Follow up review: S-998P, Cheap Desoldering Tool

Some time ago I posted about a desoldering tool that I had purchased online; the S-998P. Since then, I’ve used it on and off, however it’s only recently that I got a chance to really use it in anger.

In an effort to tidy the house and organise the garage, I decided to finally address my “scrounge cabinet”. As I’ve said before, I’m a scrounger from way back. Part of it is me wanting to reuse things that would otherwise end up at the rubbish tip (reduce, reuse, recycle)… Go Planet!

… Captain planet, anyone? Why hasn’t that been remade yet?

… Oh, whatever. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, another, probably larger, part of it is that I like free stuff. Anyway, a great source of free electrical components is old appliances, like:

  • Printers
  • Microwaves
  • Photocopiers
  • Etc

So whenever I get my hands on these items (normally on kerbside collection weeks, or from the bin outside my nearest photocopier repair shop), I put them in the garage until I’m able to get the screwdriver onto them and dismantle them. Once dismantled, the circuit boards and mechanical components go into my Scrounge Cabinet (and entire filing cabinet which, until recently, was bursting at the seams with Stuff).

The problem is, I hadn’t gotten around to removing the individual components that I wanted from the much larger assemblies (i.e. a few high current resistors from a 20cm square circuit board). Enter the S-998P.

So I spent some time in the garage desoldering large and small components, probably a total of at least 400-500 soldered connections. And how did this process go? Really well!

The good:

  • Near complete removal of solder, allowing removal of components with negligible effort
  • Very easy to empty waste solder from the waste canister.
  • Very easy to keep the inside of the barrel clear using the steel cleaning tool that cane with the desoldering tool… once I realised that I needed to.
  • Easy enough to tap a thin nail into the barrel to force out a 2cm long obstruction that formed in the barrel, before I realised that the barrel needs cleaning every now and then.
  • Very fast melting of small and medium size solders
  • Vacuum pump performed well at all times.

The not-so-good:

  • When desoldering large contacts, the tool needed to be pressed firmly against the solder for a while before it melted. And when doing medium sized contacts, I would need to let the tool have a break for several seconds, between each component, to build up some heat. A little more power would have been nice.

All in all, I was very happy with the S-998P’s performance, and would happily recommend it to a friend. I’d be interested to see what new and improved versions are available, and what they have to offer.

Happy scrounging!


Graph of the Day #6 – Was It Worth It?

As an engineer, I’m a big fan of efficiency, and of making things easier for myself by automating tasks.

In my personal life, I’m also prone to SOMETIMES overthinking things and putting way too much effort into projects that don’t NECESSARILY have a strong business case for, you know… existing…

One way to avoid time wastage is to ensure that any task I’m automating is paid back in a reasonable time. To aid this, I made the attached graph (again, possibly otherthinking things). For any given repetitive task, look up the time it takes you to complete on the horizontal axis. Trace this up to the line corresponding to how frequently you perform the task. From there, trace across to the vertical axis, to find the amount of time that you can spend automating the task, in order for it to get return on investment within the specified time frame.

I put the graph together as an excel spreadsheet, to let me vary the time period for return on investment; refer to the attached excel file.

So, one of the things that I automated last year was logging in to my work computer. I made a fairly simply Arduino system that scans an RFID tag, and uses that code to generate my login password.

This saves me about 3 s each time I log in, and is expected to do so about 8 times per day (depending on how much time I spend away from my desk). This means that over 3 years, it should save me about 7.5 hours. I think I spent about 6 or 7 hours programming, soldering, and 3D printing the device itself… Success!


Time saving required to automate task

Note: The file needs to be renamed to file type “.xlsm” to make it a macro enabled workbook, if you want the chart labelling macros to work.

Rumble in the Jungle


There is no way I can lose.

I’m better than them. They don’t stand a chance.

“You’re a thousand years to early to defeat me”, I growl, more for my own benefit than theirs.

In every way, I am measurably superior: I’m stronger than them; I’m faster than them; I have the weight and height advantage; Sure, they are quick learners, but my brain is alive with knowledge, experience, and cunning that they can’t even begin to fathom.

I have been preparing for this challenge for weeks, and they barely saw it coming. In every conceivable contest of strength and willpower, I have the undeniable advantage…

So why is my gut telling me, as I stare down the barrel of a long weekend, just me alone with my one year old and three year old: “they are going to crush you”?

Hurry back home, my wife. I love you.

Graph of the Day #5 – Delicious things start with C

Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about herbs and spices.

So our spice drawer holds about 49 jars. When i started writing my list of herbs and spices to first fill the jars, my wife said that it was overkill… We ended up culling the list so that we had space for some “wild card” jars (which is a really good idea. That way you can store the excess when you make up a spice mix, meat rub, etc)… it was really easy to come up with a list of 50 herbs and spices.

Graph of the Day 4 – Just Watch That Exponential Growth Rate

So my brother told me that he has just bought two rabbits for his family…

My advise to his was simple: “sometimes, if you love something (and want to avoif the destruction of your property and the starvation of an entire herd of herbivores), you need to eat it and a select number of its offspring.”

Words to live by.

(As always, if you really need explanatio , leave a comment below)

Graph of the Day 3 – Counterintuitive Dress vs. Stress relationship

I quite liked this one. 

You’d think that the more stressed one is, the more poorly dressed one would appear. If you continued off the end of the graph, you’d probably find that to be true (once you really have NOTHING to wear, or get dumped by your wife and have to fend for yourself), however in the short term, the opposite is true.

When life is hard, low priority jobs like laundry and ironing take a back-seat to other priorities, so you might find yourself wearing clothes to work which you’d normally save for more special occasions.

Sometimes graphing stuff is a great way to discover the truth.

The Lightbulb Audit – Ver. 1.2.2

Greetings all,

It’s been a while since I posted anything substantial, so I’m glad to finally be able to announce an update on The Lightbulb Audit.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Lightbulb Audit is an app designed to help you take stock of not only the types of light fittings in your house, but also what type of bulbs you have installed. This will hopefully assist you in reducing your electricity consumption (through being able to audit your usage and demonstrating potential energy savings). It will also hopefully ensure that you know what type of bulb you actually need, the next time you’re trying to replace that blown light that you have been putting off because you can never remember whether it’s a screw or bayonette type, and how bright does it need to be, besides, going to the toilet in the dark isn’t THAT bad, right?

Refer to my original post if you want a more rambling details: The Lightbulb Audit – original post

To get the App (android only, and I’m not going to apologise for that): The Lightbulb Audit – via Google Play Store

Updates in this post include:

  • Finally implimented a Sort function (sort by room, type, power, or order added to list)
  • Import function (import from .csv in the same format as the export .csv, including header row. this is for importing from the excel version of the-lightbulb-audit)
  • Minor formatting and usability update
  • (Minor bug fix from versions 1.2.0 and 1.2.1 which I released in rapid succession last night… oops!)

As I’ve said before, two very important points:

  • I’m not a professional developer, so if you have any negative feedback, comments or questions, please leave them as comments HERE, rather than trashing the App’s review score
  • I’ve posted the App for free, but there is a small ad banner in the app. The only way I’ll ever make any money off this app is if you CLICK ON THE BANNER when you see an ad for something that might interest you. I’d never encourage you to click on ads just to get me a few cents, but if you’re in the app, and you see an ad for something that tweaks your interest, check it out!

Thanks for your time, I hope you find my app useful!