Saturday, August 31, 2013

Let's get familiar with some tools

Before all of these posts...

Let's get familiar of all the tools I will be referencing and using. This is going to be a quick run through, so if you have any questions of where to purchase, how to use, etc about the tools, please leave it in the comments below.

Taken for granted:

I hope you all know what a breadboard is, what solder is, what a perfboard is, what a PCB is, etc.
If you have any questions about electronics, please feel free to ask questions!
I will not mention every single tool I use, as I am skimming through it.


Soldering iron: ~$10
Less basic and less useful: solder pot. ~$15
I barely ever use the solder pot. In fact it isn't even that practical.
The only thing I use it for is to desolder SMD parts, however I could use a hot plate instead of it. It makes a lot of harmful fumes, and the solder oxidizes quickly in such a hot pot. 

Etchant ~$3
I bought etchant from Hong Kong, cheap. 
Dremel ~$expensive (my dad's)
Drill press base ~ $founditinthetrash
Hacksaw ~$I'mnotsure
Goggles ~$finditinthetrash
gloves ~$inthetrash

Here is a picture of the table which I work at. It is incredibly sloppy at the moment. However, you will see that I have wire strippers, wire cutters, pliers, helping hand, etc.

Helping Hands ~$20 (from Hobby Shop. If from Radio Shack, it probably costs a ridiculous price)

Organized box of supplies:
This year I went to Hong Kong and bought parts like no tomorrow. Why?
Two seven segment displays in HK cost $8... HKD, which is one US dollar
That same product probably costs $4 in USD... At Radio Shack.
I prefer to order parts from The shipping takes long, but if you do not need the part urgently, you will be satisfied.


Multimeter: useful, and relatively cheap in HK. Fluke multimeters are a recommended brand... because they don't fluke (haha)

Just a handy notepad to write down reference circuits or pinouts that you will need to use a lot.

A laptop comes in handy to program and surf the web for help!

A USB to Serial converter will be handy. This one is from ebay, again, pretty cheap ~$10
I tried to make my own, but ended up failing.

Home-made tools

The tools above can be bought. The tools I will soon mention can be made at home, for a much cheaper price.

Inside this box is magic. Let's open it.

Test LEDs. Having a built in resistor comes in handy. To test if a connection is HIGH (5v) or LOW (0v), just connect this resistor like a pair of chopsticks. It's a good tool, simple to make.

Above is an "oscilloscope", more like a graphed out voltmeter that I found here:
It's functional, but a better option would have just been
analogRead(); on Arduino, then graph it out on processing.

USBTiny ISP. From Adafruit, this tool is somewhat expensive:
From ebay, it is a little less expensive:
From home, it's free.

This brilliant piece of work can be found at this guy's blog:

If you check the comments you might be able to find the PCB I designed. 

And with all those ISPs, how do we program with them?

Voila! Most people put their chip on a breadboard every time they need to program it...
That can be a bit annoying, so I made this target board. It supports 
  • ATtiny25,45,85
  • ATtiny24,44,84
  • ATtiny1313,2313,
  • ATmega 328,128, similar chips
Basically you plug in the ISP cable, the chip, and if you need, there is a socket for a crystal oscillator, and you can program it! All it is is a connection between the ISP header and the MOSI, MISO, SCK, Vcc, GND, and RST pins of each chip socket, so of course, you can only program one chip at a time.

5v power supply: four sockets from the USB so it's easy to prototype

An audio jack with wires sticking out of it. That way I can just plug the wires into a breadboard to test out an audio circuit.

This board is to be used with the Arduino as ISP system. you can find it here:
My board supports only ATtiny25,45,85 and 24,44,84, so I do not use it often.

Last but not least, above are pictures of a debricker I found online. 
The best thing, It WORKS and it's small.
 I used an A23 battery cell for size. It's impressive such a small battery is 12v!
From the hv_serial_prog program on that website, I edited a bit so I can reset the fuses on different chips. All you have to do is change the values on the #define at the beginning.

So, feel free to make your own! I encourage you to make these tools so that your life will be easier.