Of course, many of us have a deep-seated belief that you can never have enough tools.
I frequenly will have two or more of the same type of tool. I was recently asked if I had a staple gun and when I replied that I had two (a manual and electric), my non technical friend just cracked up laughing. I didn't see the humour.
A lot of my projects use development boards that have 25 mil square wire-wrap pins on a 0.1" grid. I like to insert these into a perf board and then use good-old 20th Century wire-wrap to connect them up. It's quick, easy to fix errors, and easy to dismantle to re-use the boards in other projects.
Solderless breadboards are also great for quick projects, but don't expect them to stay intact if you have cats :-)
@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.
@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?
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.
Sorry to intrude, but I hope my messsage helps. Blowing a componenent out from the mother board can be difficult as the componenent maybe firmly routed. The usual practice is to weaken the solder and suck the component out. This appears better to me.
I often find that just blowing by mouth is enough to get rid of enough solder, depending on the situation. I guess a blast of compressed air might work (NOT canned "air" as many of these could ignite or give off toxic fumes if they come in contact with hot surfaces).
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.
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...
@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?
The sole question to ask is "Do the tools make the man or does the man make the tools?" >> The ONLY acceptable answer is "Yes".
The problem with buying 'cheap' and/or 'all in one' tools is the fact that they end up cluttering another needed tool which is a toolbox.
I have not seen anyone recommend a DMM and of course you can get the free one from Harbor Freight Tools but you gets what you pays for! One can always use old wallwarts to serve the power supply needs but there is no substitute for a DMM.
That is a pretty good, fairly complete basic list.
I have an Optivisor for magnification, but I sometimes need to resort to a stereo microscope.
I'm an RF guy. An Xacto knife is my constant companion, along with a stick with a small piece of copper glued to the end.
I also build with tubes (!). A small wire brush for cleaning terminals (whether on tube sockets or on 3/32" headphone connectors or any other tarnished but solderable surface) is required, not optional. Sometimes the file will work for this, but not usually. A small piece of sandpaper may be helpful here, too.
I would add a metal ruler or (preferably) inexpensive calipers.
For making holes...a spring-loaded center punch and drill. The punch can be very inexpensive. For making irregular holes, add a nibbler tool.
Concerning the wire stripper: many of these also can crimp solderless terminals. Make sure your wire stripper is so equipped, and solderless spade lug terminals, butt connectors, and some multipin connector terminals become usable.
That screwdriver set should be one of the sets with umpteen billion bits...because you WILL need esoteric bits sooner or later. I include sockets/nutdrivers here.
I would also add a small (6" or 8") adjustable wrench. Some things just need to be gripped from the side.
I like a cigarette lighter for quick jobs with heat-shrink tubing, or lighting my torch. For that matter, electric tape, epoxy, heat-shrink tubing and nylon tie-wraps are very useful for bonding things.
These are just a few off-the-cuff things. But I have basically all of these on my bench, and most of them in my pickup truck tool box.
Finally, for those just getting started...don't get TOO hung up on quality. We all have to start somewhere. When I was 9, I kept my tools (what few I had) in a Keds shoe box, and my workbench was a folding card table. My projects didn't know the difference, and it didn't keep anything from getting done.
@Max: For the beginer starting out and on a budget there are a lot of things that can be used as cheaper alternatives to the professional kit.
Like the use of the good old bulldog (is there a different name for this in America) paper clip (many sizes) as a heat sink and mini clamp. Boot lace ferrules especially if using multi strand wire on your screw block shield, stops the stray strand from shorting out to another block.
However what alternative do people use for crimping
Crusty asked: However what alternative do people use for crimpingJST (JAPAN SOLDERLESS TERMINALS) - BXH-001T-P0.6 - CRIMP TERMINAL, XH, 28-22AWG?
Those are solderless? Gee, I've been using those kinds of terminals for decades and I always thought they required solder! Seriously, I first used them in Heathkits and they required that you wrap the flanges around the wire using needle-nose pliers and then solder. I guess they figured that nobody would have a US$600 crimping tool and if they're building Heathkits they have the time to wrap the flanges and solder -- probably makes better contact too.
@betajet; Yes up to now I have soldered and used small pliers, but eye sight is going, hands are getting unsteady. I am due for the scrap heap soon so need a tool that works better than my lumpy old fingers.
I second the motion! And, having recently entered my eightth decade (seventh in elctronics design and construction), I am STILL doing it that way. I even did that until recently (when our lab tech bought an "approved" crimper for them) with FAKRA RF connector center pins and sockets! It does take a bit longer, as I have hardly any "feel" left in my fingertips, but it does work. I've raised the ability to solder the connections with the absolute minimum of residue on the outside to a new level, so contacts will still fit in the housings and lock in place. Having not only my own substantial collection of hand (and power) tools, i also inherited my father's many years ago, and so have at least duplicates of nearly everything!
@LiketoBike: That screwdriver set should be one of the sets with umpteen billion bits...because you WILL need esoteric bits sooner or later.
The problem is that when the time comes you'll need different esoteric bits because the best-known manufacturer of hard-to-disassemble technology -- let's call it "Brand A" -- makes it a point that each new product (or so it seems) uses a new type of fastener :-)
@LiketoBike: Concerning the wire stripper: many of these also can crimp solderless terminals. Make sure your wire stripper is so equipped, and solderless spade lug terminals, butt connectors, and some multipin connector terminals become usable.
I have a crimper -- I think it does act as a wire stripper and cutter also, but I use it onlt for crimping -- it's funny how you get to have a favorite tool for each task.
@LiketoBike: I like a cigarette lighter for quick jobs with heat-shrink tubing, or lighting my torch. For that matter, electric tape, epoxy, heat-shrink tubing and nylon tie-wraps are very useful for bonding things.
I have a handy-dandy llittle hot air blower for heat-shrink tubing -- I do like small nylon tie-wraps for keeping things tidy -- and I'm also a big fan of the hot glue gun LOL
Some great suggestions here. One thing I have found absolutely indispensible is a set of screwdriver bits - some of these come with socket spanners (wrenches??) as well. I'm not talking about the usual flat / philips / pozidriv bits, I am talking about the all-singing, all dancing kits with a hundred or more bits comprising the usual ones above plus hex (allen) key bits, torx, security torx, tri-wing, etc, etc - usually with a ratchet driver handle. If you're just making stuff you probably won't need them, but if you fix stuff (and who doesn't occasionally?) you certainly will need them sometimes. Not often, but when the time comes they will get you out of trouble. You will STILL need something else sometimes - see my story here
to see how essential it is to have the right tool at the right time. As it happens, the story is about a drill - also an essential tool that no-one else seems to have mentioned. I like to keep a small, cheap battery drill at my workbench for drilling holes, and a bigger, higher quality one for bigger jobs. I also have a PCB drill on my bench.
Someone - I think Aubrey - said in one of his blogs recently that you have to assume that techies who fix your stuff have only three tools - an FBH, a FBS and and FBW (the last letters standing for Hammer, Screwdriver and Wrench. Pretty much on the money I think!
I have found a combination "crimper stripper cutter" tool (use those terms in your favorite search engine) to be very useful. Typically less than $25 US. Crimps those solderless connectors, strips wire of various gauges, typicaly has a wire cutter, and also will cut small machine screws that invariably are just a little too long for your project. A smaller dedicated wire stripper is also handy as the above tool is a little bulky.
I have to agree with Tom.Grey on the value of a crimping tool. I've bought about a dozen wire stripping tools in my day, none of which worked better than my pair of diagonal cutters. I know using the cutters is playing chicken, as it's easy to nick or even sever the wire, but for some reason I have more problems with sole purpose wire strippers either not removing the insulation in one piece or nicking the wire. My favorite tools is the Super Champ crimping tool from Amp. Besides crimping terminals, it's wire stripper functions well on 22 to 10 A.W.G., better than any of my other wire strippers and it has a bolt cutter for cleaning cutting machine screws number 4, 6, 8 and 10. My specimen is over 40 years old and has put to shame all other imitators I've gotten to put in my garage tool kit through the years. This is a quality tool. I still use my red plastic nut starters that used to come with every Heathkit. My indespensable tool for surface mount components is my Baush and Lomb stereo zoom microscope with a decent fiber optic illumination setup. It actually makes working with surface mount a pleasure, considering my aging eyes. I picked up my setup at a surplus place for under $500. Many are the hours I've spent using it to examine insects and other life forms, printed material and just about anything I'm curious about. The rest of the family really enjoy it too.
Max don't forget the "X-Acto" knife (with the #11 blade) for trace cuts and small roll of kapton tape (its expensive so go small!). The tape allows you to break a connection to a SOIC pin without mangling it and still allow a small #30 wire to be soldered to it. This is of course only necessary until your board is perfect ;-)