by Harry Lythall - SM0VPO

Reccomended basic tools

The following basic hand-tools are necessary for assembly work of radio and electronic circuits. Many experienced constructors will no-doubt have many more additions to this list, but this is a general starting point. Experience will show you which additional tools you may need.


The pliers should be fine enough for bending the leads of resistors and links without damaging or fracturing the wire. The pliers should also be capable of gripping the smallest of wires firmly.

Wire Cutters

Wire cutters should be capable of cutting typing paper cleanly without undue force. If this test is not possible then clipping component leads may become difficult or look unsightly.

Trimming tools

If you are going to adjust ferrite tuning slugs then you will need trimming tools. Do not be tempted to use metal screwdrivers or 'instrument screwdrivers' as these will nearly always cause the ferrite slug to fracture. The broken ferrite slug will then jam in the coil - ruining the coil. Plastic knitting needles can be used if they are filed to form a chizzel point that fits the ferrite snugly. If your plastic trimming tool point breaks then think yourself lucky - it would otherwise have been the ferrite slug.

Soldering iron

A 15 watt soldering iron is recommended. The 60/40 solder melts at about 185°C, so the soldering iron should ideally be at about 200 - 220°C, otherwise damage to components and the PCB may result. I myself use a simple mains lamp dimmer to control my soldering iron. If flux from the solder leaves blackened deposits and the solder on the tip of the iron rapidly becomes grey then this is a sure sign the iron is too hot.

The choice of soldering iron is quite important but is an individual choice. My personal choice of soldering iron is:

WELLER TCP - (Temperature Controlled Pencil)
Quite expensive, but if you are an avid constructor it is well worth the expense.

This is a cheaper alternative that is quite adequate for the job of working upon PCBs and fine electronic work.

Cheap’n cheerful but quite useable. Have a tendency to overheat unless a temperature controlled version is chosen.

NEVER use any of the following soldering irons, unless you are well experienced at soldering and know what you are doing:

In general you only get what you pay for, and a cheap soldering iron can cost you a lot of money. A soldering iron with a high electrical "leakage" can damage sensitive CMOS devices.

Solder sucker (solder pump)

This is a device that sucks up molten solder when desoldering or removing excessive solder. It is like an overgrown syringe that is spring-loaded. Releasing the spring causes the plunger to fly out, thus sucking up any molten solder near the entrance nozzel.

Solder suckers are Ok, if you do not wish to re-use circuit boards. When the plunger shoot away from the job, the nozzle is forced against the job (recoil) which often gouges out the delicate PCB tracks. I occasionally use one, but I place a short bit of silicone rubber sleeve over the nozzle. This helps to stop the nozzle tearing out the PCB tracks.

One word of warning. Many constructional magazines advertise 'desoldering braid' or something similar. This is merely braided wire similar to the fine-woven screen cable in a coaxial cable. I hate this stuff as it sticks to PCB tracks if the temperature is allowed to fall just a little. This results in PCB tracks being lifted off the board thus permanently damaging the board. I have seen experience technicians accidentally demolish PCBs with this stuff. It's only advantage is that it is cheap, but about as much use as a chocolate tea-pot.

Have fun, de HARRY, Lunda, Sweden.

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