Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Happy Place

My happy place is my workbench. It is a place where I can work on my projects without interruption and has all the tools I need to do so. I think that having a proper workbench is necessary for anyone serious about electronics. Below is a list of what I have in my workbench area and think you should too. But be warned, things might get a little messy!

My Nerd-cave

As you can see, I convinced my mom to set aside a section of our basement to my pursuit of electronics. This is where I house my projects, supplies, tools, and other old electronics. We installed shelving because I quickly ran out of real estate on my bench. And as you can see I am now running out of real estate on the shelves! On the top shelf, I have electronics I want to incorporate in a project but don't have an immediate use for. Here lie an old equalizer, some speakers, old digital cameras (broken after I tried, unsuccessfully, to convert them to see only IR), and a solar house kit I had bought. Just below are the electronics I use in my projects or are ongoing projects. There rests my RC plane (which I hope to one day make into an UAV), stands I use for soldering, speakers for amplifiers I build, and a router I am experimenting with (I hope to make a router-based robot). The bottom shelf is where I house all of my components in a series of drawers. On the right of the workbench is where I keep several projects like my award-winning LED fedora and an amplifier I had built. I also keep a lot of my tools on these set of shelves like my extra soldering irons, my circuit board fabrication tools and kit, and my trusty Dremel. I also keep extra wall warts, heat sinks, wire, electrical tape, and other supplies.

My messy workbench

Here you can see my cluttered workbench. Here reside my projects I am currently working on and little experiments. Currently it is filled with parts for the Museum Without Walls project and my senior research project. On my workbench you can see my tools that I use most often. I have an oscilloscope which I am borrowing from my school, a function generator (also borrowed), a computer power supply to power my projects, a mini drill press for milling PCBs, and my trusty SparkFun soldering iron. Here is where I build most of my projects and solder.

So that is my work area and I think that it is pretty comprehensive. Here are the things I think every hobbyist should have in their work space.

-Soldering iron (I recommend SparkFun's analog adjustable one)
-Power supply (I use an old desktop computer power supply with 3.3, 5,  and 12 volt outputs)
-Needle-nose pliers
-Wire strippers (make sure they can at least strip 28 AWG wire)
-Diagonal cutters
-Screwdriver set (with small heads and ideally includes the Torx (star-shaped) attachments)
-Oscilloscope (optional, unless you are doing complicated electronics)
-Signal generator (optional, super helpful for building and debugging analog circuits)
-Solder vacuum (optional, I use this as an alternative to desoldering braid because it is faster and easier)
-Tweezers (necessary if you plan on doing SMD work)
-Dremel (a versatile tool if you plan on building housings or other parts)
-Fume extractor (this is nice to have if you do a lot of soldering. I built mine out of an old computer fan which just sucks away the fumes from my face)
-Whiteboard (great for jotting down ideas and notes)

-Wire (I use 24 AWG)
-Resistors (get a set of commonly used values)
-Solder (I have both leaded and lead-free which I use depending on the difficulty of the soldering)
-Desoldering Braid
-Electrical and masking tape (electrical tape is great for insulation and masking tape helps hold boards and parts in place for soldering)
-Arduino (this microcontroller is a must for hobbyists)

I think that the above supplies will be a great starting place for your own workbench and it will quickly expand into a comprehensive working space.

Everyone needs a whiteboard and motivation!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Resolution

Here's to welcoming a productive and exciting New Year! My New Year's resolution is to post at least once a week on my blog. This will encourage me to document my projects more thoroughly and work on new ones.