This is a project for a do it yourself analog soldering station. The design is a variation on some low-end commercial units that don’t have a built-in temperature sensor in the soldering iron.
It’s made with a dimmer switch and a few other hardware store items. It is fairly inexpensive to make and the project can easily be completed in an evening. I needed a unit like this for some experiments I was doing with soldering irons.
Here’s a shot of all the parts for the build starting in the top row going left to right: 2-gang surface mount PVC electrical box, 8 ft heavy duty 3-wire power cord, dimmer switch, 15 amp duplex outlet, wall plate, dimmer knob and cord strain relief bushing.
This particular electrical box had 7 threaded holes and came with 6 closure plugs for the unused holes. At the time I had a couple more closure plugs on order and my plan was to plug up that last hole when they arrived.
Below is a wiring diagram for the unit:
Using a craft knife a hole was whittled out of one of the closure plugs for the strain relief bushing.
I kept whittling the hole until it was close the the shape and size I wanted. The strain relief bushing snapped into the hole.
The female connector was removed from the power cord with a pair of diagonal cutters. About 5 inches of sheath was stripped off and then the strain relief bushing and the closure plug was threaded through.
About 5/8 inch of insulation was stripped from each of the three wires using a wire stripper. Notice in the photo below that a knot was tied onto the end of the power cord for strain relief. The retainer part of the strain relief bushing was removed (visible in the lower right corner of the photo). It was a bust.
My plan was to install the strain relief bushing onto the closure plug properly by crimping the retainer but the face of the closure plug was in a recessed area and there wasn’t enough access for a crimp tool. Assembling a strain relief bushing properly requires a clear, flat area without any obstructions.
CAUTION! Make sure the cord is not plugged into a live wall socket!!
Wiring up the dimmer and outlet…
The dimmer and outlet wired up and mounted into the box with screws …
The wall plate was mounted the onto the unit. The last step was to affix a dial graphic and the dimmer knob.
The dial graphic was printed on plain paper and then overlaid with strips of 2 inch clear packing tape. This is “bush league” lamination but it’s nice and thin so it lays flat and out of the way.
Click here to download the dial graphic pdf file: dial-graphic-4-up.pdf
First cut out the center hole from one of them…
Then make straight cuts around it to remove it …
Trim around the top of the graphic with scissors …
One of those glue tape dispensers from a stationery store was used to apply some adhesive to the back of the graphic and then it was loosely positioned it over the dimmer shaft.
Before affixing the graphic in its permanent position, the knob was placed onto the shaft to check alignment. When everything looked okay I pressed it down and used a small screwdriver for the set screw on the knob. The unit is basically done and ready to use. Functionally, using the smaller knob is not necessary. One can simply use the larger knob that comes with the dimmer switch. I like the look of this knob, though.
Here is a shot of the control unit with a 60 watt soldering iron.
The total cost for this project was about $24.00 USD for the control unit and about $11.00 USD for the soldering iron with the stand.