This Instructable builds on some great work at http://www.instructables.com/id/EXU9BO166NEQHO8XFU (Draw Electronic Schematics with CadSoft EAGLE) and http://www.instructables.com/id/EZ3WN1QUKYES9J5X48 (Turn your Eagle schematic into a PCB). Eagle is free.
Step 1: Designing the schematic
Step 2: Place all the components
The wonderful thing about having boards like this made compared with building homemade boards is you don't have to worry about trying to optimise the autorouter for a single layer. Just run the autorouter once and it defaults to double layer mode and it always produces a 100% design automatically within a few seconds. Even with components a lot denser than this board Eagle always autoroutes the whole board.
Step 3: Fix any errors
Over the last few years I've found a few tips and tricks to making better boards:
1) To get tracks closer - Tools/Auto/General and set the grid to something like 10mil
2) To make data tracks thin but power tracks fatter, Edit/Net (at the bottom) and start typing in a text box to name the class. I use three classes; Gnd, Power and one for all the rest.
3) In DRC, distance/copper dimension change from 40 to 20 - this allows two tracks to fit between IC pads, which can greatly increase board density.
4) In DRC - clearance/pad to via increase from 8 to 40. (leave all the rest at 8mil). This increases the distance between vias and pads so less chance of bridges when soldering. Surprisingly, this also sped up the autorouter too.
Step 4: Create a drill file
Step 8: Click on Process Job
Step 9: Create the Gerber files
Step 10: Create the Gerber files
Step 11: Collect all the files and Zip them up
Steps 4-11 are summarised in text format at http://drvernacula.topcities.com/creating_gerber_files_from_eagle.htm
Step 13: View a Gerber file
The Gerber files can be viewed with a free Gerber file viewer. I went to the website above and installed Viewmate. It appears in the Start menu of windows as Start/Programs/Pentalogic. In Viewmate I clicked on File\Open and browsed to C:\Program Files\EAGLE-4.16r2\projects\RadioRepeater and at the bottom of the windows changed Files of Type to *.*. As an example this is the .sol solder side file
Step 14: Find a PCB manufacturer
These boards arrived in 9 working days. There were a few problems initially with me sending the wrong files (which is mainly why I wrote this Instructable!) and they were very patient and polite from their end. There were also some email problems in that emails coming back were totally blank. I was able to read the source text and at least work out who they were from but I nearly did delete the mail as junk mail. Finally I ended up communicating by Skype text. They all write very good English which is a bit embarrassing as my Mandarin is non existent. My kids are learning Mandarin at school though.
Payment was via Paypal which remains safer than using a credit card (for both parties) and far cheaper than an interbank transfer.
I hope this Instructable is useful. I have built many hundreds of prototype boards over the last twenty years but I think from now on I will be getting boards made professionally.