Weller Portasol Portable Butane Soldering Kit

Cordless, self-igniting soldering iron

I have used butane-powered soldering irons for about 17 years. This one is compact, well made and lighter than most other butane type irons I have used. It is made of a thermal plastic resistant to high temp and the cap is vented so you can put it back on while the head is still hot. The exterior is textured slightly, which makes it easier to hold. It gives a sharp, well-defined flame front with a very efficient burn. The torch has enough power to tin the ends of large cables and shrink large diameter heat shrink insulation. Unlike the cheaper ones from Weller, it comes with inter-changeable tips, including a hot knife tip, so I can use it occasionally on close pitch SM components. There’s a wire rack in the case that allows you to set up the torch with a platform so you can use both hands. The fuel window is a nice feature, too. The run time is advertised at 90 minutes — of course it depends a lot on how hot you run it. I usually use it at 50% or less. I always refill the butane whenever I store the torch in its case, so I have only run out once in 17 years of using this type of soldering iron (I was 35 feet in the air and that was the last time).

The lab I work in is busy and crowded, so I work outside of the lab a lot. I can tuck this soldering iron in my lab coat pocket and forget about until I need it. I use it two to three times a week. The iron is great for soldering crimped pins on a new cable and the torch is good for heat shrink when I don’t want to go get the heat gun. I have yet to use it to cut poly rope, but it is nice to know I can. It is also great for lighting fireworks. I have not used the hot knife yet but I gave one of the kits to our mechanical engineer and he, being a sailor, thought it had real potential. The only draw back I have found is the TSA will not let you carry it on a plane.

Hint: I put the cap on the iron in the case and dropped a Leatherman E4 in the cap holder cut-out to create a more complete kit. You still need some flux cored solder, but one can tuck a small coil in the sponge can or carry a small tube separately.

-- Gary K. 03/11/08

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