@Adam: A location: I would recommend first finding a place where you can put all your tools in a somewhat organized fashion.
I agree -- this is what I lack at home -- I do most of my electronic projects on the kitchen table -- I do have a corner of the garage for my pottery stuff -- but it's all crammed together -- when I want to do anything I have to spend 30 minutes sorting everything out.
One thing I do have is one of those rolling tool boxes with lots of dwawers in the garage (my wife bought it for me for Christmas) -- that's great for storing all my tools in one place -- as you say, before that, whenever I wanted to do anything I had to waste a lot of time trying to track down the appropriate tools.
You got me, I only shared one mistake, though not explicitly. I will elaborate. For quite some time, I never had a dedicated space for my tools and projects. This meant that frequently tools would get misplaced, and sometimes completely lost. Thankfully, these were small things like jumper wires, tweezers, and misc parts. Though it would probably be fair to say that I have lost at least ~$100 of small odds and ends over the years.
Another mistake that I made (though some might argue that it would not be a mistake for them) was getting the oscilloscope before the logic analyzer. I fought many hours with a few projects before I knew what a logic analyzer was. I had the oscilloscope, but it was nowhere near as useful as the logic analyzer was to me in debugging some of these problems.
@Max: I have to second that... this is a refreshing column, much appreciated by a fellow mechanical engineer like myself!
One thing I would recommend to add would be a microscope -for starters a Dino Lite or equivalent that plugs into USB. For a few hundred dollars, one can also get a old-fashioned benchtop steroscope that comes in handy for many things.
@Aeroengineer (a.k.a. Adam): Another mistake that I made (though some might argue that it would not be a mistake for them) was getting the oscilloscope before the logic analyzer.
Ah ... from your blog it appeared as though you purchased the logic analyzer first. In reality thsi is a tricky one -- as you say, different people would argue for one of the other ... this question might form an interesting discussion in its own right...
Yes, there is a very nice Harbor Freight toolbox that I have at home for my mechanical tools. It also houses some of the tools for my two lathes. The only problem is that my garage is about 50' away from my house, and I am not especially motivated to go out during the winter time to get what I need.
As to working on the kitchen table, yes I did that for quite some time as well. It was always such a pain when I needed to take everything into a room when we would have guests over. I have a very wonderful wife that indulges me with my projects. I try not to take too much advantage of it.
Yeah, I tried to put them in the proper order of how I should have done it.
The point you bring us is also interesting, especially with many of the newer DSO scopes offering some form of logic analyzer add-ons. I think that there is recognition that there is a need to get more from your tools. This is one of the reasons that I like the Red Pitaya concept. I am really on the fence about getting that one. It would replicate some of the tools that I already have, and not quite get me what I want for the DSO. I would get the AWG, though, which I do not currently have. Tempting, very tempting.
MP, I am glad that you found it useful. It has taken me about 5 years to get to the point that I am at now, but I have enjoyed it, and I have found it to be very useful. Now I am working on developing projects with the ARM Cortex M series uC's. Funny now that I was so scared to jump into electronics so long ago.
I do like your idea, though so far, I have been blessed with 20/10 eyesight, so I can actually do deadbug soldering on a .5mm pin spacing part with unaided vision. I am sure that will go soon enough, so you suggestion is worth considering here in the near future.