Milwaukee 2488-20 M12 Soldering Iron

Cordless Soldering Iron

How many times have I wanted to have a portable soldering iron to use far from an existing 120v outlet?

My classic problem was often retrofitting some electronics in an aircraft that was located hundreds of feet on the tarmac from the nearest airport building. The only possible portable solution at the time was a small butane powered torch that heated a soldering tip. I am sure you all have seen these, but even that solution was not going to work in an environment where aviation fumes were commonplace in the fuselage of the airplane. Lighting a butane torch when sniffing avgas fumes could have been a real exciting, career ending mistake! The solution at hand was often to remove the electronic components and trek them across the airport apron to an outlet and use a plug-in soldering station.

Portable Soldering Solution

Even the soldering needs for my CNC router require me to use extension cords for power. Why don’t they make those cords longer than 3 ft.?

How many times did I have to prop the hot soldering iron on the edge of the CNC table and weight it down with something handy to keep it in place while not burning myself or the table surface? So my need for a good, safe portable soldering solution had gone unmet – until yesterday.

That is when I had the opportunity to use the Milwaukee 2488-20 M12 Soldering Iron. At last, I have found a safe, quick, fast, and even smart portable soldering solution.

Small Footprint

The M12 Soldering Iron is an incredibly well-designed tool. First off, I especially liked the ability to stand it up on the base of the battery with the head of the tool in a vertical position. It is stable with the smaller-footprint M12 REDLITHIUM Compact battery, as you can see in the picture, below:

No more figuring how to work around a hot soldering that tends to plant the hot tip on the nearest surface! (Spoiler alert: I will be using it with the larger base of the M12 REDLITHIUM XC battery. It stands up by itself even with the pivoting head in the horizontal position and can be used as a stationery device.)

The 2488 soldering tool may be the first really safe soldering iron I have used outside of a stationary soldering station (See the picture below with the XC battery as a base)

LED Indicators

The M12 Soldering Iron has a fuel gauge to show the battery life and it is visible from the operating position. In addition to the fuel gauge, the iron has a tip temperature indicator light. This LED turns steady green when the iron is up to operating temperature. When you finish the work and turn off the iron, the indicator shows a red color, indicating the tool is off but the tip is still hot. When the red LED goes out, the tool is at a temperature that is safe to store. This is a great safety feature. 

Tip Temperature Indicator

And the tip temperature indicator is a real time saver. With a conventional soldering iron, I usually strike the tip multiple times and wait around to see when the solder melts. With the 2488, I can have confidence that the tip is ready to go and I don’t have to stand around wasting time to see when the tip is at operating temperature. Additionally, I found that the M12 came up to temperature from a cold state in less than 20 seconds.

Lightweight and Well-Balanced

The M12 Soldering Iron is a well-balanced tool and is easy to hold and to use for extended periods of time. The M12 is .5 lb. with no installed battery. The smaller battery is obviously lighter, but I found the larger XC battery easy to use for most soldering jobs.

Changing Tips

I typically do not solder semiconductor leads or other extremely precise joints: I think the point tip is too large for this type of work and the 90 watt output is too hot. But for the soldering I do with circuit-board precision, this tool is well suited.

For larger work, the M12 has the ability to change tips. The M12 comes with a chisel tip, in addition to the point tip, and should be good for larger soldering work such as joining tubes or sheet joints. I tried soldering some flat bezel copper stock and a copper pipe strap to try it out and the M12 was able to do this work with no problem.

LED Work Light

Falling into the “Icing on the Cake” category is an integrated LED work light. What a great feature for the occasions when your body or hands/arms block the available light. The LED work light is bright enough to solder in the dark with no other available light source. I found the best way to use the work light in a dark condition is to turn the tool upside down so that the LED is on the bottom to avoid shadows covering the soldering area. Therefore, the only suggestion I would make to Milwaukee is to add an additional work light LED to the bottom side of the finger guard.

Finally, the M12 Soldering Iron can be laid flat on a table top and the tip is well above the surface with either battery installed.

Overall Impression

I sure wish I had owned this tool a long time ago. This is a great solution to all of your soldering needs, short of ultra-precise work. I saw the M12 as a bare tool on the Internet for $69.00, a great value for those of us that solder outside of a dedicated bench top soldering station. And it is a tool I can fall in love with each time I use it.


About the author

Stan Durlacher

Stan has been involved with Design and Construction in the commercial industry since 1975. He is currently the President of Design and Construction for a major St Petersburg, FL developer. Before that, he was a Project Executive for a prominent Boston Construction Manager, building high-rise apartment and office buildings. One of the hallmarks of his career has been innovative problem-solving. As Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Stan was instrumental in bringing the hydro mill slurry wall machinery and technology to Boston in the 1990s for use on the Central Artery Third Harbor Tunnel Project. Stan has been an avid woodworker since college and brings an innovative point of view to this field. Before Florida, he owned an 1886 farmhouse near Concord, Mass, and his skills and time were never idle for long. His barn and attached spaces serve as his ever-expanding workshop. Stan is a self-avowed tool hound. In 2013, Stan decided to design and build his own CNC router. This machine has become a centerpiece of his woodworking and craft focus. Stan will share many of the ways that this innovative technology has solved many current problems and how CNC will begin to impact the woodworking and home renovation businesses.

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