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Author Topic: So I made a steampunk soldering station...  (Read 13233 times)
Nexxo
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« on: January 13, 2018, 04:21:26 pm »

I'm sure that we all know from experience how these events tend to unfold. 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 do they all feature fiddly temperature up/down buttons when a rotary temperature dial is far more intuitive?

So I looked around for home-brew solutions and found this kit. 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 --most importantly-- your own case.

But a plastic or metal off-the-shelf box will not do! No, madam/sir; not for those of us who value the artisan craftsmanship of steampunk!

So, Igor: break out the aluminium and brass!



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









Next, the test 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:



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



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:



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)





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.



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.



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.



The brass LED holder was made from a bit of brass bar:





Cut and tapped (M8):



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



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



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). I do apologise...

But 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.

[/URL]

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



The final result:



And testing:





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 Edit: January 14, 2018, 05:20:46 pm by Nexxo » Logged
J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 04:33:11 pm »

Great workmanship. Nothing more satisfying than well machined metal construction.
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 09:03:58 pm »

A beautiful and functional steampunk piece, fantastic.
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RJBowman
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 11:05:04 pm »

Except that the beauty of that toroidal coil is hidden under the metal.

Because I had to know:
How to Wind a Toroid


I don't think that I'm going to try it.

Here's how it's done on the commercial scale:
toroidal winding machine -toroidal winder -current transformer winding machine winding machine
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Synistor 303
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2018, 01:30:47 am »

O.M.G! That is beautiful. (whoever thought a soldering station could be beautiful?) Puts my pitiful workshop gear to shame. I am in awe.
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Banfili
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2018, 07:02:40 am »

Oh! My! Word! That is just beautiful! You are obviously a F&T of some considerable skill!
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James Harrison
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2018, 12:11:02 pm »

Not your typical soldering station set-up!  I like it a lot. 
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2018, 12:49:19 pm »

A fabulous outcome that is a work of art all by itself. The surface finish is so classy and I think the little detail of insetting the LED mount into the recess in the main panel is a lovely detail.

Yours,
Miranda.
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Nexxo
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2018, 01:13:37 pm »

Thank you. Smiley The inset of the LED was a last-minute idea. The challenge was to aesthetically align all the elements on the panel while making sure that at the back these components don't get in the way of the circuit board components (I like compactness; everything inside was carefully arranged for the tightest fit while still accommodating the wiring and cooling airflow). Since I am right-handed, I also decided that the plug needs to be on the left of the station lest the cable of the soldering iron ends up crossing the controls (if station is positioned on the right) or the work area (if station is positioned on the left). This meant that the switch needed to be on the right, aligned to the plug and the top of both visually aligned to the top of the temperature dial.

This left the LED. Convention would put it to the left of the display, but I felt it should be vertically aligned to the switch, and since I decided that 'up' is ON, it should be above the switch rather than below (where there was no space anyway). Of course, it then made sense that horizontally it should be aligned to the display, and its resulting position made the inset a logical aesthetic choice.

I sometimes wonder whether I overthink things. Smiley
« Last Edit: January 25, 2018, 09:28:37 am by Nexxo » Logged
Nexxo
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2018, 05:41:42 pm »

Anyhow... Next: the stand for the soldering iron. Usually they are some sort of spring contraption to stick the iron in. I never understood the logic, as it basically acts as a heat sink which cools the iron down --which is not what you want.

I was thinking instead of some sort of adjustable cradle which prevents the tip of the iron of making contact with anything, but makes for a safe place to put the iron and also makes it easy to park and pick up again.

So here the base for the stand (already milled when I did the base for the station) and the brass bar which I will use:



And more turning and tapping of some 15mm brass round bar, to an M6 thread:



And the shaping of the profile. This involves a groove cutter and various shape cutting tools, including a 6mm round bit, and some freestyling with flat and half round metal files, b@stard cut (yes, that is a legitimate engineering term) followed by no. 2 Swiss cut. When cutting, I always work in short sections, staying close to the chuck for stability and to prevent chatter, and gradually moving the work piece along from left to right.





And the result so far:





Next, the cradle...
« Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 05:46:47 pm by Nexxo » Logged
Hektor Plasm
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2018, 11:18:07 pm »

Very very nice Engineering!
I believe you may be entitled to a very tall stovepipe hat!

 Grin

HP
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2018, 10:49:15 am »

Oh, sorry! I appear to be accidentally drooling all over your creation.....   Shocked

VERY nice work! 


Heh, So you have the soldering station, and I made a quick LC tester project (I must get those pics back up on the thread...) - it seems we are on the way to a fully stocked steampunk electronics lab! Grin

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Nexxo
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2018, 01:00:58 pm »

Indeed. For science!
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Anselmofanzero
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2018, 01:45:44 pm »

Did you CNC the baseplate???
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Nexxo
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2018, 03:01:16 pm »

No, all done manually on a mill (there are mill bits that create convex or concave rounded chamfers).
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 03:15:44 pm by Nexxo » Logged
Anselmofanzero
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2018, 05:53:28 pm »

Mine was made in china, or at least assembled in china, OR made from parts from china :p
I use it for the wood-work only actually. Do you use a brand or something from homedepot?
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Nexxo
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« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2018, 06:14:11 pm »

My mill and lathe are both Chinese, made by SIEG (the SX2 mill and SC3 lathe). They used to be a bit dodgy but have improved over the years, and you can find them rebranded as Clarke, Harbour Freight, Chester and even Warco. I bet it's more or less the same model you have. I bought mine in part because they were small and (relatively) light; although the general rule with lathes and mills is that bigger and heavier is always better, I work in a Victorian loft and there is a limit to the weight that the joists will bear... They are also easily modified. I put brass gibs on the lathe and a reversing switch on the mill.

One day, of course, I aspire to a ground-floor workshop with a Myford Super 7 or something like that...
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 08:58:05 pm by Nexxo » Logged
Anselmofanzero
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« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2018, 09:19:51 pm »

Well ok, in that case I just suck, but I am not a metal worker...
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Nexxo
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« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2018, 10:46:01 pm »

Neither am I. I have no engineering or metal working background whatsoever. This is just a hobby. As is electronics, computing, beekeeping, baking and cooking... I have more hobbies than I have time! But doesn't steampunk embody the philosophy of being a polymath? As long as it is interesting, I'll have a go.

In fact, it was a very skilled metal worker whose work I was admiring, who encouraged me some years ago to just get a lathe and start practicing, and told me there was no reason I couldn't learn to make whatever I wanted.

With this sort of thing it's:
- watch a lot of YouTube how-to's;
- read a lot of web pages;
- practise a lot.

And always wear goggles (that's a steampunk philosophy right there).

You'll get the hang of it, trust me. Just keep at it. Smiley
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 11:05:13 pm by Nexxo » Logged
Anselmofanzero
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« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2018, 11:58:12 pm »

Neh, I rather make stuff with my hands....and the lathe. Milling is not really my fav thing to do.
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Nexxo
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« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2018, 12:52:45 am »

I've seen your work; I think you're managing just fine without milling. Smiley But one day you will join the dark side...
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« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2018, 04:54:43 pm »

I just wanted to chime in with the others by saying how much I admire this piece.  The vision and skill you've displayed in turning a rather mundane tool into a piece of functional art is spectacular, and at the same time humbling.  You're an inspiration Nexxo.

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First Build: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,31253.0.html
Second One: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,38856.0.html
Nexxo
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« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2018, 08:46:57 am »



That means a lot coming from someone who whipped up their own fully featured Ironman suit in their shed.  Shocked

Wait until you see the water cooled computer that I am building... very... slowly... :p It will have nixie tubes. Because nixie tubes. Smiley







« Last Edit: January 22, 2018, 03:38:40 pm by Nexxo » Logged
Nexxo
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« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2018, 07:32:35 pm »

Yup. Slowly getting there... There have been many other things claiming my time. First, rounding a 10mm square bar. This is always tricky, as you can easily break a cutting tool.



Next, a chunk of brass to make one of the brackets:







After the milling, it is a lot of handwork with metal files:

   

   







Assembly:



Test fit:



Next some sanding to finish the rough edges, and make the mounting hinge.
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« Reply #24 on: April 05, 2018, 01:18:18 am »

Never mind the soldering station, brilliant though it is. I want to know about that computer.  What's the brass column down the middle? Is it functional somehow? Do you have an innovative cooling loop as I don't see no rads, just fans? Compared to the usual clichéd case mods, you should definitely sell this for some serious dosh.
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