Setting Up the Perfect Electronics Workplace





Introduction: Setting Up the Perfect Electronics Workplace

About: I am a 21 year old DIY ist and Tinkerer with a deep interest in the field of robotics, electronic and cooking. I am skilled in wood and metal work as well. I work in my basement workshop and i am mostly scra...

DIY is in my blood and for about 6 years now i have been doing such work. I have a keen interest in electronics work, prototyping, reusing and building. Working is only fun and calming if you have a good workplace with all you will need at arms length. My workplace is build by myself, improved over the years. I am going to share with you my workplace i use for most of my electronics, robotics and hobby work. I hope you will find some of these ideas inspiring for setting up your workplace.

Step 1: A Comfy Sitting Place

The first and most important thing to have in your workplace is a comfortable chair, preferably foam covered and with recline and variable height for optimum approach. As electronics work involves hours and hours of sitting and working, it is ideal to have a good chair. I can recall countless times when I worked 3 to 5 hours stretch as I wanted to take a break only after the certain project was done and at that time my comfy chair helped a lot.

Step 2: Good Lighting

As mentioned earlier electronics work involves hours of sitting and it also involves focusing on small circuits and connections. Therefore it is also very important to have a good overhead light source. It keeps the strain on the eyes to a minimum. Observing minute details and small components becomes easy. When prototyping or soldering those small solder bridges can be annoying if they go unnoticed hence it is important to have good lighting so that even the finest details are visible.

Step 3: A Cool Fan

When working with electronics there are a lot of heat sources nearby. The soldering iron, hot glue gun and power supplies emit a lot of heat and can increase the temperature. So to keep you cool and calm a table fan can be very helpful. The table fan also does the job of a fum extractor but instead of sucking in solder fumes, it blows them away and dissipates them. Solder fumes are annoying and dangerous therefore the fan is helpful in staying clear of them. Dust produced from drilling or grinding is also harmful for the lungs. The fan blows the dust away and prevents them from entering your body.

Step 4: Soldering Iron Set Up

The very basic tool you will need to buy is a soldering iron. For most hobby work a basic 30 to 60 Watt pencil soldering iron will do the trick. If you plan on doing extended work, i recommend to buy a good one and not the cheap china ones as they will fail while you are in between your work and make you angry. Invest in a good Weller or Goot soldering iron. I have a 60 Watt and it is perfect for my usage.

Soldering Iron is very dangerous to use without a good stand. I bought a cheap stand and found it to be too unstable. A little nudge and it topples which can be very annoying. So to fix that i attached an old lead acid battery to it and now its perfect. Keep the soldering iron near your right hand.

If you are going to do circuit building or soldering work, a pair of helping hands go a long way. I have some cheap china one which i had to repair countless times. I would suggest not to go too expensive as i have seen those to be not so durable as well.

To clean the soldering iron i have seen a plethora of devices but the cheapest i found is to buy a steel wire scrub and place it in a container. Works perfectly.

Sooner or later you will be needing a desoldering tool. I have used and broken many over the year and now i have settled for a medium quality large sized solder sucker. Its large and has good air flow.

Solder wire is also an important part not because there is not soldering without it but because there are so many low quality ones that you will get frustrated. So take the advise and invest in a spool of high quality medium diameter wire.

Step 5: Bench Voltmeter

If you are some one like me then you will understand the need for this. My power supplies don't have on board voltmeters mainly because they are hard to mount and they are expensive. Because of that i have fried a lot of electronics thinking i was attaching the correct voltage output while i wasn't. And checking the voltage each time was a hassle. Turning on the voltmeter and then finding the leads and then connecting them to the output.

To remedy this problem what I did was take an old fluke voltmeter and i powered it up using a 9V adapter. I made a stand of it using an old lead acid battery. Then I built two small metal tubes for the positive and negative poles.Now when i power up my work place the volt meter is powered and it stays on. To check the output i am going to use, I just touch it to the poles and instantly get a reading.

Keep it on your workplace such that you can access it without moving too much.

Step 6: Electric Mini Drill

In electric work a mini drill is as important as a soldering iron. You will be needing it for drilling pcb, plastic and more. Grinding stuff and shaping them will also be one of the uses. So for all that I recommend to buy a good electric mini drill. The best is to buy a dremel but they are very expensive. So if you are on a budget, you can buy a cheaper one with many grinding and drilling attachments. I have a small cheap drill which does most of the work i need.

If you are going to get a cheaper one then you will need to get a DC power supply.So get a good power supply as it will improve the performance of your drill. Keep it close by as you will be needing it frequently.

Step 7: Multimeter

Well if you will do electronics work, you cant do it without a good multimeter. So go ahead and invest in a good one as it will be worth it. Wrong readings can be very annoying. Keep it on the right hand side of your workplace.

Step 8: Power Supplies

Everything runs on power. Power supplies are another very important part of your workplace. What i have are two power supplies. The top one is custom built and has fixed 12v and 5v out as well as 1.2 to 25v variable. This will cover most of your prototyping needs. But just for good measure i have another ATX power supply with fixed 12v and 5v output and can deliver a lot of amps.

You can buy bench power supplies but if you are someone like me you would want to build your own. Well for that you can buy an ATX supply and modify it. I wont go into the detail of that but there are thousands of tutorials on instructables alone. You can also build one from scratch using a transformer. For that you can search the internet.

Don't go looking for something very powerful with more than 5 amps because it will get dangerous and you will never be needing such power. What i have are 1.5 amp output and they are always underused.

Keep them close so that you can adjust the output easily and the leads can reach your test subjects.

Step 9: Supply Closet

Another time tested feature of my work place is a supply closet right in front of my workplace. This is also important as it holds hardware including nuts, bolts, screws etc. When ever i am building a robot or an enclosure i find it very convenient to have all the parts i need right in front of me.

I would recommend to buy a medium sized component closet but not to stock it right away but instead whenever you need to buy some hardware for a project, buy extra and store the excess. It will help to build a usable stock of hardware overtime. If you buy all at once you may buy many things you end up never using.

Step 10: Tools and Components

While you are working it is important to have the tools you need and the frequently used components very close by. That is why i have placed two boxes at lower level to my right.

One of the box hold tools most frequently used including cutter, wire stripper, screwdriver, solder sucker, files etc.I use them and place them back, keeping my workplace neat and tidy.

The second box holds components of most frequent use including resistors, led's, switches etc.

These two boxes are very important as they save me from searching for my tools or components in the large toolbox or component packs.

Step 11: Organize, Organize, Organize !!!

Organize is the name of the game. If your materials are organized you will work more efficiently and be happy. In electronics work you will be needing wires, connectors, heat shrink, test leads, zip ties and many more.

So you needs to keep this stuff near but not too close. I recommend to arrange it neatly in separate boxes for easy access when needed.

Step 12: Adhesives

For any kind of work you will be needing adhesives. Basic work only requires basic adhesives but when you get into the depth you will require a lot of them. I have plenty of tapes and glues all places in a box towards my left so that they are easy to find.

Tapes include electrical tape, scotch tape, double sided tape etc. Glues include super glue, UHU glue, wood glue etc.

Step 13: Vices

Working over the years I have began to appreciate the usefulness of vices. They are helpful in securing your things while you work on them. They also prevent injury. I have a small hobby vise for basic soldering work and a large vise for heavy duty cutting, grinding etc.

Step 14: Magnifying Glass

Remember all those teeny tiny things i talked about earlier. Well to see them properly you can also use magnifying glasses. So you can buy one but i find that magnifying glasses that are salvaged from old cameras are much more magnifying and helpful, not to mention, cheap.

Step 15: Music

Those long hours can get boring and quiet. So fill the space i have a music system. Play some tunes and enjoy your work.

Step 16: Concluding Remarks

Thank you for viewing and i hope you like the ideas and get some help in setting up you workplace. I will take this opportunity to emphasize that in this instructable my focus was on how to set up your workplace with respect to the things needed and the place where they should go but i didn't go into detail of each of them. For that i will post separate ibles for each as there is so much detail i want to go into.

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just like my bench, except mine everything is a litle smaller.

what closet is that? i cant find one as big as yours and the ones on the internet are too expensive with shipping.

I work in a professional electronics lab. My coworkers run the gamut from surgical-suite clean to tornado victim disorganized. Because we often work on highly restricted projects AND have frequent visitors, one particular coworker intentionally keeps his bench SO disorganized it is impossible for a casual observer to know exactly what he is working on.

I commend the young fellow . I will not be around 40 years from now to see how this workbench will grow. Mine started out like this one and is now a separate 2 car garage with all the amenities of home!

I'll agree with you to 100%. It's nice when ewerything's got in place. I can pick a tool or something on my workbench with my eyes closed because I know it's place. In comments here some says that it should look a bit "messy", ("GEE... look what I'm busy.. having a lot of things going on..), it just won't compute. It's kind of a programming... it just HAVE to be nice and organized

What do we call that component closet, any proper name?

2 replies

"The apartement for components", hey, they have their names on the door? :)

You can search for "parts drawers" or "parts drawer cabinet"

Nicely done. Very neat, mine looks like that when its first setup.... then it looks like a mess from there on. This would help one looking to build a decent work space.

Only problem, it is too neat, it should look like Einstein's desk. Work and tools scattered all over the desk and you alone know where everything is. Only a clear spot in front of you, big enough for the current job with a conductive mat and a wrist strap for handling sensitive components.

3 replies

Your approach will work, to a point. I've found that when I can't see the screwdriver right in front of me it's time to do a "reboot". I do this also when I'm knocking things off the bench due to clutter, or I'm just at a point where I need to rest my eyes. I will put most tools and materials back in their respective storage places, especially the ones I know I'm done with for now. I've found that this minimizes my personal exasperation, especially when I'm thinking about blowing up the whole shebang.

If I can't find the tool right in front of me I call my wife and she do the lift and look procedure and normally find it that way LOL.

You must be newlyweds :). Give it time.

Great idea. Love it.

I have been a licensed ham since 1957 and have worked through vacuum tube, transistor, ICs, PCs, etc. in Navy, service, manufacturing, etc. Many great ideas. If you work on tube type stuff such as ham gear, radars, microwave ovens, etc, have a second bench top with NO conductive mats or bare metal surfaces. Insulated bench top is a necessity using formica, linoleum, etc. High voltage loves to use the human body as a conductive path to ground. Also a rubber mat on the floor is a safety item and reduces foot/leg fatigue when standing.

If you solder heavy work such as coax connectors, antenna tubing, etc., a solder iron or gun of at least 150 watts is needed. I like due or triple heat guns going to 250 or more watts. A small butane torch torch made for solder and brazing work is nice and can be found in $ 35 range, Try hobbyist catalog sites such as model railroading, etc for these. These are nice for silver soldering too if you work on high temp stuff like heating elements.

A heat gun is needed for shrink tubing. Multiple wattage ones are nice to have.

A slotted cable rack is nice to have for hanging test leads, probes, etc. from. These can be bought from supply houses or make ones yourself from a piece of wood with nails spaced to create hanger slots.

Storage cabinet with doors that can be closed and locked can be found at Goodwill, etc. Put your small parts and tools in one on shelves, and use a second as secure storage for chemicals, cleaners, paints, adhesives, etc. As an old widower living alone I still have have to worry about little finger sof grandkids getting into things.

Start each project with a clean bench top and all tools in proper place. let the clutter build as you work, but when done or even when changing from construction to power on and alignment stage, return everything to proper place and clean the benchtop. The small amount of time is well worth the time saving starting the next project.

Zip lock bags are a necessity for screws removed during disassembly for servicing, or storing infrequently used test lead harnesses.

I suggest a vent hood over the bench with exterior exhaust. Anything from small bathroom ceiling exhaust to kitchen vent hood with lighting. I have salvaged RV hood with fans/filters/lights at junk yards that run on 12 VDC.

A circular ring light magnifying lamp is needed for small work. The $35 are ok for hobbiest work, but I use the high quality rectangular lens variable intensity lighted one for production work.

An expensive but valuable item is a metal trash can with spring loaded lid. These can be found at auto parts houses or Harbor Freight, etc. Also HF has cheap Dremel type tools and accessories. The trash can will stop any after hours combustion from happening.

A variable voltage variable current supply is needed for servicing units, especially abused items such as polarity reversal hook up, or salt spray or immersion marine electronics.

Set current limit very low, and start voltage at minim and slowly bring voltage up doing smoke check, burnt smell check, component feel, etc. frequently a bad part will identify itself this way. Also overlooked corrosion will be found too.

I love small circuit board vises that can be adjusted into many positions such as PanaVise. Start out with the basic unit and as funds permit, buy the baseplate that has compartments for parts, screws etc and provided a stable but moveable vise base. he purchase the special jaws as your needs arise. I frequently have two on the bench at the same time when building cable harnesses.

Another item is a cheap analog type VOM that allows easy peaking when doing an alignment. I find the medium cost digital meters with a peaking bar tend to lag behind the true peak.

As a coffee-holic, I suggest a cup with a lid and special place on the bench for it. Also a handy bench whipe source of towels, etc. should be nearby.

And don't forget safety stuff like goggles, breathing masks when grinding/painting, fire extinguishers, first aid kit, etc.

You did a great job showing otherwise "organizationally challenged" folks how to develop a little order in their work places. So, instead of re-inventing your wheel, I thought I'd add a couple of things I've done over the years to make my situation more ordered and less chaotic.

I have 2 benches in my basement, one for hobby stuff and one for my paying job (i'm self-employed). I've included a few pictures here. As you can see, I mounted drawers below both my benches. I put the tools I use most in them so all I have to do is open the drawer in front of me. You can get add-on drawer brackets, even whole drawers at DIY centers and on line. They don't need to be to big or too deep, just for the stuff you are always reaching for.

Another problem I have always had, that doesn't get better with age, is a bad habit of forgetting to turn off the solder station. If I go several days between work, this can cause a heck of a lot of corrosion on the tips, not to mention the fire hazard if left unattended. So I bought timers with 1,2,4 and 8 hour increments. I wired these to relays with 120 volt ciols. The contact are connected to the sockets. I sometimes need a higher wattage iron (75-100 watts) for work on point-to-point vacuum tube work, hence the duplex outlet. If I forget to turn off the iron(s), I can rest assured that they will turn off on their own. A little peace of mind, and less replacing burnt-up tips.

The workbench in the picture was a piece of countertop I got from a Habitat for Humanity "ReStore". I think I paid $5 for it. These stores, if you have one near you, are great places to pick up just about any kind of building material cheap.

The last pix is my "tunes". A shameless plug for DIY vacuum tube amplifiers, for sure :).


I've worked in electronics for over 35 years. Blowing solder fumes is hazardous to your health. Your solder should come with a MSDS, I suggest you read it. It has more carcinogens than one cigarette does. That's why women who are less than 4 months pregnant are not allowed to work in such areas. You need a proper fume extraction device, a fan won't cut it. If your local electronic store doesn't have them, here are some professional companies that you can order one. Yes, on the pricey side but it's your health. They are Jensen, Digikey, Mouser and Newark, all with websites and catalogs. Other than that, your work bench looks like mine at work, good job!

1 reply

I've worked in electronics since the early 1970s. No fume extractor. No problem yet, but I suppose I'm way beyond help at this point. When we worked on bicycles and cars we even used gasoline to wash our hands! And I do agree with you here, you younger folks should heed this advice. I had a very rare, but very curable form of cancer 26 years ago that my Doctors had no idea how I could have developed at my age. Something commonly found in senior citizens called Liposarcoma. And I do now have a vent fan with an intake right at workbench level that takes the smoke outside.