Although I don't intend to spend lots of time writing this post, I would like to cap off some thoughts concerning the making of fileteuse for leatherwork and the possibility of using a 936 soldering iron: pros and cons.
First, let me say that I like making things. Even if I have the "proper tool", I still enjoy making "stuff" and tools. In the case of fileteuse made by a couple of French mfgs, in particular Regad, I was led to consider making fileteuse somewhat because of the price in conjunction with the tool being largely a novelty. I say a novelty because I have an alcohol lamp that I also use, and still use, for the same purpose. But I like tools, and have many that I don't really need, but I like them. That is a good enough reason for me to have them all: ones I make or buy.
One of my first thoughts about the Regad style fileteuse was that I didn't like the exposed heater coil. Well, I have completely changed my mind on this topic and although the heater coil is fragile, the open heater coil has a real benefit. Let's start with a 936 soldering iron. Some history, at a family gather for Thanksgiving, a year previous to my writing this posting, I was in Boston and in my brother's shop. On his electronic workbench was resoldering station, and like many times in the past we got into a discussion. I asked/said, why don't we/I make this leatherworking tool from a soldering iron. Some brief discussion, led to the 936 being the simplest model to start from. Shown below.
The 936 has a ceramic heater in which the tip slides over the heater tip and then a shroud covers the mechanism with a screw down retention. My first thought was that I could make my own tip that completely replaced the current tip and this was not that hard to accomplish.
What have we got here? There is the actual tip which I made from a section of thread rod. Ground it to shape and filed down one side. Then it was brazed to a threaded tube, that joined with a threaded male part that replaced the original shroud. Somethings to consider. Although this is a lot of steel, when it gets hot, it stays hot. So, it works. Not pretty but that is fine.
Now of course, the Regad tips are much nicer than my "hand fabricated" fileteuse tip and my attention was turned toward making a nicer tip. At about that same time, I found that Asian companies were selling Regad like tips on ebay at extremely reasonable prices. I no longer needed to make the tips and neither do you. Image below is just one of the sellers on eBay and I am not endorsing this seller but I did buy from them and all went fine. I've also bought from another sellers as well, that also went fine.
Although I could have redone the above mechanism to use this type of tip, I decided to make an entire handle. Why? Thinking back, it was probably driven by the cord not being long enough. Remember, a 936 is a soldering iron and the cord is not that long. Although it is not short, it is just short enough to be annoying when using the fileteuse.
So now let's take a look at the inside of a 936.
As we can see, there is an electronic circuit board located inside the 936 soldering iron handle. It uses a 5 conductor wire connecting back to the control box. And now I am beginning to ask myself, why did I want to do this in the first place. Regardless, it is not that big a deal to make an entire handle ... correct? We want it to be strong enough to push on etc. It needs some sort of slot for those tabs on the circuit board to fit into. For some reason, I grabbed this big chunk of copper. Not a completely a horrible idea, but not a great one either. See pictures of what the next iteration of a handle.
Okay, by now the reader should be thinking that this is more trouble than it is worth but if you're bent on making your own handle, have at it. It is straightforward on the lathe. Boring and turning, etc but it would be easier to go back to the original approach and just augment the 936 handle to hold the Asian made tips. If you want to extend the cord, just buy some 5 conductor wire ... on eBay, and extent the wire or replace it. BUT keep track of orientation to that 5 pin connector.
Does it work? Yes, but because the heater is contained, eventually the handle gets warm ... probably a bit hot for most people. So, now we return to the Regad design and why an open heater is a good idea after all. The heater coil is wrapped around the tip and it doesn't take much to heat that tip.
The Regad handle is nicely made and only about $140. The tips are also nicely made but each one is about $135. The heater coil approach used by Regad is also used for woodburning. See the Janik pyrography equipment at Turners Retreat UK http://www.turners-retreat.co.uk/pyrography-2/machines-and-machine-accessories/janik Their handles and tips are down-right inexpensive, but also not nearly the quality of Ragad. I use their handles and tips for wax spatula. The plugs used are some sort of European standard of banana plug. Janik and Regad have the same diameter and spacing. So, as one can see in the photo, I have rigged a converter to use "our" normal banana plugs.
This now brings us to the transformer but first let's note the simplicity of the exposed heater coil. No electronic circuit boards, just plain old electricity but not at the "wall" voltage. It needs to be turned way down. Go get yourself and old model train transformer. The one I use is again, from eBay. It's a Lionel 250 watt "old-school" transformer. It was only $60. You read that correctly! The model has 4 sets of leads coming off the back. That means four handles. New transformers are expensive and if one wants that tidy look for the Hermes-like photo then it will cost a lot of money to have a "real" REGAD transformer or one of the other brands. Besides for looks, which I happen to like, what are the pitfalls of using a model train transformer? Well, one needs to be careful not to over power those little tips. They can burn up easily, and when using a train transformer nobody calibrated the unit to the tip. Solution: start at zero and increase slowly. Pros: 4 handles. Go look up the price of a 3 handle model from the fileteuse makers. I've not seen a 4 handle unit from them.
At some point, I will make a nice base that houses the plugs and the transformer sits on, but for now I plug it into the adapter shown above.
and as I said at the beginning, I still use an alcohol lamp shown in the last picture. Shown there is an old shoemaking iron next to a fileteuse tips I got on eBay. There was even a colleted holder. In a different "blog" posting, I show how I make awls and haft, but for the price that the eBay store wanted, I bought this tip holder ... and it was not badly made. Not amazing but certainly not crap either.
There seems to be a range of pricing for fileteuse transformer, here are a couple of sources. None that I can find, handle 4 handles.
Hope this helps.