Here's a collection of tips and tricks based on 38 years' experience in the electronics trenches.
Hint No. 5
I often have to apply AC power to a device. To break the contact completely, I use a product called a Safebloc.
The open Safebloc showing the connection clips and the connection bars in the cover, as well as the fuse. The new model appears to have the clip color coded and the cover in red. (Click here for a larger image.)
When you open the cover to attach the wires to the spring-loaded clips, the line and neutral are opened. There is a series fuse with the line connection. It is rated for 250 VAC and 13 A. Though this is from England, you can find it in the US at Interpower
The Safebloc closed up. (Click here for a larger image.)
Also, for safety reasons, it is always better to use an isolation transformer when developing with mains connections. (Thank you, Nigel Wyatt.)
Hint No. 6
I am told that you can make a cheap bed of nails by screwing a PCB to a sheet of Tufnol or Arboron and drilling through the PCB where you want the test points and guides. Both materials are easy to work and quite stable. Of course, inserting the spring-loaded test pins and finding the latches is a different matter. Essentra Components has clamps and latches that may help. (Thank you, Ernesto Gradin.)
Hint No. 7
Whenever I have a problem that seems to be intermittent or associated with contact issues, my first step is to spray with contact cleaner. This has about an 80% success rate for me. More often than not, you don't even have to open the housing.
The best stuff I ever used was called Servisol, but that is available only in England (and some of the colonies) I think. For what it's worth, there is a discussion here about this topic. (Thank you, Vincent Mandy.)
Hint No. 8
Ever had trouble installing a nut, blind? Here is a finger wrench product everyone should have. Wouldn't this be a great giveaway at a show?
Hint No. 9
We all know the North American handyman's formula: If it moves and it shouldn't, use duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40. If you have one of those adhesive labels that is impossible to remove without scratching the surface, try spraying it with WD-40. It should come right off. (Thank you, Andre Jordao.)
Hint No. 10
I presume that you do know it is possible to release the lock on a cable tie using a very small screwdriver to lift the latching piece of plastic. I am not suggesting that you carry a screwdriver with you for the next time you get arrested, but I did want to lead into a bit of discussion on cable ties.
Have you ever had to remove a cable tie that is holding together a loom of wire? Take care as you try to insert your cutters behind the band and cut. The probability that you will cut a wire in the process is much higher than you imagine, and it is probably affected by some corollary of Murphy's Law. The secret is to cut through the plastic block containing the locking mechanism, thereby keeping the cutter away from all those pesky wires. (Thank you, John Pocock.)
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