Lately I have been building a lot of electronic kits that I send away for. They're cheap, fun, and useful too. So I figured I would write an article describing some of the methods I use to help me when I am building these kits. Maybe I can share something with someone that will help them out? Because so far I am very pleased with the results I have gotten.
Step 1: Tools I Use
I don't use a whole lot to build kits really. That is the beauty of a kit. Everything comes pretty much ready to assemble. One thing missing from this image is my soldering iron. I have one. Any decent soldering iron should work fine.
Anyhow, let's go through the tools in my picture, that I have numbered for reference.
- A couple Blocks of Scrap Wood
- A Component Lead Forming Tool
- Angled Needle Nose Pliers
- Flush Cutting Nippers
- A Trimmed Flux Brush
- Solder Tool
- Adhesive Tacky
That's about it. I will explain what I do with all of this in the course of the article. Folks can decide what they want to do.
Step 2: Knoll Your Parts
The first thing I do is I line all of my parts up. Doing this is called Knolling. I will measure all of the resistors, and write their values down on the tape they are held by (This is the job for the Pen). I will also line them all up in ascending order too. I will sort capacitors in a similar fashion. Even 3 lead devices, like transistors. I did not take a picture of my Knoll because I do it on a paper plate, and my camera struggles with white backgrounds.
So here is a screen grab of the kit parts.
Then I clip each value of resistor, and form it with Tool #2 the parts form. Each value must be kept separated, so I make a holder out of folded paper that I poke holes in, that I put each resistor into. Sorry about the poor picture my camera has trouble with white.
Anyhow, if I have all of the parts organized, and prepared, I am less likely to get distracted while I am building, by stopping and working on the parts themselves. I consider this step vital. Opinions may vary though.
Step 3: Stuff the Board
OK now I begin assembling the board. I begin by soldering in all of the resistors. They are usually the lowest parts. Then I add parts in ascending height order. Shortest parts are fitted first. But let me not get too far ahead of myself here.
I only solder one lead of every part. That way if the part is not aligned correctly I can easily change it. Once I have verified a part is aligned correctly I will solder it completely.
In these pictures can be seen what the wood block and tacky adhesive are for. Although we will see other uses for these objects later.
Step 4: Parts Orientation
OK I know resistors work no matter how they are installed because they are not polarized devices. Resistors still are not completely symmetrically marked though. So the markings should be placed the same way the board silkscreen reads.
It should be noted that now that these resistors are all soldered their leads have been clipped too. Failing to clip leads as I go results in a forest of leads to work through on the solder side.
Step 5: Add More Parts
Diodes are added after the resistors. Diodes are polarized so they need to go in as the board specifies. Here we can see more blocks being used to prop the board up, so leads can hang below the board. Tacky adhesive is being used to keep the board from moving around while I place parts into it too.
Step 6: Another Use for Tacky Adhesive
Here I am using Tacky to hold a crystal in place prior to flipping the board over to solder it.
Step 7: Aligning Parts
In the first image the crystal is raised off the board a bit. I only tacked one leg so it is easy to reheat that solder joint and push it down. Once the part is seated correctly I will completely solder it.
Step 8: Another Tricky Tacky Hold
Just more parts being temporarily held by tacky adhesive. I used to use masking tape, but tacky adhesive is better I think.
Step 9: Some Like It Hot
But semiconductors don't like it hot. So I skip pins when I solder heat sensitive components. I solder say every third pin, or move from side, to side. I do not let the part keep heating up that it gets so hot it is damaged. Be careful doing this though, because ultimately you do have to solder every pin. It is easy to miss some skipping around.
Step 10: Yet Another Tacky Trick
Wires can be a real pain to solder into circuit boards. Wires just love to fall out before they are soldered down. Well, tacky fixes that right quick. This kit came with a tiny barrel connector jack, so I opted to just put some wires in its place.
Step 11: Clean Up Flux
Well once everything is soldered flux needs to be cleaned from the board. Not my favorite step. First I pick off some of the heavy flux with my solder tool. Then I dry brush all of that away. Then I clean the rest of the residue with some denatured alcohol. I use my trimmed flux brush to do this. The shorter bristles have a bit more flick to them than long untrimmed ones do.
Step 12: The Moment of Truth
Once all of the alcohol flux remover has dried it is time to hook the board up, and see if it works. So far I am batting one thousand with all of the kits I have built. They have all worked right off the bat for me. But I take care to try to put them together as best as I can. I like to think that has something to do with my success.
I hope someone found some trick here that they find useful building circuit boards. Thanks for checking my article out. Happy building!