1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Modding So I made a steampunk soldering station...

Discussion in 'Modding' started by Nexxo, 7 Jan 2018.

  1. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    You know how it goes. You're looking for a decent soldering station but nothing quite fits the bill. I considered the Hakko FX-888D but it's a nightmare to operate (read the manual --it's ludicrously unintuitive!). There's the Antex 690D but, like, how much?! And again, why up/down buttons when a temperature knob is far more intuitive?

    So I looked around for home-brew solutions and found this. Built for an Antex TC50 24V iron, but with superior responsiveness, digital temp display but analog temp dial. Perfect! This kit was developed by an engineer who runs a prototyping company. You get a blank PCB, a programmed PIC and detailed build instructions and parts list, as first published in an article for Maplin Electronics issue 116 Aug 1997 (page 16 - 21). All for a mere £23,50 inc. postage.

    Of course you have to provide all the remaining components, the display, the switch and socket, the wire, and your own case.

    So what's a modder to do? Steampunk it, that's what! First: le aluminium and brass:

    [​IMG]

    Milled and drilled the base, including the bottom ventilation slot:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next, the first arrangement of the components: the completed PCB and the toroid transformer (another reason I like this kit), for which I made a brass L-bracket to mount it vertically to make for a compact station:

    [​IMG]

    Next the pillars to which the 3mm aluminium case panels will be mounted with M4 countersunk brass screws:

    [​IMG]

    Note the ventilation holes in the back panel. This is where a mill is really handy! The holes were drilled with a very short 3mm centre drill to avoid flexing of the drill bit and deviations in the pattern:

    [​IMG]

    And here the case with side and front panels mounted, with brushed M4 brass screws. These were brushed on the lathe, and the cheese head screws were given a sharper machined finish also. Note also the 45 degree angle on top of the front panel... (also the turned and knurled brass temperature dial and its collar on the right, and the brass LED holder just behind it)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Next is the top/front panel, which is cut from 1.5mm brass. Again the mill allows for millimeter precise and straight milling of the LCD display window... This panel was then scored and folded at a 45 degree angle on a bending brake.

    [​IMG]

    Here you also see the display frame (cut from 0.8mm brass plate with a jeweller's piercing saw), the temperature dial and LED holder.

    [​IMG]

    And here the first test fit with the DIN socket for the iron. You also see the on/off switch and its rubber dust cover.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 18 Jan 2018
    MLyons likes this.
  2. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    The brass LED holder was made from a bit of brass bar:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Cut and tapped (M8):

    [​IMG]

    Then drilled out 5mm, with a 6mm bevel:

    [​IMG]

    And the result. I also turned a complementary M8 nut from a bit of brass hex bar.

    [​IMG]

    I forgot to take pics of the temperature knob and its collar, which I also turned from brass bar, knurled (knob) and milled with markings using a rotary table (knob and collar). Sorry...

    And here is the final wiring up. Lots of cable management, careful insulating and colour coding. The on/off switch is double pole for extra safety, to fully isolate the circuit when off.

    [​IMG]

    The display back. I used mobo brass spacers for mounting, and went through extra hassle to crimp a connector on the flatcable for easy disassembly and service. The temp dial collar was fixed with M2 brass countersunk screws; the DIN socket with M3 screws.

    [​IMG]

    The final result:

    [​IMG]

    And testing:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Because the kit was originally designed for a 1997 era non-backlit LCD display, I had to make a slight modification to the circuit to make it work with a modern backlit LCD (this is a high-contrast, high temperature stability one so it has a special contrast voltage). The kit seller was very helpful in working this out.

    Next: the stand!
     
    Last edited: 10 Jan 2018
    hyperion, Yaka and adidan like this.
  3. David

    David RIP Tel

    Joined:
    7 Apr 2009
    Posts:
    12,660
    Likes Received:
    1,846
    And you're just showing us now? You've obviously been at this a while. Explain yourself, RFN! :lol:
     
    goldstar0011 likes this.
  4. CrapBag

    CrapBag Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    17 Jul 2008
    Posts:
    7,042
    Likes Received:
    230
    I have to ask but how much difference does this make to a standard solder station?

    I have one and haven't struggled with it.
     
  5. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    How much difference does a modded PC make to a standard, of-the-shelf PC?
     
  6. adidan

    adidan Avatar is nearly back in season.

    Joined:
    25 Mar 2009
    Posts:
    12,255
    Likes Received:
    880
    Nice bit of metalwork there.

    Makes me want to speed up our house move and find somewhere where I can set up metalwork and woodwork benches so I can injure myself in a variety of ways.
     
    The_Crapman likes this.
  7. The_Crapman

    The_Crapman Don't phone it's just for fun.

    Joined:
    5 Dec 2011
    Posts:
    3,391
    Likes Received:
    429
    Is this your 'midlag crisis'? Not that it's not pretty or anything but, you know :eyebrow:
     
  8. Yaka

    Yaka Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    26 Jun 2005
    Posts:
    1,276
    Likes Received:
    70
    sweet build
     
  9. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Mar 2008
    Posts:
    2,762
    Likes Received:
    289
    I have a Hakko FX888D and I have to admit, I'm very jealous of your knob :worried:
     
  10. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    I feel ya, bro. I work in a small loft, so am constrained in the weight of the machines. Really I want a ground-floor barn.

    The first thing you find out when you start doing metalworking/model engineering is that you buy more tools essentially to build more tools. :p Because off-the-shelf suddenly isn't good enough anymore. Come to think of it, that's how it started with computing... :worried:

    But it was also a practice piece, to hone and develop my metalworking and electronics skills, and try some ideas that I want to apply to Ada.

    Thanks!

    Yeah, I did look at the Hakko (even saw one at the local Maplin), but I just didn't like the awkwardly unintuitive controls. In fact no digital station out there has a simple dial knob to set temperature, except some hideously expensive Wellers.
     
    Last edited: 8 Jan 2018
    The_Crapman likes this.
  11. adidan

    adidan Avatar is nearly back in season.

    Joined:
    25 Mar 2009
    Posts:
    12,255
    Likes Received:
    880
    Barn - now you're talking.

    Planning to sell up and move in the next year or so, somewhere with an outbuilding would be ideal.

    I mean it doesn't have to a huge barn, just somewhere I can tinker and perpetually confirm that the ideas in my head are never quite matched by my practical ability :)

    Edit: A loft? Must have some good support under you or is the ceiling below beginning to sag? :)
     
  12. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    Nobody builds like the Victorians... :D It's a proper loft room (not a conversion) so it has good floor joists. As long as I stick to machines no more than 60Kg in weight placed close to the walls, I just about manage.

    We also have three outhouses, which we're thinking of eventually knocking into one. But my retirement plans include a house with a large barn. I'm thinking wood work, metal work, precious metals, electronics corner, enamelling and glass blowing (you can get small portable glass ovens which are surprisingly cheap and fuel efficient. I saw one being demoed at the Stourbridge glassworks exhibition and I was hooked). There is his French guy somewhere who does steampunk stuff in brass, and he actually blows his own glass plasma spheres...
     
    Last edited: 8 Jan 2018
  13. adidan

    adidan Avatar is nearly back in season.

    Joined:
    25 Mar 2009
    Posts:
    12,255
    Likes Received:
    880
    Ah got ya. Yeah you could probably have a small elephant in a Victorian loft.

    Well, so long as you could get it up the stairs.
     
  14. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Mar 2008
    Posts:
    2,762
    Likes Received:
    289
    Like everything it becomes second nature once you get used to it. I am very jealous though; Had I even considered this as an option when I was shopping for a station I probably would have gone this route. I'm fussy enough to have ordered the Hakko directly from the distributor because no retailers had the silver model and I can't stand the garish blue and yellow.

    You should...You should build your own personal ECT machine! For science. You monster.
     
  15. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    The dog leg turn is a bit of a squeeze, but bananas make for an irresistible lure.

    You could always build one as a back-up. It's good to have an extra station. Or three, four...

    What? And engage in perverted experiments of scientific abomination? Coooool...
     
  16. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

    Joined:
    13 May 2007
    Posts:
    9,934
    Likes Received:
    471
    Lovely. I think you could have dropped this into the Ada log. It needs love, and technically this is something built to build Ada. Tiny text knob joke omitted.
     
  17. jinq-sea

    jinq-sea The Double Insulates Super Moderator

    Joined:
    15 Oct 2012
    Posts:
    8,033
    Likes Received:
    353
    I love this. It's so cool! Would you be OK sharing the mods you made for the display etc, 'cos I'm keen to build one (not to such a high standard, just for day-to-day!). :thumb:
     
  18. Nexxo

    Nexxo Bargaining chip

    Joined:
    23 Oct 2001
    Posts:
    33,009
    Likes Received:
    1,128
    Yeah, may do, once I finished the soldering iron stand that goes with it. It was a good opportunity to test some ideas.

    Sure. The circuit was originally designed for 1997-era generic non-backlit 16x2 LCD Hitachi HD44780 standard compatible SSD1311 controlled displays, which all had 14 interface pins.

    Such displays nowadays have 16 pins, as pin 15 and 16 are used for the LED backlight. Of course although pin 1-14 follow a standard layout, each make/model seems to have a slightly different layout of pin 15 and 16 (some use pin 15 for contrast and 16 for LED-; some use both 15 and 16 for the LED+ and LED- respectively). If you're going with the white-on-black VATN LCD (a special type of high-contrast LCD which looks almost like OLED, but was --at the time I bought it-- half the price) that I used, pin 15 is a special contrast pin and pin 16 LED- can just connect to pin 1 which is the GND (There is no LED+ on this model; the backlight gets its juice internally through the 5V logic supply on pin 2. No, I don't know why they didn't just do the same with pin 1 and pin 16). Basically pin 3 connects to pin 15 via the contrast potentiometer on the circuit PCB --it needs a bit of creativity but it's simple, and I can explain the modification when you get to it.

    Or you use an OLED like this in which case you don't need to modify the circuit at all, since pin 15 and 16 are not used (OLED gets fed through the 5V logic supply on pin 2 and GND on pin 1). You also don't have to connect pin 3 from the circuit to the display which normally regulates contrast in an LCD but does nothing in the OLED display. This is what I should have used, really; simpler to wire up and has a wider viewing angle. At the time however they still were twice the cost of a VATN LCD and I had not tweaked on to the issue with the pins.
     
    Last edited: 9 Jan 2018
  19. jinq-sea

    jinq-sea The Double Insulates Super Moderator

    Joined:
    15 Oct 2012
    Posts:
    8,033
    Likes Received:
    353
    Cheers - I need to get my mitts on the PCB kit now!
     
  20. VipersGratitude

    VipersGratitude Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Mar 2008
    Posts:
    2,762
    Likes Received:
    289
    And I'd like to know your method for bending metal...anything fancy?
     

Share This Page