The Greatest Electronics Tip I Know -- The Spudger

Picture of The Greatest Electronics Tip I Know -- The Spudger
I've tried to write this article a dozen times already and it always comes out sounding ridiculous. I mean when I say a spudger is basically a sharpened stick but it is an essential high tech electronics tool, there I just said it. Is anyone still with me? Or are you all off laughing? But I'm serious a spudger is a professional all around top 10 kind of a tool. If you only have 10 tools for doing electronics make sure a spudger is one of them. These things are on the short list of equipment you should have.

But how many folks are really familiar with spudgers? I know before I was introduced to one I wasn't. I had a lot more than 10 tools for doing electronics by that time too. So I'd like to just expose anyone here to the idea of spudgers if they don't already know about them.

Get one, use one, imagine all the things you can do with a spudger. This is definitely one of the tools that should be on your workbench, or in your tool bag. Oh, and it isn't out of the realm of reason at all for you to just make a spudger. These things are essentially just sharpened sticks after all. Try to pick a dense, hard, dry, relatively resin free wood if you decide to make your own. If yours chars, or gets gummed up with resin sanding it or whittling on it are accepted practices. As that is often done even with the commercial instruments, in order to fit them to specific jobs, or just shape them back up again, after some use. Yes, you can carve on your sharpened stick, it's OK!

(cue the apes raucously grunting)

So release your inner cave man when doing high tech electronics and embrace the spudger in your projects. Oh, and rate, and vote for me in the electronics tips & tricks contest because I could really use a clean tee shirt over here. Thanks!

P.S. Several people asked what you do with a spudger in the comments section (which I am not being notified of via email lately) I rewrote this article so many times I overlooked putting it into this version. The primary task spudgers are put to with electronics is to hold, position, and pry at components while soldering, because your fingers burn like candles when subjected to high heats. Plus you probably shouldn't grind, abrade, sand, or whittle your fingers to quite as thin a cross section as spudgers are.

You may see in my lead photo for this article I've several soldering aid kits in my tool pallet along with my spudgers. Spudgers are better. Though those soldering aid kit tools have their uses too. Just not for soldering. Why? Spudgers grip components better, they don't suck heat out of the joint, they're more comfortable to use too. Professionals use wooden spudgers, you should too. Your great 1,500 generations ago grandparents were right all along, sharpened sticks are where it's at!
DLSguy8 months ago

We used them (didn't call them spudgers though) in the Marine Corps to tune resonant tank circuits <a href=''>LC circuit</a> for IF stages. Metal tweakers would change the frequency when it got close to the circuit, (these were tube radios with sheet metal variable capacitors) and the plastic ones had too much play when adjusting. So a wooden cotton swap was trimmed to fit, and when it started to get loose, it would re-trimmed, a perfect adjustment tool.

As a bit of trivia these radios were used as back-ups in the UH-1N (huey) helicopters well into the 1990's (not sure what they use now) as they were supposedly immune to EMP blasts.

pfred2 (author)  DLSguy8 months ago

The technical term for a wooden stick is technical. I know it took me a while to look up. I don't know anything about radio electronics. I do know that all electronics are fairly sensitive to electromagnetic radiation though. I also know that military devices are built to withstand severe environmental hazards. You never know when the stuff has to survive a war.

I'm not so sure what use a working radio will be good for after an EMP event. Nothing else is going to work then. The day will come someday when we may all find out.

hankus pfred22 months ago

50 years ago ( 1964 to be exact ) we used a tool supplied by Western Electric labeled as a KS6320-L1 or to us in the local telephone company, an orange stick, because of the wood it was made of. But we also called it a "SPUDGER" even back then and it was used to push, pry, separate, probe, electrical wiring and terminals beings it was electrically non conductive. Today orange wood is still used for makeing Manicuring Cuticle Pushers, and from pictures seen on eBay could easily be equally used as a present day "Spudgers".

pfred2 (author)  hankus2 months ago

While it is true that spudgers made out of the right kind of wood are the nicest I have successfully used other wood species. I hope your tip comes in handy for some reading these comments. Wooden spudgers are still commercially available today, although I imagine a lot of folks would prefer to avoid the hassle of sourcing them.

sarah051482 years ago
I think I had a pretty common experience when I was a kid growing up in the basement with my dad: I was his sprudger. Holding little parts and breathing lead fumes from his soldering iron. Sound familiar? To this day both lead fumes and that sweet smell of fiberglass resin take me back. I'll carve one in his and your honor for my own soldering kit. Thanks for giving me a new name and title.
bfk2 years ago
I'm a popsicle fan too.

Never knew what to call them though... Thanks for that (is that a certified term?:).

Here's a modification I use when I need to clamp something down sans fingers. It works well with my well-modified Exacto clip thingi.
Screen shot 2012-07-14 at 7.58.52 AM.jpgSpudger.jpg
pfred2 (author)  bfk2 years ago
Google spudger they'll turn up. Though initially I didn't know what their name was, so it took me a while to figure it out. What we called them in the shop I learned about them isn't even close. That term actually lead me in a very disturbing direction which makes me wonder who was doing what back then ... and why I wasn't in on the joke.

But this is an all ages site so enough about that!
zaronas2 years ago
so can you say what a spudger does that is what i am confused about
pfred2 (author)  zaronas2 years ago
It is a soldering aid, a part former, and projectile device, it slices, it dices, it can even make Julianne fries! Aardvarks have been witnessed using them in the wild to extract ants from hills, with a pair you have chop sticks. The possibilities are endless! When you are cold you can pile them up and set them on fire. It is difficult to do delicate electronic work when you are shivering you know?
zaronas pfred22 years ago
so its a sharpened wooden stick
pfred2 (author)  zaronas2 years ago
Xolin zaronas2 years ago
It is used in the act of spudging; to be spudged. As in:

Smith: "I say, Jones, that's a mighty fine spudger you have there. Mind if I have a go with it?"

(Sounds of power tools, breaking glass, and blood-curdling screams)

Jones: "How was that?"

Smith: "My word; terrific! I have never been so thoroughly spudged in my life!"
But what does it do? :x I know your informing us it is important but I still don't know why i need to use mine.
Maybe you and the rest of the ppl can consider Google. That's what I normally do when there is something I do not understand. In this case I also used Google and found the answer.
bpfh arnefl2 years ago
Arnefl..... hummm... this site is called instructables... People come here to be instructed on somthing. If you have to go back to Google to find out what the instructor is talking about here, it's a pretty poor show.

I came here about the greatest electronics tip and get shown pieces of plastic and timber and nothing is explained except they are great for spudging. Ok, tell us why they are great compared to... a your finger? a screwdriver? a pan galactic gargle-blaster?

If you are going to talk about how great this is as a tool, as a 3 line paragraph of it's terrific uses really too much to ask for?
pfred2 (author)  bpfh2 years ago
Well next time you are soldering a resistor use your finger to push it down. Then type to me what that was like. Oh, and try the screwdriver too, but have a spare resistor on hand when you do. Because sometimes metal blades can be a bit harsh on delicate electronic components.
arnefl bpfh2 years ago
didn't mean to offend you, kid.
It's for poking and moving around components, prying bits, or stabbing errant robots to death.
pfred2 (author)  ilpug2 years ago
Exactly right! Death the the Daleks! Spudge the lot of them.
pfred2 (author)  KevinAlien262 years ago
I didn't say in the article? You spudge with it. There is the spudger, and the spudgie. No, but seriously, you use to to hold parts together when you solder, or align parts, or form parts, or flip DIP switches mainly. But if you can think up other uses, and I'm sure you can, then post them in the comments. Oh yeah, you can pry parts up with a spudger when you are desoldering them, and you can remove ICs from sockets with a spudger too.
It's for poking and moving around components, prying bits, or stabbing errant robots to death.
Xolin2 years ago


Now I can put that new tool in my kit next to my gimlet, adze, maul, and beetle...

pfred2 (author)  Xolin2 years ago
I can't find out what a beetle tool looks like, so I don't know whether I've one of those or not. All Google wants to show me is the car by Volkswagen. I have gimlets, adzes, and mauls though. I want a froe. I'm not sure what I'd do with one, but I've this urge to just have one. I suppose I could go to and fro with it, like you're supposed to. Perhaps I could use it to tame my fro though, as in afro.
Xolin pfred22 years ago
Well, you could actually use the beetle in conjunction with your froe..! Definition

Scroll down the page for a picture :-)

pfred2 (author)  Xolin2 years ago
So that's a beetle? I already have one. Mine looks almost exactly like the one in the picture too. I made mine out of a block of wood I got out of a pallet. Handy buggers beetles are. I keep mine right by my woodworking workbench.
jeesan222 years ago
In the meantime Spudger is the too popular. it is a definitely strong stick. Plus you perhaps, shouldn't grind, abrade, sand, or whittle thine fingers to properly as thin a cross section as spudgers are. hoping that it will attract all and sundry.
knife1412 years ago
Been using a couple of "highly customized" popsicle sticks for years, but had no idea they actually had an official name! Thanks, pfred2 for the education!
pfred2 (author)  knife1412 years ago
I'm glad you liked it.

My boss at the place where I learned about spudgers, or as he called them, "Twizzle Sticks" was the worlds biggest Popsicle stick fan. I once heard him say he could make anything out of Popsicle sticks, but I think he just meant jigs, or perhaps he did in fact mean anything? Bruce was funny, you never seen a grinder wheel so wrecked from grinding wood as his bench grinder was. It was the only tool like that we had. We had lots of tools for working with electronics, not so much for woodworking though. If you want to call Popsicle stick abuse woodworking.
rimar20002 years ago
Interesting Fred, but I would like a video to imagine the uses.
pfred2 (author)  rimar20002 years ago
I'd like a video camera to film them :)
ilpug2 years ago
What is the act of using a spudger called?
schumi23 ilpug2 years ago
ilpug2 years ago
What is the act of using a spudger called?