Introduction: A Solderless Printed Circuit Board

Picture of A Solderless Printed Circuit Board

Suppose there is a fast and easy way to hook up a circuit which is a bit more like a printed circuit board but can be done without solder.

The latest and greatest method involves printing out a schematic and gluing to cardboard. Then hot glue all components in place. Then wire wrap up the circuit. See the next picture. The following project uses this method.

Step 1:

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 The tools needed are a manual wire wrap tool, some wire wrap wire, the circuit components, and a print out of the component side and solder side of a PCB layout. The two sides to the PCB layout get glued to an index card such that the holes all line up. This idea is not new.

Step 2:

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 A regular PCB layout could do the job. The artwork for this layout was imported from an Open Source PCB application.  Adding some extra documentation can make things easier. This artwork can be found here

Step 3:

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 The two sides of the print out are carefully aligned and glued to two sides on an index card. Punch holes on the component side and insert components.

Step 4:

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 If the alignment is correct, the leads of the components will come out of the holes on the solder side.

Step 5:

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 The manual wire wrap tool has an insulation stripper which can double as a lead length measure. When  wire is inserted till it just about comes how the other end, it will be stripped to the optimum length.

Step 6:

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 The bare wire gets inserted into the groove of the manual wire wrap tool.

Step 7:

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 Place the hole of the manual wire wrap tool over a component lead on the solder side and twist until all the bare wire is wrapped around the lead. 

Step 8:

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 If the stripped wire is at the optimum length, several good contact wraps can be made on every component lead. 

Step 9:

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 With a little skill, wire wrap can be counted on to make a lot of good connections within some pretty tight quarters. Documenting component values and where wires connections go also make it easier to hook everything up without making a mistake. 

Step 10:

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Wire wire is not as good as soldering, but it comes close. It is certainly better than using a solderless breadboard. For one thing, the circuit does not have to be broken down every time a new circuit needs to be built up. 

Step 11:

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 This circuit was designed to work off of a laptop. Having a circuit work without any debugging is always nice. 

Step 12:

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With just wire wrap, the circuit is semi-permanent. This particular circuit might get use to encourage adding a little solder to all connections. As it stands right now, all wires can be removed, and all components can be reused. It may be best to avoid trimming component leads in favor of looping them. Loops make good scope connections.


Apolo8 (author)2016-01-13

dsauer (author)Apolo82016-01-13

I find using a wire wrap tool helps to hold the wires in place until they are soldered. Now days I am inclined to use a less pretty method using hot glue as is shown in my other instructable at the following address. The components are all installed in dead bug fashion. It is not as pretty. But for me, it is much faster and easier. I use the hand wire wrap tools.

Machine (author)2012-02-09

Wire wrap has been around since the 70s.

The best way to use it is to get a piece of Veroboard (Google it), it is board with long gridded lines of holes in it, and to place the components through the gridded pattern of holes and wrap. Using the paper 'map' helps to locate the components but offers no real stability.

njrajgelani (author)Machine2012-08-11

you are right. This is such a mess.

madrobot3600 (author)2011-04-04

i have a one sided pcb. how would i do that?

dsauer (author)madrobot36002012-01-21

This is really more of a breadboard method in which you may want to use the circuit more than once. A much faster/ easier/ better method can be found here.

The new method involves hot gluing your components (dead bug style) to a printout of your schematic. Glue the printout first to cardboard is recommended. Wire wrap up all the leads. After everything works, tinning all the wire wrap with solder does not seem to be much of a problem if you only do one side at a time.

technoguy94 (author)2010-04-28

That's an incredible idea. I don't have a problem with soldering, but using cardboard in place of PCBs is incredible. Thanks a lot.

Kirbsome! (author)technoguy942010-06-28

I second that!

Ghost Wolf (author)Kirbsome!2010-07-09

I third that!

I fourth that

I fifth that!!

coleyy (author)CCOTTER2472010-12-16

I sixth that!!

Justdoofus (author)coleyy2011-03-27

I seventh that.

jwoo2023 (author)Justdoofus2011-04-25

I eighth that! muahahahaha!

Kante Tech (author)jwoo20232011-08-23

i ninth that ha ha ha

HVahead (author)Kante Tech2011-10-18

i tenth that...i had this idea to use cardboard instead of pcb but instead of using wire i simply made lines of solder, if i had to cross these "wires" i put paper tape over them and continued drawing the lines.

dsauer (author)Kirbsome!2010-06-28

When one tries to solder more than two wires to the same node, it often helps if there is some way to mechanically hold the wires in place. Wire wrap appears to do this pretty well. And the circuit can be fired up and fully tested before tinning all the nodes with solder.

dsauer (author)technoguy942010-04-28

 I am looking into gluing the two paper printouts onto plastic from a recycled milk carton for the next revision. For applications that require a potentiometer, there is a need for the printed circuit board to be able to take a lot of use. But one has to try things out to see what works...

killersquirel11 (author)2010-04-18

Great for protoing, not so good for a project like I'm working on with hundreds of wires (including a nice, small TQFP 64 uC).

@Asuraku couldn't you just dip a PCB in resin/hot glue and achieve the same results?

dsauer (author)killersquirel112010-04-18

 I am not a big fan of using the solderless plugin breadboard. Using a soldering iron at least insures a good connection. Wire wrap maybe comes the closest to using a soldering iron. But ending up with something that looks more like a PCB than a rat's nest sometimes is worth the effort. For digital circuits, a PCB can be done and debugged without doing a lot of surgery to the wire traces and board. It all depends on what takes the least effort to get something to cleanly work.

MD_iRobot (author)dsauer2011-03-10

"Wire wrap maybe comes the closest to using a soldering iron...."

Wire wrapping is actually better than soldering, but a lot more labor intensive. With wire wrapping you are actually making a very strong mechanical connection between the post and the wire. The post actually deforms (at the corners) and the wire is embedded into the post. It's almost like cold welding a joint. Soldering has it own problems from "cold solders", whiskers, mechanical separation from the board over time, etc... You could go the belt and suspender route and solder the wire to the post when you are absolutely certain your circuit works, but why bother.

Don't knock wire wrap.  All the early computers had wire-wrapped backplanes, even through the 1980's, and maybe longer.  Take a look at

One company I worked for used a computer to position the wire wrap tool over the correct pin.  Very useful.

Take a look at, where in the first paragraph, it says "and continues to be used for short runs and prototypes".  My point stands that it is very useful for protoing, not so much when you are doing incredibly complex boards or large runs (large runs use pick&place machines and reflow onto PCBs.  Or wave soldering.)

However, wire wrap is also very useful when you want to re-use components.

@dsauer, I wasn't suggesting using a breadboard.  I only use that for very quick protos and testing ideas that I have.

agis68 (author)2010-10-25

brilliant...I used to do that when I was at school (ages back) and just using wires as joins.....I had forgot it and this refreshed my memory...thnx

MACKattacksnipe (author)2010-04-19

A bread board would have been a better choice

why would a bread board be a better choice?  to build on a bread board is a temporary prototyping method.  this method, i assume is a second step after a bread board proto is made.

this method eliminates the need to etch or have a PCB made.  and for one-off or very small quantities this will work just fine.   i may add something for a bit of rigidity, but other than that i think it would work just fine.

this is creative.

 Not only are they messy and temporary, they are also fragile. They have this plastic board stuff with a grid of holes in it that is pretty cheap. You still have to solder your connections but it works.

dsauer (author)thatoneguydavid2010-04-20

 I am looking for something better than in index card. Ideally it should be something easy to find.

thatoneguydavid (author)dsauer2010-04-20

fiberglass,  at lots of hobby shops they sell small sheets of thin fiberglass which has already been resin coated.  The material sold this way is similar to the fiberglass that PCBs are made on, and it will work just fine.  you could even solder it if you like when you have finished the wire wrap.

if you are just going to wire wrap and never solder, lexan or Plexiglass would work well i think.

dsauer (author)thatoneguydavid2010-04-20

 Thanks. I think these materials just need to be tried out to see what works best.

arhodes18 (author)2010-04-20

 Awesome!!! Thanks for the 'ible! I was having heck finding a breadboard for some reason, now I have a solution!! 

PyromaniacDaniel (author)2010-04-19

I like this idea for making permanent circuits but adding a non-metallic proto board between the layers and soldering the connections afterward. I am not a fan of just wire wrap alone. I can just see some point not making contact enough and throwing the whole circuit out of whack. I use breadboards in my Engineering classes and they work great. So you can't lay it out exactly the way you want but careful set up and even a really complex set up can be easily routed on a bread board.

dsauer (author)PyromaniacDaniel2010-04-20

 Soldering irons do provide solid electrical connections. Some times it is convenient to wire wrap before soldering just to hold the wires in place. First time analog circuit ideas seem to want to redesign themselves as they get first hooked up. Perhaps there is a way to modify this method to do such prototyping as well.

Jayceetoo (author)2010-04-19

Isn't this just like a bread board ?

dsauer (author)Jayceetoo2010-04-19

 Not exactly.

sturmey (author)2010-04-19

I always wondered how wirewrapping worked. Now I understand why it's such a popular way of making prototypes.

I'm going to have to try this now. Thanks for enlightening me.

Asuraku (author)2010-04-18

 This is great for doing waterproof circuits. All you have to do i solder the joints, and removes the paper and encase in resin or something like hot glue.

Jams90 (author)2010-04-18

oh thanks i would take a look and figure out if i can make it on PC...

Jams90 (author)2010-04-18

hello, i wanna know how do you have an oscilloscope on your computer...

can you tell me please?

dsauer (author)Jams902010-04-18

 I wrote up an instructable on how to do it on a Mac. I might be even easier on a PC.

w2sqr (author)2010-04-16

Nice Instructable!

I've done this type of circuit in the past with good results.  One thing you need to
watch out for is that some component leads are round and they don't really
bite into the wire wrap wire.  So after time the connections oxidize and become
opens.  A soldering iron can be applied to the joints and the connections
soldered for longer lasting performance.  a soldering iron will melt through
the insulation, so be careful


dsauer (author)w2sqr2010-04-16

 Yes, if one is serious about hooking up a circuit, nothing beats a soldering iron.

About This Instructable




Bio: Have 30+ years of experiences as a Mixed Signal IC Design Engineer.
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