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!


Steak – Sous Vide done cheap, but done right

Here’s a good technique for cooking steak to exactly the level of doneness that you want. Not only that, but this technique will make dinner parties a LOT easier.

A couple of important pieces of information:

  1. If you leave meat in a water bath at constant temperature, eventually the meat will reach that temperature the whole way through.
  2. When cooking meat, the doneness is dependent on temperature, not time.
  3. Food safe temperature for cooking/maintaining hot food is 60°C or greater (Australia, different rules may apply elsewhere).

The practical upshot of this, is that you can sous vide a steak for an extended period of time, and as long as you can maintain the minimum temperature above 60°C, and ensure that the maximum temperature doesn’t go above that required for the level of doneness that you want, you won’t get food poisoning and the meat will be perfectly cooked all the way through.

According to my friend Adrian Richardson (okay, we’re not friends, but he’s got a good book, a good TV show, and we share a lot of the same feelings about butter and cooked meat), the doneness of meat versus temperature is as follows:

  • Rare                 35°C
  • Medium-rare    45°C
  • Medium            55°C
  • Medium-well     65°C
  • Well done         75°C

So if you sous vide your steak at 60°C (individually, or in the form of a big old slab of meat), you can put the steak into the water bath several hours before dinner is due. Then 5 minutes before dinner, get your frying pan very hot, and sear both sides of your steak. Ideally this searing should be as hot and quick as possible, to avoid cooking the rest of your steak any further. That is, of course, unless some of your guests prefer their meat more cooked; in this case, the majority of the cooking is already done, and you can just cook these steaks a bit further through. If ALL of your guests like their steaks cooked further, simply set the water bath at a higher temperature so that this level of doneness is your starting point.

The best thing about this technique is that you can have all of your steaks ready to go, with only finishing required to serve them up. This is great for when you are expecting guests who are known to be tardy.

Now, how do we sous vide cheaply? Buy a cheap deep-frier (check that it’s safe to use with water instead of oil – I take no responsibility for anyone doing this using the wrong type of equipment and something bad happening). Set the deep frier to very low, and monitor using a digital thermometer. My deep frier can achieve accurate control with +/-2.5°C precision. This allowed me to cook a chunk of meat at 60°C with some excursions down to 55°C (yes, I should have probably gone 60-65°C, for food safety, but… Meh)

Here’s an example of some awesome wagyu rib fillet that I cooked last weekend:


My meat – Wagyu rib fillet, vacuum sealed


almost 1.4kg for four people. mmmmm


$25 deep frier


Set the frier to very low temperature and use a digital thermometer to monitor

Note: If you’re going to use a deep frier as a sous vide machine, first MAKE SURE IT’S SAFE TO PUT WATER IN. In my machine, the heating element is inside stainless steel tube and it’s water tight.


Meat cooked to 60°C


perfectly cooked to Medium, all the way through


A quick sear in a very hot pan on my induction cooktop’s highest heat setting




mmm mmm mmmmmmm