Being able to solder is a good skill to have during a period of prolonged self-sufficiency. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to create a rudimentary soldering iron if you don’t happen to have one on-hand at the time. Better yet, you can accomplish the same thing as long as you have a source of heat and some solder, and here are a couple of examples of how easy it can be.
Good Heat Source
All soldering irons do is generate and channel heat that melts the solder. Consequently, they’re technically more of a convenience than a requirement. You can use anything from the flame of a lighter, candle or campfire to provide you with enough heat to accomplish all kinds of repair jobs. The trick is to have a good metal conductor that will absorb and transfer that heat to where you need to make the connections.
While you can use any type of metal as the conductor, but thin material works better, particularly when using small flames and working on small components. They heat up faster, you can position them into tight spaces, and they should retain enough heat for you to make one or two connections at a time. Position the solder against what you want to connect, before touching it with the tip of the heated element from above. Quickly make the connections before returning the element to the flame, and repeat as necessary. While this may be tedious, it will get the job done in a pinch.
You can also bend the end of the element into a loop in order to make it more stable and easy to position, and it will also increase the level of heat retention for a few more seconds as well.
If you are working on larger connections, or are using a large flame to heat the element, you want to avoid using small items that could get too hot or cause you to get too close to the fire. Instead, attach a nail to a longer, thicker metal rod or screwdriver with some some wire. Position it so the nail sticks out from the end, with the point facing out as well. Put the nail and end of the rod into the flames, let it heat up for as long as you prefer, and use it to make contact with the solder to melt it and make the connection.
The easiest soldering jobs involve connecting two wires together. Twist the ends of the two wires that you are connecting before placing the tip in the flame of a candle or lighter. Let it heat up for about 10 seconds, and don’t worry if the end gets coated in soot and turns black. Carefully touch the base of the exposed wires with your soldier and let it travel down toward the other end. Let it cool before snipping off the charred end of the wires. You don’t want to use the charred end because the material will interfere with the conductivity of the soldier as well as its overall level of adhesion, so make sure that you expose enough wire so you can snip this part off.
While these options may be far from ideal, they can get the job done when you don’t have any other alternatives available. The important thing is that you have some solder available, otherwise these tricks won’t work. Make sure to include a small supply in your bug out bag or survival kit, and consider packing a portable soldering iron as well.