What Does An Electronics Tinkerer’s Workbench Need?

Ever been in a situation where you’re not sure where to begin building your own electronics workbench or improve your existing one? [Jeff Glass] writes in with a blog post as detailed as it is beautifully long, chronicling each and every part of his own home lab in order to give us some ideas on how to get one started.

Despite [Jeff] using his own workbench tools accrued over 10 years of working in the field as prime example, his guide takes into account that you don’t need the latest and most expensive in order to get working. Affordable examples of the tools presented are suggested, along with plenty of links to follow and what to look for in each one of them. He even goes on and aside to note the lack of affordable versions of bench-top multimeters, seeing how the portable counterparts are so cheap and plentiful in contrast.

However, contrary to [Jeff]’s claims, we would argue that there are things you could do without, such as the oscilloscope. And you could use a regular soldering iron instead of a soldering station if you are in a pinch. It just depends on the type of work you’re looking to do, and simpler tools can work just fine, that’s what they’re there for after all. That’s not to say his advice is all bad though, just that every job has different requirements, and he notes just that in the final notes as something to keep in mind when building your own lab.

Lastly, we appreciate having a section dedicated to shop safety and the inclusion of soldering fume extractors in the recommendations. We’ve talked about the importance of fire safety when working with these tools at home before, and how soldering is not the only thing that can produce toxic fumes in your shop. With no shortage of great tips on how to build your own fume extractors, we hope everybody’s out there hacking safely.

A Guide To Shop Equipment Nobody Thinks About: Clean, Organized, And Efficient

When planning out a workspace at home, the job, or at a makerspace, we all tend to focus on the fun parts. Where the equipment will go, how you’ll power it, what kind of lights you’ll get, etc, etc. It’s easy to devote all your attention to these high-level concepts, which often means the little details end up getting addressed on the fly. If they get addressed at all.

But whether we want to admit it or not, an organized workspace tends to be more efficient. That’s why [Eric Weinhoffer] has put together a blog post that details all those mundane details that we tend to forget about. It’s not exactly exciting stuff, and contains precisely as much discussion about whiteboards as you probably expect. That said, it’s thorough and clearly comes from folks who’ve had more than a little experience with setting up an efficient shop.

So what’s the first thing most shops don’t have enough of? Labels. [Eric] says you should put labels onĀ everything, parts bins, tools, machines, if it’s something you need to keep track of, then stick a label on it. This does mean you’ll likely have to buy a label maker, but hey, at least that means a new gadget to play with.

Of course, those self-stick labels don’t work on everything. That’s why [Eric] always has a few rolls of masking tape (such as the blue 3M tape you might be using on your 3D printer bed) and some quality markers on hand to make arbitrary labels. Apparently there’s even such a thing as dry erase tape, which lets you throw an impromptu writing surface anywhere you want.

[Eric] also suggests investing in some collapsible cardboard bins which can be broken down and stored flat when not in use. If you’ve got the kind of situation where you’ll always have more or less the same amount of stuff then plastic is probably your best bet, but in a more dynamic environment, being able to collapse the bins when they aren’t in use is a capability we never even realized we needed until now.

As you might imagine, the post also touches on the issues of keeping sufficient safety gear available. We’ve talked about this in the past, but it’s one of those things that really can’t be said too many times. Having a wall of meticulously labeled storage bins is great, but it’s going to be the last thing on your mind if you manage to get an eye full of superglue.

Chemical Hacking At A Store Near You

Imagine for a minute that you aren’t an electronic-savvy Hackaday reader. But you find an old chemistry book at a garage sale and start reading it. It has lots of interesting looking experiments, but they all require chemicals with strange exotic names. One of them is ferric chloride. You could go find a scientific supply company, but that’s expensive and often difficult to deal with as an individual (for example, 2.5 liters of nitric acid costs over $300 for a case of six at a common lab supply company). Where would you go?

As an astute electronics guy (or gal) you probably know that ferric chloride is common for PCB etching, so you would check the electronic store down the street or maybe Radio Shack if you are lucky enough to find one that still stocks it.

So sometimes knowing where to look for a chemical is a key part of acquiring it, especially when the names are not the same. For example, do you have any amylose? No? That’s corn starch. Want to try making your own cadmium sulfide light sensor? Go to the art supply store and ask for cadmium yellow pigment. Need magnesium carbonate? Stop by a sporting goods store and ask for athlete’s chalk.

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