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Beginners Guide - More Tools & Test Equipment

To design your own circuits, or build more complex kits, you will probably need more in the way of tools and test equipment. If you did not buy a multimeter before then this is essential now, a basic power supply is also very useful. More expensive items such as an oscilloscope can be useful, but think carefully about whether you really need them - after all, you can build a lot of projects for the price of an oscilloscope. PC-based virtual instruments could perhaps be more suitable. Other tools can be useful too.

Here is a list of other useful items, although this by no means covers all the tools and equipment available. Maplin codes are included, however similar items are available from most suppliers.



Helping Hands - Useful for holding PCB's, connectors etc. while you solder them. Also normally have a magnifying glass to help see small components. Can save hours of aggravation! Maplin code YK53H A small vice can also be useful and provides a more rigid mounting than a Helping Hands.

Pearl Catcher - Useful for the retrieving those screws that inevitably fall into the most inaccessible corner of a project! Maplin code BK43W

Heat Shunt - an inexpensive item for soldering heat sensitive devices. Clipped onto the component lead between the joint and the component it will soak up the heat to save you melting your components. As you get faster at soldering you probably won't need it so much. Maplin code FR10L

RCD Circuit Breaker - If you start building mains projects (only do this when you are more experienced and are aware of the safety requirements) then one of these is ESSENTIAL. It could also prevent a shock if you accidentally melt through the soldering iron flex. These are sold very cheaply in most electrical shops. Well worth the price, although check if your building wiring is already protected by an RCD in the consumer unit first.

Breadboard - If you want to test a circuit without soldering it together permanently then these are useful. Just push the wires into holes joined by metal strips to build the circuit. If the circuit doesn't work, you can easily make changes. Different sizes are available, e.g. Maplin code AG10L

Other items - Other sizes of screwdriver, 0.5Kg reel of solder, tool roll or box etc.

Test Equipment

Power Supply & Multimeter

Multimeter - almost essential for all but the absolute beginner. See the tools section for more information.

Power Supply - Also very useful for powering circuits that you are testing. One with a variable voltage up to at least 12V is best. The current rating doesn't need to be that high, 1A maximum is fine for most jobs. If you can afford it then one with an adjustable current limit is useful - set right it can prevent damage to an incorrect circuit, rather than frying it instantly!

Oscilloscope - Quite expensive and not really worth it for all but the advanced constructor. Nonetheless a very useful piece of test equipment, especially on audio circuits. There are some cheaper PC based alternatives, and some hand - held 'scopes now, although I haven't tried them.

Signal Generator - Useful when testing audio circuits, again not really necessary for beginners. Produces variable frequency waves of several different waveforms (sine, square, triangle).

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