Fred sent in a tip about the new StewMac Solder Monster – thank you! – but I find myself having mixed feelings about the design.
StewMac is a guitar-making specialty store, and they offer some interesting tools that can be used for other applications outside of building guitars.
I previously wrote about their custom-modified Foredom flex-shaft tool handpiece, and Ben has posted about their rotary tool base in his roundup.
Now, they’ve come out with a long-reach Solder Monster 3rd hands-style workcenter.
It features 4 “helping hands,” each measuring around 20″ long. They have alligator clips at their ends, with shrink wrap over the teeth.
There is also a special vacuum hose, which they say allows users to connect a standard shop vacuum to “vent away those poisons” created during soldering.
The wooden base features a wide footprint and storage for wore spools.
At the rear, you have placements for hand tools and accessories.
Buy Now(via StewMac)
It looks like StewMac built this with genuine USA-made Loc-Line hoses. Nice! Loc-Line modular hoses are a lot nicer than the no-name ones found on a lot of 3rd hands tools these days.
The Solder Monster’s arms are all connected to a metal bar that’s mounted to the wooden base. They don’t look to be threaded in, as bases are often orange, and so I’m curious to see how it all goes together.
The Solder Monster doesn’t allow for much expandability, but how often does one need more than 4 arms?
That said, 20″ hoses? While Loc-Line is very flexible and can be rigid, it can also bend unintentionally. I don’t know how manageable 20″ hoses would be in a product like this.
For applications outside of guitar-making, you could always shorten the arms.
The storage aspects are creative and look to be very effective, One could adapt the design for an electronics wire and tool storage workcenter.
As for the dust extraction design, I’m more than a little skeptical. When soldering, the rosin core creates a lot of the smoke, more so than the molten solder, at least from what I’ve read, observed, and come to believe as true. Let’s say someone is using a shop vacuum with a simple foam filter. How is that going to filter out soldering smoke fumes or particulates? It won’t “vent away those poisons,” it’ll likely redistribute them all over the places. Inside the vacuum, and likely out the vacuum’s exhaust.
You can’t use a vacuum to filter out fumes, you need some sort of fume extractor. Such devices often have activated carbon elements, sometimes with pre-filters.
The vacuum airflow looks to go from a 1-1/4″ adapter, small diameter clear tubing, a Y-fitting, and a length of what looks to be 1/4″ Loc-Line before passing through a tip that’s connected to a larger tip that’s reversed to provide a larger diameter intake.
While I would love to have the background in fluid dynamics or the modeling software needed to roughly visualize or calculate what the airflow will like that, I can tell you that it looks horribly inefficient.
I have several Loc-Line projects I want to get to working on. One involves a chip blower built using 1/4″ Loc-Line tubing, and another involves a chip vacuum built using several 1/2″ or 3/4″ Loc-Line connected to an 2-1/2″ vacuum hose adapter.
1/4″ Loc-Line? For a vacuum? For “fume extraction”?
Even if connected to a proper fume extractor vacuum of some kind, it would have to be connected so close to the work that it would be more of an impediment than anything else.
That one aspect of the product – the questionably capable “safety vent,” is one of few criticisms I have of the design, but it’s a big one.
I also think that the price is a little much. $167? If it’s made in the USA, using all USA-made parts, that could help justify the premium. But $167? Then again, 20″ x 5 = 100″ of Loc-Line hose – more than 8 feet. That amount of 1/4″ Loc-Line would cost around $45-55 for an end-user to buy. That’s just for the hoses.
Maybe I’m not “getting” the context of how they intend for it to be used. I suppose that it could be effective, or at least better than nothing, to remove some fumes or add some ventilation when working on or in a guitar cavity.
$167 seems pretty steep for a wood frame and a few pieces of loc line.
I can’t speak for them, but it would seem the purpose of venting would be to remove the concentrated fumes from the working area where you can inhale them in concentrated form. Once mixed with the volume of air in the room they would no longer be considered harmful (or at least MUCH less so).
Agreed that a tiny fan would be much more appropriate than a shop vac, much quieter and way more efficient.
I’ve worked in a place where we did soldering, welding, and assembly, and we had a central vac with ports near the workstation. The ports led to an outside bin, and fumes were vented outside. I wonder if that isn’t the sort of setup this is geared towards. I would assume a guitar building shop would have something similar to remove sawdust, shavi GS, etc.
But if you’re working in a small space, their product claims would lead to a false sense of safety.
When soldering, you need ventilation or a large enough space that allows for quick dissipation.
I’ve also never seen a soldering fume extractor or fan with a – what, 1/2″ opening?
BUT what else could someone do to get fumes out from a guitar cavity?
“When soldering, you need ventilation or a large enough space that allows for quick dissipation.”
Stuart, re-read Jerry’s post:
“The ports led to an outside bin, and fumes were vented outside.”
I see no reason the Solder Monster couldn’t be hooked up to a central vac system as Jerry describes. These are common, even required, in production environments.
Sure, this is a special purpose tool. They may sell out their initial run quickly and then rarely sell one after that. Surely a dozen people will quickly go make their own, if you can make a solid guitar body, you have the skills and equipment to make your own monster.
But it is cool, and it will make the lives of some luthiers and factory line workers a little easier.
I was building upon Lance’s comments about in-room dissipation, not Jerry’s outside-venting comment.
And I agree that it’s a cool and helpful-looking product. But I do have concerns about the way the vacuum tubing aspect of it.
check out the new led bar lit stewmac plunge base http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Types_of_Tools/Routers_and_Bits/Routers/StewMac_Plunge_Router_Base.html
Nice! A little pricey, though. Maybe clunky, too.
I thought it looked a bit bulky as well.
Cool idea, but kind of spendy for what it is.
This is one of those “I’d rather build it myself” kind of items for that price.
Wow, I just got the email from StewMac on this, and you already have a review up. Nice job! I agree the price is steep, but nearly everything from StewMac is that way, they make tools for luthiers.
I build tube amplifiers and this would come in really handy for holding the leads in place while you solder. I think the idea for the venting is more to move the smoke and fumes away from an area of high concentration, not to filter them entirely. When you’re soldering your nose and mouth are often directly above your work, smoke rises, and you can get a mouthful pretty quickly. I sometimes just use a small fan nearby to blow the smoke away.
If you need fewer arms, you can buy a smaller one on Amazon for around $45 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010C504NK/.
or make one to your specs for about $20. http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Flexible-Soldering-Helping-Hand/ He has a great parts list.
I’m not a luthier by and stretch of the imagination – but have bought a few luthier-type tools for inlay work. Stew Mac has a “sale” now and then – and notify you if you are on their email list. I get their emails because I have bought from them in the past. They have been easy to deal with.
They offer “free shipping” if you signup for a $39.95 annual membership. Some of what they sell seems pretty pricey to me – even when on sale – but if its unique or hard to find – their stuff may be worth it. Some of the tools they sell are unique to them – but others can be had from different sources possibly at lower prices – so it’s probably wise (as usual) to shop around.
On this item, component costs probably don’t come close to $167 – but they have to cover their labor and profit margin, Not something for me – but I thought to pass it on to Stuart.
I just love how you accidentally get into model railroad compatible stuff.
The Foredom compatibility leads in particular.
And no I’ve still not used my Milwaukee 12v soldering iron. I have, however, used the stapler and heatgun however. Good leads those. PS the new 3/8th 12v Fuel ratchet is stronger then all getout but has no subtle torque control like our ancient Makitas. Darn.
Very cool. But I could probably build one for ~$30
Using knock-off pieces, you certainly could. Real Loc-Line is pretty pricey and as Stuart said, will be $50+ just for the hose parts. Loc-line is both stiffer and smoother than the cheap knockoffs.
This is for about 11″ of loc-line
For soldering fumes a number of places I worked used the Weller WSA350 Bench top Smoke Absorber to deal with soldering fumes. It uses carbon filters. One tech had a similar device on an articulated arm so he could position it over the work but out of his way. I am not sure if the version on the arm was an actual product or his own custom setup but it was a lot more versatile than the bench top version. The fan on these was about 5″ x 5″ as I recall. I am not sure of the airflow specs. The replacement filters are on Amazon for about $10 for 3.
I am the first to admit to being a sucker for most things StewMac (if you happen to work on guitars as I do) but sometimes the pricing just doesn’t make sense.
I found this, while not the same, a much better start to building your own station.
LOL at how they worked “pana” and “vise” in that title. But even mis-spelled Soldering once, to get the mispelling search hits.
“Soldering Station with Helping Hands – Coolmade (2017 New WorkBench) Soldeing Tool Metal Vise with 6 Pana Assembled Helping Hands Aluminum Base for Soldering, Assembly, Repair, Modeling, Hobby, Crafts “
Any info on the m12 river gun to be released in the next couple months?
Yes. I’m hoping to have the preview post up on Monday. I was waiting on some answers.
Stuart, when I prototyped a solder smoke sucker, I used 3/4″ Loc-Line to a y-base to a 3d printed 3/4″ to 80mm fan adapter. It worked well but the material costs were just too high to be a viable product. I think my BOM was roughly $30.
Nowadays, Loc-Line offers a new line of hoses that might be a good approach. I agree you still need some filtering but it’s something I’ve been meaning to look into.
There’s certainly some interesting ideas in their design so thanks for the post.
I have no idea how they are connecting those 1/4″ nozzles to the aluminum bar. My only guess would be some combination of screw + washer plus epoxy. They would basically tap the aluminum, screw in a bolt with a spacer and a washer. Put the 1/4″ nozzle over that assembly then pour in epoxy and let it harden. But that’s just conjecture on my part.
Also, they should really switch over to silicon alligator clip covers. They are harder to install but are also more heat resistant.
This thing is a lot bigger than it appears to be in the initial pictures. Without a Guitar in front of it, you really don’t see the sense of scale this thing has.
A smaller form would suit me nicely. I make sterling silver jewellery as a hobby. Having a nice all-in-one multi-hand tool like this would be very handy, but this one is about twice the size I’d ever use.
I think a small impeller pump from a liquid cooling system for computers would be a better solution than the hand pump. Hit a switch and get constant, gentle air flow from that nozzle. But, by the hand-built nature of this device, I don’t think that’s out of the question, even if you buy this.
Very inspiring though. I’ve been meaning to redo my workstation, and I’ve been procrastinating because nothing really does what I need it to. This is a good idea, and I think I might make a version of it to help make the hobby easier to do.
Thanks for the post! This kind of thing is really cool!
That’s not a hand pump, it’s a vacuum hose adapter.
Liquid cooling pumps cannot work in air – they are strictly meant for water flow, at least all the ones I’ve seen. Running them dry will damage or break them.
There are small blowers, though. I tried to make something using a smallish aquarium pump, but will need a much larger one for any kind of usable airflow.
Fans can be used to create air movement in a ventilated workspace, but generally fans or vacuums are used to pull fumes away from work and the user.
Additionally, blown air could potentially cool things down, leading to inconsistent soldering performance.
For jewelry making, Otto Frei carries a couple of small 3rd hands stations designed for more delicate work.
…Huh… I guess they’ve discontinued the ones I used to build with… My bad. It’s been a long time since I got the chance to build with a liquid cooler. Not up on the parts anymore.
As to the vacuum attachment, I think I need my eyes checked. It totally looks like a hand pump to me. Just another way you’re helping. Gotta get my eyes checked.
And I’ve seen those more advanced third hands. The size and scale of my jewellery work is too small for them. Plus I never know when I may need to place a grabber, or just some kind of marker, at some point in the piece you’re working on. Sterling Silver wire is super-duper fine gauge, and using pure silver rolo chain just does not leave a lot of room for grabbers. Even if it’s expensive, those plastic hollow tubes look like they have enough flexibility to be put exactly where needed, and stay exactly where put. Add a place to hold spools for wire and chain, and I’m pretty sold there.
Just… gotta make a smaller one, that’s all. Half that size… maybe even a quarter. Only really need room for one or two spools, plus 4-5 arms, and certainly not 20″ long arms.
Is it ESD safe? Other than how cumbersome it looks, it would be something to have when working on high reliability applications. Another thing, I would expect a filter placed prior to such a small diameter hose. Flux will gum it up fairly quickly.
It doesn’t look ESD-safe to me.
Me either. Having the extra hands would be beneficial to the kind of soldering I do though.
*I just finished a Dumble #124 clone*
I build tube amps also – and often have times when I need a 3rd or 4th hand to hold parts for soldering. I don’t think the overly complicated vacuum setup is necessary.
Amazon does have a bunch of these types of items at much lower prices: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0744BGFYZ/
Also – this might be a good holder for small-scale & intricate glue ups