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Everyone knows to use a soldering iron to make electrical connections, but what to do when they go wrong and you want to start over? That’s when you need a desoldering pump — a small, spring-loaded pump that, when released, quickly vacuums up solder that you’ve softened with your iron. (Of course, we always called ’em “solder suckers.”)

They usually look like big syringes, except the plunger is “cocked” into a ready position before use. When you’re ready to desolder, just position the nozzle over the molten solder and hit the button; the plunger shoots up, creating a vacuum that sucks the solder into an aluminum tube where it can cool down out of the way of your project. Later you can empty the waste solder by unscrewing the nozzle and shaking out the contents.

The best part, though, is that they’re super cheap — around $4 a pop. Of course, if you do a lot of desoldering, you might consider picking up a “desoldering iron” which combines both the soldering iron and desoldering pump (pre-mounted into the perfect operating position) for convenience.

Desoldering Pump [Electronix]
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7 Responses to Erase Your Electronic Mistakes With A Desoldering Pump

  1. Roy says:

    Desoldering wick (AKA desoldering braid) is pretty handy too.

  2. Fong says:

    I used to solder/desolder small boards everyday for about a year. My boss was one of those OCD guys that would get irritated if my leads weren’t all the same size and the stripes were all facing the same direction. Needless to say, I learned about desoldering early and often. Personally, I like the braid’s better. You can pinpoint the heat over the braid exactly where you want to desolder. The pump does work but it’s not as consistent and it’s just easier to pin the braid down with the iron than hold a pump in your other hand.

  3. Stuey says:

    I’ve used one of these for years. There are a few good things about it and a few bad ones.

    It’s very easy to use as you guys mentioned. But these tools usually come with a plastic tip, which, while replaceable, will get damaged if you put it too close to the heat. Also, it sometimes takes me several pumps to suck up the solder from a very small circuit board connection. It’s great for soldered wires and componentry which are not attached to a board, but then again you can usually just heat those up and pull them apart manually.

    Another disadvantage: the internals get all kinds of gunked up due to the solder slivers and lube. Hence I clean mine very infrequently.

    I like to use it in conjunction with desoldering braid. I use the pump to suck up the bulk of the solder, and use the braid to remove the residue that’s still holding onto the components.

    Radio Shack carries these but for ~$8 these days. Mine has lasted about a decade now with usage every few months.

  4. Adam says:

    I kinda prefer the pump over the braid, especially for larger-scale operations… It’s not as neat, but it works quickly and it’s easy to do one handed.

  5. benjamen says:

    Nothing beats a real vacuum desolding system, but as a cheap alternative I use this Radio Shack desoldering iron (64-2060) http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062731&cp=&sr=1&origkw=desolder&kw=desolder&parentPage=search
    It works pretty well, but sometimes it can be flaky. I like using this type of tool becaue I hate heating a lead then trying to move the end of the solder sucker into the work while trying to mover the iron away.

    I find braid works better for removing surface mount components and a solder sucker works better for through-hole.

  6. Stuart says:

    braid is better…

  7. I use both. Since braid works with surface tension, it’s incapable of removing solder that’s between a surfacemount lead and a board pad, for instance. But if you’re lucky and get the angle just right, you *can* remove that solder with the fast-moving air from the sucker.

    The sucker also wins on through-hole components, where surface tension between the lead and the side of the hole can prevent the braid from removing some solder. Wiggle the component while sucking, and it comes right out.

    But braid is good to have around, for cleaning up pads (I use it like a mop) and stuff. There’s also a surfacemount technique where you gob tons of solder onto a device (PQFP for example) and then remove everything you can get with braid. Since it won’t touch the solder directly under the pads, you’re left with a perfectly soldered connection. (Credit to Ingo Cyliax and Circuit Cellar for this one.)

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