Here's a collection of tips and tricks based on 38 years' experience in the electronics trenches.
Hint No. 11
Don't like the color of that piece of plastic? Dye it. We regularly dye plastic housings and connectors using regular fabric dyes.
Here is a housing cut open to show the effectiveness of the technique. This part was originally orange. (Click here for a larger image.)
The dye actually penetrates the plastic to about 0.2 mm, so that a screwdriver gouge typically does not reveal the original color. This technique is apparently quite well known, as described here and here. (Thank you, Don Robinson.)Hint No. 12
Heat shrink guns made specifically for the purpose tend to be expensive and rather bulky to have hanging around on your desk. There are a couple of alternatives. My Weller butane-powered soldering iron
has a hot air nozzle. It works well, but it does involve a flame and warmup time. There are several hobbyist alternatives
available at craft stores and elsewhere.
Hint No. 13
We are all aware of electrical tape, but there is an alternative when you don't want the tape to unwind (either intentionally or as a result of adhesive failure). Aside from the option of heat shrink, which is not practical in some cases, you can also use self-fusing silicone tape, which is available from almost any hardware or electrical distributor near you.
Hint No. 14
If you have thermocouple wire and need to make the thermocouple junction, this can be achieved quite easily. Take a lab power supply, and set the current limit to maximum (you will need at least 6 amps for the fine thermocouple wire; probably 10 amps for the thicker stuff). You can check it by connecting positive to negative and adjusting the current knob. Cut a pencil back to reveal about an inch of graphite. Connect the negative of the power supply to one end of the graphite rod using an alligator clip.
Strip the end of the thermocouple wire pair, twist them together, and connect the positive of the power supply to the thermocouple wire behind the twisted tip. Connect the twisted tip to the other end of the graphite rod to spot weld the pair together.
The graphite is used to prevent the metal of the clips from fusing into the junction. Wear safety glasses, and remember when you connect the thermocouple connector that the red wire is always the negative. (Thank you, Ernesto Gradin.)
Hint No. 15
There are screwdrivers with attachments to hold the screw on the end of the driver. Another alternative is to use a Canadian invention called the Robertson screw. The head of the screw has a square hole with a minor twist in it. When you put it on the end of the screwdriver, it just sticks there. There is no need for a release mechanism, and it is almost impossible for a good bit to slip while driving the screw.
Look, Ma, no hands. The Robertson screw in action, dangling off the end of the screwdriver. (Click here for a larger image.)
These screws are available throughout Canada. I also believe that they are available in some parts of the USA, and I actually saw them recently in a hardware store in South Africa. Aesthetically, they are not as appealing as a Philips screw, but once you have used them on a large project (like your deck), you will never want to use any other type.
Hint No. 16
A great tool to add to your arsenal is epoxy putty. There are actually many manufacturers of this type of product. It can be used as an adhesive for almost anything. It is a great space filler, and it can be machined. Keep some in your tool box.
Hint No. 17
Last but certainly not least, make sure you have a Brother P-Touch to label everything.
OK, I've shown you mine. Now you show me yours.