Hakko 901

I’ve got a Hakko FX-901 Cordless Soldering Iron and I love it. I was reminded how much I love it when Donald mentioned it in Maker Update #37.

I got mine about two years ago after using one at the Be A Maker space. I stick a set of rechargeable AA batteries in it and I’ve usually got it ready to go when needed. Oh, while you can find it on Amazon for about $32, I got mine from SparkFun where it’s usually $34.95 but you can sometimes find it on sale for $24.95, which is an awesome deal!

The one thing I don’t like about it is the replacement tips. Right now a Hakko T11-B Tip for FX-901 is $24.95. Yeah, that’s the same cost as a new (on sale) iron from SparkFun. Hmmm…

I know some people really like the butane soldering irons, and they can be found for cheap, but I prefer rechargeable batteries to dealing with butane fuel. Also, I’ve flown more than once with the Hakko, and bringing AA batteries on a plane is not an issue. :)


A long time ago I picked up this 50W Soldering Station from SparkFun, and it’s worked well over the years. (Also, props to SparkFun for still listing retired products on their site!) The nice thing about this iron is that it can use Hakko tips, and since I can get Hakko-compatible tips super-cheap on eBay, I’ve got a lot of tips in the shop so I’m never without one.

I could have got a Hakko, but they are more than twice the price, and while I do use a Hakko at work, I went cheap at home because sometimes I’m cheap. (You may remember the time I had to fix a Hakko FX888D Soldering Station.)


The one thing I didn’t like about the SparkFun iron was that the handle seemed a little flimsy. Not at first, but after years of use. It finally got to the point where the heating element was wobbly on the handle, and when I took it apart, I couldn’t get the tip off easily, and when it came off, the end of the heating element broke. (I should note that I probably solder things a few times a week, so it definitely got some good use.)


I had to find a replacement handle, and it requires one with 7 pins. After browsing around eBay for a bit I found the 7-Pin 907 Soldering Iron Handle For AT936b AT907 AT8586 ATTEN Soldering Station, which seemed like it was the right one. I figured that for under $8.00 I’d just order it and hope it worked. And it did.

I also learned that the SparkFun iron is basically an ATTEN 937b Anti-static Rework Soldering Station, which you can find cheap on eBay as well. (I mean, lots of things are cheap on eBay, because they may be knock-offs or just not that good. YMMV.) Also the ATTEN 937b is basically a knock-off of the Hakko 936 ESD Soldering Station with Medium (907) Handpiece. Oh look, the “907″ handpiece. Of course.

Happy Soldering!


Last year I was really pleased to see so many people & groups from UWM involved in Maker Faire Milwaukee. We’ve got another great batch this year, which I’ll share below.

I also want to call out Bryan Cera, an alumnus of UWM, and an all-around amazing maker. If you’re not familiar with Bryan check out his Maker Spotlight. Bryan is now a Professor at the Alberta College of Art and Design, but we’re pleased to see he’ll be returning to Maker Faire Milwaukee this year.

We’ve also got a few returning favorites, and some new friends joining us:

Among the list are a few current students and recent graduates. We’ve also got few alumni working as producers and crew this year. Even Stephen Pevnick, Professor Emeritus is joining us! He was one of my instructors many, many years ago at UWM. It was great to meet him again and get a tour of his studio, and I look forward to see his Graphical Waterfall at Maker Faire Milwaukee this year.

Arduino - The First Sketch

The Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club of Kenosha & Racine invited me to give a talk last year but I was busy teaching PCOMP at UWM so I couldn’t make it, but I offered to come during the summer and we scheduled August for me to visit and talk about the Arduino microcontroller.

A few people were familiar with the Arduino, and one or two had even used them before, but for most people this was an introduction. I covered a bit about what the Arduino is, and what it can do, and how you might use it for prototyping a product.

I updated the Presenations page and added the Welcome to Arduino slides, and noticed I hadn’t given any presentations in 2016, but then I remembered that I had a class full of students twice a week during that time and was pretty much presenting constantly. Life is weird sometimes. (And actually I did do some presentations while at UWM, so maybe I’ll dig through those and post them.)


I picked up a 3D printing pen a while back, and yes, I should blog about it, but in the meantime I’ll just drop this post about the Fondoodler, which is a little like a 3D printing pen, but more like a hot glue gun for cheese… or chocolate!

When I got the Fondoodler (back in January) I tried it with some cheese, but didn’t really have time to experiment much beyond putting cheese on crackers, so I wanted to try chocolate, and since I had a camera at the ready, I documented the process.


I started with a bunch of little Hershey Chocolate Bars and cut them up up fit in the feeder tube. When I did this with cheese it was easy to jam it in tight, which was more difficult with the chocolate. Perhaps cutting it into smaller pieces would have helped.


Once the feeder tube is loaded up you drop it into the gun, er, “Fondoodler” and then put in the push-stick so it operates like a glue gun with the trigger that advances the glue, but it pushes the stick forward (and the stick has a little Silicone piece that goes on the front end.

And then you make messes! If you’ve ever used a glue gun, you know that the flow is pretty consistent as you feed the glue in. With chocolate, it was hard to keep an even flow/pressure while using it. Now, this may have been because I had large pieces of chocolate and did not cut them down smaller, which may have led to air pockets. I don’t know… first test, and all that.


Here’s a few quick and dirty tests of running chocolate through the Fondoodler. Yeah, nothing too impressive yet. I made a few more attempts… (I used parchment paper as my “printing surface”.)


…and I got this awesome “chocolate pile” as I’m calling it. This could make a nice topping for a cake or some other dessert. Maybe. If anything, it’s abstract art. In chocolate. That you can eat. The best thing about the Fondoodler may be that you can eat your mistakes.


Cleanup was, a bit of a mess. (“Mess” seems to the operative word for this experiment.) The chocolate got all over the Fondoodler, and required quite a bit of cleaning! I ended up spraying a lot of water over everything, which should be fine, as long as it all dries out before I plug it in again. (The Fondoodler does come with a special cleaning brush for clearing out the tip. It works well, for the tip.) When I tried using cheese I did not have these problems.


Probably my best piece… “Pete” in chocolate, which sounds amazing, if I do say so myself!

I’m sure I’ll try a few more Fondoodler experiments now that I’ve got some idea what’s possible and how it works (and doesn’t work.)

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