Portable flameless soldering iron

Just the other day I had to solder some wires on our irrigation valves out back in the garden. Completing the job quickly was a breeze with this tiny flameless soldering stick that will get red hot anywhere. In my experience soldering jobs always seem to happen beyond the reach of electrical outlets, so this inexpensive cordless tool is now part of my kit. A tiny catalytic converter burns ordinary lighter butane to a steady orange glow without flame, keeping the tip super hot. It’s perfect for small electrical and wiring jobs. I know some hardware hackers who work inside near power yet swear by the Portasol because it heats up so quickly. Comes in a plastic lid which allows you to pack it away while still warm and doubles as the flint sparker to ignite it. This is the low-end cheap one — $ 15 (includes small bottle of butane) — which suits my occasional use fine. Weller makes fancier Portasols with piezo self-starters ($35), more wattage and temperature control ($70), and many accessories.

-- KK 06/9/04

(The originally reviewed C1C is no longer in production, but the newer P50 is a well-reviewed replacement at the same price-point. -cc — editors)