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If you are looking to introduce soldering to your classes this school year, you should consider having students use a soldering vise or other holder to secure the circuit board. Keeping the components in place will help students get the hang of soldering quicker than if the board and parts are loose on the table or held by hand. I’ve been messing with this idea more since using the PanaVise my brother employed to solder the boards for his HeathKit amateur radio back in the day. While super nice to use, a well-made vise like this is too expensive and too easily broken for classroom use. This design can be easily made from readily available supplies from the supply cabinet and a few pieces from either maintenance or home.

My first iteration of the design was pretty simple, a scrap of 1″x3″ strapping placed onto a scrap of 3/4″ plywood. On the strapping, I screwed down a binder clip with a washer to help the sheet rock screw hold down the handle of the clip. I had some ideas of using water bottles from the recycling bin to hold parts, but plastic near hot iron is a bad combination. There were a few problems with the design, so I made another run at it. The idea behind this project is to create a functional tool, which should be something that kids could make themselves for use at home, or a teacher could bang out a bunch of them pretty quickly and inexpensively to set up several soldering stations.

Skills in this project (you can pick which ones you want to focus on):

  • Measuring for a cut
  • Cutting with a handsaw
  • Cutting with a power saw like a miter box
  • Designing with CAD (extrusions, assembly, or if you want to get hard core, you can even design the screws with a revolve and put threads on them too)
  • Making and following drawings for manufacturing
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Mass production of a single design

Materials you will need:

  • 2 Binder clips
  • 6″ Scrap of 2″x4″
  • 6″x9″ Plywood, 1/2″ or 3/4″
  • 5 Sheetrock screws 1 1/4″ or longer
  • 2 Washers to fit the screws

Tools:

  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Pencil to mark your cuts
  • Saw (hand or power)
  • Screwdriver or screw gun
  • Safety goggles/glasses

Process
Start with a scrap of plywood. 6 inches by 9 inches should be plenty, but you can make it bigger.
Measure for your cuts and mark them on the wood in pencil.
Cut the 2″x4″ to fit the short dimension of the plywood.
Align the 2″x4″ so that it is about 2 1/2″ from one end and mark the plywood. This will allow you to attach a holder such as a mint tin for solder and other supplies later.
Flip the plywood over, ideally, put the 2″x4″ in a vise to keep it secure and screw the plywood to the 2″x4″ with three screws.
Flip it over and place the two binder clips on the 2″x4″ so that they are evenly spaced.
Place the washers on the screws and secure the binder clips in place.
Your soldering stand is ready for action!

Extensions
Storage
You may want to screw a mint tin or two on the board. This will allow you to hold things like short lengths of desoldering braid, solder, LEDs, switches, resistors etc. You will need screws that are at least 1/8″ shorter than the thickness of the wood you are screwing into.
Soldering iron holder
You could make an iron holder with a 3/4″ screw eye on the side of the upright. Making sure the heat from the business end of the iron is shielded should be part of your design, this could probably be done with a soda can, which can be cut with scissors and held with a short screw or two.
Soldering iron cleaner
Brass or copper pot scrubbers make good tip cleaners. Use a short screw with a wide fender washer (small hole, wide disk) to secure it to the plywood. Steel wool should not be used for a couple of reasons, apparently it scratches up the tip of the iron, and sooner or later, kids will discover that it is flammable, which could invite a visit from the local fire department or its’ representatives.
Computer Aided Design
You can introduce students to the powerful ideas around CAD by having them make a virtual model of the stand either before or after building.

For well under $5, you can have a soldering station for your students to hold their work. If they use this as a way to also learn about manufacturing and computer aided design, you can wake up some other useful interests as they get ready to explore electronics.

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Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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