Review of “Clover Mini Iron II” Heat Sealing Iron

Note: click here to learn about proper heat-sealing technique.

Note: This is a review of the North American 40 Watt version. The 25 Watt version sold elsewhere may not work as described (see comment below).

The Quick and Easy Way to Start Heat Sealing

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I bought this “Clover Mini Iron II” on Amazon for about $25 USD and it’s the first commercially available iron I’ve found that works well for heat sealing with no modifications. It arrived today, I plugged it in, waited for it to heat up, and I started heat sealing with no problems.

The Clover Mini Iron II has some nice features, like a fairly long cord with an on-off switch, three temperature settings (high, medium, and low), a little green light to show you when it’s turned on, and a guard around the heating element so you’re less likely to burn yourself or unintentionally melt your fabric. You can even buy smaller or larger tips for it, depending on what you want to use it for. The standard tip is about 22 mm (7/8”) wide, which is a pretty good size for making packrafts. The narrower tip, which looks to be about 1 cm wide, would be useful in some spots, and I may get one eventually.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-9-11-07-pm

One good thing I noticed right away is that this mini iron seems to be fairly solidly built. This is important for heat-sealing fabric, because you have to press pretty hard to get a proper seal, and if the iron is not built well, it may break. I read one review by someone on Amazon whose Clover broke right away, so maybe they’re not all welded properly inside, but this one seems good.

In order to get proper heat transfer from the heating element to the tip of the iron, you need to make sure the screw that holds the tip in place is tight. Because this screw changes temperature dramatically and frequently, it loosens quickly, so begin every session by checking its tightness. The Clover comes with a handy screwdriver for this purpose. (Personally, I would have preferred to have a second ironing tip in the kit instead of a flat-head screw driver, which most people already own.)

After plugging the iron in and turning it on, you need to wait about ten minutes for the iron to heat up fully. You will also have to wait a while if you change the temperature setting.

For sealing the fabrics I sell in the Shop, the “High” and “Mid” temperature settings seem to work best (depending on ambient temperature and other factors). Sometimes the High setting is a bit too hot – yesterday it was perfect, but today the Mid temperature works best. I’m not sure why, but it could be due to the wacky electrical wiring in my old house.

The optional “Slim Line” Tip is useful for narrow welds.

If you buy the optional Slim Line Tip for this iron (which I recommend for some projects), note that the end closer to the handle gets hotter than the forward tip.

I noticed that it’s fairly easy to move the temperature setting switch by accident while using the iron, so I’ve put a piece of tape over it to hold it in place. Problem solved.

The worst feature of this iron is the stand. It collapses too easily and the base is too narrow, so sometimes it tips over. I’m just going to set the Clover stand aside and use the stand that came with my soldering iron instead, but if you don’t have one of those, you could easily make a stand out of a beer can. Actually, the way the heat guard is designed, it prevents the tip from touching anything even if you set it down without a stand – a very nice feature.

Bottom line: in spite of a few minor flaws, this is the best iron I have found for anyone who wants to make a DIY Packraft. It’s available at low prices on eBay, Amazon, etc., and you can also buy it directly from the manufacturer. Just google it to find the best price in your country. Unless you already have an adjustable-temperature soldering iron you want to modify for heat-sealing your packraft, get a Clover Mini Iron II.

Note that I cannot vouch for the Clover’s suitability for heat-sealing fabrics sourced from other suppliers – they may have different activation and melting temperatures than the fabrics offered in the DIY Packraft shop.

23 thoughts on “Review of “Clover Mini Iron II” Heat Sealing Iron

  1. Note to people living in NZ and Australia, the Clover mini iron designed for 240v has a 25Watt output as opposed to the 40Watt from the US model. So far we have found that this has stopped the iron from reaching the temperature needed to heat seal consistently. After considerable time left alone to build up heat about 5-10cm are able to be welded very well, then the iron loses too much heat and no bond is achieved. We are currently investigating the option of purchasing the US model with a $9 120-240V transformer.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up, guys – that sucks! It’s weird that they’re different wattages.
      This might not boost the heat enough, but have you tried wrapping the shaft in aluminum foil to transfer more heat to the iron’s foot? If it’s *almost* hot enough it might help.

  2. Hi,

    the EU version also has 25 Watt. It also only has a ‘low’ and ‘high’ stand. I also have problems with reaching the adequate temperature: if I iron for too long it cools down and I have to wait a bit. Due to this problem I actually made the bonds of the seat edges with a tourist iron (much smaller than a regular one) – it worked perfectly, but unfortunately it will not work for making seams on the packraft itself. However the pace of seaming the curvy bonds is much slower and the temperature is than not such a problem anymore.

    I also noticed another problem – since the bond was not always forming strong enough I pressed hard. Too hard and after some time the metal part loosened. I am now hoping to get it fixed. Did any of you face such a problem?

    …and all of that for almost a double US price…

    @Matt: I saw your tip regarding the aluminium foil, but I do not fully understand this: how exactly should that look like?

  3. Matt: I am having similar problems to above with the 210 D fabric. Set on high and given 5 to 10 minutes to warm up, The Clover iron gets very hot – almost too hot – but it only works well for a few cm then I need to pull it away and wait a half minute to a minute to heat up again then hit it again for a few cm. Heat, repeat… And then if i’m not careful, some of my welds need to be revisited. This is more of an issue for my project than for those building a true packraft. My frameless Cataraft requires much longer seams.
    The lighter 40D fabric that I recently received seals wonderfully with the Clover Mini.
    I did try a cardboard tube around the guard to hold the heat in and it did work somewhat better. I quit that because I was worried about overheating the unit.
    I did discover that you can snap the Clover Mini Iron in two by pressing too hard. Also that pressing down on handle tends to bring the shaft and tip up away from the guard. I solved that by weaving a paper clip into the guard, around the shaft and back to the guard. That has worked well and has held up for quite a while. Ron

    1. Hi Ron, I had the same idea and hooked some copper wire from the guard around the shaft, but maybe my iron is hotter than yours or the copper conducts heat better than a paper clip – it quickly melted through the guard.

      It seems there is some variation in the irons and there are some lemons out there, which is annoying, but perhaps unsurprising for a cheap electric appliance. I don’t have a good feel for what percentage of them are faulty – is it 5% or 50%? Regardless, the search for the perfect heat sealing tool continues.

      1. Matt:
        Try a paper clip. Mine is discolored from the heat treatment but has held up for many hours with no signs of trouble. Copper is a much more conductive material and likely the source of your failure. In addition to keeping the guard near the shaft I think the reinforcement out there at the end really helps to avoid the heartbreak of snapping the iron in two.
        I prop my iron on a 12 inch high section of 10″ diameter Saunna Tube with a cut out to support the guard but keeps the shaft clear. This gives me a stable platform.
        I like the idea of wrapping some (or all) of the shaft in an inert non conductive shield. It certainly does radiate a lot of heat! I can’t help but wonder how much of that heat would then work to overheat the innards…
        FWIW, Despite a few shortcomings, I do like the Mini Iron.
        Ron

          1. Matt: Good call on the foil wrap. I have now wrapped mine with heavy duty Aluminum Foil. I started by going around the screw that holds the foot and all the way back to the leading edge of the guard. I left the last 3 cm of the shaft alone. I want more heat at the business end while affecting the handle as little as possible. I folded a 5 cm X 30 cm strip of foil in half and carefully wrapped the shaft. I wound it tight to the shaft as best I could. The shield ranges from 2 to 3 thicknesses of that wrap. I do not know if tight is right or if a loose crinkley wrap w/b better. I choose to go with a tight wrap and so far, it seems to be helping.
            Note: At this time I have my iron locked (with tape) on “High”
            Warning: First contact with the 40 D fabric is too hot and will melt it especially if you linger so one must be very careful there. I assume the heavier fabric will also melt on first contact. After that it works very well on the 40D and for a much longer time than before the shield. At some point on a large seam I pull it away and let it reheat but this is necessary much less often than it was before the shield. Last night I ran it for 2 hours straight with no signs of trouble. The handle was a bit warm but that was the case before any modification. The paper clip is still doing its job with no signs of burning through the plastic nor of breaking. It is a decent tool out of the box. With these modifications, I think this is close to perfect and especially so considering the price range.

    2. Ron,

      Thanks for your info.
      I also plan on making a frame less cataraft, do you happen to have any pictures for inspiration or any tips to share?

      Carl

      1. Carl: I just now (July 19) stumbled on your request for info on the frameless cataraft. I believe I have come up with a better and much easier design for my Cataeaft. Even though I built a decent craft that gets my job done, I ordered some fabric a week ago to give it another go. I expect to GREATLY reduce the production time and end up with a lighter and stronger craft. I will know for sure shortly after my order arrives.
        Basically I will cut a matching top and bottom outline 58 inches wide by however long I choose. Currently thinking 80 inches long. It will have an H shape with a 48 inch center and 19inch wide legs at the 4 corners. I will then baffle the center to form the seat / platform. The seat will start 20″ x 48″ but will shorten when inflated. The baffles will be 7 to possibly 8 inches high. I want the pontoons to act as twin keels but feel the need to avoid stress. I worry that the fabric is not strong enough for a true cataraft effect. ie: twin keels with no contact between them. I want a keel effect but also want the seat to contact the water. I had a failed attempt with 40d taffetta where stress ripped it when inflated. That made me aware of that potential problem. This one will be 210d and weigh 4.25 lbs. The baffles will be the new 40d to save weight. The sides will form 80 inch long tubes by virtue of no baffles. I will then seal the entire perimiter with a conventional iron. Since I am working with a one inch edge all the way around there is no worry with the iron doing unintended damage. I will reinforce the seat / leg junctions because I worry about stress at those points. As I see it, Its similar to building a seat which is relatively quick and easy and less likely to leak than forming tubes made with a one inch strip of fabric as Matt does in his much better looking packraft. I expect it to be a bit ugly but extremely functional. I estimate about 10 cu ft of air and safely support 400 lbs plus or minus a bit. Hope this helps.
        Ron

  4. I have spoken with a guy fixing sewing machines and after opening the iron he stated that the ‘insides’ are of very poor quality (very thin metal parts, poorly attached together). Finally, I fixed my iron, by inserting a wooden block between the metal part and the plastic protection surrounding the metal heat transmitter. This took me 2 minutes, but works surprsigingly well: the heat transmission through wood is minimal and actually I would recommend it for new users, since it diminishes the risk of breaking it.

  5. I also busted my mini clover iron! Poor design with a plastic cooling guard! Seriously though WTH??? Because it was broken, by the time it cooled down was plenty enough time for it to melt and burn completely through the plastic guard and melt a nice triangle in my plastic table! Ahhhhh. However Amazon replaced it with a new one on my front porch in less than two days time!!! Happy days for that!
    The new one is doing ok as I’m trying not to press so hard! Lol
    Also I found a another little iron that seems to work ok, It’s called the
    “Petite Press mini iron”. It seems to not be quite as hot as the clover but with a little slower method it works pretty well, I also have a two inch mini roller I have been using to roll my heated areas. As I iron I roll and press in small increments.
    Cheers and Happy days!
    -Maynard-

    1. Hi Maynard,

      Sorry to hear about your busted Clover… How wide is the Petite Press? I’ve been looking at that one, wondering if it might work. Is it hot enough to get a good weld?

      I think the roller is a good idea too!

      Thanks,

      Matt

  6. Hi has anyone used an Antex Mini Iron Master £20. The seller on Amazon UK reckons it goes up to 233 degrees on setting (ahem!) 11. The Jamara Pro Star iron is supposed to reach the required temperature in the UK but is too big for the difficult bits.
    Really want to buy a diy raft asap but cannot seem to source an iron.
    Cheers
    Paul

    1. I haven’t used it, but it looks worth trying for people in the UK and EU. I’m a bit skeptical about the temperature claim, as those never seem to be accurate and it’s only 10 Watts, but if it’s well designed it might work well. Thanks for the tip! Props for the Spinal Tap reference, too 🙂

    1. I tested this one today and I’m quite happy with it.
      Its built quite sturdy and the hot surface is nicely rounded.
      Yet the temperature scale is funny.
      My iron gets 40-60K hotter than it should be.

      So I used a seperate thermometer to get 220°C and tried out your fabric. Worked.
      After that I tried my luck with the 210den fabric from ExtremTextil and with 180 – 200°C it worked like a charm.
      A seam surface of 45x15mm hold 50kg without a sign of weakness.

      The material got a little curly at the beginning, but with a little attention on the edge of the fabric the result was quite nice.

  7. Many thanks to naught101 for finding this iron and sharing the link. Mine just arrived, and a quick test leaves me very pleased. It’s plainly strong and difficult to break, the shoe is heavy enough to retain heat, and an indicated 220deg (out of 350 max) does the job. Furthermore, the end of the shoe is 4mm thick and flat, making narrow but strong welds. My only quibble is that the temperature knob gets knocked when gripping the handle – probably worth supergluing some sort of guard around it. Now to find some time to build an actual boat …

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