Practical Electronics/Need to Have

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You don't need too much to begin creating your own circuits. In most cases, you will be perfectly fine with following stuff:

Tools[edit | edit source]

The first, and most important tool you will need is some sort of soldering iron or soldering gun, which you can purchase at your local electronics store. They come in many different wattages and designs, and may be powered from the AC mains, a rechargeable battery, or even butane gas. You will use your iron to melt the solder in order to make the connections in your circuit. For serious work with sensitive semiconductor components, look for a pencil-style iron powered through a low-voltage transformer connected to the AC mains, with a rating of about 40 watts, having an assortment of interchangeable soldering tips and some type of automatic temperature control. You should also have a moist cellulose sponge to wipe dross from the iron tip while working. Better soldering stations usually include a tray for a sponge in their base.

Second, you will need solder. Solder can be one of various metal alloys with a relatively low melting point (lower than the component leads, and printed circuit board). The most common soldering alloy for electronic work is called Sn63, because it contains 63% tin and 37% lead. Also known as eutectic solder, it has the lowest melting point of any combination of tin and lead. Choose a type with a rosin flux core. Choose a spool of small-gauge solder for work with modern surface-mount components, as a large-gauge solder wire can cause one to overheat parts and circuit board traces while waiting for the solder to melt.

Third, you will need electronic components with which to work. You can purchase them individually at an electronics store, or simply salvage them from broken or unneeded electronic devices you have lying around. To de-solder them, desoldering braid (e.g., "Soder-Wick") is very useful. The desoldering braid acts like a sponge, soaking up the molten solder and "un-gluing" the component. A spring-loaded, manual desoldering vacuum pump can be useful for rapidly removing a blob of liquid solder from a joint, and has the advantage over desoldering braid in that it can be cleaned out and reused again and again. An electric hot-air gun, the high-temperature type used for stripping paint, or a small propane blowtorch can also be used to good effect for salvaging components from old circuit boards: If you are like most people, you don't have five heat-proof hands that you can use to melt the solder on all of the leads of a component and pull it out at the same time.

Other essentials include a small pair of needle-nose pliers, side-cutting pliers, stainless steel or nickel-plated tweezers, wire strippers, a hobby knife with replaceable blades (e.g., X-Acto), and an analogue or digital multimeter with test leads.

A magnifying glass is useful for reading small markings on components, and if mounted on a goose-neck or pantograph stand, can also be used while soldering. Task lighting on your work surface should be the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent bulb at a distance of 1 meter (3 feet), or even brighter. If the heat from incandescent lighting at close range bothers you, use fluorescent lighting instead. The light should approximate daylight in color, to aid in correctly identifying color codes on components.

Not to be overlooked, obtain and faithfully use a pair of safety glasses with plastic or tempered glass lenses, as a flying droplet of liquid solder or a piece of wire or component lead clipped with wire cutters can cause serious, permanent damage to your eyes. (If you already wear corrective eyeglasses, they will serve this purpose adequately, as long as the lenses are large enough to cover the entire orbit of each eye. If the corrective lenses are small, choose plastic goggles that will comfortably fit over your glasses.)

Material[edit | edit source]