insert the three lengths of small tube into the large tube. Cut this assembly into lengths the width of the box (hinge to unhinged side) and put them aside. You can refer to this step to create more HST bundles at any time.
Take another piece of HST, cut a larger than tape width section, and unroll a foot or two of electrical tape. Wrap this tape around the HST, and continue to roll until the tape is coiled. The goal is to make a smaller inner diameter tape roll, so HST is not required, but you should have some around from the last step. Put this aside.
Gather five to ten 5" cable ties, and trim the ends off where the ribbed section meets the smooth section. Place these to the side.
Next cut a foot of a few different color lengths of wire, as well as a foot of solder. Coil these into flat coils and hold them to the side for later.
Last, wrap each of the two spare batteries with tape over the terminals, and put these to the side.
To prepare for the next step, obtain all objects to be packed in the case including the flashlight and batteries mentioned only in the first step.
Step 7: Pack Your Box
Now that your helping hand and CHSI are complete, they can be packed into the main Altoids housing.
Heat shrink tubing
Hacked Wire cutters
Small screwdriver, multi tip or other
Small electrical tape
Flashlight w/ laser
Start by inserting the CHSI into the case such that the aspect ratio of the small box matches that of the large box. If it doesn't fit, press the internal components further into the box, or remove the tip.
Place the flashlight in the case so it is parallel to the long side of the box and perpendicular to and covering the CHSI tip.
Place the cable ties and helping hand on top of the light.
Insert the batteries perpendicular to this light at the end of the container.
Insert all other components however they fit best. If done right, the container should close with no issue, and stay shut on it's own. If needed, wrap the container in electrical tape to ensure closure.
Finally, place this in your pocket. You will not need it until you forget this final step.
Finalist in the