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Starting Your Own Home Electronics Kit

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Way Off Bass, Sep 30, 2008.


  1. Way Off Bass

    Way Off Bass

    Jul 30, 2008
    Boone, NC
    EZ Music Co.
    Possible Sticky!

    I desire to start doing my own home setup and repair, especially in terms of electronics work. What kind of supplies would I need to start? Some thoughts:

    1) Soldiering iron, obviously. I have been told that 25w is good, as 15w is too weak to be effective and higher wattages can cause damage to the electronics.

    2) Soldier. What is the best kind to use for line-level applications? Many different variations seem to exist, and I don't want computer soldier when audio solider may be more appropriate.

    3) Mechanical Parts. What are good-quality potentiometer brands? Where are some places (preferably online) to buy these pots and switches? I'd prefer not to Stew-Mac because of a bad experience with their wiring kits. Someone suggested CTS pots, but I don't know what those are or where to get them.

    4) Wire. What is the best kind of wire to use for under the pickguard? Are some brands better than others? Is color-coding (black/white) necessary? I was also told to use a different kind of wire when connecting the ground to the bridge.

    5) Shielding supplies. Does copper roof flashing and an adhesive work properly, or would I be better off in terms of time using Stew-Mac adhesive copper foil tape? Are there any cheap places online to get copper foil or shielding tape? Many of the sites have very small sheets or weird sized tubes for pretty high prices.


    I would also appreciate any suggestions for supplies I have forgotten, or sites with useful information on wiring! Thanks TB!
     
  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Note: soldiers have nothing to do with electronics. SOLDER is used to connect metal parts.

    1) Soldering iron, obviously. I have been told that 25w is good, as 15w is too weak to be effective and higher wattages can cause damage to the electronics.

    Agreed. 25-30W is probably enough. You still need good technique and use of heat sinks to avoid cooking small components.

    2) Solder. What is the best kind to use for line-level applications? Many different variations seem to exist, and I don't want computer solder when audio solder may be more appropriate.

    Rosin core. There's no difference between solder used in computers and musical instruments. Just use rosin core, not acid core.

    3) Mechanical Parts. What are good-quality potentiometer brands? Where are some places (preferably online) to buy these pots and switches? I'd prefer not to Stew-Mac because of a bad experience with their wiring kits. Someone suggested CTS pots, but I don't know what those are or where to get them.

    Buy what you need when you need it. you're not a parts store and you don't need to stock parts.

    4) Wire. What is the best kind of wire to use for under the pickguard? Are some brands better than others? Is color-coding (black/white) necessary? I was also told to use a different kind of wire when connecting the ground to the bridge.

    Wire is wire - just buy stranded wire. You probably want to keep around some in about 16 and 18 gauge. Colors are up to you. I find it's helpful to have red, black and white around, but other colors can be helpful if you have more connections going on. If wire goes from a ground to the bridge and makes goo contact, your job is done.

    5) Shielding supplies. Does copper roof flashing and an adhesive work properly, or would I be better off in terms of time using Stew-Mac adhesive copper foil tape? Are there any cheap places online to get copper foil or shielding tape? Many of the sites have very small sheets or weird sized tubes for pretty high prices.

    There are many options - the paint-on shielding works, and adhesive-backed copper works. I suggest you buy what you need when you need it.

    You also need small but well-made wire cutters, decent wire strippers, alligator clips to use as heat sinks, a good solder sucker and some solder wick (I hate the stuff but it comes in handy at times). You'll figure out the rest as you go. ;)
     
  3. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Respectfully, some knowledge regarding general electronics is more important than supplies and tools. If you haven't done so yet, invest some time in DIY projects to get up to speed. You don't want to be in the position of working on someone's equipment, then mucking it up and ending up liable for repairs by a qualified repair person for your learning curve.
     
  4. RyreInc

    RyreInc

    May 11, 2006
    Kalamazoo, MI
    16Ga is pretty big for inside a guitar, something more along the lines of 20-22 is more appropriate.
     
  5. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
  6. bkbirge

    bkbirge

    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Here's a partial list to get you started...You'll need a multimeter and/or an oscilloscope, a variable power supply (probably a couple), some breadboards, function generators are nice too, a variable wattage soldering station, a de-soldering station (very helpful), a nice selection of caps, resistors, op-amps, transistors, tubes, sockets, knobs, switches, digital logic IC's, solder (maybe silver solder too depending on what you work on), wirestrippers, shrink tubing, the knowledge to use it all, and of course the NEI parts cross reference guides either in hardcopy or as a program. Do they even do hardcopies anymore?

    I'd suggest just starting out with a DIY electronics project book. By the time you get to the end after having actually made most of the projects you'll know what you need.
     
  7. scootron

    scootron

    Jul 17, 2007
    Moved to Texas
    I'm curious, what would be the most common applications for silver solder?
     
  8. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    Most common in 'our' world is being used in over-priced and over-hyped effects pedals. These days lead-free solder has a high silver content anyway.

    BTW, a good book is 'Starting Electronics Construction' by Keith Brindley:
    http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Elec...bs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222899175&sr=8-1
    ... has lots of practical and useful tips on tools, parts and assembly (including soldering).
     
  9. bkbirge

    bkbirge

    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Don't know how common it is but I used to run into it a fair bit in pro recording gear when I worked as a studio tech. It was always a pain because of the high temps required to melt that stuff.
     
  10. Steveaux

    Steveaux Safe-Guardian of the Stoopid

    Jul 1, 2008
    The Wilds of NW Pa.
    Silver-solder is generally used for light-duty structural repairs in the same manner as brazing.

    It has limited uses in electronics, usually in core components/contacts rather than later in the assembly process, when its high melt-temp becomes a problem for delicate components.
     
  11. ReidK

    ReidK Jst sy n t lsy cmprsn. Supporting Member

    Expanding on Steveaux's reply a bit:

    There are different kinds of silver solder. The ones for structural/mechanical/jewelry use have higher percentages of silver (up to 40%) and are very strong but not appropriate for electronics. You'll set whatever you're fixing on fire before you get the solder to melt. Working with those is really more brazing than soldering.

    Solder with a lower percentage of silver (typically 2% or so) is often called "silver-bearing solder" to distinguish it from the former type, and it is useful for electronics... BUT... it still has a somewhat higher melting temperature than ordinary solder. That's usually bad news when you're working on a PC board, because as you'll soon discover the hard way, those little copper pads come off pretty easily if you overheat them. You're also more likely to damage components with excessive heat, especially if like many of us, you are somewhat cavalier about heat-sinking. :) For soldering wires to terminals (on pots, jacks, switches, etc), silver-bearing solder is the best choice, but it's not required, by any means.

    Reid
     
  12. electroken

    electroken

    Sep 2, 2008
    Shelton, CT
    If you want to do the least heat damage to components, you need the lowest melting point solder you can find. That's going to be a 63% tin / 37% lead alloy. This was the alloy of choice for about 80 years before everyone got concerned about lead.
     
  13. lowtide

    lowtide Commercial User

    Oct 14, 2006
    Bradenton, Florida
    Owner: Buzzard's Bass Shop
    60/40 Rosin Core Solder
     
  14. WingKL

    WingKL

    May 12, 2007
    1) Soldiering iron, obviously. I have been told that 25w is good, as 15w is too weak to be effective and higher wattages can cause damage to the electronics.

    Higher wattages will cause damage only if you don't use it the right way. In fact higher wattages will allow you to heat your joint quicker so you spend less time on it and reduce the chance of heat transferring to part you don't want heated up. If you are using only leaded solders something like the Hakko 936 soldering station will work great. A soldering station which is temperature controlled will react to the heat needs of the joint and will be easier to work with. If you are using lead free solder you WILL need soldering stations with fast thermal recovery that can handle lead free solders . Even the Hakko 936 won't cut it for lead free. I have a used JBC Advanced series (2950) station I got off off ebay. They are among the best and is money well spent.

    2) Soldier. What is the best kind to use for line-level

    There is no "audio" solder unless you happen to be an audiophile. For leaded solders any eutectic Sn63Pb37 with a rosin core will work great. For lead free, I'm using the AIM SN100C and the Kester K100LD which produces shiny joints. Go with thinner gauges e.g .032" for lead free as they are harder to melt. Personally I've gotten rid of my lead solders so I don't accidentally poison myself. Desoldering spatters can produce tiny slivers of solder that may will around your work area and may be accidentally picked up and ingested by pets or children or you. It's your call.

    3) Mechanical Parts. What are good-quality potentiometer brands?

    CTS seem to be the standard decent stuff. There's also alpha made in Taiwan stuff thats also commonly available. small bear electronics http://www.smallbearelec.com/ carries such parts as well as the usual suspects - digikey, newark.

    4) Wire. What is the best kind of wire to use for under the pickguard? Are some brands better than others? Is color-coding (black/white) necessary? I was also told to use a different kind of wire when connecting the ground to the bridge.

    I like Teflon insulated wire because the insulation doesn't melt when accidentally touched with a soldering iron. You can get that from ebay, lord valve, http://apexjr.com/. You will need a wire stripper that can handle teflon like the Imperial IE 159 or 180 (from McMaster Carr). Solid core 24 or 26 AWG is easier to work with and is okay unless the wire gets flexed in service. Bridges wires should be stranded and of a slightly larger gauge so it can make better contact when placed under the bridge plate.

    5) Shielding supplies. Does copper roof flashing and an adhesive work properly, or would I be better off in terms of time using Stew-Mac adhesive copper foil tape? Are there any cheap places online to get copper foil or shielding tape? Many of the sites have very small sheets or weird sized tubes for pretty high prices.

    I recommend 3M adhesive shielding tape. I think they are the 3M Embossed Tin-Plated Copper Foil Shielding Tape 1345:

    http://www3.3m.com/catalog/us/en001...icsesm_3_0/command_AbcPageHandler/output_html

    It's easy to work with. Just layer it on to cover your cavities and surfaces.

    I recommend the Hakko 808 desoldering gun as it is usually much less expensive than desoldering station and works much better that manual solder suckers or wicks for through hole components. Wicks are great for cleaning up SMT component pads and traces though. Once you've used a desoldering gun you'll wonder how you've ever lived without one. It also created less mess and stray solder slivers that a manual pump.

    Don't forget a pair (or two) of small electronics pliers. Helps bend leads and put components in place.

    Contact cleaners for pots and conditioners for sockets like Deoxit helps.

    Gaffer tape and/or component clamps/third hand helpers/PanaVise are useful when you need to hold stuff together to be soldered. 3M 33+ Vinyl electrical tape is the good stuff for insulating wire splices and exposed conductors. Cheaper no-names may lose adhesion in time.
     

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