If you’ve got a soldering iron, there’s a good chance that you’re going to use it for a desoldering task at one time or another.
A “solder sucker,” or desoldering pump, is basically a hand-powered vacuum, designed to rapidly draw in small amounts of molten solder. A cheap one will do for once-in-a-while desoldering, but for more frequent use, you’ll want something better.
I had some soldering and desoldering work to do today, and out came my Engineer Inc SS-02 solder sucker. I have tried a couple of desoldering tools over the years, and this is one of the nicest ones out there.
What’s unique about the Engineer Solder Sucker desoldering tool is that it has silicone tubing as a tip, instead of the usual hard plastic nozzle. It also comes with an extra length of clear tubing to cut replacement tips from, and you can buy more if or when need more.
It’s small – around 6″ long, and easy to use.
To operate the Engineer Solder Sucker, you press down on the red plunger until it locks. Apply heat to the solder you wish to remove, and once it’s molten, position the Solder Sucker tip over the solder and press the side release button for quick suction.
The flexible tip helps to create a tighter seal over the solder, compared to hard plastic tips or nozzles. It does a really good job, although there are still times when a desoldering braid can help with final clean-up. And, although the Solder Sucker has a self-cleaning shaft, there are times when I need to pull the tip and clear out a small clog.
The SS-02 is made in Japan.
I bought mine back in 2013, and it’s still going great, although I don’t desolder all that often.
Buy Now(via Adafruit)
Buy Now(via Amazon)
See Also(Other desoldering pumps via Amazon)
If you’re looking for something different, I also like the Edsyn USA-made Soldapult ($24 via Amazon).
Engineer… Is there anything they DON’T make better than others?
EDC Scissors: among Stuart’s Favourites.
Screw Pliers: Made us ALL Giddy at their design.
Now you’re telling me they make a Desoldering Pump. Considering the low quality of my CURRENT one, knowing I can add an Engineer brand one to replace it is exciting.
I have been using this since 2017 and it works great just keep the inner rubber seals lubed with a special silicone grease.
Don’t happen to have the name of that grease on you, by chance? I would like to be able to look for it so I can purchase it at the same time as the new SS-02.
I really do need to replace my cheap one, and I’m not joking when I say Stuart has really good timing this week when reminding me I need some tools replaced.
Not sure if it’s the right grease for your application, but i use dow’s molykote 111 in my desoldering gun. It costs about $19 for a 5 oz tube.
I think that’s a pretty safe choice.
$18.50 via Amazon
Amazon was sold out when I needed it, so I ordered from https://pilotshq.com/ . The cost of the product is less, but you have to pay shipping. I ordered a 5oz tube, a small tin, and a wire tightening tool, so it worked out okay.
Thanks guys! Now Wishlisted next to the SS-02!
Found the Canadian version… $29.96 at the time of this posting.
Canadian AMAZON that is. I doubt it’s a different product.
You could try other silicone-based o-ring lubrucants too. Might be available at your local home center or supply shop.
You could just buy the silicone tube, and hook it up to any cheap de-soldering pump.
No, you can’t, at least not easily.
Unfortunately, the length of the physical nozzle, and the cleaning pin used to expel the extra solder, combined with the low volume of air pressure a typical Desoldering Pump has, just adding the flexible tubing over top would only get the solder to clog the nozzle. It wouldn’t get as far as into the chamber. You’d turn a 10 use between cleaning tool into a stop-and-clean-every-time type of tool.
It’s not a bad idea, it just doesn’t work practically. The physics involved don’t QUITE line up for that.
About 9 years ago I inherited some soldering bench tools from the estate of an uncle who had passed. Included were some Weller and Hakko tools – including a tweezer-like soldering iron (Weller WTA50) and 5 different tips that I discovered were for de-soldering. I’ve yet to use them. That’s not to deprecate the usefulness of the Engineer pump – just to say that my hobbies don’t include much soldering
Over the years – my soldering was more of the heavy-duty sort – using soldering coppers heated in a portable furnace – or big American Beauty or Hexacon electric soldering irons for roofing, flashing and the sort. I also grew up when lead work was common in plumbing applications – like lead bends, lead shower pans, and lead waste pipe caulking.
Electronics aren’t one of my hobbies either. Electronics are a part of a larger hobby of “Making” as the kids call it these days. Increasingly, it’s not about creating a piece of electronics, it’s about salvaging electronic parts to build something else.
Hence the Solder Sucker. For the vast majority of time, I need tools to cut and assemble things. But, sometimes you need this to do repairs on your own mistakes. It HAS happened to me where I’ve been soldering a wire on a board, sneezed, and applied too much solder accidentally. My Desoldering pump was able to help, but the vast amount of time I’m building, assembling, and installing things, so it gets put away just as often as it’s used.
Man, fred… You have AWESOME stories… I always, and I MEAN ALWAYS, get a kick out of the things you’ve done in your life.
I don’t like to salvage electronics – it’s extremely time-consuming and requires a lot of effort.
My work today was repairing (or attempting to repair) my mechanical keyboard. I had to remove one bad switch (space bar) and replace it with the “pause” switch I rarely use. But, it looks like there’s also a problem with another switch (left alt I believe), and so additional switches are en route.
Usually, though, I’ll use a desoldering pump for correcting mistakes or poor connections that need to be redone, making changes, or swapping parts.
I should probably rephrase it… ‘Cause the old school removal of every component to be used later is not what I do. The most recent one was taking 2 identical power banks out of their housing, and wiring the cells in parallel from both units, to give the one working power supply twice the juice. That’s about as complicated as unplugging two wires, and plugging them in elsewhere. That new power bank can charge more devices without being charged itself, and has very minimal impact on the overall use.
Yes, in order to “Unplug” from one power bank, I used a desoldering method. But it was far from Electronics Recovery. It’s usually just recovering a still-useful LED, or switch, or something necessary for another use. Or, replacing an old incandescent lightbulb with an LED strip, or other power module, to be more energy efficient, or to change the overall frequency of light shining in a room.
I’m a tinkerer, in older dialects. Inventor, Care Giver, Builder in General, or Re-Engineer if you will. I Maintain and Upgrade… Stuff… To be more useful, and less toxic. Yes. It’s exhausting at times. Using your brain for an hour, in order to do 30 seconds of manual work? Remarkably exhausting. Physically building something big, and taking 30 seconds to examine what you’ve done the past few hours? Relatively easy in contrast.
Ah makes sense.
I can understand that, and salvaging of parts that are pricey or hard to find. But there are also those that spend time and materials to harvest parts that could be easily and cheaply purchased instead.
Just a medic
Tell us more about your mechanical keyboard. I’m partial to the IBM PS/2 model M, a vintage classic. I type 140wpm on those things. No keyboard is faster!
I bought a Ducky Shine 3 in 2013, and it has lasted longer than all of my past keyboards, except maybe the Microsoft one I bought with my first computer.
With a Logitech keyboard, or many other modern keyboards that have membranes and plastic hinges, if you break a key, it’s done, and there’s no repairing it. I got tired of that happening.
With a mechanical keyboard, which has individual switches, you can remove the keycaps for cleaning underneath, and replace the switches if they break.
With modern mechanical keyboards, you can also choose the type of switches. Cherry MX Brown, for example, has a slight tactile response. I like Cherry MX Blue, which has even more of a tactile response, and an audible *click* that drives my wife crazy.
I swapped in my Cherry Brown keyboard until I can properly repair the alt key of my other keyboard, and it’s not the same, I found that I really prefer the Blue switches.
There are other switch types, and there are samples you can buy to check them out. Or you can look at some of the gaming keyboards at electronics or office supply keyboards.
Some keyboards are easier to modify than others. With PCB-mounted switches, I could have taken the top off and potentially fixed the switch stem. With plate-mounted switches, like on my Ducky, you can only really desolder the switch and put a new one in.
Still, I’m able to replace the damaged or failed switches, which saves the keyboard from being trashed.
If you’re going to salvage boards, you really need a real desoldering gun. While these manual handheld pumps are ok for small infrequent use, trying to remove more than 10 components at a time with them quickly gets tiring. If you do it as a hobby, you could probably get by with one of the cheap ~$100 guns. If you do it for a living, get a hakko FR-301, but that’ll run around $320.
IF I was doing full boards all the time, I’d definitely agree with the proper dedicated gun for it. But, right tool for the right job, right? The amount of Soldering greatly outweighs the amount of DESoldering that I do, so a really good pump, like the Engineer, is perfect for me.
For those who are spending all their time taking electronics apart? I doubt the Engineer is even in that person’s thoughts. They’re probably already looking SPECIFICALLY for a Desoldering Gun.
Don’t use a solder sucker for this! It drives me crazy! You can easily hit both pins of a keyswitch using a reasonably large tip on your iron, and from there the switch just pulls right out. You can modify a $1 pair of tweezers into a perfect switch puller to depress the locking tabs on the switch and pull it out of the plate. Using a solder sucker it’s far too easy to not quite empty out the through hole and then pull the barrel right out of the board. Or overheat the ring and then that falls off the board instead.
I tried that first, it didn’t work. (There are times when I’m all exerting the minimal effort needed to get a job done.) There was also an LED I had to desolder first.
Then I also needed to use the solder sucker to remove solder from the hole so that a replacement could be installed.
Isn’t this situation you’re describing usually a job for Desoldering WICK? Desoldering Thread, Wire, the various names it goes by per region, etc.
Heat with iron, pull away, wick it all away with nothing left in the hole? Or… Was that College class teaching me wrong to make me favour the pump or bulb methods?
I misplaced my two wicks. They’re probably hanging out with my favorite stainless steel brush and scraper. I wasn’t exactly planning on having to fix my keyboard, and didn’t want to wait a few days until a new wick spool arrived, or a few hours for me to track down the ones I have.
There are benefits to both, and so they can and should be use in a complementary manner, and not one instead of the other. But you also have to make due with the tools you have immediately available.
I prefer the smack technique for clearing through holes. Works a treat, easier on the board. Hold the board off the table with one hand, heat the through hole with the other, then quickly smack the board down into the table before the solder has a chance to solidify again. If done right you get a clean hole with no tools required.
What’s the old saying: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” ?
Well the “good old days” of working in the trades were not all peaches and cream. Pouring molten lead around an asbestos rope joint runner probably did not make any of us stronger – and ripping asbestos lagging off a boiler front certainly did not – but these old tasks may well have resulted in more than a few premature deaths. Whatever we may think about workplace and environmental laws and regulations – for the most part I think they have improved our lives.
No no! I totally agree with that, fred! But you have all these other interesting anecdotes… Inheriting equipment, working on simpler things… You are just so… Generous with your knowledge, I find it awe inspiring. I don’t know how to explain it without it sounding creepy or insulting. You’re just… Pretty damn awesome to a tinkerer like me.
I know it isn’t “Pretty” or anything like that… but I’ve always valued the HISTORIC Trades…Like Blacksmithing, Glass Blowing, Pottery, Hand Machining, and all these things we lost with the huge digital mass production boom. I’ve always dreamed of modernizing the PERSONAL manufacturing process. Take all the one-size-fits-all production out.
I’m rambling. Sorry.
No – it is interesting to contemplate what trades were like in a bygone era. Growing up, I lived in what would be described as a matrilocal environment. A dozen separate families related to my mother – all lived in a stone’s throw of our house. Many of these great-uncles and cousins had learned their trades around the time of WWI – and told stories about their ancestors’ trades as well. In an earlier age when surnames were just starting to appear in Europe – some of these folks might well have been called Smith, Wright, Mason or Shoemaker – just like your “tinkerer” proclivities – 500 years ago might have resulted in Tinker as a family name.
There seems to be a renewed interest (for Hobby or Professional application) in some of those trades you mention. While we have to admit that the industrial revolutions made it possible to produce much more and more consistently than would be possible by hand – it is nice to contemplate producing one of a kind items. I think, in part that’s why many of us like hand tools – and what we can make using them.
I have no idea ehy my comment is awaiting moderation , is it because of my name ?
Sorry, ALL new commenters’ comments go through manual moderation, as a way to cut down on spam. I usually work through the queue a few times a day.
In that case I apologize:) thank you for a wonderful blog to provide insight into tools.
I might give it a go, I’ve always been a solder wick guy. I tried a cheap pump and it was ok at leaded and on single-layer boards but anything modern was too much of a pain. Add solder, desolder, add solder, desolder, add solder, desolder, add solder, solder wick.
” Add solder, desolder, add solder, desolder, add solder, desolder, add solder, solder wick.”
I’ve been there…
If you are having problems with modern boards are you using higher heat or different temperature tips. Lead free solder is definitely tougher to desolder without better tools.
I do it professionally, electronics repair. I was commenting about the pump, generally I just use wick…and if it’s a chip with more than 8 pins I use chip quik so it drastically lowers the melting point of the solder so it stays molten while I heat the other sides. But that scenario is definitely not one for a solder pump.
I was ready to poo-poo this then I saw the photo of the size in relation to the hand. I’ve used the large vacuum solder suckers and not been impressed. I still like the bulb style better: https://www.amazon.com/Weller-7805-Bulb-Solder-Off-Black/dp/B0042T074Y but this one Stuart posted looks like it might be easier to control than the larger solder suckers.
It all depends on what type of desoldering you need to do. For onesy-twosy through-holes, I’ll use the bulb. If I have more, I dig out a desoldering iron like this one: https://www.amazon.com/ECG-J-045-DS-Electric-Soldering-Temperature/dp/B07M6RNJJK If I’d do it all the time I would buy a desoldering station, but I don’t want to spend the money or have to store it for the little bit of desoldering I do.
With through-hole, don’t be afraid to add more solder to the joint before you try desoldering. It seems counter-intuitive, but it helps make sure all the solder is melted on both sides and in the hole.
Surface mount desoldering is a whole ‘nother ball game. If you don’t care about disturbing all the neighboring parts, a heat gun is the way to go, but I like to use a good desoldering braid like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Chemtronics-80-2-5-Soder-Wick-Rosin-Desoldering/dp/B01I7Q2ULA It helps if they are fresh. I’m not sure what happens to the rosin but it seems to dry out over time and become less effective.
Once you get all the solder off, a fresh X-Acto blade can help you pop the legs off a pad. on a good fresh board the pads are pretty tough, but after a few solder/desolder cycles (like when you keep blowing a chip), they like to delaminate.
Looks beautiful, but I think the one I have been using for 20 years works just as well. This has no shroud for the Piston. You can add a silicon tip to practically any model.
A properly tinned tip melts solder with ease. I just used mine a few days ago; fixing a TV with a fried diode and blown capacitors. Can’t find a local electronics store worth a poop
Solder Pump? Never heard it called that before!
I thought “desoldering pump” sounded appropriate. “Solder sucker” seems a little informal, and “desoldering tool” can include too many other types of tools, including hot air rework stations used for SMD components. So, “desoldering pump.”