Monday, June 8, 2015

Ye Olde Shoppe Tippes

Someone asked for advice about setting up an electronics shop and I pointed him to a bunch of supplies I use all the time but may not be well-known (or available at the usual Adafruit/Sparkfun type distributors).

Links are mostly DigiKey product pages -- the distributor I use most (likely because I have Stockholm Syndrome with their database, but that's another story... :)

  • Kynar wire for "blue wiring" rework on PCBs. This has red, white and blue and a cutter/stripper in a dispenser. Though there are refills available, this lasts essentially forever if you are not wire-wrapping

  • Self-fusing splicing tape: non-sticky, very robust for strain relief, and lasts forever. The cheap black vinyl tape has been banished from my toolbox because it melts in the heat and decays with time leaving a sticky mess. The self fusing tape is even better than heatshrink because you can put it on a splice even after you've attached both ends of the wire!

  • Love these tapped mounting brackets and I use them everywhere, not just for PCBs: you can make boxes and reinforce corners with them!

  • 18GA Zip cable (Jameco) I originally specced this for Burning Man projects because it's automotive-rated and thus tough enough to stand up to desert heat and abuse, but I keep using it for DC power because the OBVIOUS color coding makes it hard -- not impossible, just hard -- to get the polarity wrong compared with speaker cord that has ambiguous ribs or stripes.

  • No-clean flux pen, handy for oxidized PCBs and wires

  • Finally something really obscure but super-handy for prototyping on perfboard: Vector brand (part T107) bus strips . These are tin-plated copper stips, perforated on .1 inch centers and narrow enough you can run them side-by-side on perfboard. Though originally inteded for wire-wrapping, they are perfect for making busses, especially for power rails, or running high currents, on soldered perfboard prototypes.

And while we're at it, some shop tips. I just recently hit on this method of organizing SMD components: slip them (with identifying part labels!) into those notebook pages designed to hold 35mm negatives. The OCD pleasure this affords is not insubstantial!

Pages can be organized as you wish: I have them sorted roughly by category (LEDs, resistors, opto, etc.) but you could also sort by footprint (1206, sot, etc.).

Organizing SMD parts in 35mm negative notebook pages

Another tip: since DigiKey is pretty careful about shipping moisture-sensitive parts with lots of desiccant packs, I always seem to have extra. Seems a waste to thrown them away so I toss them into salt shakers and sugar boxes to keep hygroscopic granulated stuff flowing smoothly.

Reuse those desiccant packs

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