because they’re actually quite useful. The fact that
someone like me can still find an opportunity to utilize
them is pretty cool. Before I bought this set back in 1990,
I built a set from scratch.
You probably wouldn’t think of a power supply as a
test tool, but it actually is. Figure 9A shows my main
bench supply which is an Agilent E3644A; Figure 9B
shows my backup unit which is a BK Precision 1697.
Sometimes you need to produce a specific/known fixed
voltage, and you can count on a good digital power
supply to do that where your linear regulator, wall wart, or
battery pack won’t.
These supplies can also be set to limit the current
available on the output which can assist in troubleshooting
a circuit — especially when testing for
short circuits. Notice that I mentioned
digital power supplies? I’ve used a few
analog bench supplies and have seen
many issues with these, such as the
potentiometer for voltage or current
adjustment getting dirty and throwing
the settings off. Or, the panel meter
on the front not showing accurate
voltage/current on the output. That’s not
to say this doesn’t happen with digital
units, of course.
Soldering is a core task in my
profession and hobby, so for me a good
soldering station is a must. I have a
HAKKO 936 soldering station that I am
very happy with (Figure 10). I used one at
work years ago and later purchased a set of two from
eBay with tip cleaners and extra sponges. I also have extra
solder suckers for desoldering.
I currently don’t have a desoldering station or a hot
air pencil for SMD work, but wish I did. These are fast
becoming necessary for the work I do and are slated for
Bench Tools and Holders
Besides test tools, any good bench needs hand tools
and other support devices to design, build, and repair.
One tool I used to use all the time for various things was a
little set of helping hands I got from RadioShack many
years ago. It was clunky, loose, and tipped over frequently,
but it was what I had. Then, I found PanaVise.
The PanaVise Model 201 (Figure 11) — also known
as the PV Jr. — is so popular that once I found out about
it, I introduced it to Parallax. We now use them in
soldering kits for expos and other events. This little guy is
solid and has many options for mounting. In fact, I learned
November 2014 49