@Elizabeth: The head mounted magnifier and LED light combination looks really nice. I might just have to get one of those...
On the one hand it's relatively cheap-and-cheerful -- on the other hand it comes with a little case containing 5 dual-lens arrangements that take you from 1.5X to 3.5X -- and for $5 (and I think that might have included the postage) you simply cannot go wrong.
Do you want me to try to find the actual product number on Amazon?
I've found that having a small or medium forceps around is really helpful for holding wirsa and resistor leads that are about to be soldered tosomething. The needle nose pliers work but I often lose the grip on the wire while manovering it into position. The forceps can be latched shut which really helps sometimes.
I'm also really fond of my Panavice for holding boards and connectors in position to be soldered.
The head mounted magnifier and LED light combination looks really nice. I might just have to get one of those...
Substitute Hot-Air gun for Blower, great for surface mount device removal and usable for Thro' Hole devices but watch out for hooked legs that can pull out plated holes. Tool wise I rate multimeters and oscillatorscopes as my must have tools.
For tools, how much to spend depends on how much you expect to use it.
For one time use, borrow it or buy Harbor Freight.
For stuff you use all the time, get good quality (but not the most expensive, e.g. Wiha screwdrivers, Bondhus hex wrenches, but not $70 Swedish diag cutters, Snap On, etc) -- oh, and it's good to have some cheap stuff that you don't care if it gets broken (e.g. Harbor Freight screwdrivers for prying and poking -- and to be fair to HF, I should note they do have some good stuff, too).
For soldering, I highly recommend a controllable temperature soldering iron, since lead and lead free solders work best at different temperatures. For finer pitch work, I've seen recommendations for hot air rework, but don't have one yet.
@GarySTX: To minimize the chance of damaging the board you need something to help remove the solder.
I've used both the braid and the solder sucker -- each works best in different cases. Recently I read about someone who used a "blower" rather than a sucker -- but I don't remember much about it -- do you know anything about this technique?
@Betajet: Solderless breadboards are also great for quick projects, but don't expect them to stay intact if you have cats :-)
My wife just got a new cat (her last one passed away age 17 a couple of months ago). This new one is a very energetic kitten. I heard a disturbing sound yesterday evening -- when I looked up it was strolling across our breakfast table, upon which was my current Arduinoi project with a rats nest (no pun intended) of wires. I don;t think I need to describe the end result (sad face)
If you solder parts on a circuit board, sooner or later you will have remove one because you installed the wrong part, need to change the value to get the circuit to work, or you make a mistake and let the magic smoke out. To minimize the chance of damaging the board you need something to help remove the solder.
I prefer the larger spring loaded solder suckers. I never found a small one that works well. Solder braid is another option, but you have to buy more as you finish a roll. It also does not work as well at getting the solder out of plated through holes.