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When I got into electronics finding parts was the biggest challenge. Radio Shack has a decent selection of components for the beginner but their prices are high. Great deals are available online, but the overwhelming variety and unfamiliar jargon makes it a little hard for a novice to know just what to order. I needed a solution.

One day I was taking apart an old printer looking for motors when I looked at the circuit board inside. It was covered in capacitors and resistors but they were all soldered in place with short leads. I used my soldering iron to remove a few caps, but it was slow and awkward. I tried melting the solder in the oven but it stank and softened plastic parts on the board. I needed something with a little more control. I found my answer in the mailbox.

The next morning the mail brought a sales ad for Harbor Freight. Right on the front was a dual temperature heat gun for $7.99! This would be perfect for recovering components. I went down and picked one up. After a little trial and error I figured out the following procedure.

Step 1: Set Up Your Work Area.

Find a place to work that has plenty of ventilation. I usually do this sort of thing outside with a fan blowing to remove the fumes from the melting solder. It helps to work on a board to protect your work surface from splattered solder and burns. Use the appropriate safety equipment, including eye protection, gloves and a respirator. Work carefully and safely.

OK so the 'under $10' in the title is assuming you own a few common tools. First of all you'll need something to gently pry the components out of the board as you melt the solder with the heat gun. I use an old painter tool but any flat, stiff metal tool will suffice. Something stiff and pointy will be useful for working stubborn parts loose or straightening bent leads before removing a part. I use an old needle valve from an outboard engine. A screwdriver will come in handy for removing heat sinks and other components attached with screws. Some sort of wire cutters and needle nosed pliers will also be handy. Finally you'll want a couple of large spring clamps to hold the board you're working on. Don't worry about the tools too much. Nothing is too critical and tools can be substituted or improvised. An old butter knife or artist's palette knife will work just as well to pry the components up. Heavy duty tweezer will work almost as well as needle nose pliers. If you don't have clamps to secure the board to the table you can use vice grips or a c-clamp or even just screw the board to the table through a couple of the board's mounting holes. This is a rough, dirty job so don't use your best tools.

You'll also want to collect some discarded circuit boards to strip of parts. Avoid surface mount (SMD) components. These are almost impossible to reuse. While you can find usable parts in old computers, they tend to have a lot of SMD components. Old computer ATX power supplies are really useful though. Save all of them you can. They make good bench power supplies and you can even use them with a washing soda solution to remove oxidation from metal.

Older stuff is best- radios, VCRs, audio gear, etc. I particularly like old audio mixers. They are a great source of potentiometers, switches and audio jacks. They often have meters, op amps, spring reverb tanks, power transistors, transformers and tons of other usable parts. Old mixers tend to be filthy due to hastily eaten pizzas in the studio, spilled beer at gigs and improper storage. A little attention with a damp cloth with mild detergent, a small, stiff brush and some compressed air will clean things up nicely.

Another great source of parts and components is old organs. You can find them at thrift stores and yard sales for next to nothing. You can often find broken ones for free. I recently acquired a Hammond Aurora for twenty bucks. Aside from the circuit boards with the usual components I also got a spring reverb tank, a Leslie rotating speaker assembly, a foot pedal board, tons of heavy duty rocker switches, pots and switches, a separate discreet amplifier board and more. It also had a Hammond Auto-Vari drum machine! This unit was designed by an engineer from Roland. It has an organic sound similar to the Rhythm King used by Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis with some improvements like a rudimentary pattern sequencer and controls to shape the individual drum sounds. These machine go for a few hundred dollars by themselves for good reason- they sound awesome!

Look for a variety of things to disassemble for parts. Old printers and scanners are a good source of motors. Old smoke detectors are a good source of piezo discs, but discard the leftover parts properly- they contain trace amounts of radioactive americium. Explore and see what you find.

Avoid TV and CRT monitors until you are experienced. They contain high voltage capacitors that can shock and even kill you, even when they have been unplugged for a while. Be very careful when you see large capacitors and If you have any doubts leave them alone. Circuits can bite!

Step 2: It's Getting Hot in Here!

When you have your work area set up and your board mounted firmly you're ready to begin. Start with a smaller, older board to get the hang of the process. Older boards tend to have the components spread out a little more so it's easier to see what you're doing. They also usually have longer leads left on the components which makes reusing them easier.

You will notice that the board has all the components on one side and the solder pads on the other. Turn your heat gun on the low setting and apply heat to the solder side of the board. Start in a corner and keep the heat gun moving in little circles to heat the area evenly. Be careful not to scorch the board or heat the area so much the it melts the components on the other side. Work slowly until you get the hang of it. Keep an eye on the solder. When it starts to liquify gently pry the component from the board. Try to work one component at a time.

I could write all kinds of details, but the best way to learn this is to just do it. You will ruin some parts and you'll make a mess, but eventually you'll get the hang of it. Soon you'll have a pile of stripped boards and a pile of various components. When you're done with the heat gun the fun part begins.


Step 3: Let's See What We Got.

It may sound silly to say to handle the components gently when you've just heated them up and pried them off of a junk board, but use caution when you handle the parts, especially the ICs. Chips can be sensitive to static, especially CMOS devices. Sorting components can be educational- particularly when you're just starting out. You will find all kinds of things that you have no idea what they are. Take the time to figure out what you have. The internet can be helpful. I also recommend Charles Platt's Encyclopedia of Electronic Components. It's jam packed with pictures and explanations of what all those little bits do.

I brought all the parts in and spread them out on the desk to sort. Here's what I ended up with-

84 resistors of various values

55 zero ohm links

15 capacitors invalues from .1uf to 2,200uf.

5 varistors

3 relays

40 assorted diodes

10 transistors (power, darlingtons, basic PNP and NPN)

1 voltage regulator

1 12,000MHz chrystal

2 LM339N quad audio amps

1 CD4051BE multiplexer

1 ULN2003A darlington array

2 JRC324D quad op amps

2 resistor arrays

1 NE555N timer

1 256 bit serial EEPROM

1 8 pin chip socket

1 transformer

several odd pin headers

I also got a 40 pin BHS-1000C mystery chip in a 40 pin socket. 'BHS' stands for Brinks Home Security and the number is the series. This is the 'brain' of the home security system board that I disassembled. A quick search told me that this system covered several security zones and could send alarm signals over the telephone line. I don't know what I'll do with it but it will go into the chip box.

I keep all of my components in metal parts boxes with plastic drawers. I have a lot of components! When you're just starting out a clear plastic tackle box will do. Find a resistor color code chart and a chart of capacitor values and codes to make identifying and sorting parts easier. Print them out and tape them directly on the storage box.

If you want to use your recovered parts on a breadboard you may have to reconfigure your layout due to the components having shorter leads. You may also have to use your soldering iron to remove excess solder so the leads will fit into the breadboad holes. When using circuit boards you may also have to reconfigure your layout. Recycled parts are really useful for 'open' layouts where you solder components directly to other parts, like integrating an R/C circuit into a potentiometer. You may also want to look into Manhattan style layouts where components are soldered directly to individual copper clad plates. Here's an excellent intro to the technique-

http://www.zianet.com/dhassall/advmanart.pdf .

This is a great way to get parts cheaply. It's also a good source for vintage components. For audio circuits some makers swear that vintage components sound better. You'll also come across gems like Nixie tubes and and other 'obsolete' displays. Have fun and remember- with all the money you save on components you can buy a nice soldering station or an oscilloscope.

Now go make something!

<p>Cool! I salvage stuff too, including CRT televisions, CFL tubes, radios, CD players, and other random junk either from around the house or from an outside source. I have never really thought about removing components with a heat gun, but I really should buy one, seeing as it can take hours to completely salvage ablarge board. Of course, Inwill probably forget all about the heat gun in five or ten minutes. Oh well, I guess my desoldering iron will work just fine for now.</p>
<p> I slaughtered an old radio earlier today for parts whit my scoldering iron and a skrewdriver.... Bying a heat gun is probebly in my best intrest , becouse it took such a long time.</p>
<p>Yep, a heat gun is a good investment. Sometimes a soldering iron can get too hot and damage the part you're trying to get. When you have to use a soldering iron to remove a part, use a solder sucker to remove the melted solder before it solidifies again.</p><p>If you're into recycling electrical parts check out this recent instructable I did where I disassembled an old organ for parts-</p><p>https://www.instructables.com/id/The-Organ-Donor-Project/</p>
<p>Yea , i use a copper ribbon for that . But thanks anyway :) and yes , that other instrucktable is worth to trow an eye at . Thanks</p>
<p>My experiences with asset recovery started back in the '60's, when my best friend and I would head to the local dump and grab up old t.v.'s and radios and anything electronic to learn the craft. No way can you get into a managed landfill today, they'd think you're terrorist looking to fab I.E.D.'s or something malicious out of the swag. So for nostalgia, I make a recovery sweep of my 'hood and bring home goodies that way, but the evolution of electronics has really dimmed any meaningful component salvage, but still I bring it home and open it up...</p>
<p>&quot;One day I was taking apart an old printer looking for motors when I looked at the circuit board inside.&quot;</p>
<p>merci</p>
Never thought of that!
<p>Showing my age... I can't tell you how many tube TV's I scavanged for parts when I was a kid. </p>
<p>Great memory, Spthorn! Repair shops always had old junked TVs out in the back; it was great to salvage parts. I especially liked harvesting the windings from the back of the tube -- the copper wire made great antennas for my ham radio setup, or winding new inductors. No one throws out copper anymore....</p>
<p>As a boy I recovered thousands of components with a soldering iron. What I could have done with a heat gun!</p><p>I did use one a few months ago to replace the usb charging port in my daughter's LG Android phone. Saved her several hundred dollars, and suddenly Dad wasn't such a geek!</p>
<p>When I got my second minicomputer to salvage I knew I had to step up my game. The old soldering iron just wasn't cutting it for me anymore. So I bought a 5 pound solder pot. Place board over pot, and pull out whatever part you want. It's that easy! Is desoldering 64 lead DIP packages getting you down? They come up easy with a solder pot under them.</p><p>The downside is a large solder pot will set one back a few bucks. Mine cost me about $160 when I got it many years ago. But it is absolutely the best way to salvage components from surplus circuit boards. It tins soldering iron tips great too!</p><p>I saw a video on the net of a guy in China salvaging components. He had a piece of sheet metal with a shallow depression in it, filled with molten solder, and a heat source under that (likely a simple gas burner) to keep the solder molten. He was really going to town on circuit boards with that setup.</p><p>Yeah, heat guns, and blow torches work, but they lack wetting action, which liquifies frozen solder faster. So they take longer, and heat parts up more. You want the pool of molten solder to really be effective pulling parts.</p>
<p>Yeah, but the title is 'How to get an unlimited supply of electronic components for under $10', not 'How to buy an expensive professional tool'. I go for state of the shelf, accessible solutions.</p>
<p>&quot;state of the shelf&quot;, lol!</p>
<p>y'know, i hadn't thought of the heat gun! </p><p>sometimes, especially for the larger multi tapped xformers, i'll break out the cheap ass harbor freight rotary tool with a cut off disc. respirator and eye protection definitely a requirement for that, as well.</p>
Thx alot great tips just what I need right now just starting out as u mentioned :D
<p>With all the money you save on components now I highly recommend buying one of these breadboardable oscilloscopes- </p><p><a href="http://www.gabotronics.com/development-boards/xmega-xprotolab.htm" rel="nofollow">http://www.gabotronics.com/development-boards/xmeg...</a></p><p>They're a super affordable starter oscilloscope with plenty of features. They were designed by a real-life maker success story down here in Florida. I'm installing one in my DIY synthesizer and will be posting an Instructable soon.</p><p>I'm not a paid shill- I just really like this product.</p>
Never buy a usb or nano oscilloscope u beter get a old analog oscilloscope like a Hameg one for 19$or 50$ they are usful even tho they arnt digital for my self i have in electronic 6 years and i have spared some money and got the rigol ds1074z model its great<br>
<p>When I was first starting out I bought a nice BK Precision scope at a pawn shop. It had a ton of features and accessories and it could do a lot. Mainly what it did was sit on a shelf because all the buttons, knobs and attachments were confusing and all the online resources I found were a bit beyond my understanding at that point. Then I saw the Gabotronics Xscope at a maker fair and bought one. It has four buttons and a screen. This simple interface was much simpler to experiment with and much less daunting. After playing with it for a while I started to understand what was going on. I'm not a professional and I'm self taught. That little USB scope was far more valuable to me in the beginning than the BK because it got me over the learning curve. Now I'm comfortable using my 'pro' scope. Best of all, the USB scope is just a programmable microcontroller. It can be repurposed as anything I want. My USB oscilloscope was a great deal.</p><p>The right tool for you is the one that works, not the one a stranger on the internet insists is the 'proper' one.</p>
Oh and those 0 ohm resistors are inductors they are nice to use for RF stuff or just low power application.<br>Nice instructables i love reciclying part.
<p>Zero Ohm resistors are jumpers. Unless you are confusing coils with resistors. A zero Ohm resistor will be marked with one black band on it if it is an axial device. I know all of this because I happen to have a few zero Ohm resistors. Although all conductors have some inductance, so technically I suppose you're right.</p>
<p>This is so much better than trying to desolder each part individually. Thanks for the tips!</p>
<p>This is so much better than trying to desolder each part individually. Thanks for the tips!</p>
<p>I've had good luck recovering parts with a desoldering gun. First I used the cheap model from Radio Shack then recently I bought a Hakko 808. It was a little expensive so for the beginner it's important to start off cheap and work your way up when you get more serious. Get instructable for the beginner!</p><p>Also Harbor Freight sells 24 compartment storage bins sometimes on sale for $4. I use these to organize everything I recover.</p>
<p>If you're salvaging components with a soldering iron you're doing it wrong. I could pull more parts out of boards in an hour than you could possibly manage to do in a lifetime using my solder pot. The parts I pull won't be heat burnt out either. If it is a sloppy far eastern one side consumer circuit board I can empty one of those in seconds. Just heat it, and beat it! Heat it, and beat it, in case you don't know, is a technique where a board is heated up, then struck, and all of the parts fly out of it. I usually do it on the lip of an empty cardboard box. It makes recovering the dislodged parts easier.</p>
<p>If you really want to have fun, find an old, out-of-date photocopy machine. By the time you are through it is robot city!</p>
<p>A heat gun, or if you're brutal but quick, a mini blow-torch (RS has a refillable butane soldering iron/torch (64-2188), and a canister of Butane (hardware store, ask for a butane lighter refill. Also available at most tobacco sellers for lighters)) use the torch tip to heat-up the solder side, and pick the component off the board with a pair of pliers (But Don't CRUSH it.. done that a few too many times.) I've filled 4x 2Lb coffee canisters with various junk board parts. Mind you, It's not a 100% perfected science. You still run the risk of damaging the component.</p><p>As for the Circuits can bite, Most switching supplies have BIG canister caps on their mains side.. Even though they're usually linked across by a pair of bleeder resistors, ALWAYS leave them unpowered for at least 1-5 minutes, to allow them to bleed the charge off.</p><p>I've scrapped printers, old computers, power supplies, copiers, radios for parts of all kinds. ending up with loads of voltage regulators, Darlington arrays for stepper motors (and the motors too), 10K resistors (Never can have too many for logic pull-up or pull-down). Even repurposed a couple of ATX supplies from instructables here as multi-voltage power supplies for projects.</p>
<p>Also, as someone said, Fume Extractor! If using the blow-torch method, there's always the problem of fumes. (burning epoxy, phenolic, acids.) I've even made a few extractors out of 12V muffin fans, and a few layers of filter paper.</p>
<p>That is awesome!</p>
If you take a little extra time to heat a larger section of board at once, you can bang the board over a bucket or receptacle of some kind to catch all the components that fall out.
<p>I have been perfecting this technique although with SMD parts. In my opinion, surface mount parts are the easiest to reuse since they stick to the surface and have no distinguishable leads. I happen to have great vision up close... so much so that I usually use my eyes w/o lenses (wear contacts/glasses) to identify parts. good optic devices can certainly be utilized as well. I have been pulling logic FETs off old motherboards and reusing them for various projects. Not only is this environmentally conducive, but it saves money... as logic FETs go for about .50 to 2 bucks depending on the source and type. I can typically recover 8-10 FETs per board. </p>
<p>Almost forgot to mention that you need to make sure you heat the backside of the board, and ensure you sweet the gun, as holding it in one spot for too long will cause burnt pcb and splattering of solder.</p>
<p>This is really cool. I love salvaging components although I use a desoldering iron. A heat gun sounds like an easier way though.</p>
<p>That is awesome!</p>
<p>I love recycling parts and this 'ible is the one!</p><p>Only remember to work in a good OPEN and well ventilated area. Fumes from pcb can be very smellish and somewhat toxic. Not a good thing to deal with!</p><p>:-) ciao!</p>
THIS IS AWESOME. I have an old xbox360 with lots of assorted parts. I tried to desolder with my little pencil soldering iron but it wouldn't do it. I have a good solder sucker but I don't have enough heat. looks like I need to shop for a heat gun.
<p>Keep an eye on the Harbor Freight ads (if they have one in your area). They often have them as a loss leader. They also have a 20% off coupon almost every week. Lees money spent on tools means more money to spend on other tools.</p>
Great tips,thanks for sharing!
you should invest in a desoldering pump. once you melt the solder, have the pump primed, then stick the tip near the solder. Click the button on the pump. Then, CHUNK! it sucks up the solder, hence the name.
I love recycling parts like this. great technique!
<p>Very nice 'ible. Thanks for posting it.</p><p>That mystery chip may be a microcontroller. Try peeling the label off and see if there is a company name (Atmel, Microchip, TI, etc.) and part number under there. If not, try looking at the PCB and try to trace which pins are for +V and gnd. Compare these to pinouts for different 40-pin MCUs and you may get a clue as to the specific chip. If you can get access to a programmer for that chip, you may be able to erase and burn it and then you have a &quot;new&quot; controller chip.</p>
<p>Cool! Thanks for the input. I'm by no means an expert- I've only been fooling around with electronics for a few years. I'll do some more research into that chip and see what I can come up with.</p><p>This kind of input is so great! I'm old enough to remember the pre-internet days when it took forever to learn little tidbits like this. One casual reply from a stranger accomplishes what used to take multiple trips to the library and lots of research. Thanks and yay internet!</p>
excellent...just a word of caution..that avoid the fumes as it is very harmful
<p>I was going to say that! :) Sometimes the soldered side of the PCBs are covered with a laquer of some sort, this stuff can be really bad when burnt. Also the PCB material itself can give off toxic fumes if overheaded. My friend and I used to use a handheld butane gas blow-torch: We would heat the board up till it was very hot then give the PCB a hard bang with the components facing downwards. Most would fall off. The smoke that came from the PCB and laquer wasn't very nice. Most of the time we did it outside.</p>
<p>Thus the suggested use of a respirator and fan.</p>
<p>I used to salvage parts with a soldering iron and some solder braid, but this is much more efficient. Thanks for sharing!</p>
<p>Our man...</p>
<p>That's so cool! Got of love that you figured out to mass recover small parts! Thanks for sharing!</p>

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Bio: I build cool things from trash and recycled materials. I like noise and sound circuits. I live with my wife, a chihuahua named Monkey and ... More »
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