November 17, 2008 AT 5:42 pm

Ladyada’s Electronic Toolbox


Starting out on your electronics adventure?
Want to wield the mighty soldering iron?
Tired of saying “I’d totally get into electronics if I only knew what tools to get…”?

Working with substandard equipment is a terrible way to learn electronics: a lot of frustration with too little success. The right tool set will keep you progressing without the stressing. I’ve pointed many people to my list of suggested electronic equipment, and now I stock my suggested starter tools in the webshop as part of my Electronic Toolbox. This toolbox contains 13 (!) items: for soldering, desoldering, holding, testing, tweaking, cutting, wiring and even a breadboard & 5V power supply so you can get right to work. It’s like a Magic 6-lb Bag of Useful

  • 30W adjustable temperature soldering iron (Model XY258) – with a temperature control on the side and indicator LED so you can go from standard to lead-free to silver solder. Comes with a 1/16″ tip which is good for through hole and some larger surface mount assembly.
  • Soldering stand – a real stand with sponge and double spring prevents your iron from ‘rolling away’ or burning a hole in the table. Essential for your safety.
  • Solder, rosin-core, 0.031″ diameter, 1/4 lb (100g) spool – Standard 60/40 solder for electronics work. Most toolkits give you a tiny bit, but this spool will last you for months and you won’t run out in the middle of your project
  • Solder sucker - Strangely enough, that’s the technical term for this desoldering vacuum tool. Useful in cleaning up mistakes, every electrical engineer has one of these on their desk.
  • Solder wick/braid 5ft spool – Used along with the solder sucker to clean up soldering messes. Wick really comes in handy when soldering or desoldering surface-mount parts. Even if you don’t have the best iron for SMT work, a bit of wick will fix it up.
  • Panavise Jr – PCB holder and general purpose 360 degree mini-vise. I use mine every day, they are the best thing for holding your circuit board steady, and the soft jaws are not conductive so you can do power tests at the same time.
  • Basic multimeter (model MAS830) is a good-all-around basic multimeter. Has a continuity tester, DC/AC voltage and current, resistance, transistor and diode/LED test.
  • Diagonal cutters (model Xcelite 170M) – the best diagonal cutters, these are comfortable to use and have strong nippers for perfect trimming of wires and leads. I’ve used my pair every day for years.
  • Wire strippers – basic adjustable wire strippers, they are the standard issue for all MIT students
  • Micro needle-nose pliers – for bending, forming, holding, squeezing and plying all of those little components.
  • Solid-core wire, 22AWG, 25ft spools – Three spools! In black, red and yellow. Perfect for bread-boarding and wiring.
  • Half size solderless breadboard – for prototyping your next project, these breadboards can snap together to expand
  • Bonus! 5V power supply kit - DC power jack, protection diode, 7805 1Amp 5V regulator, two 25V and 6V bypass capacitors, two 0.1uF ceramic capacitors, red and green indicator LEDs and matching resistors. All the parts necessary to power up your first electronics project from a wall adapter or batteries.

Looking for a gift that will keep ‘em busy all year long? Check out the Adafruit webshop to get a toolbox for yourself.

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve tried the spring-loaded solder suckers but still haven’t quite gotten the knack: I either fail to suck up enough solder or melt the tip of the sucker. However, a desoldering iron with a rubber bulb has worked wonders for me when salvaging parts from junked boards and power supplies. Most of the time I don’t even needed to use solder wick after the desoldering iron. Radio Shack has an inexpensive one listed here: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062731

    Other ideas:
    Consider keeping a bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol and a used toothbrush on hand to clean off the soldering flux when you’re finished building a board.

    One thing to add to your list of suggested electronic equipment is a reliable, adjustable, DC power supply (1.5V – 30V @ ~3A). Very handy for testing and building. Another option is a surplus supply with multiple fixed-voltages (e.g. 3.3V, 5V, 12V).

  2. good suggestions. i do need to find a good benchtop supply but yknow i got mine at a swapfest for $25 and dont know of any ‘new’ brands.

  3. I built a kit for my Nephew last year and used this cheap-o (PS-28) $19.95 power supply 2 Amp Multi fixed output 3V, 4.5V, 6V, 7.5V, 9V & 12V from http://www.circuitspecialists.com/prod.itml/icOid/8238
    This worked very well for a year but he has moved on to the next best unit (CSI1802X) $58.95 0-2A; 0-18VDC from
    http://www.circuitspecialists.com/prod.itml/icOid/8173

    As for a solder suckers you just can’t do better for price and functionality than this $25.95 Electric Desoldering Tool unit at http://www.elexp.com/sdr_0848.htm part#(060848). I have been using mine for years and it really makes for quick work of desoldering. With this tool salvaging parts is a dream and cost effective with respect to labor.

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