Getting Started with Hobby Electronics. Part one.

Welcome to my tutorial on Getting Started with Hobby Electronics! This first section is for the absolute beginner, and mostly involves getting what you need to get started tinkering at home. I’m going to be working from the ground up, as if you haven’t bought anything and are starting from ground zero.
I’d also like to add that this isn’t a tutorial on how to build circuits, but more a tutorial enabling you to learn how to design and build your own circuits.

The first, and probably MOST important thing you are going to need is a good place to work in.
you are going to have to find a nice big clean area to work, with plenty of lighting, and a few power outlets nearby. If you are lucky enough to have your own designated hobby area, I suggest starting with a work-bench that has a large surface area, and plenty of area for storage (there are going to be a lot of tools and parts! you don’t want them laying around all willy-nilly, that’s how accidents happen.) If you are like me and don’t have a good workstation, I’ve found that the kitchen is by far the best place to get set up. Kitchens have nice thick counters, usually a lot of breaker-protected power outlets, and plenty of lighting. Also, since I’m sure you plan on using your kitchen for other things, this will encourage you to clean up when you are done working. a clean hobby area is a happy hobby area. KEEP IT CLEAN!

For example:
Happy work station!
happy work station

Sad work station :(
sad work station

If you concentrate on keeping things clean, you will lose less parts, have less screw-ups, reduce the chance of fires and other accidents, and develop more organized projects. Trust me on this. I used to be a slob, and I’ve paid the price for it many times.

Now for some basic tools that you will need to get started.

  • Side cutters for snipping wires
  • Needle nose pliers
  • magnifier (I like the ones with a big light in them)
  • soldering iron with stand, and wet sponge
  • a small project vise
  • small screw drivers
  • toolbox/tacklebox/drawers/bins/storage for lots of small things
  • Multimeter (the more expensive, the better the quality generally speaking)
  • solderless bread-board and jumper kit
  • There are a lot more handy tools out there, these are just the basics that you will find yourself using most frequently. you can find most of these items at your local hardware store or hobby shop.

    Of all of the listed items, I’d say the most important is the solderless breadboard. All of my projects receive their first physical manifestation here. If you aren’t familiar with what a breadboard is, it is essentially a “piece of scratch paper” for prototyping small-medium circuits. You can find breadboards in a variety of sizes and configurations from very small and cheap, to large with built in power supplies and function generators.

    the style I recommend is shown here:

    you can find breadboards like this either online or at an electrical hobby shop for around $20US.
    This breadboard has lots of space, which provides large amounts of flexibility when prototyping your designs or playing around with ideas. The cool thing about breadboards is that you don’t have to ruin any components with globs of solder or whatever to test and see that they function as expected. You just plug your components in, connect them all together, and see what happens! If your design needs debugging, just move the parts around until you get it right.

    That pretty much wraps up getting started with a good hobby area.
    For the next section, I’ll be discussing more about breadboards, how to use them, and how incredibly awesome they are.

    Part 2: The BreadBoard

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