Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Electronics workstation on the cheap

My new living quarters happened to come with an overly large tool shed, complete with lights and electricity. It also came with a bit of junk, including a broken vacuum cleaner, a large plastic Christmas tree, and two old TV's.

What better time to set up an electronics work bench! Since my layoff in 2010 from Tektronix I haven't done anything with electronics. I've changed careers (a couple of times). But I've had this hankering lately--an itch, a yen, a desire--to get back into it a bit.

So last weekend I went to Fry's and bought about $120 worth of soldering and rework tools. If I can find an inexpensive scope someday, I'll have everything I need. But, until I start designing something complex, I can get by with only my DMM. As for electronics components, desoldering parts from those old TV's I "inherited" are going to be my first contributors to my parts bin--once I actually have a parts bin, that is. I guess a visit to Dollar Tree is in order.

electronics workbench

My interests at the moment (now that computers have morphed into single-chip throw-away phones) include sensors, batteries, solar cells, and robotics. And the web is full of DIY projects for ideas, including a new favorite: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. You can't go wrong with a name like that!

My goal was to do this as cheaply as possible, yet get the best value I could. I pre-priced all the items ahead of time at Fry's and pretty much stuck to my list that originally had a total price of about $93, plus tax.

Velleman VTSS4N Solder Station$22.99
MG Solder 0.5LB$18.95
MG Solder Wick$3.15
ECG Desoldering pump$6.89
4-1/2 inch Tweezers$3.99
Hakko Wire Cutter$4.99
Jonard Wire Stripper$7.99
Eclipse Glue Sticks$4.99
Round Hole Breadboard$8.69
NTE 5-Pair Alligator Clip set$5.99
EZ-Hook Miniature Alligator Clips$4.19
HBC Electrical Tape$1.79

The extras I couldn't resist...
Heat Shrink Tubing Kit$8.99
Extension cord, 3 outlets$7.49
Vacuum Base Vise$5.99
Cable Ties$2.99

And, what I already have: DMM, Jewler's set of screwdrivers, needle nosed pliers, Philips screwdriver, slotted screwdriver, pliers, Xacto knife.

If I start working with integrated circuits I'll need an anti-static wrist strap. I could use a dispenser for rubbing alcohol and a brush to clean solder flux off components. But this basic set of tools is a good start. A "new" 2014 Rigol DS1052E 50MHz 2-Channel scope is $348 on Amazon, with 2 Hantek 100 MHz probes for $17. This is out of my budget right now, but I'll keep my eyes open for a deal on a used scope. If I start into radio, audio, digital, or computers I'll need a scope.