early on that PanaVise products aren’t very expensive.
Plus, they have a large selection of vises and PCB (printed
circuit board) holders, not to mention camera mounts and
The PanaVise Model 324 Electronics Work Center
(Figure 12) is my choice for larger PCB work, and has the
solder and soldering iron holder — although I don’t
actually attach those accessories. I just hang the solder
spool off the main rail. I actually have several PanaVise
tools and one of their camera holders.
Speaking of holders, I also have Pomona and E-Z-HOOK test lead holders (Figure 13) hanging up to store
my scope probes, power supply leads, and USB cables
when I’m not using them. This is a very useful system of
management because when the leads were left connected
and on the bench, they would get tangled and just made a
mess. This was even worse when I stored them in a
drawer and would pull them out all tangled into each
other. So, while these aren’t “bench” tools, they do benefit
your work area by helping keep it clean.
Did you ever lay out a PCB and find that the holes in
the pads were too small for the leads of a part? How
about the mounting holes or even the dimensions? Well,
before getting myself a set of digital calipers I used to have
to guess on measurements for PCB layout all the time.
Digital calipers (Figure 14) take all the guesswork out, and
you can find inexpensive sets of these at places like Fry’s
Electronics or MCM Electronics. I haven’t found a
particular name-brand set I prefer yet.
Electrical tape does not make a good protection for
spliced and soldered wires — especially when you’re
soldering to component leads. You really need to use heat
shrink tubing to get a professional clean finish. Often, heat
guns can be expensive but you can get one on a budget
(Figure 15). The unit in Figure 16 was purchased at Fry’s
Electronics for about $15, leaving me enough to stock up
on various sizes of heat shrink tubing.
A glue gun is one of those tools that I am always glad
to have when I need to affix an LED or some other
component in place in the absence of a hardware
Figure 17 shows my two hand-tool drawers in the
cabinet next to my bench. The top drawer (left) shows all
my screwdrivers, while the second drawer (right) is mostly
diagonal cutters and pliers of various configurations. If it
seems like a lot of redundant tools, it’s because I have a
set a diagonal cutters for snipping tie straps and thicker
wires and connectors.
Another set is just for trimming leads, while another is
for clipping the leads from PCB components. I also have
three sets of needle-nose pliers I use for different
purposes. I even have two sets of wire strippers.
One set is fixed at 22 gauge wire, while the other is
adjustable. I find having different sets for different jobs
more efficient, and the wear is spread out over multiple
tools. Anything I think might be replaced a lot is a brand
50 November 2014