This post will guide you through the basic hand tools for electronics all for under $100.
If you’re starting out a new hobby building “Internet of Things” or robotic projects then you’re going to need these tools as well as some basic electronic equipment.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money buying these things and as a beginner I wouldn’t recommend getting anything expensive just yet.
Building up a toolbox takes time and don’t feel the need to buy everything all at once as you will most likely not use many of them.
Start with the basics..
How Can I Practice Electronics?
The only way to practice something is by doing. Building electronics projects will take time to become good at it, just like anything else.
Once you successfully have a working project you will want to create something else as it’s a very addictive hobby.
To get more information on how you can learn IoT/robotics and starting out with electronics at home then I’ve got that covered here too.
What Tools Do You Need For Soldering?
The first 8 items in this list of basic hand tools for electronics are geared around soldering.
Although it is possible to build electronics projects without any soldering, nothing beats a good, solid connection to soldering component joints.
Soldering is a skill that you will develop over time and it will take lots of patients and practice.
If you’re starting an electronics hobby or looking to create IoT or robotic projects then make sure you have the following tools in your toolbox:
1. Soldering Iron
There’s so many options when it comes to purchasing a soldering iron but I recommend sticking with a simple, cheap iron for around $10-$15.
You don’t need an iron with adjustable temperature, digital read-out display or other obscure feature that tries to justify spending $80 plus. Stay basic on this one.
It doesn’t get much low-tech than this. A basic sponge is needed to regularly wipe down the tip of your soldering iron. Just make sure it’s soaked in some water and that you have it in your toolbox ready to go.
I would have at least two different sizes of solder in my toolbox as some projects may require heavy solder whereas other projects require a tiny amount.
’60/40 tin/lead’ solder has been restricted for industrial use for quite some time now due to environmental reasons.
Depending on where you are in the world however, tin/led solder is still available to us hobbyists.
I recommend buying it over silver or anything else if you have the option.
5. Mat or Iron Holder
6. Blu Tack
Yes I use blu tack as a tool!
Many people use very different tactics to hold components in place which will allow you to solder.
My preferred method is to stick a little piece of blu tack over the components.
However if you heat it up too much it turns to chewing gum consistency and you may need a piece of cold blu tack to pull it off but it’s generally fine.
7. PCB Cleaner
Before any soldering can take place we need to scrub the copper tracks or pads on the circuit board.
Corrosion can take place on the copper and prevents a good soldering joint.
Natural oils from finger tips can also prevent a good soldering joint and so a PCB cleaner is certainly recommended in any electronics toolbox.
8. Solder Wick
We all make mistakes. A solder wick can be used to soak up excess solder if we have applied too much. This item can also be used to help us de-populate electronics components from a circuit board if we ever need to remove them completely.
What Tools Should I Start With?
Other than the items I mentioned in the previous section around soldering I would also have the following basic hand tools for electronics projects in my toolbox:
9. Mini Cutters
10. Round-Nose Pliers
11. Hot Glue Gun
I would consider a hot glue gun as an essential tool for any electronics project construction as it will hold parts in place. When handling circuits with off-board components then parts begin to break off over time.
You won’t regret having this tool within arms reach and that I can promise.
12. Dremel / Dremel Compatible
A Dremel or Dremel compatible tool is a must have for any kind of project building as there’s an infinite amount of uses with it.
Buying a genuine Dremel is not the cheapest option as it’s the “Gucci” of rotary tools.
However many Dremel compatible tools exist on the market which can use the same size drill bits such as sanding bits, polishing, wire wool etc.
A cordless rotary tool is a cheap alternative for around $35 and works just as good in most cases.
What Tools Do I Need For Testing?
Not everything goes right first time when constructing electronic projects and it’s important to have the capabilities to test electronic circuits.
The down side to this is that most equipment used for testing electronics are very expensive!
However one of the most basic and important testing tools can be bought for under $30.. the multimeter!
The digital multimeter is another must-have tool in any electronics toolbox and is used to test voltage, current and resistance.
Multimeters come in many price ranges but anything around $15-$30 should be fine.
Learning how the multimeter works is a subject in it’s self and you can read up more about it at SparkFun.com
What Electronic Components Should I Start With?
Of course you’re going to need all of the basic hand tools for electronics projects at home but you’re also going to need the electronic components too.
There are many electronic components to choose from but there are always some basic components with common values that are used time and time again.
It’s possible to buy these components in kits such as a pack of 1000 resistors for example and I recommend buying in kits where possible.
Not only will it be more cost effective but you will always have these components lying around when you need them.
The following list shows basic electronic components that you will most likely need for project building and are available on Amazon:
- LED pack
- Resistor pack (1/4 Watt is the best choice)
- PP3 (9 Volt) batteries
- PP3 (9 Volt) battery snap
- Ceramic capacitor pack
- Electrolytic capacitor pack
- General purpose Transistors
- Switches: These come in many varieties such as SPST, SPDT, DPDT, (single pole single throw, single pole double throw, double pole double throw respectively)
Check your component limits before using.
What Equipment Do I Need For An Electronics Hobby?
To build circuits you will not only need basic hand tools for electronics and common components but a selection of equipment will be needed too.
The following list shows some of these parts that I would recommend buying. These parts are also relatively cheap too.
In this post I described the basic hand tools for electronics that are needed to start this exciting hobby.
Many of these tools revolve around soldering and some of these tools require mains or battery power to operate.
I also explained some common equipment that you will need to build most projects, what common electronic components you will need to be stocked up with and I briefly covered the multimeter for basic testing of components and circuits.
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