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. Wow, this was harder than I thought it would be.
    I don’t think that brands are overly important, though I have my preferences.

    Also, I wouldn’t go out and spend the entire $600 all at once. Do your research and find good quality tools, and wait (when you can) until you *need* the tool, or find it on sale.

    I didn’t include any consumables like components, wire, solder, screws, shrink tube, zip ties, etc. I also assume that you already have many of the basic tools in your toolbox. If not, borrow them from your dad or neighbor, because I already spent your entire $600!

    I don’t think that you should skimp on the soldering iron. Buy the best one you can afford. If that’s a cheap little $12.00 one from Radio Shack, then so be it, but if you plan to do much soldering you’ll appreciate something a little nicer.

    Weller WESD51 Soldering Station $95.00
    Panavise Model 350 $70.00
    Craftsman DMM #82334 $40.00 (on sale + Craftsman Card)
    Magnifying Adjustable Lamp $20.00
    Fuller 5 Piece Mini Plier Set #413-7005 $13.00
    Craftsman Mini Screwdriver Set (Philips, Torx, Slotted, Hex, Pozi) $50.00
    Anti-Static Mat $30.00
    Stack-On 60 Drawer Storage Cabinet $22.00
    Digital Calipers $35.00
    Starrett 12″ Steel Rule $25.00
    Starrett 6″ Double Square $40.00
    16 Piece Hobby Knife Set $5.00 (Parts Express)
    Benz-O-Matic Micro Torch $7.00
    Hemostat Forcepts (get a couple) $6.00
    Precision Tweezers $6.00
    10 Piece Needle File Set $3.88 (Parts Express)
    Breadboard $20.00
    Machinery’s Handbook $50.00 (recent but not current edition)
    Dremel Tool $60.00 (if you keep an eye on eBay)
    Moleskine Quadrule $8.00 (to keep project notes and ideas)

    I didn’t include a scope here. I think that falls under “nice to have”, but is not a necessity for a lot of Hack/Make projects.

  2. Hand-Held SMD Vacuum Pick-Up&Placement Tool~$15.00
    500 ft KYNAR wire wrap 30 awg ANY COLOR~$13.00
    USBtinyISP-Avr programmer&SPI interface~$22.00
    Arduino Starter Pack-Great for prototyping-$65.00
    Digital Multimeter MAS830-$15.00
    Solder Reel Stand~$5.95
    Kronus 61-Piece Super Tool Kit~$49.99
    Static-Release Wrist Strap~$1.80
    Cubic Configurable Storage(10 pack)~$2.54
    Soldering Remover~$1.84
    Solder Tip Cleaning Pads(10-Pack)~$1.89
    2-in-1 Metal Magnetizer and Demagnetizer~$4.93
    Anti-Static Tweezer~$2.70
    Mini Alcohol and Liquid Container Bottle~$2.88
    acid brush~$2.00
    Wire Stripping Tool~$12.72
    .015″ Kester Solder~$2.49
    panavise jr~$25.00
    1/8W Carbon Film Resistor Assortment Kit 2500 Resistors~$20.00
    Electronic parts grab bag for your lab~$7.00
    760 Point Solderless Breadboards~$13.00
    assorted sizes of heatshrink~$10.00
    safety goggles~5.00
    safety gloves~$3.00
    Grid-Style PC Board with 2200 Holes~$5.00
    Deburring Tool~$9.00
    soldering iron stand~$8.00
    solder sucker~8.00
    10X Magnifying Loupe~$14.00
    Assortment of flux~$15.00
    flush cutter~$6.00


    For a link to where to buy all of these please visit:

  3. All parts numbers are from jameco unless otherwise stated:

    Basic tool kit: $185.95 (http://www.mbelectronics.com/view.aspx?id=322) Everything you should need for the basic repairs, everything in a neat case is good in case you need to do a out-of-shop repair on your car or elsewhere.

    Hot-air Pencil (DIY!): $20 (http://www.engadget.com/2006/03/07/how-to-make-a-surface-mount-soldering-iron/) – Yes, thats right. $20. Its a DIY, these things normally run about $600. I use them all day at work on cell phones, and i cant stress how awesome they are. Anybody who wants to do repairs to things like computer motherboards and next gen consoles will need one of these, as surface mounts are near impossible to do with a soldering iron alone. I’ve also seen real hakko-style air knifes run for about $120, but i cant seem to find the page that had them :(

    Craftsman Pocket Multimeter: ~$20 (Sears) – I picked up a multimeter thats in the shape of a grey book about the size of a wallet about 2 years ago and i love it. I couldn’t find it online, but perhaps the store will still carry them. If not, there is still plenty of good ones at sears.com for under $20. For only $20 you cant beat it, its got all the basics plus frequency and capacitance measurements.

    Oscilloscope – $100 (http://www.hgrindustrialsurplus.com/search-products/search-results.aspx?k=1&searchKeyword=oscilloscope&searchCategory=EC&sortExpression=&sortASC=&pageSize=&searchMethod=keyword): You can find cheap used oscilloscope’s from that webpage, some as low as $20 :D. Think of these as a multimeter on crack, you cant have a better tool for diagnosis.

    Flux Dispensing Bottle – $6.79 (667489): You’ll need this to use your next item in this list in a controlled manner.

    Liquid Flux 16 oz- $15.35 (#615232): You can find these but this is for convenience of getting everything at the same spot. Flux is a must have for drag-soldering (adding extra solder to leads close together like on tiny IC’s), but can also cause shorts, which will bring us to our next item.

    Isopropyl Alchohol 16 oz – $7.19 (#615531): A must have to clean off liquid damage corrosion and that nasty sticky flux that wont go away. Some times this is all thats needed to fix some electronics, cleaning out dirt or copper corrosion. Use with your acid brush.

    Vacuum-base vice – $30.29 (#251791): If you use a hot-air pencil/knife, you must have one of these to keep from catching your desk ablaze. This one is good so you can move it around on your desk where you would want it.

    3X Magnifying Lamp – 59.95 (#100829): This thing is great for two reasons: it lets you see up close for small smt parts and provides an adjustable light for where ever you might need some extra visability.

    Anti-static Mat 11.25″x22″- $10.25 (#10576): Never work on sensitive electronics without one of these, a small zap from your finger or desk can brick anything your working on. Remember that the shock you feel is 10k volts, imagine all the damage you can do that you dont feel.

    Anti-static Strap- $6.49 (#34552): Same reason as the previous item, this keeps static off you rather than the area your working on. With both items, you should be able to keep a ESD safe area that would comply with manufacturing standards. Do make sure you have this connected to a known good ground.

    30-Watt Digital Benchtop Power Supply- $88.89 (#301971): These are great for testing equipment other than stuff you can plug straight into the wall, must have for any bench.

    Wire assortments – $5 or less (Local store)- Stores like radio shack and hobby stores sell huge spools of wire. I suggest getting a roll of 12 or 14 gauge wire for some basic stuff.

    Solder – $13.65 (141786): You dont need a description for this, you shouldn’t even have to order it. You should already have a closet full of this. If not, ask a friend and i’m sure you could score some for free.

    Solder tip cleaner – $2.79 (160004): Your soldering tip will get really nasty after you use some flux or you forget to tin your tip when you put your soldering iron away. Its also good to get rid of excess solder you might not want hiding on the tip when your working on parts the size of a razor tip. This is better than a wet sponge/towel so that you don’t cool off the tip.

    Spare parts (capacitors, resistors, diodes, etc) – Free/up to you! (http://www.ladyada.net/resources/procure/samples.html) Yep, free parts. Cant beat that! This would be a hard topic to tell you what to get, as each person would vary on the kind of electronics they work on. I’d say order an assortment of resistors as they might be your most used common part and the fact that their a dime a dozen, so they wont touch your wallet. Take the remaining money and spend it on electronic parts that you could normally use in your projects.

  4. oh also from my last post, you could get a better soldering iron with whats left over than what comes in that kit. Usually i dont stress the iron too much since i tear up even the expensive ones, but yea a regulated iron is a good tool to put money into so you dont tear up sensitive parts. Either way, you’ll use a hot-air knife more than a soldering iron once you get use to them :D

  5. I personally use a SoftDSP SD-200a SoftScope for an oscilloscope and I wouldn’t want to save a few hundred $$ and get the traditional analog oscilloscope. The savings in bench space is huge. The abilities of a software scope go far beyond most analog scopes. The only unfortunate thing is that your limited to only a couple of inputs and it blows the $600 limit. If ebay is a valid choice, you may be able to get it that way.

  6. Because I think that stuff all Hackers have and this stuff will cost a bit more I thought around another way, but see yourself:

    Titanium Spork ($8.99)

    Contractor Space Pen Tool ($24.99)

    /dev/blanket ($39.99)

    Utili-Key 6-in-1 Tool ($9.99)

    Workstation Repair Tool Kit ($69.99)

    Binary Clock ( £29.95)

    Deluxe Mini Fridge-Warmer w/ Digital Thermostat ($99.99)

    Have fun…

  7. #47 by matt joyce was the most inspiring yet. wow. you really thought it all through! ;)

    a bit about irons: It amazes me how much everyone bashes on cheap irons. Yeah, nice stations are .. just that.. *nice* but not by *any* means necessary.
    “A true hacker can solder with a coat hanger and a blowtorch.” I love that line, and it’s use to justify a cheap station.
    I have gotten along very well with an inherited (black handle, cork grip, 30 year old?) cheap iron.. about 6 years ago updated to Weller cheap irons with lighted handles.
    Essentially I have worked or hobbied in electronics for 18 years using $15 weller irons.

    granted, at work, I have on occasion had access to high end stations and loved them.. but with the exception of surface mount, I can swing a cheap iron around just as fast, and just as effectively as anyone on a bank breaking station. Not to mention, soldering stations are not very portable (a key issue with hackers/tinkerers/fixers).
    To me, a soldering “station” is a cheap weller, a metal stand with a spring holder for the iron and a wet sponge. as accessories, my “station” includes a tube of coiled solder, a solderpult vacume tool and some solder wick. On occasion, I have cleaners and flux paste/liqid.

    Expensive gear is usually muddled with all sorts of controls and settings. i’d spend more time fiddling with that knob marked ambiguously ‘1-10’ trying to find the ‘right temperature for the job’ rather than actually ‘doing’ the job.
    digital temp control isnt much better. I mean, are you seriously sitting down, examining your project, and *calculating* the desired setting based on parameters such as board size, pad size, and thermal mass of the component? If not, then what the heck do you need to know a number for?
    Controlls and displays just gets in the way. I like inutitive sodering. I like portability. I like being able to grind a 50 cent tip to fit the job at hand. I like inexpensive yet reliable and trusty. I like uncluttered work space.
    A solder station fits none of those requirements.

    The *only* requirement a high end temp control station fits starts with “i like..” and ends with “..surface mount.”

    Lean to use and work with the tool (regardless of it’s limitatons)… dont let the tool use you.

  8. 1: used asus computer 300$
    2: soldering iron 100$
    3: 10x 10$ of wire (10$ at a time)
    4: 3 different thicknesses of solder (5$ each)
    5: old gameboy 15$ at a flea market
    6: portable 120gb HDD 70$

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