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Tools, Soldering, and Construction

CAUTIONARY NOTE - electricity is fun, but can be deadly. Be careful
when working with voltages over 20V or so, and especially over 100V, as
these can cause serious shocks and possible electrocution.
OT-Hobbies boards deal with voltages typically under 10 - 12V.
This website is not a tutorial on learning how to work with electricity in general.
Find out how to do this before getting into trouble.

People have been electrocuted with as little as 42V, and 10 mA can cause a painful shock.
See safety and useful video

Do-It-Yourself Project Kits

We specialize in D-I-Y project kits for builders and makers. We think of these as "Kitchen-Sink" products - with all sorts of things thrown into the mix, and versatile as we can make them. A major feature of our boards is personal customizability, since you're the one building them.

Soldering. OT-Hobbies Kits require intermediate-level soldering skills, and should not be the first projects attempted by builders. People should be able to build from a schematic. These kits use mainly through-hole components with very few surface-mount (smt) parts, and can typically be built up to the working stage in under an hour. Then, they are step-by-step customizable from there, to suit personal requirements.

They can also be easily repaired in case of inadvertent trauma, whereas most smt boards will have to be scrapped if damaged.

Tools. Besides good soldering skills, the second most important factor is access to a DMM (digital multimeter) of any sort. Even a $5 DMM from Harbor Freight is worth its weight in gold to the builder.

Electronic Parts

In regards parts for electronic construction, the best thing to do for starters is to get a hardcopy version of the Jameco Catalog. They have plenty of tools and soldering supplies, as well as about 90% of the small electronic parts needed for hobbyist electronics. Other good places to buy parts in the USA are Digikey and Mouser.

OnLine Tutorials

  • ladyada on soldering
  • sparkfun
  • curiousinventor, also surface-mount.

    Soldering Station

    A temperature-controlled soldering iron is a must-have, and can be had for about $50 or less. These are much better than the cheap "economy" soldering irons (less than $10) without temperature control. The tips burn up fast and need continual replacing on non temperature-controlled irons. We've been using a 40W temperature-controlled unit for 7-8 years now, and not once changed the tip.

    1. be sure to have and use a soldering iron holder, eg holder.
    2. keep the soldering iron tip clean by frequently wiping on a "damp", not wet, sponge,
      such as usually provided with the soldering station.
    3. tin the tip before use by applying solder and letting it flow over the tip completely.

    For general soldering, except on tiny surface-mount stuff, a wedge-shaped or "chisel" tip applies heat much better and quicker than a conical pencil-point tip: wedge, conical.

  • Weller WLC100, 40W, $54 - (comes with wedge-shaped tip).
  • XYtronic LF-389, 60W, $64.
  • Velleman 50W, $20.


    NOTE - solder contains lead, and soldering should be done in a
    well-ventilated area, and should not be done around small children.
    And wash your hands before eating.

    The most common solder is 60-40 or 63-37 rosin-core. Do NOT use "acid-core" solder, as that is for soldering copper water pipes!

    1. rosin-core flux does "not" have to be cleaned off, and doing so usually makes more of a mess
      than not doing so, plus the cleaning chemicals are a mess to use and clean up afterwards.
    2. some people use Isopropyl alcohol, but it's really not all that great at cleaning, and the
      true flux cleaning solutions are nasty organic chemicals.
    3. note also - FYI, everyone seems to have a different opinion about cleaning rosin-flux
      [we never have, and everything has always worked fine].
    4. so-called "no-clean" solder leaves less of a mess.

    Aqueous-core flux solder also works well, and the flux definitely does need to be cleaned off afterwards. However, this is easy to do using a toothbrush dipped in moderately-hot distilled water, then rinsing with same. We use a rubber ear syringe for rinsing.

    1. when using aqueous-core solder and distilled water rinsing, it's probably best to wait until
      after rinsing to solder in components that may be damaged by water, and then use regular
      rosin-core or no-clean solder on those components.
    2. this includes: electrolytic caps, pushbutton and slide switches, etc.
    3. use of aqueous-core solder, followed by distilled-water cleaning, followed by use of no-clean
      flux solder on a few components (with no subsequent cleaning), makes for a very nice
      looking final board.

    Basic Tools

  • diagonal-pliers
  • needle-nose pliers
  • DMM (digital multimeter)

  • ladyada list
  • ladyada tools

    The ladyada kit 136 is not really a very good value for $100. The necessary parts with a decent temperature-controlled soldering station can be had for less.

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    © OT-Hobbies, updated April 2013