Introduction: Gear Up Your Workbench
So you have a workbench and have bought the basic electronics DIY supplies (soldering iron, pliers, diagonal cutters, solder, wick, etc). Now what? Here are a couple of items that can be very helpful for projects and give your workbench that O.G. vibe.
Step 1: Titanium Scissors and Masking Tape Rulers
Titanium scissors are a great addition to a workbench. They stay sharp longer and have the added benefit of not sticking to tape. If you need a precise cut on some packing tape or duct tape and you don't want a sticky mess, this is the item for you. You can buy these at craft stores.
Beneath the scissors is a strip of masking tape with a ruler printed on it to scale. I cut a twelve inch strip and stuck it to my workbench. This is great for eyeballing a wire cut length, without having to find a ruler. Plus it keeps your hands free for important stuff like not lacerating your hand. Not that I have ever done that.
Step 2: Battery Tester
Project not doing ANYTHING? It might not be a questionable solder job or an "interpretation" of the instructions, it could just be a dead battery. This style of tester is pretty common, and can also test coin cells.
Step 3: Flush Cutters
Sure you could use your diagonal cutters to trim soldered component leads. If you want a mediocre project that's fine I won't judge. Or you could use flush cutters to trim the leads super flat and let everyone looking at your project YOU are a contender.
Step 4: Tiny Drill Bits
Tiny carbide drill bits for drilling tiny little holes. These are used for drilling the holes found in circuit boards, you would probably need to use a drill press unless you have some serious electric hand drill skillz.
Step 5: Micro Screwdriver Set
Adding a micro screwdriver set will open possibilities for your project. I am not above Dad jokes. This one had the triangular screw head, which allows you to easily take apart Happy Meal toys for the goodies within. Many times they contain RGB LED's, circuit boards with piezo speakers and other unique parts. Just don't let your kids know the ultimate fate of their happy meal prize. Sometimes sacrifices must be made in the name of electronics.
Step 6: Pry Tools
Sometimes undoing all of the screws doesn't open the thing you want (see previous post). Many modern devices are also glued together, requiring gentle prying to open. iFixit makes some great tools for prying open devices, pictured is the "spudger" and the "jimmy".
Step 7: IC Chip Pin Straightener
Ever get an IC chip that looks like a bug someone stepped on? Not fun to put on the breadboard or stick into a socket. Get a pin straightener and you can mash the pins back into shape, ready for insertion into the Matrix. I mean your project.
Step 8: Right Angle Screwdriver
Sometimes putting things together or taking them apart your big clunky screwdriver just won't fit. Right angle screwdrivers allow you to insert or remove screws in tight confined areas.
Step 9: Jewelry Pliers
Jewellery pliers are awesome for precisely bending wires. It can be a total harsh vibe to bend a small gauge wire to loop through a connector. With a set of jewellery pliers you can get in there and make small precise bend with no problemo. Again found at craft stores.
Step 10: Nibbler
A nibbler is a device for gnawing away at sheet metal. I use it for project box face plates to make square holes. You drill a hole big enough for the square head of the nibbler to fit through, then start nibbling away. You can create nice square holes for slide switches or just square holes in general. Nibbler. How many times do you get to say that in a day?
Step 11: Resistor/Diode Lead Shaper
Sometimes when you are inserting a resistor or a diode into a board, it just goes in crooked. Then you either start over and pull it out, or yank it through with a pair of pliers. Either way you just end up putting that frustration into the "happy box". What happens when the "happy box" gets full? It might be time for therapy.
You can avoid that experience by using a shaper for resistors or diodes. You hold it over the holes the component is supposed to go into to gauge the size then stick the component in the correct slot. You can bend the leads so they fit exactly into the holes on the board for soldering. It looks sharp, and you can avoid filling the box.
Step 12: Hot Glue Gun
I saw this used on a Kipkay video, and the man is onto something. Hot glue guns are awesome for electronics, sometimes it is just easier to glue a part or a wire in than to mount it. Notice how the glue stick is black? The glue sticks don't just come in that mucusy yellow anymore. You can power up the awesome bar with different glue colours. I have even seen glue sticks that have glow in the dark glue in green and even blue. Pictured is a glue gun that has a smaller nozzle, so I can put a small dribble of hot glue instead of a big blob. This is helpful to not make a mess of a project.
Step 13: Heat Shrink Tub
I keep the clipping from my heat shrink kit in a small tub. This way I can squeeze every little bit out of the heat shrink I have got.
Step 14: Wire Clipping Tub
Sure you can purchase wire for projects, and many times that is the way to go. Alternatively there is a lot or wire in everyday items you can clip and stash in a bin for future use. Much of the wire I have comes from old electronics before it goes into the recycle bin. I am pre-cycling it. Just make sure to discharge any large capacitors and have the device unplugged so you don't get zapped.
Step 15: Wire Holder for Soldering
This is one of those things you see and you kick yourself for not thinking of it first. It is a 3D printed wire holder for soldering, it holds the wires so you don't have to. Genius! I printed it in the lowest quality print so it is a little rough, that way it grips the wires a little better. I also added rubber stick on feet to the bottom so it doesn't slip around on the workbench. Saves time and lowers your blood pressure.
Step 16: Custom Coil Creator, AKA a Bolt
Instead of purchasing coils, you can easily wind your own. Strip the appropriate length of solid core copper wire and wrap around a 1/4 inch bolt. Leave a little straight to start with, and after the amount of turns you want leave a little straight at the end. Clip, remove and now you have fabricated your own coil. What nefarious project will you complete next?
Step 17: Panavise
A Panavise is a vice that holds circuit boards for soldering and de-soldering. I use mine mainly for de-soldering and it speeds up the process considerably. It holds the board, I have the soldering iron in one hand and pliers in the other. Heat up the solder pads on the component you want to remove and gently pry it out with the pliers. A solder sucker or solder removing copper braid with the soldering iron will take off the remaining solder. You can check the hole to see if it is clear for the replacement part and check that little boo-boo off of your project.
Step 18: Benchtop Power Supply From a Computer Power Supply
This is a nice regulated power supply board you can attach to an old computer power supply. These can be purchased assembled or as kits, clipped on the the supply and used to power a breadboard or prototype.
Question: would you actually want to purchase it assembled or build it yourself? If you have read this far, you know the answer as it blossoms deep in your heart. Embrace it.