Soldering irons are usually related to electronic and electrical jobs; however, they have other uses that might surprise you.
So grab your iron, heat it up, and get ready to unlock its full potential with these 10 surprising uses of a soldering iron.
What is a Soldering Iron Used for? Primary Purpose
The primary purpose of a soldering iron is to heat up to melt and apply solder evenly along electric and electronic components to achieve stable and reliable joints. They work thanks to a resistance that heats up as it receives an electric current, transmitting heat to the solder’s tip.
Soldering irons come in different power ratings depending on the materials to be soldered. Their power also determines the maximum heat they can achieve.
Soldering irons’ tips come in different sizes and shapes and are made of different materials; the most common tips are made of a mixture of ceramics (a material known for its heat resistance and electrical insulation properties) and different metals for enhanced thermal efficiency and to help solder flow toward the parts being soldered.
10 Different Uses of Soldering Iron
- Connecting Electronic Components: This is one of the fields where soldering process is most frequently used. They play a key role in attaching electronic components to PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards), connecting wires, and repairing circuits, among other things. Soldering irons melt a metallic alloy called solder. When this solder solidifies over the parts, it forms both mechanical and electrical connections.
- Desoldering: Soldering irons are equally useful for desoldering electronic components. They can melt the solder and remove it with the aid of a desoldering pump or soldering wick, freeing the components from the PCB for easier extraction.
2. Electric Work
Soldering irons are widely used by electricians to solder splice wires, assemble electrical terminals, and control panels and fuse boxes, among other tasks.
Another common use of soldering irons in electrical work is similar to electronic work, as they are used to install parts such as relays, motors, and switches in electric control panels or boxes. Soldering wires and other electric elements is crucial for ensuring reliable and safe connections.
Electric components and wires are usually sturdier and larger than their electronic counterparts, so electricians generally use more powerful soldering irons and thicker tips.
3. Automotive Repair
Besides repairing vehicles’ electrical and electronic systems, soldering irons are used in the automotive repair business for body and interior repair.
A special kind of solder that is stronger but equally malleable as regular solder is used for smoothening and filling rough surfaces, loose joints, and minor dents. Soldering irons are practical for melting and shaping this type of solder; however, regular soldering irons don’t produce the necessary temperature like a heat gun and are not designed for being used for long periods. That’s why there are larger soldering irons with higher outputs (300W and more) specially made for melting body shop solder, which needs more heat than solder used for electronics.
Another practical use for soldering irons in the automotive repair business is to weld and repair plastic parts such as plastic door clips, cracked consoles, and other elements that can be repaired using heat. No special soldering irons are needed for these tasks.
4. Roof Repairs
Roofers use special soldering irons for working on metal roofs and flashings. These tools are usually larger than soldering irons used in other jobs and have a broader tip that heats quickly and can easily cover larger surfaces than the regular pointed tips.
Soldering irons are used to melt a solder alloy to join metal sheets or flashings. The heated solder flows and bonds with the metal surfaces, creating a secure and durable seal that keeps water away. Besides, these soldering irons help repair or replace damaged flashings.
Plumbers usually use torches to join and repair copper and other metallic pipes; lead-free solder is melted to create a joint or to cover holes. However, soldering irons come to the rescue when working in hard-to-reach areas, tight spaces, or situations where torches could be hazardous and difficult to handle. Soldering guns or roofer’s soldering irons are preferred for these jobs as they allow users to work faster and cover bigger surfaces than regular solders.
You can also shrink-wrap tubing by heating up the shrink tubing with the soldering iron in order to form a tight seal.
6. Soldering Metal Gutters
Metal gutters are made of similar materials as metallic roofs, and their parts are usually joined using solder, which creates a secure bond while sealing the seams and preventing leaks. The soldering irons used for roofing are ideal for installing or repairing metal gutters fast and efficiently.
They are great for working with metals such as copper, aluminum, zinc, and galvanized steel.
7. Working With Stained Glass and Mosaics
Stained glass artwork was traditionally created by joining the glass pieces using lead came, which is a strip of H-shaped lead that holds the glasses in place. In modern times, copper foil has become a popular alternative to lead came.
Copper foil is wrapped around the edges of each glass piece, and then the pieces are soldered together using a lead or lead-free solder for safety reasons. Artists using this method use a soldering iron with a power rating of about 100 watts to melt the solder and create a strong bond between the glass pieces.
Some artists also use soldering iron for working with mosaics. The tool is ideal for this job as it allows easy and accurate work, even with the smallest glasses or stones used to create this art.
With the right setup, a soldering iron can be used to heat and shape glass into beads or other decorative pieces.
8. Jewelry Making
Soldering irons provide a great deal of precision and are great for working with silver, copper, and other materials. This makes them a useful tool for artisans and jewelers who work with these materials. There are special solders containing silver, gold, copper, or brass for different applications.
Also, as metal tends to oxidize when exposed to heat, jewelers usually use borax flux to minimize the risk of oxidation.
Artisans use pen soldering irons with exchangeable tips for working on new projects or repairing broken pieces.
9. Engraving Decorative Pieces
Soldering irons can be used as engraving tools and are a budget-friendly and versatile choice for using heat to decorate several materials, such as wood, leather, plastic, or thin metal.
Special tips can be installed on regular soldering irons for a more controlled and precise engraving. I recommend you replace the tip that comes with the solder, as these tips are not designed for engraving jobs and can damage the workpieces.
Pyrography/Wood Burning: While dedicated tools are available for this work, you can create pyrography art by burning designs into wood with the heated soldering iron tip.
10. Model Making and Other Crafts
Thanks to their accuracy and ease of use, soldering irons are ideal for working with scale models to join small components, add details, shape plastics and soft metals, solder decorative components onto surfaces, and much more.
You can also form custom shapes in metal shims by heating up the metal and bending it to the desired shape.
The heated tip can melt and form plastic into different shapes and mold wax to create decorative candles. The heat from the soldering iron tip can speed up the curing of adhesives and the hardening of epoxy and resin.
Soldering irons are a must-have tool for hobbyists and professional artists alike.
To Wrap Things Up
Soldering irons have a broader range of applications beyond electronics and electrical jobs. They are versatile tools useful for all the applications listed above and more. They offer precision, reliability, and practicality. Besides, there are several models available to suit everyone’s needs. They are essential for everyday electronic jobs and valuable for many industries like jewelry, plumbing, craftsmanship, and much more.
Soldering irons are handy for joining small metallic pieces and heating objects at controlled temperatures, ensuring a secure and easy operation. They have as many uses as the power of your imagination and, without any doubt, deserve a place in everyone’s toolbox.
David Castillo is an automotive industry expert specializing in vehicle electronics and stand-alone fuel management systems. He has over 20 years of experience and owns a car repair garage and tuning shop.
David still runs his shop but is now more focused on pre-purchase car inspections and writing for FinePowerTools.
Back to Contents
- What is a Soldering Iron Used for? Primary Purpose
- 10 Different Uses of Soldering Iron