Tools of the Trade

15 posts / 0 new
Last post
MrScott
MrScott's picture
Tools of the Trade

Every now and then, a thread rolls by that describes what's needed to work on a particular problem.

I thought it might be nice to have a single thread to collect some common tool recommendations.

Things to consider when recommending your favorite tools

  • Nice or Necessity - The right tool for the right job, unless you can make do with something else.
  • Used For - (general purpose, circuit tracing, parts fabrication, etc)
  • Required Training? (screwdrivers are easy, scopes need some knowledge, welders...?)
  • Where to get them - (auto store, hardware store, electronics store, web order)
  • Cost - (what it will take to get that new tool in your toolbox)
MrScott
MrScott's picture

I'll throw a couple of starter entries onto the thread from my tool box.

An assortment of phillips head (the x tipped) screwdrivers.

  • must have - can't get in without them
  • different sizes for different screws
  • a long thin shaft for reaching into deep recessed case holes
  • you get what you pay for. buy cheap, buy twice. The tips wear out, or they chew up screws

A knife

  • for stripping wires, scraping glue, prying up panels
  • nothing fancy here. a penknife will due

A Multi-tester

  • a must have if you have electrical issues to work through
  • measures voltage, polarity, continuity, resistance
  • detects shorts, opens
  • cheap ones do the basics. Still use my analog one from 30 years ago, but prefer my digital.
  • start out in the $10 - $20 range

Needle Nose Pliers

  • great for bending or straightening lightweight metal tabs, pins, clips
  • often have a built in wire cutter for making little wires out of big wires (measure twice, cut once!)
  • under $10

Soldering Iron

  • a low wattage iron for reconnecting wires that have pulled loose from motors, or boards
  • I prefer pencil tip in the 15w to 30w range (I have both)
  • Bigger wattage can lead to more component damage, but handles heating more metal for bigger jobs
  • starter kits complete with a few basic accessories are between $10 - $20 
Nocturnal
Nocturnal's picture

Definately with you there on the quality screwdrivers. Cheap screwdrivers aren't worth the trouble.

GWJax
GWJax's picture

Ya But if you can get a pack of 6 for only 79 cents you just can't walk way, when the tips starts to wear then toss it and use another.

I'll need to come up with some good tools that you can make for less money, but will take some time.

Also dont forget your 3rd arm for holding down wires or electronics so you can solder them and get the one with a magnifing glass on it to get an up close view, Also eye loups come in handy when you cant see the numbers on the components, Harbor Freight Tools 3.99 for 5 diffrent zooms

Digital camera with a simple trypod to share you photos with all and to help trouble shoot your problems so others can help you.

MrScott
MrScott's picture

GWJax brings up a good "tool" to have on hand.

If you are undertaking a particularly complex disassembly, or starting to open something up you've never opened before, it can save a lot of grief if you can document where everything goes as you remove items.

That makes a still camera, or better yet, a video recorder, a very useful addition to the workbench.

I have a small, solid state, digital recorder. I can record a complete disassembly, and hopefully catch sight of that spring as it leaps out of the case and exits off screen right. Surprised

An empty egg carton can come in handy for sorting out parts as they are removed from a complex device.  Just put each screw, or collection of matching screws, into a cup of the carton. You can label the cups with a tape and marker to say something like "leg screws", "visor clips", "hand bracket". 

GWJax
GWJax's picture

nice idea on the egg carton, well I guess i'll have to boil the eggs so I can get the carton, also the top can be used for larger parts as well so they wont roll off you table like long shafts.

Rudolph
Rudolph's picture

A set of "security" bits with the tri-wing, nubbed torx, etc...

The little box of plastic drawers/bins for long term storage of parts (labelled).

At least three wire strippers, so you can find one when you need one.

Various colors of 22 to 30 gauge wire.

Desoldering bulb _and_ wick.

Drawer full of parts. Old remotes, hard drives, VCR and DVD players, R/C tidbits, batteries, chargers... Anything with a motor or a light in it :)

edit - Oh yeah, Tunes! Can't work without some music going. 

I finally broke down and bought a cheap digital meter, on sale at Harbor Freight for 2.99 :) I had been using my analog for years since it's nigh-indestructable. I really (still) need to get my Fluke to the repair shop (been so long I can't currently remember what was wrong with it).

MrScott
MrScott's picture

Regarding sources for tools, I stand by my statement that you get what you pay for. If you buy a 10 pack of cheap screwdrivers, you'll have 10 cheap screwdrivers with tips that deform or handles that crack.

Having said that, the disassembly of plastic toys doesn't require quite the same rugged tooling as the servicing of applicances, or maintenance of an automobile. Those cheap screwdrivers may serve you quite well for the limited applications of opening up toy robots.

Here are some sources of inexpensive tools that you might keep an eye out for.

  • yard/garage sales - those tools with a bit of paint dried on them work just fine
  • truckload tool sales - traveling truckloads of inexpensive, and cheap, tools
  • local sales - Radio Shack often has toolsets for holidays that they later discount heavily
  • web suppliers - Harbor Freight, American Science & Surplus, MicroMark

I still use the same Radio Shack electronics toolkit that I got back in the 70's. These things can last you a lifetime if you use them as intended. They still sell something that looks the same, though I can't comment on whether the quality of the tools included in it are the same as the kit I got 30 years ago. My kit had the same red, yellow, and green screwdrivers. It also had the needle nose and diagonal cutters, and the soldering accessories.

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062759

GWJax
GWJax's picture

also MrScott don't forget the heat sink tool for those jobs that you need a little more heat to solder or desolder without burning up your component. These are very handy and radio shack sells them as well, I think I see one in the photo you posted on top of the soldering iron stand in the left bottom corner but not sure as of the small photo.

MrScott
MrScott's picture

Yup. The heatsink is part of the standard kit. A small, aluminum, clamp, that draws heat away from a component as you heat up the lead on the other side of the clamp.

I was lucky enough to have a nurse provide me with some old hemostats. Those make excellent heatsink clamps and "third hand" bases for holding components while working on them.

whitewolf
whitewolf's picture

A set of percesion screw drivers are a nice thing to have also a ground strap to help protect from static ele. a nice bright lamp. the security bit set from harbor freight contains the magical triangle bit for the screws like in mcdonalds toys

whitewolf
whitewolf's picture

also rotary tool and glue gun

NoroBiik
NoroBiik's picture

MrScott said: Regarding sources for tools, I stand by my statement that you get what you pay for. If you buy a 10 pack of cheap screwdrivers, you'll have 10 cheap screwdrivers with tips that deform or handles that crack. Having said that, the disassembly of plastic toys doesn't require quite the same rugged tooling as the servicing of applicances, or maintenance of an automobile. Those cheap screwdrivers may serve you quite well for the limited applications of opening up toy robots. Here are some sources of inexpensive tools that you might keep an eye out for.

  • yard/garage sales - those tools with a bit of paint dried on them work just fine
  • truckload tool sales - traveling truckloads of inexpensive, and cheap, tools
  • local sales - Radio Shack often has toolsets for holidays that they later discount heavily
  • web suppliers - Harbor Freight, American Science & Surplus, MicroMark

I still use the same Radio Shack electronics toolkit that I got back in the 70's. These things can last you a lifetime if you use them as intended. They still sell something that looks the same, though I can't comment on whether the quality of the tools included in it are the same as the kit I got 30 years ago. My kit had the same red, yellow, and green screwdrivers. It also had the needle nose and diagonal cutters, and the soldering accessories. http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062759

Nice set :)  I had to assemble mine piece by piece, though of good quality.  Also have a heavy duty bladed cutter, double sided tape (usefuly for sticking stuff onto the Boa), tape measure & measuring calipers. 

milw
milw's picture

I also like to have a metal ruler/straight edge and a set of Xacto knives, and a cutting mat for flat materials. The fine-tooth saw blades that fit into the Xacto handles have come in handy for precision cuts in narrow spaces.

Billboard
Billboard's picture

A digital camera for making sure you know where pieces go if you take about something and need to put it back together. Like if your robot breaks and you need to fix it. A small finger sized flash light to look between parts and to see what color a wire is.

 Those are two of the ones I use when I do something like that.