Hackit: Your Ultimate Hacking Workbench

This isn’t quite a traditional Hackit, but I think you guys will dig it. Here’s the challenge: Given a budget of $600, put together the best hacking workbench you can. Don’t include computers or the actual bench in your budget. Oh, and you have to spend it all.

By the way, the best five submissions will get a chance to win a secret prize that I’ll be announcing around the end of next month.

61 thoughts on “Hackit: Your Ultimate Hacking Workbench

  1. Here’s my list:

    Oscilloscope, 20MHz Dual Trace $400, Jameco P/N: 685311
    35 Watt Soldering Iron, $3.49, Jameco P/N:208987
    6.7″x6.5″ Breadboard, $28.69, Jameco P/N:319214
    100′ Rolls Assorted Wire, 4x$6, Jameco P/Ns:36920,36856,36822,36792
    Velleman Multimeter, $38.79, Jameco P/N:645571
    Auto Wire Stripper, $16.95, Jameco P/N:175098
    Panavise Jr., $22.89, Jameco P/N:134440
    Perfboard (large), $21.35, Jameco P/N:37604
    2x BoArduino, 17.50 ea, Adafruit.com
    Precision Philips Screwdrivers, $3.95, SparkFun P/N:TOL-00080
    Curved Tweezers, $3.95, SparkFun P/N:TOL-07945

    $599 total

    There. Those are 90% of the tools I use whenever troubleshooting a circuit, and you can save on the scope if you go via eBay (I got my HP 4ch digital 100MHz scope on ebay for $190, and a Metcal MX-500 soldering station for $210).

    These parts (minus the boarduino) are the first things I bought when putting together my bench.

  2. $15 1/4 inch foam pad (like used for guitar service)
    $49 Adjustable Butane iron and can of gas
    $8 breadboard from radio sack (they are on closeout)
    $2 magnifying glass
    $49 Leatherman tool
    $13 dollar DMM (MCM)
    $1 Razor knife
    $9 tamper proof bit set MCM
    $15 Duct/pvc tape, parts, scavenged components/wire
    gator clips, hot glue, tiny hot glue gun and _____little pack to carry it in.

    $166 — total

    save the $434 for an iphone, eeepc, or other toys

    This bench is portable and I have fixed 90% of everything i’ve done with this setup and done ten times more remote hacking then at the bench at home.

  3. I’m going to assume that will means an electronics bench. My submission is the following:

    LCR/Multimeter, Ebay; 60$ shipped.
    (Mastech MS8222H recomended)
    The base of any electronics project, the ability to measure inductors and caps is priceless in any troubleshooting situation. the temp sensor and transistor checker is a bonus in the suggested model.

    Oscilloscope, ~200$ used, Ebay.
    This is one of the hardest items to get whithin the given budget, but one of the most usefull. used for ANYTHING involving analog circuity.

    Computer ATX Power supply conversion, 35$.
    Newegg P/N N82E16817103428
    120mm Fan, 11$ shipped.
    Newegg Item#:N82E16811998121

    By converting this standard computer switching power supply you get a relieable, cheap power supply which will give you a decent amount of power at 12v, 3.3v, and 5v. the extra 5 dollars tacked onto the price is to buy a few bannana posts, a switch, and a 10w resistor to make the conversion.

    the 120mm fan is to dissipate solder fumes. lead kills brains cells, ladies and gents.


    Hand tools, soldering, etc:
    57-Piece Master Electronics Tool Kit 131$
    Jameco P/N 218245

    I took the lazy route. this kit seems pretty complete with all the pliers, screwdrivers, hex bits, and even comes with a hammer, for when you need to add a bit of manual ajustment.

    security bit set, 12$
    Jameco#: 223829

    with these bits you can get into anything. service panels, elevators, vending machines, and others. these are like the lock picks of the appliance world.

    Breadboard, 28$
    Jameco P/N 20791
    jumper wire kit, 17$
    Jameco P/N 19290
    a must for prototyping anything.
    also a jumper wire kit.

    5x 100′ rolls of solid wire, various gauges 33$

    It’s up to the user to pick what gauges they will need, what colors, etc.


    “Third hand” w/ magnifying glass. 9$
    Jameco P/N 681002

    comes with a soldering iron holder, it’s the poor man’s version of the panavise, or for those who really don’t need to hold entire circuit boards that often.

    (can’t find the jameco p/n, all they have is disposables)

    probably the most important piece of equipment on the bench. hook this to ground, and you won’t static-kill any valuable ICs. be carefull while doing high power stuff though.

    Assorted Resistors, Caps, Inductors, ICs;
    1/4 watt resistor kit: Jameco P/N 10664, 25$
    1 bag 100 (x3) asorted mylar, ceramic, electrolytic caps, 18$.
    Jameco P/N 17857
    Jameco P/N 17881
    Jameco: p/N 17911

    never know when you might need something. this is just to get you started.

    Additional hand tool:
    hacksaw+ blades 14$. usefull in many situations. I recommend the mini kind that have the blade sticking out. (ace.com Item no: 25898)

    Some people might say I ‘cheated’ by using ebay to get a decent price for the first two items. I would agree with them, but O-scope prices are murder.

  4. Everybodys saying the same stuff:
    Scope, Multimeter, screw drivers, soldering iron/station
    spare parts, clamps/3rd hands, boards, etc…

    I fell in love with my dollar store multimeter: sure it may not be accurate at all, but when continuity, the needle smacks the side of the casing with a nice little noise, and when it flies back, it makes a slightly different noise, so I don’t have to take my eyes of my work.

    Also, nobody has mentioned hot glue guns: Their critical for making everything stick together at the end of a project.

    If you have a shelf above your workbench, mount a camera pointing down off it, so you can easily take pictures to document the process, because you know you will be too lazy to otherwise.

    I’d like to see original ideas here too, not just price comparisons of the standard equipment!

  5. assorted tool set = 25.99$ at fadfusion.com P/n:30122400384

    4 100′ Rolls Assorted Wire, $6 each , Jameco P/N:36920,36856,36822,36792

    46 ROLLS OF DUCT TAPE: 504.62$ p/n:70006250172 at 3M eStore

    soldering gun 29.99$ at radioshack p/n:64-2187

    4-Piece Solder/Desoldering Tool Set radioshack 4.99$ p/n: 64-2227
    2 oz. Non-Spill Rosin Soldering Paste Flux 5.99$ radioshack p/n: 64-022

    Clear Flux Solder (2 Oz.) 3.99$ radioshack p/n: 64-018

    thats my workbench right there total is 599.57$
    duct tape 4tw

  6. ~$200 (used, eBay, etc) Metcal MX500-11P Soldering work station
    ~$110 (new) Panavise Work board holder + standard head
    ~$100 (new) Weller 6970, 750w heat-gun w/nozzle set
    ~$50 (eBay) Metcal STTP 5-tip standard set
    ~$30 (new) Solder wick as follows:
    (x2)60-2-10 no-clean desoldering braid
    (x2)60-5-10 no-clean desoldering braid
    ~$30 (new) Extech MN36 digital multimeter
    ~$20 (new) American Lighting LTG9319 Magnifying desk lamp
    ~$10 (new) general Pb-free solder paste, 5cc syringe
    ~$10 (new) ESD wrist-strap
    ~$10 (new) 1/2lb SAC 305 Pb-free solder wire, .032
    ~$10 (new) 1lb 60/40 rosin core solder wire, .032
    ~$10 (new) General tool set (wire cutter, needle-nose pliers, bent-nose pliers)
    ~$5 (new) Helping Hands magnifier + 2 arms
    ~$5 (new) Kester solder paste, 2oz
    ~$5 (new) GC liquid flux, 1/2oz
    ~$5 (new) Xcelite XHT700 fine-tip tweezers

    Comes to a total of $605, but I can pitch in the extra few $$$. Most of this I use actively to begin with, some of them are still on the ol’ wishlist :P

  7. as atrain said everyone will most likely have the same stuff, not really much more anyone would require.

    I do have a question for everyone out there though. Ive been using a hand held DMM forever and i cant stand it. I need a bench top DMM. Does anyone have any recommendations for a decent one. Price range $100-150. A nice probe kit would be good to. I like micro-grabbers as well as the standard needle point DMM probes.

  8. It was unclear in the description what kind of bench this is going to be. Here is an overall list of how I would set up my own bench to do anything from light metal work and fabricating to building small electronics projects. Of course my oscilloscope is on my computer so I did not need to buy it. Each line contains the tool type, vendor part number, price, and vendor.

    PS. I know I am $1.89 over

    Vice 5556-5vga $59.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    tape measure 19805a64 $9.21 http://www.mcmaster.com

    rafter square 1960a17 $6.66 http://www.mcmaster.com

    caliper 2192a21 $10.22 http://www.mcmaster.com

    Machinists rule 2042a74 $23.25 http://www.mcmaster.com

    screwdriver set 66-565 $15.49 Home Depot

    soldering iron 15W 64-2051 $8.99 Radio Shack

    soldering iron 25W 64-2070 $7.99 Radio Shack

    de-soldering iron 64-2060 $10.99 Radio Shack

    DVOM 1wkn9 $64.25 http://www.grainger.com

    rivet gun 94100-0vga $16.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    3 piece aviation snips 37325-9vga $8.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    ¼ socket set 30022 $13.49 Sears

    ball peen hammer set 36523-3vga $12.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    bench top drill press 38119-3vga $69.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    Master drill bit set 1611-2vga $39.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    Plier set 532-0vga $8.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    precision plier set 4807-0vga $9.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    long nose vice grip 5823-7vga $10.91 http://www.mcmaster.com

    pin file set 4614-8vga $4.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    5 piece combo file set 20207-2vga $5.29 http://www.harborfreight.com

    file card 4332a12 $4.34 http://www.mcmaster.com

    pin vice with bits 4ky33 $10.87 http://www.grainger.com

    6”bench grinder 90003-1vga $39.99 http://www.harborfreight.com

    hack saw 4077a1 $10.54 http://www.mcmaster.com

    Torx set 6370a1 $15.97 http://www.mcmaster.com

    Alan (standard & metric)set 41360-3vga/41361-5vga $4.99ea http://www.harborfreight.com

    terminal crimper 7289k1 $27.99 http://www.mcmaster.com

    wire strippers 3r285 $14.63 http://www.grainger.com

    hot plate Toastmaster 6420 $19.99 http://www.target.com

    15”x10”x2” Pyrex Baking Dish 6001040 $12.99 http://www.pyrexware.com

    Lodge cast iron melting pot LMP3 $14.95 http://www.lodgemfg.com

  9. 50 rotary potentiometers, ebay ~$15

    30 computer switches ~$10

    100 push button dip switches ~$10

    magnet wire assortment ~$10

    wire assortment, various gauges ~$10

    100 2n2222 purpose npn transistors ~$10

    3-7 high power ac capable relays ~$10

    Various microcontrollers in type of choice
    free (sample, just don’t abuse it)

    programmer ~$15 (home built)

    large breadboard ~$20

    2-3 mini breadboards ~$10

    pre stripped jumper assortment ~$10

    varios sizes protoboard ~$10

    Dremel and bits ~$75

    hobby saw with interchangable blades ~$15

    Pen knife with interchangeable blades ~$5

    small wire cutters ~$10

    automatic wire strippers ~$10

    security screwdriver set ~$15

    Fine needle-nose pliers, high quality ~$10

    Small pliers, high quality ~$10

    Forcepts ~$10

    screwdriver set ~$10

    digital caliper, ebay ~$30

    good multimeter ~$25

    electrical tape, 3 rolls ~$5

    duct tape, high quality ~$10

    heatshrink assortment ~$10

    croc clips, 15-20, multicolored ~$10

    power supply free (scavenged pc power supply)

    wall wart assortment free (scavenged)

    Total: $600

    The list is a bit long, but these parts and tools are essence of my hacking equipment.

  10. dammit, mine got cut off,

    heres the top of the list:

    100w soldering station ~$40 ebay

    Third Hand ~$15

    tip tinner ~$5

    Flux core lead-free solder 1/2lb ~$20

    small coil solid lead-free solder ~$5

    small coil Fine lead-free solder ~$5

    Flux paste or other form ~$5

    Desoldering gun ~$5

    Desoldering braid ~$5

    Small Hot glue gun ~$10

    1lb Glue Sticks ~$5

    10 – 1m ohm resistor set ~$15

    electrolic cap set JAMCO ~$15

    100 1n4003 general purpose diodes ~$5

    led’s various colors & intensities ~$15

    voltage regulator assortment ~$10

    20 555 timers ~$5

    20 quad-comparitors ~$5

    20 thermistors ~$5

    10 photoresistors 10 pack ~$5

    50 rotary potentiometers, ebay ~$15

  11. big things I’d add:

    logic or bus analyzer-
    Stupidly useful with large digital circuits. Good for tracing down 16-32 things that are all changing simultaneously and relatedly. Probably >$600 used all by itself, sadly, since the cheapest ones I know of were >$10k new. (Most are combination scopes, too)

    Solder station-
    You never want to use a conventional soldering iron again after getting a high-power (>100W) temperature-regulated iron. Instant-on is wonderful. I paid 90$ for my Pace.

    A nice power supply-
    There’s several chinese outfits that sell 15V 10A, 30V 5A, 50V 3A, or 120V 1A adjustable power supplies at all roughly the same price (~$100). A voltage and current limited power supply is fantastic for doing any power systems work.

    JTAG programmer-
    You can build it for yourself pretty cheap, but it’s invaluable when you can find the JTAG test pads.

    A CPLD/FPGA devkit would be awesome too, although also likely the full $600 itself.

  12. six months membership at techshop: http://www.techshop.ws/

    yeah i have the usual complement of hand tools, electronic test equipment, even a homebuilt dremel cnc machine. but you’ll never come close to the variety of tools and special equipment available at techshop. a bunch more will be opening around the usa, check into it, see if you’re in a lucky city.

  13. rj:

    Building your own logic analyzer isn’t too hard as long as you don’t mind not having real-time feed back.
    32 channels of digital and 32 channels of analog can be done for about $50 and a breadboard.
    PIC18F4550, a SRAM FIFO, ADC and some diodes.

  14. book shelf / e-books:
    basics of circuit testing and tracing
    diagnosing solid state electronics
    repair digital electronics for dummy’s
    IC reference
    wholesale catalogs from various component suppliers
    Two Bioshock Big Daddy statues and a 1×4 shelf: 60 bucks (free replacement statue and super glued original)

    Older Model sony laptop w/ Ubuntu / Fedora installed and wireless connection to home office / LAN: free

    Tech tools from previous employment as a home theater and control systems installer:
    Dremel Tool, Dewalt 18v cordless driver, shopvac, various soldering irons w/ assorted tips, stanley “tech tools” (small screwdrivers w balanced handles and rotating finger rests), Multimeter, fox and hound tone / trace kit, telecom service-mans handset, compression coax crimpers and Bosch strippers, various expensive wire strippers, cheap x-acto knife set, hack saws of various sizes, plexi-glass cutters, tin snips and so on: Free

    Full mechanics tool set in rolling metal boxes inherited from my Uncle the race car builder and mad scientist: Free

    Collection of scavenged parts, electronics, RC planes and cars, old computers, misc metal and plastic containers, bulk resistors, caps, transistors, spools of wire in various guages, cat5/6, coax, fiber, PC serial and USB interfaces for relays, logic circuits, temp /water / light/ motion /sound probes and so on from AMX and Crestron, relays, solenoids etc, collection of older popular electronics and popular mechanics magazines with thousands of useful schematics, project bench tool designs and kits: priceless

    O scope: 200 used or build one out of kits and parts
    logic probe: 10-30 bucks for older basic one able to trace circuit health and IC outputs. A modern logic tool would be thousands of $$$$

    blueprints for modular dwelling 100 from Ready Made: 20 bucks (about 1500 in lumber and parts to build but having my own space without filling up the garage would be well worth it)

    Basic work bench kit from Home depot: 99 bucks

    work vise w/ 3rd hand, magnifier and light source: 30 bucks used or build it myself

    tool chest drawer w/ cash for projects: whatever is left of the 600.

    Anyone have suggestions for good books / e books which detail how to troubleshoot specific components and repair them such as TV’s, video equipment, game consoles, stereos /cd/ radio and so on?

  15. Chupa:
    Coat hanger, duct tape, whatever props it upright -> boom, instant desktop dmm. If you make a frame out of duct tape, then you can laugh at all the people whos units are permanently stuck on their desks occupying huge amounts of space. Unless you really need the features, not worth the price. The only advantage is that its not lying sideways, so you can see it better, which is why I’ve taped an old meter to the wall :D

    As for the clips, they are surprisingly hard to find on ebay, but take a look at item #330205040538 (no url due to lower case issue), you can hack that up and make your own. Mine, I found them easily at my local electronics supplies store.

  16. I find a jewellers eye glass can be very helpful. Surgeons use them too. Basically a wareable magnifying glass.

    A simple cutting mat will help protect your desk.

    I also like to have some gloves for soldering. Aside from saving you from burns, they allow you to keep a finger on components while you solder them (normally they get too hot and burn you). Thus, you can keep them pinned to the PCB rather than having to try and work your way from the shortest components to the tallest, balancing the PCB etc.

    As for multimeters, ones with a clamp for measuring current are quite handy. Apart from just knowing how much power things are using, you can check that batteries are charging properly and that sort of thing.

    An RS232 to TTL level converter is always handy if you are using microcontrollers, and very cheap to make. You can go further by making your own “demo board” with LCD, LEDs and in-circuit programmer, for connection to breadboard.

    An FTD245RL board runs to about £5/$10, and gives you 8 programmable IO pins via USB. Better protected than the parallel port and handy if your PC doesn’t have one.

    An old PDA can be picked up almost for free (I paid £3 for an old Palm III with dock) and makes a handy terminal.

    A good lamp is essential too. Use bulbs that put out full spectrum white light, such as most energy saving bulbs or “daylight” bulbs (which are normally blue).

    You can get keychain digital cameras on eBay for £5, 1.3 megapixel and a reasonably good image. Perfect for documenting your project and keeping your main camera out of harms way.

    Finally, a clock with on-the-hour chimes to remind you to take regular breaks.

  17. Most comments so far keep repeating the same standard tools that everyone already has or already wishes for: an oscilloscope, a good multimeter, a soldering station, a Dremel. While that’s a quick way to reach $600, it lacks the innovation that would make it a worthy hack.

    Instead, I focused on more obscure tools, and included a few that most hackers will not have, and may not even know that they want. A fun assortment of small hand tools and a couple larger tools.

    Here is my $580 plus tax:

    – Velleman VTBT11 100-PC Screwdriver Bit Set $9.95
    – Black & Decker LI3000 Cordless Screwdriver $40

    Security bits and a nice cordless driver to use them in, to open anything and everything.

    – Techni-Tool Tweezer Kit 758TW546 $95.25
    – Techni-Tool 00D Tweezers 758TW450 $26.71

    Excellent quality tweezers for precision work. Makes surface-mounting a lot easier, and no poor-quality tweezers can compare.

    – Xcelite Precision Driver 7pc 272SC019 $22.99

    Jeweler’s Screwdriver assortment by Techni-Tool.

    – Hemostats, half dozen assorted sizes, about $5 each, $30
    – Dental Picks (decent quality stainless) about $10 for the set

    Generally useful implements for electronics. Hemostats, both straight and curved, are exceptionally useful for soldering through-hole components. Dental picks have a million and three uses.

    – 10x Watchmaker’s Loupe (Bausch & Lomb) with headband, $21

    Good magnification is essential. While this is no substitute for a $400 binocular microscope, it does help.

    – 5-Piece (approx) Stainless Steel Precision Pliers (needlenose, cutter, etc), about $20
    – Nibbler Tool $20
    – Tapered Reamer (2 sizes, $5 each) $10

    Various useful hand tools for holding things, cutting slots, and enlarging holes.

    – Small Bench Drill Press, $50
    – 29-pc HSS drill bit/index set, $25

    A hand drill just cannot compare to even a cheap drill press. Great for drilling panel holes, making starting holes for the nibbler tool, etc.

    – PanaVise Multi-Purpose Work Center, Model 350, $75

    Everyone needs a little vise in their life.

    – Harbor Freight 1 Ton Arbor Press, $32

    Good for all sorts of crimping and squashing and pressing. Also the cheap way to attach IDC ribbon connectors.

    – 24×36″ self-healing mat, $50
    – Xacto Standard Knife Set, $28

    The mat makes a great work surface, and it protects your bench while using the knives.

    – Quality Stainless Vernier Caliper, $15

    When accuracy counts, no ruler can compare to even a relatively inexpensive caliper.

  18. Well, first off, of course, you’d need your basic screwdrivers/nippers/pliers. Jameco has a 57-piece “Master Electronics Tool Kit” for $131, with side cutters, several types of pliers, a parts tube, 6″ stainless steel scissors, solder wick, 5 pc. file set, PVC insulated tape, an oil can, a carpenter’s hammer, and more.
    total- $131

    Of course, everyone needs a soldering iron. Jameco offers several, ranging from a $17 butane model to a $500 100W soldering station. I’m going to go with a $50 soldering station with electronically-varied temperature.

    total- $181

    A good DMM is probably a must. Jameco has a digital benchtop model that looks pretty good, it’s $166.

    total- $347

    Halfway there. Now, you’d probably need a power supply, so let’s check on those. There’s a fairly small but adequate digital power supply for $190.

    total- $535

    Sixty-five dollars to go. Let’s get a breadboard first, there’s a good-sized one for $34.

    total- $570

    Let’s get some component grab bags. Always useful to have around. $6 for a ceramic cap grab bag; $6 for a bag of electrolytic; $7 for a bag of 1/2 watt resistors; $7 for a bag of pots.

    Total = $595.05

    Five dollars left to buy a pizza and a 2-liter to celebrate.

    Google Docs copy of the cart:

    The best part is, it’s all from one place in one order. (Except the pizza, sadly.)

  19. I don’t even need $600.

    The sort of kit I use every day can be purchased for less than $50:

    A resistor and an LED is probably the most commonly used debugging circuit ever. In a pinch, it could be pulled from an old circuit board. Older model VCRs have lots of reusable through hole components.

    Bent up paperclips for improvised probes and jumpers.

    Power supply from a junked PC (found four last week at the curb).

    Breadboard. The $8 Radio Shack model mentioned earlier is fine.

    Spool of solid, four conductor phone wire purchased from surplus ($10 or less). Provides red, green, black, and red wires perfect for the breadboard.

    Baking soda and a piece of emory cloth for cleaning up all the corroded battery terminals found on junked electronics.

    Harbor Freight carries lots of handy, cheap tools, such as a soldering iron, screw driver set, security bits, and a $2 DMM. $20 goes a long way here.

    The most expensive piece of equipment I use regularly is the Atmel STK-500 ($79, but I think Arrow is having a promotion for $40). I could wire up a parallel port programmer and mount the AVR on a breadboard, but this is easier and I got it for free.

    Metcal makes really nice soldering irons, but I use a $5 no name model for nearly everything.

    Solder flux. I have an ancient container with a 59 cent price tag. It’s about the size of an Altoids tin and will probably be a lifetime supply. It’s a life saver when solder just won’t stick.

    The one tool I wish I had is a logic analyzer. Good for capturing serial data in addition to the traditional address/data bus. Purchased an HP on eBay, but missing cables and disk.

  20. Well when we were starting up a first team a couple of years back the first thing we hit was job lot, spent about 150$ and had most of the basic tools we needed then headed to wall-mart and target for some ratchet wrenches, a decent tool chest, and other random slightly HQ tools than job lot had about another 170$ then we just went to home depot for things like tap and die sets, and dremmel bits.

  21. #20: “Thus, you can keep them pinned to the PCB rather than having to try and work your way from the shortest components to the tallest, balancing the PCB etc.”

    hahahaha i know that strategy too well :P

    I don’t see everyone getting a power supply! That is the most required piece. Having something reliable to run you project during testing is a must! Also, some people are using PC powersupplies, that will work but come on invest a little :)

  22. … $600 fireworks/ explosives, cause everyone knows the best way to fix something is to not have it at all or… to fix said object with explosives…

    well per se i have never had to price anything out because my dad (being a ham radio person) has all of this stuff in the basement anything except for blank circuit board makes it really hard to price so here is my list

    having your dad as a ham radio nut – priceless
    for everything else there is master card (not really but hey)

    anyways an actual list
    oscilloscope – $100 (get one from a HamFest great deals there)
    assorted wire 100′ – $2,3,4,5 (depends)
    printed circuit board – $8
    table grinder – $40 (another hamfest item)
    sodering iron – $10-$30 (but you most likely already have one or two)
    plenty of spare/scrap parts – already bought
    and your mix of other stuff people mentioned depending on what you do, or like to make
    (on a side note hamfest’s are the best place to find almost anything for a good deal =) )

  23. I see a lot of mentions of expensive scopes and very cheap soldering irons. In my experience, you can’t build very much without a good iron, and a great set of small hand tools. All other concerns are secondary. To that end;

    Essential Components
    ° Weller WTCPT Solder station ($160)
    ° Panavice 300 series vice with 303 standard head ($50)
    ° Snap-on PL400B 4-piece electronic toolset (Cutters, pliers, angle-cutters) ($130)
    ° Other misc. tools (Solder sucker, screw drivers (jewelers, and of larger sizes, etc.) ($50)

    ° Microchip ICD2 ($160)
    ° Small drawers for components ($10)
    ° Small overhead movable lamp ($20)
    ° Adjustable power supply (Components: LM317 + pot + meter: $10, this should be your first project!)

    Free (essential) things:
    ° Old scope, 5 to 15mhz
    ° Junk box, filled with old broken things, to scrounge parts from

  24. @#20 – heat kills components. Ive found that being afraid of burns means you are burning more than yourself.
    On the rare occasion that I need to pin down a component with my fingers, that extra feedback tells me when hot is too hot. I wouldnt want to insulate myself from that.
    A better strategy is bending the leads on the solder side of the board. on ic chips, tack the 4 corners then work around in a spiral from outer pins to inner pins.
    worried about heat still? use a clip. but seriously… gloves are silly (its the “be a man and suck it up” moment of the post ;)
    Everyone mentions pan-vices and second hands and whatever. I have never needed anything like that. there are always strategies to hold a board. (I suppose I could claim a bit of manual dexterity as well…)

    As for the task at hand:
    $600 is a lot of cash for simple but useful tech bench. a bare minimum budget of a small breadboard (how often have you completely filled that massive 3 tier board?), a good iron set (iron, solder, desolder braid, a desolder pump is also usefull), and a selection of basic parts will get you where ever you want to go. Remember that the only bench that matters is in your head: Out there, away from your tools and your components and your O-scopes… what can you make happen?
    I’d add that most components are useless till you find a project for them, so generally it is better to buy as you need and scavange the rest. You’ll learn more that way anyhow.
    The only high dollar items I would recomend are a good multimeter (perhaps two, analog and digital. both have advantages and disadvantages and often complement each other). If possible, a scope is nice, but you might not turn it on much (depends on the type of projects you do).

    Id spend that cash on knowledge base: books, classes, etc.

    So, here’s my list (no values, you have all posted them several times)
    1 – soldering iron kit (30w)
    2 – breadboard small (strip your own wire from old cables esp cat5 plenum)
    3 – basic assortment of resistors, caps, pots, and switches
    4 – multimeter
    5 – brain training.. A good reference bookshelf is worth more than any piece of equipment ever will be.

    6 – take a class. Various manufactures of hardware/software offer (often free) classes. For example: National Instruments. This is especially true of automation hardware manufacturers. Also, check out demo software of usefull applications. Give Mathlab a spin. Try out Electronics Workbench. Play with Eagle. Download all of the free versions of MS Dev studio (if you work on that flavor of o.s.). Enjoy the free-ness of linux and the latest round of electronics software.

    7 – (the most important) Spend the bulk of your cash starting a group in your area or contributing to an existing one in the area, such a Robotics group, a maker group, or a PC hacker group.

    I dont see the sense in blowing a wad of cash then staring at your bench with all its new toys and parts and asking yourself “well… what the f$!k do I do now?”

  25. p.s of all the big budget items, I dont remember anyone mentioning a good function generator. its actually more usefull than an o-scope, and generally, the two go together very well.

    example: using a function gen to drive your motor h-bridge is a simple way to test it out as well as quickly find (and tune) the frequencies/duty cycles your motors operate best at.

  26. you guys have some pretty good ideas and
    have found a few good deals
    I bet everyone has spent way more than 600 on the very same stuff they are listing

    myself I have the trunk or my car or the back of my suv is where I work from

    and I know it sounds a bit off when all goes wrong my hacking tool of choice
    cutting torch and a 4 lb hammer

    I couldn’t even try to put a list of tools I use together
    just becasue it is all over the place

    I use the basic stuff soldering iron srcew drivers pliers etc etc but

    no one has mentioned a clamp meter at all I guess not many people like to place with high voltages I wouldn’t go a day with out my ideal clamp meter does all the normal meter stuff
    plus a nice clamp for measuring ac current

    also my home build 12v led test light / logic probe
    I do a lot of auto motive stuff having a test light that wont set off airbags is a very nice thing ps if anyone wants
    the circuit for this just say so

    hmm no one mentioned a cordless drill even a elcheapo
    would be in my kit

  27. I’ve done this in NZ$ using Jaycar electronics (http://www.jaycar.co.nz )mostly as they are local I can go in and pick everything up other suppliers are listed.

    Soldering Station $114.50 Part No. TS1440
    0.71mm Duratech Solder – 200gm $4.50 Part No. NS3005
    Side Cutters $5.95 Part No.TH1890
    Needle Nose Pliers $5.95 Part No.TH1893
    Precision Screwdriver Set $6.25 Part No.TD2017
    Metal Desolder Tool $8 Part No.TH1862
    Multimeter $15 Part No.QM1535
    Pin vice $6.25 Part No.TH1772
    Breadboard – 1660 tie points $22.50 Part No.PB8816
    Mini bench vice $8.25 Part No. TH1764
    Anti Static Wrist Strap $6.25 Part No. TH1780
    Stainless Steel Tweezer Set $4.45 Part No.TH1752
    Mini Glue Gun $8.50 Part No.TH1990
    2x 7.4mm Glue Sticks For Mini Gun – Pk.6 $1.40 x2 Part No.TH1991
    Drill Bits – Drill Pack – Pk.10 $8.50 Part No.TD2400
    Step Drill Bits – 12-20mm (awesome for drilling out holes in panels) $16.50 Part No.TD2438
    Light Duty Hook-up Wire Pack $16.50 Part No.WH3009
    Twi-Wing screwdriver $4.99 http://www.consolesource.com/ecomm/catalog/Tri-Wing-Screwdriver-for-Wii-NDS-GameBoy-p-2481.html
    Storage bins for parts from Jaycar I hate a dirty workbench for hacking
    4 x small $3.85 each Part No. HB6317
    2 x large $9.5 each Part No. HB6318
    Cordless Drill generic brand about $40 at local hardware store
    Bar fridge (I hate warm drinks) approx $136 (had to convert from NZ$) from a local applicance store

    The rest on Misc common parts Resistors, caps, LEDs, beer etc.

    A scope would be nice but better to build one using the sound card in the computer than spend half the budget on it.

  28. Lets see what we’ve got here.

    Hand built logic tester – $10
    Benchtop DMM – Fluke 8050A (Ebay) – $25
    Big ol’ Dremel look-alike kit – (Princess Auto) $89.00 (Sale)
    Computer ATX Power supply conversion – 35$.
    Newegg P/N N82E16817103428
    Additional circuitry to make a variable voltage output from computer ATX supply – $55 (0-48VDC)
    PC Based oscilloscope Oscilloscope DiSco – $170.00 (http://www.hobbylab.us/)
    Various guage wire spools – $60
    Various solder spools – $55
    Flux pen – $19 (Digikey)
    automatic wire stripper – $15
    Soldering Iron (100W) – $50 (Ebay)
    Techs mini tool kit (needlenose pliers, small assortment of screwdrivers, side cutters) – $17

    If you really want to break the bank (and I did because some of the more expensive things on my list are already mine with no purchase necessary)
    Throw in the LAP-16128U 16 Channel USB Based Logic Analyzer (http://www.saelig.com) 299.00

  29. Wow I only wish I had $600.00 when I started.
    I have an old 20mhz dual trace oscilloscope that was donated.
    Lots of hand-tools that were bought generally one at a time.
    But the most useful things are the ones I have built. Like my backlight lcd screen for working on display projects using an old overhead projector screen and some white leds, or my circuit board vice that has a camera mount for my wifes digital camera, various probes and cables for different projects. I do not buy anything that I can make in the true nature of hacking. So how do I put a price on this. Or did I misunderstand and this is dreaming.

  30. Everyone says used oscilloscope. But for the same money as a decent used one, you can get something like the newish Velleman PCSU1000, which connects to the USB port of your PC. It has all the features I have ever needed, it’s lightweight for working in the field with my laptop, and since it’s PC based, I can easily copy and paste the waveforms.

  31. It’s interesting to see everyone cheaping out on the soldering iron or getting one of Radio Shack’s woodburning tools. I picked up a Weller WESD51 for around $140, and it’s worth it.

    My Weller iron heats up quickly, maintains a regulated temperature, and the tip doesn’t get eaten by solder. My Radio Shack iron heated up slowly, but then got too hot. I had to replace the tips fairly frequently because they were eaten away by rosin fumes.

    I still have the old Radio Shack iron, but I mostly use it for burning holes in stuff that I don’t want to get on my good iron.

  32. Wow, it is apparent that many of the previous posters have either not done much soldering or something (apologies to those who have and did recommend a nice soldering iron). You *need* a nice soldering station. I would rate it before almost anything, and would get a $5 multimeter and a USB oscope like http://www.hobbylab.us/, but would take the nice soldering iron first. I picked up a nice weller on ebay a few years ago and will never use a cheap one again.

  33. I am going to have to agree with comments 42 AND 43.

    Newer kit based oscopes are way better than a $250 used 100mhz tektronix. – that is unless you are a mindless MHZ junkie. (when are you going to look at crap over 20mhz let alone 200mhz?) Get a pc based scope – recording the wave IMO is much more useful than looking at it.

    Another opinion I have is that a high quality soldering iron is *CRITICAL* to good soldering – I am an old 2M tech from the navy and we had crap irons and good ones so I have done my time with both. Good soldering irons heat up almost instantly (-5secs for my ebay PACE), they don’t erode in front of your eyes, they have a huge assortment of tips, and most important – you can get tweezer irons and hot air pencils for most good quality iron bases. Hot tweezers will pay for themselves in one component harvesting session as will the hot air pencil. I prefer PACE irons over Weller, but this treads near a holy argument (and I’ll leave it at that).

    So here’s my list:

    PC Based Oscilloscope, Velleman Kit K8031 $150.00

    Probes: Ebay Seller: MDFLY or others $20.00/pair

    10-30x stereo microscope:
    Ebay Seller: Precision_world or Microscope_Universe
    200.00 with boom arm, light and USB camera.

    temperature controlled soldering iron:
    Pace SODRTEK – once in a while you get non ROHS compliant (just missing the lead free label) TW50 Irons, with PS90 pencils on ebay for less than $100 but in general you are probably going to spend about 100 for a TW50 base and another 50 on a pencil, 50 on a tweezer set and $10/tip (they last MUCH longer than radio shack 1.99 specials).

    This is close to 600. If you get some more cash,
    I would also invest in healing mats, various dremel tools, good solder/flux, TSOP readers and various programmers (PIC etc), some of those organizer bins from walmart or tackle boxes and a healthy amount of beer.

  34. Wow this is a seriously inspirational set of posts!

    Most are definitely biased towards the electronics side of hacking. Electronics is an almost obvious choice, but I liked the list for metal fabrication.

    This has really got me thinking!

  35. First post was error filled and probably blocked due to reference URLs… so here goes number 2.

    Well, I suppose the key word here is “hacking” workbench. Which means we’re coming at it from the hacker mentality.

    Hackers are champions of the bizarre, and their goal is always originality through ingenuity. A workbench that supports this goal would no doubt embrace this fundamental ideal.

    As such I submit to you, my view of the “hacker’s workbench”.

    $3.48 – Duct Tape

    Duct Tape represents a bare essential that must be available to everyone from house wives to wiley eyed hackers. It’s uses infinite and it’s contributions to society legendary.

    $25.18 – Bottle of Everclear

    190proof liquor. This is an important medical aid in the event you injure yourself. Capable of acting both as an anesthetic as well as a sterilizing agent. In the event you accidentally stab yourself in the leg with a live soldering iron, you’ll be glad to have this on hand to treat your leg as well as yourself. Has many additional uses.

    $5.49 – Hack Saw

    It has hack in the name. And it’s purposes are many. From cutting pvc for building out your vegetable projectile arsenal to getting the cuffs off after a particularly awe inspiring hack… this little hardware charmer represents the heart and soul of hacking and is thusly named.

    $16.23 – Klein Tools 10 in 1 Screw Driver

    Klein is a well known brand of tools favored heavily by angry local 103 journeymen and home depot addicts. Their 10 in 1 screw driver represents the single most ambidextorous screw driver in existence. It also is a great chew toy for mans best friend. I’d also like to recommend the Klein tools beer bottle opener… for when you just need that extra bit of liquid courage before you close that loop.

    $5.99 – Rubber Mallet

    The almost mystical capabilities of the electronic diviners mallet is a matter of folklore often passed by word of mouth down through the generations from master to apprentice. Many a friends friend has solved the impossible problem through the application of this tool. The rubber mallet, first in self defense and last in ditch efforts to fix the unfixable. This tool is the Global Thermonuclear War of hacking. Would you like to play a game?

    $7.39 – Box Cutter

    This weapon of mass destruction is responsible for the deaths of nearly 3000 innocent people on Sept 11 2001. While we may remember this incident as a tragedy it will stand as a testament to the capacity for destruction that this tool can achieve when handled improperly. When attempting to use this tool on something other than boxes, please exercise EXTREME CAUTION.

    $2.15 – Spray Bottle

    The spray bottle. It’s not what’s inside that counts… it’s what you spray it on. From acids to bases this bottle can store your chemicals and distribute them in a spread pattern allowing for an even application of fine mist. Additionally great for cleaning the ole workbench off after you’ve dipped into the everclear one too many times.

    $33.39 – Vice Clamp

    For those of us lacking in a hefty oompa loompa population willing to imperil their hands… a vice clamp is a true ally. Because lets be honest… you certainly wouldn’t want to be holding your project with what you are about to do to it.

    $49.35 – Cheapish Solder Station

    Yes, a true hacker could solder using a coat hanger and an open flame… but let’s be honest… a true hacker has used all of their wire coat hangers already on other projects and break in attempts. And bumming solder/wick is a social don’t.

    $79.97 – Spool of Cat 5e (Yellow)

    Category 5e Ethernet Cable. This is the defining copper wire for any hacker…. it’s uses are limiteless. From networking your pcs at near gigabit… to holding your pants up… to jumping your solderless breadboard… this wire knows no failure. I wouldn’t try bungie jumping with it though… you put kinks in it.

    $40.73 – Multipurpose Respirator

    Aside from generally looking awesome, these guys will protect your lungs from a lot of the nasty stuff that you put into projects (or pull out of them… as the case may be). There’s also the added benefit of using the left over money from your rodney king beating settlement after the police beat you within an inch of your life for bringing one on the train with you.

    $13.95 – Polymer Lithium Ion Battery

    All engineers, hackers, and do gooders alike share one common principal. Never be without a power source. The current battery of choice for the hack minded are the 2000mah polymer lithium ions and others of that family. No work bench should be without a reserve supply. And no hacker should ever be caught without a power source.

    $14.65 – Toaster Oven

    Food yes, SMD soldering Hell yes. Sure your muffins might taste like mercury but the buzz is killer.

    $5.00 – Multimeter

    It will tell you what the voltage, and current are. Then you will be able to figure the rest out on your own. Also makes a great paper weight.

    $30.35 – Hair Dryer

    Sure it warms your hair up. Dries your hands off. It also will dry your projects up, and melt some polymers. Additional points if you can incorporate it into a project.

    $13.79 – Fire Extinguisher

    Fire, mans greatest conquest, and a threat to your porn collection should a work bench project ever go drastically wrong and result in combustion. It would be wise to have a fire suppressent available to you in the unlikely event of an open flame appearing where unexpected and unwelcomed.

    $10.95 – Stylish Safety Goggles

    It’s hard to hack when you are blind. And while eye patches help on talk like a pirate day, a lack of depth perception could be the difference between you and a you with a soldering iron stuck in you. Wear the goggles, be able to enjoy your porn for just that much longer.

    $21.00 – Mechanix Gloves

    Sometimes you have to crack open an unfriendly device. Razor sharp casing, Shredded metal edges, Hot components. Protect your hands. Don’t leave fingerprints. And the hair folical the police are showing you is probably fake.

    $129.95 – Variable Voltage Power Supply

    Developement is considerably less awkward when you aren’t redesigning the power supply on your board every time you upgrade the functionality of your toaster.

    $69.99 – USB O-Scope

    While most hackers use ancient o-scopes they found at auction or swap meets, or simply plucked from a grumman du,mpster… Some folks go retail and buy themselves a nice cheap USB / serial software oscope. The oscope is the quinessential reverse engineering tool…. anyone who has seen sneakers knows the awesome power of a blind person, an oscope, and an answering machine that decrypts telnet.

    $22.02 – Pry Bar

    Sometimes hacking means, actually hacking. The thing is… most manufacturers don’t want you disecting their product… be it for harvesting black market components or simply to add it to your artoo unit. Prybars when coupled with your rubber mallet can make short work of even the most obstinant of materials. It also makes a great self defense weapon when that junk yard guard dog gets the drop on you.

  36. My ultimate “workbench” isn’t a bench. It’s my toolkit that can go anywhere, do just about anything. With this kit I’m able to grab it and go. If a bike seat needs tightening, a car stereo needs installing, an antenna needs to be put up, batteries need to be replaced, I’m ready to roll. Plus, with every tool in it’s place, I know if I’ve left something behind. I’ve gone through several iterations, adding and removing tools, until I’ve settled on this particular configuration.

    You can find a picture of my kit at: http://flickr.com/photos/10623928@N05/2214589861/

    I bought the 55-piece Fellowes computer repair toolkit from shoplet.com, then gave away all the tools inside it and now use the case to store the following:

    Craftsman 15 piece screwdriver set $15.99
    SK 6” Adjustable Wrench $27.99
    Craftsman 26 piece Hex-Key Set $34.99
    Craftsman Pro 2 pc. Pro Pliers Set $29.99
    Ideal Wire Stripper T-Stripper $9.99
    Vise Grip 6” Long Nose Locking $12.99
    Craftsman 9 pc Socket set $24.95

    Home Depot
    Stanley 16 ft Powerlock Tape Measure $9.49
    Mini Mag-Lite $9.49
    Husky 8-in-1 Philips/Flat Screwdriver $5.00

    22-Range Pocket Digital Multimeter $29.99

    Benchmade Osborne BM943S $132.00

    Leatherman Wave $74.25
    Reverse Action Tweezer $6.50
    Telescopic Mirror and Pick-Up Tool $5.85
    Style 1 X-acto Knife with Plastic Guard $6.20
    Technitool 13-point snap knife $2.80
    4-piece Dental Probe Set $7.85
    Pocket Ruler $2.20
    Weller Portasol Pro Kit (Butane) $82.40

    Total $590.68

    The thing I most often need that’s not contained within is a drill. I LOVE the new Bosch 10.8V Li-Ion Drill/Driver. It’s tiny, easy to recharge, and has enough power to drill through masonry (although slowly).

  37. Nokia 770 with Internet Tablet OS 2007 Hacker Edition $130 (pen-tool, its not a pc.. its a cellphone..)
    Several Pendrives for hacking curious people $100
    A Decent Small Digital Camera $250

    all add up would be $480, with the other $120 i would get essentials like everybody else..

    (btw, if the contest has rules and i need to specify EVERYTHING i would say $20 for coke & candies and the other $100 for books & training)

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