Cool Tools

Tools I use often

Cool Tools

Here is a collection of “tools” that I use often. It isn’t a list of your essential tools, but rather the tools that fit like an old pair of slippers, and that maybe you could benefit from using also.

Organize your projects:

The “tool” here is the blue plastic bucket. These buckets are re-used mushroom packaging. (Nice, that makes them free!)

They are great at holding bits and pieces. When starting a new project I’ll often gather up all the parts needed and throw them into one of these bins. If the part is static sensitive then I’ll leave it in it’s protective package, otherwise I’ll just put them in loose.

Inspect that solder joint:

This is a magnifying lens with a built in stand.

A font publisher was giving these away to allow customers to inspect the great quality of their fonts.

I use it to inspect the quality of my solder joints. It’s amazing how much detail you can see with this, even when you are working with small SMT parts!

Salvage those parts:

This is a solder sucker, it is used to suck out the solder from pins / legs of through-hole parts, thus freeing the part for you to reuse. It’s best when the part you want has more then one leg, this way you can free each leg one at a time until the part is free. It has two moving parts; a trigger and a spring loaded rubber gasket (that works like a bicycle pump of syringe but in reverse).

To use it, you heat the solder around the leg until it is melted, then you quickly put the sucking end of the sucker over the pin and press the trigger button. And, Tada! the solder gets sucked into the sucker.

You can get one of at most electronics or surplus stores. 

Fingers too big ?

Lots of people use breadboards to either make or prototype their electronics projects. Many people get frustrated by short circuits or knocking out parts as  they add components or make changes.

When I started to use these tweezers those problem were a thing of the past! These guys, are not those ultra fine tweezers that you would use to pull out a splinter but nice big ones. Big, but still much smaller then my fingers. With these I can get in-between almost anything on my breadboards without touching the parts next it it. (I still turn off the power, though.)

Notice the grippy ridges where the tweezers grab. These are perfect for 24 gauge wires or component leads.

Fix those jumpers:

This is solder wick, it is used to remove excess solder from your work.

Depending on how small the pins on the parts that you are soldering are (or how good you are at soldering), you could end up having solder jumpers. This is when solder spans the gap between two or more pins that it is not suppose to and causes a short.

To use solder wick, you place it on-top of the blob of solder or the jumper. Then you heat it and thus the solder also, with your soldering iron. Once it is hot you simply slide it away, and most often you are left with a nice looking joint. (Sparkfun has a great tutorial on this 

technique .)

Hold it still:

How often do you put a part into a PCB then turn it over to solder it in place and have fall out?

In cases where bending the pins to hold the part in is not an option I reach for my 3M Brand Blue painters masking tape. I love this stuff! It has a great balance between good tack, to hold things in place and releasability, without getting everything gummy.

Let it flow:

Flux in a felt tip applicator.

Flux is used when soldering to help the solder flow and stick to the metal of the PCB and the components.

The good thing about this product it that unlike liquid, gel, or paste flux it is easy to apply, and goes exactly where you want it.

To use it, just “write” a dab onto your PCB and part before soldering.

Flush cut:

These are simply wire cutters that are flattened on one side so that the cutting blade can be very close to the surface of the PCB. This is good because if you can cut your leads shorter, there is less of a chance that you will have them short against something else. Be careful though and wear eye protection! Whatever you cut with these will zing across the room!

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