As I do more electronics, I find that some components are harder to use with a breadboard, especially stuff designed for wearables. Soldering pins to the components works but positioning the pins so that they align with the holes on a breadboard can be difficult. This project builds a simple jig that will hold pins in the proper alignment for soldering.
- Aluminum stock
- #65 Drill bit
- Drill press or milling machine with drill chuck
- Layout tools; Square, scribe, layout fluid, center punch, and measuring device that measures in 0.100”
Step 1: Layout
Standard breadboards have a spacing of 0.100” from center to center of the holes. There are two groups of five connected holes in horizontal lines down the center of a breadboard. These columns are separated by a blank area that is 0.300” wide. So, for the soldering jig, I made two 0.100” spaced grids that are five by ten and spaced them 0.300” apart to mimic what is on the breadboard.
I started with a flat piece of aluminum stock that is 3” by 4” and 0.750” thick. You can use a smaller piece of stock as long as it is large enough for your grid and thick enough to accommodate the pin depth. Coat the surface with layout fluid so that you can see your lines. Carefully layout your grid and center punch the intersections. The more care you take with this step the better your final project will be.
Step 2: Drilling
If you are using a milling machine that has digital readout on it, you can use that to position your holes. When using this method, however, you must center drill each hole before drilling since the small drill will have a tendency to walk around without the center punch mark.
Measure the depth that a pin will insert into your breadboard. The ones I am using go in 0.300”. I marked this measurement along one edge of my stock. Place your stock in your vise and use the depth measurement you made along the edge of your stock to set the depth stop on your drill so that you will get a constant depth of drill.
Carefully start drilling your holes using the #65 drill. Use very light pressure with this small bit, clearing chip from the drill often, and use plenty of cutting fluid to keep the aluminum from clogging the bit.
Step 3: Finished Drilling
The holes on the right side were drilled using punch marks; the ones on the left were positioned using a digital readout without using a center drill. Notice how the small movements of the drill made these holes come out less evenly spaced. Luckily breadboards can tolerate some misalignment in pins and still work.
I tested the spacing first with a row of header pins to see if they would go into the jig easily.
Step 4: First Project With the Jig
My first project with it was a Neopixel that I want to put pins on so that I could start experimenting with it. Here it is with the four pins inserted across the gap. A little solder on each pad. Keep in mind that the aluminum will absorb some of the heat from soldering iron so you will need to use higher temperature to get the solder to flow. Ready to start experimenting.