RS - Radio Shack MT - Milestone Technologies

Tnhte L Tools for basic kit-hu titling

Tnhte L Tools for basic kit-hu titling up lo a point (almost all integrated circuits have proprietary content), hut in a recent issue of a major magazine tnot 73} there were three projects, and not one of them could be built without buying something from the author! Making some of these things available to you from Milestone Technologies is a service which you are free to decline.

A poor workman hiames his tools

A lousy violinist playing a Stradivarius is going to sound like someone scraping a horse's tail across a cafs gut. A great violinist can make a cicar-box \iohn sound

4jE_r like a Strad. Or to put it in more familiar 22 73 Amateur Radio Today ■ November 19

terms, an unskilled ham will have trouble making contacts with a $3000 rig and a beam on a 100-foot tower, while a skilled operator can work DXCC on a homemade QRP rig with a dipole. The point here is that skill is more important than tools: Investing hundreds of dollars in tools and test equipment is not going to make you a good builder or technician. The value of your tool armory will increase as time goes by, but the basic tools for electronic construction ¿ire relative!v inexpensive, and all oi them are available at your local radio parts store and by mail order.

Lei's talk about two basic tool kits for electronic construction: hand tools and soldering tools. The hand tools are really simple at entry level but even basic soldering tools start to get into areas of complexity, so you may want to read the section on soldering before deciding what to buy. The recommendations are summarized in Table I, which shows suppliers' part numbers for Radio Shack {RS) and Milestone Technologies <MT).

Hand tools:

A pair of long-nose pliers, for bending the leads on components.

A pair of cutting pliers—what you are looking for arc "flush-cutting" pliers rather than the traditional "dikes" or 'diagonal-Cutting pliers." These are used for cutting wire and trimming leads on the soldered side of a circuit board, and "dikes" just won t get close enough lo the board.

You will need two large screwdrivers; one w ith a straight tip for slotted screws; the other with a PhillipsIM head; and a set of miniature drivers The mini drivers (often called "jeweler's screwdrivers") can be bought as separate sets for straight and Phillips, or as a combination set.

Hobby knife—for example, a Stanley™ knife, with a razor-sharp blade, for stripping wires and trimming things.

Multimeter for checking voltages, resistances, continuity, and current. A digital multimeter with an "audible continuity feature" is great, but y ou can get by with an inexpensive VOM (Volt-Ohm-Milliammeler).

Magnifier for examining circuit board traces and solder connections. If you ean+ you should solder under magnification. using a magnifying work lamp, but you can start with a hand magnifier or loupe.

Clip leads (w ires w nh alligator clips on the ends lor making temporary connections).

Sheet Metal Nibbling Tool for making large or odd-shaped openings in sheet metal—for example, aluminum panels for mounting controls. Much faster and easier than tiling.

Soldering tools:

A soldering iron. That's so easy to say. but there's much more to it! We're talking molten metal here, in close proximity to delicate electronic components, When you're working on a primed circuit board you need io apply a precise amounl of heat for a reasonably precise amount of time to a very precise area! Your beginner's tool kit should include a 15-30 watt soldering pencil with a fine chisel tip and at least one spare tip. Ultimately you may want lo invest in a "soldering station,11 but please buy one with temperature control rather than wattage control (sec the section on soldering for details). You will need a much heavier iron (100+ watts) if you are going to work with coax connectors, but don't try to use it on a circuit board!

Ifs traditional to start out wiih a caution that you must use rosin core solder, never acid core solder, but in practice acid core solder is so hard lo find that the warning is almost superfluous. There are three factors to consider: metallic content; type of flux (core); and diameter; and the result is a huge range of solders available on the market. For nowT let's leave it with a recommendation that you start with 60/40 (60% tin, 40% lead) rosin-core solder with a diameter of around .03 inch. This will be fine for almost any kit or project and there's no point in departing from it until you have a particular reason to do so.

Solder wicking braid—you will make mistakes, I do ... everyone does. Besides, there will be times when you want to remove a component for testing, or to substitute a different value. The only practical way to unsolder a connection is with solder wicking braid. You'll see solder suckers and other "one-hand" desoldering devices, but if ihey are any help it all, it is because you used way loo much solder on the connection to start with!

Your "work bench" is important, loot although it doesn't have to be elaborate. A kitchen table or desk will do. Things to consider are light, ventilation, and access to mains power and ground. When it comes to light, you simply can't have too much. Fluorescent light is best for electronics work because it is "whiter" than incandescent light. Ventilation is particularly imponani when you are soldering, because the fumes from the rosin can be irritating or even harmful over time. You will need mains power for your soldering iron, and you will often need to connect things to a good electrical ground (the center screw in the AC outlet will do).

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