for the Ham Operator
Just recently, I was rereading an article from
QST, published back in 1978. While that may seem to make the information dated, the topic is as important today as it was
then. The subject is tools. Many people try to use the same tools that they have in their toolbox for working on cars or around
the house. While some items make the transition ok, others are best left in the garage. Here then is the list, along with
Soldering IRON. Please note I said IRON, not GUN. The soldering iron should be 40 watt or thereabouts. This is big
enough to handle larger gauges of wire, but will not melt solder pads off the printed circuit board if you are careful.
Soldering GUN. Here is where the big gun type is good. Soldering coax connectors properly needs lots of heat, delivered
quickly to the connector shell without needing so much time that the coax dielectric melts also. Get at least 140 watts and
preferably a dual heat gun. Get a good one, not an Asian cheapie knockoff. Do not use the gun on circuit boards and the like.
That would be like using a cannon to hunt squirrels.
Needle nose pliers. Buy smaller not bigger. Get the ones with a side cutter built in. Check the alignment of the jaws
by looking sideways at a light source through the jaws when closed. If light shows through the jaws, components may slide
Cutters. Also known as "Dykes" short for diagonal cutters. Again buy smaller rather than bigger and check jaw alignment
Strippers. Your "dykes" can double as strippers with some practice on your part. The exception is when dealing with
Teflon covered wire. The heavier, tougher covering needs a dedicated stripper. I personally use wire strippers rather than
dykes to strip most wire just because the tool is more controllable.
Screwdrivers. We all dream of having every screwdriver size and model. The interchangeable tip type works well, but
if you use one type or size often, get a separate tool in that size. Generally, you need a small, medium and large Phillips
type, and similar flat bladed sizes. A good addition is a small set of Jeweler's screwdrivers for those very small screws
in mike connectors and the like.
Electric Drill. When the original article was written, battery operated drills barely existed. Today they are the norm.
The main thing is to ensure that the chuck will accept a bit as small as a Number 60. Try to find a 3/8" capable chuck that
will do the small drill bit also. That way you can also use the drill to run bigger bits like Multibits and the like.
Drill bits, buy a good set. Also get a Multibit. This tapered bit is perfect for drilling several different size holes
in aluminum or sheet goods like plastic. Expensive, but you won't want to be without one once you have used one.
Reamer and rat tail files. Once you start drilling holes in aluminum, you learn about burrs and sharp edges. Nuff said!
Nibbling tool. This is a relatively inexpensive tool that allows you to cut any shape hole in aluminum. Very handy
for those components that require a key way or special shape hole to prevent rotation. Also handy for mounting meters and
the like in a panel or cabinet. Also can replace the need for chassis punches if used carefully.
Tools from around the house. These include a hammer, hacksaw, ruler, scriber, pencil, and pocket knife. Use the last
one carefully; the finger you save may be your own.
Solder Sucker. If you do any amount of homebrewing or kit building, you know about mistakes. When you need to remove
solder from a joint on a circuit board that bridges the wrong pad, you have a couple of options. Solder wick, either purchased
as a commercial product or made from a scrap of braid from coax is one. Used properly, it works well. Used improperly, it
just spreads the solder around even more. The other option is a spring operated solder sucker or bulb type solder remover.
Not too expensive, the spring type is a little easier to use.
Nut Drivers. You can find an inexpensive set at most discount stores. They will make a big difference when working
in tight places.
Tools from the garage. Here are some of the exceptions that do make the transition from the mechanics bench. Channelock
Pliers, Adjustable Wrench, Vise-Grips(the smaller sizes), emery cloth.
Electrical Tape. Buy good quality vinyl tape.
Heat shrink tubing. Easy to find at most hamfests and electronics shops. Buy an assortment at first, then replace the
type and size you use the most.
That's the basic toolkit, if you plan on using
it, I suggest reading the ARRL Hand-book section on Construction Techniques. The "Handbook" has become the go-to source for
many amateurs and quite a few professionals as well.
Many thanks to Jim Bartlett, WB9VAV, for the original article. I don't know if Jim is still with us, the call sign
is not. There are several Jim Bartlett's listed as hams, however, so Jim, if you are listening, thanks again.