Picture of Electronics Building Tips ( in 21 Plus Steps )

I have been building circuits for a long time and may have picked up some ideas that may be new to more recent builders. There is nothing very hard or astonishing about the tips but they have helped me and may help you too.  In my mind a tip is not an electronics project ( but occasionally may involve putting together a mini-project ) or full directions on say "how to solder".  A tip is more a little trick in  technique or approach.  All of the following should fit this definition.

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Step 1: Cardboard Parts Holder

Picture of Cardboard Parts Holder

When you are building, and particularly prototyping you tend to have a lot of parts, often ones that look alike, hanging around. Put them down and who knows what value they are.  Good old Heathkit ( RIP ) had a nice solution, insert the leads in corrugated cardboard and identify the part by writing on the cardboard.  Pictures will stand in for the next 1000 words I might otherwise write.


Step 2: Ignore the Resistor Code

Picture of Ignore the Resistor Code
You can get all sorts of calculators etc for decoding resistor color codes and values. I say throw them out.  Even if you know the codes it is easy to misinterpret the colors, and many resistors, like most 1% ones do not use the color code. Instead it is easy to measure them. Leave out a meter set on resistance and give each part a quick check before you use it.  Do this even if you have pre-sorted the resistors, it is easy to miss-sort.  The device in the picture helps.   You might want to build one of these and keep it on the bench while you are building:  Third Hand for Your Multimeter by russ_hensel

The same thing pretty much true of small caps: use a capacitance meter.  
SherpaDoug1 year ago
A good collection of tips, but I would like to add one:

Solder an alligator clip to a banana plug so you can plug it into your DVM with the clip pointing up. Then you can put a component into the clip both to make a connection and to hold it in place while you probe it with a test lead.
russ_hensel (author)  SherpaDoug1 year ago
I welcome everyone to add more as comments. Thanks
francisdsa1 year ago
damn good. a very cool guide to ease and safety. keep it up.
russ_hensel (author)  francisdsa1 year ago
Thanks, the response has been very encouraging. Thus I am working on 2 more sets of electronics tips, one centering on getting and using test equipment. Would you be surprised that quite a bit of effort goes into this? May be published soon or could take a few weeks.

Very, very good collection of tips! Thank you. I use most of these tips myself but am glad to see that someone else has explained them in a straight-forward manner. I am almost embarrassed to admit that, I too, have about a cubic foot of wall warts - but they're so damn handy to have.

crazypj10 months ago

I have a cantiliver light with broken mount and was wondering what to do with it. Drill hole in benchtop and a bolt from underneath. Great idea

pma329041 year ago

Where do you still find the soldering tips for your old Weller soldering station? I have a similar unit. Thanks

russ_hensel (author)  pma329041 year ago
morbiddog21 year ago

Love the tips all of them are very useful. One thing though its not voltage that kills its current, 100 to 200 milliamps across the heart is all it takes to induce ventricular fibrillation and stop the heart. Above and below this wont kill you but it will hurt. Also I love the soldering iron, I still use that exact model at work and it's working like a champ.

morbiddog21 year ago

Love the tips all of them are very useful. One thing though its not voltage that kills its current, 100 to 200 milliamps across the heart is all it takes to induce ventricular fibrillation and stop the heart. Above and below this wont kill you but it will hurt. Also I love the soldering iron, I still use that exact model at work and it's working like a champ.

I found this Instructable so usefull ! There are many small tips that I can apply to the hobby I have enjoyed all my life . Your work bench reminds me of my Father's ...and that is a good thing ! We both shared a love and respect for electronics from tubes through transistors and into intergrated circuits. He passed just after I started exploring micro's , but I will always be gratefull for his creative thinking and problem solving.

I am looking forward to reading more of your instructables !

Many , many thanks to you for sharing your wisdom and knowledge ,


russ_hensel (author)  Build_it_Bob1 year ago
Thank you.

I like my bench, but my wife not so much.

Have a few insturctables about 90 percent done, it is the last 10 percent that takes 90 percent of the time.

uwezi1 year ago
Looking at your picture of your wall warts, I have two additional tips:

1) keep each wall wart in a small plastic zip-lock bag instead of all of them in a box. This will keep them from entangling with each others cables

2) look out for discarded cell phone chargers. These are usually 3.6V or 5V regulated wall warts which can easily be reused in many projects.
russ_hensel (author)  uwezi1 year ago

I do that with some components, perhaps I should with wall warts too. Normally on anything I store I use a twist tie to collect the cord. The wall warts go in cat food buckets based on voltage output. I have about 5 buckets, but you cannot have too many.

I like the coin envelopes idea. I used 2x2 clear resealable bags from Hobby Lobby. You can get 100 or so of them for 2 or 3 dollars. Labeled those then put them in something like this:
Came in pretty handy in EE classes.
Yes I like the 2x3 clear ones with the white block for writing, so I can see and read what's in there :-). Amazon had 1000 for about 9 bucks.
russ_hensel (author)  thespeedycamel1 year ago
The reason I do not like the bags so much is that they are limp and hard to write on/read. For larger parts I do use a bunch of ziplock bags and throw the stuff in boxes. Lots of people do like the small ones. I think there may be some instructables on them including putting in notebooks.
I agree. Trying to find something that would write on them was very difficult. I used a sharpie at first but ended up going to a label maker instead. But for what you were using them for above, I like your idea better. The stiffer envelopes definitely take the cake.
clazman1 year ago
Wow, someone knows about Heathkit.

Then, I must know even less (even after building a TV in the early 70's) for I didn't realize they tried a reentry in 2011

Nice ideas. Yes, their kits were very organized.
n1elkyfan1 year ago

for me the auto strippers from ideal they work really good and they even make diffrent inserts for them so you can do diffrent types of wires.

rimar20001 year ago
Excellent, thanks for sharing.
vgreene1 year ago

Forget the big clumsy head mounted magnifiers and go pick up a package of the strongest reading glasses you can find at the drugstore. The magnification is about the same and they are a lot more comfortable to wear. You can also wear them low on the nose and look over them easily when you need to focus on something farther away. You can also get a package of 3-4 for the price. Attach cheap LED lights to the side and you have task lighting as well.

padbravo1 year ago
Me too!
Tks for this collection of tipos (some of us are just hobbysts from time to time on the electronics things)
Very good, Thanks for taking the time to post. Should help many new builders.
Good tips ! The coin envelopes are a great idea. For people without a variac who want to power up an old or suspect device, what I use is an extension cord with a double pole switch in it. That way you can switch on the device without power then stand back & turn on the extension cord safely away from the device.
ynze1 year ago
Darn useful. Thank you.

tpobrienjr1 year ago
These are great tips, and I'm sure every one has a story. I have two comments.
1. I love/hate banana plugs, because there is no industry standard for the long dimension, which sometimes leaves exposed metal or wobbly connections.
2. A colleague once designed a control box that required 12VDC. He decided to be clever, and designed it with a bridge rectifier to keep the polarity right no matter what. The tech who built it (probably named Murphy) installed the bridge rectifier backwards, and when power was applied, all the magic smoke escaped!
churchjw1 year ago
The coin envelopes are a great idea. Thanks for posting that.
Fantastic article - I keep extra parts in plastic coffee cans. A second you on never having too many wall warts. I have about 20 of them, always useful. I remember borrowing my dads Heath Kit in the late 70's, good times. Thanks for the memory jolt !
ray8mundo1 year ago
excellent article, very valuable, I will put it into practice. thanks.
magnetomax1 year ago
Thanks for such awesome tips! really liked most of them. :)
added to my collection.
Very useful and well documented.
fiktin1011 year ago
Great job. Great insights. And very nice references.