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.
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.
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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.