aggressive. You can cut plastic,
metal, or wood with this combination.
Make sure the miter box is deep
enough for the materials you intend
to work with and make sure the saw is
deep enough for the miter box. A
good choice is the X-Acto #75330
miterbox and #239 saw.
Pin vise: The pin vise will allow
you to hold drill bits and other round
shank tools. This way, thin plastics
can easily be drilled by hand and
sometimes this is better than plunging
through things madly with a drill
press — and it’s safer, too.
Sandpaper and files: These can
help you accurately and progressively
remove material. Round files can help
you enlarge holes and triangular or
square files can help make a square
hole or notch. Remember that files
work by drawing them toward you
and applying gentle pressure.
Pushing in the opposite direction can
damage a file if this is done on a hard
material. Keep a wire brush handy to
clean clogged files.
Sandpaper can clean up rough
edges and square up wavy cuts. I prefer
wet-sanding plastics. If you want to
paint your creation, puttying and wet
sanding can produce a mirror finish
in painted surfaces. Buy a selection
of sizes around 180 grit, with more
selection toward the finer end if you
intend to paint your creation. If you
do plan on producing mirror-like
finishes, start with something medium
and establish a “grain” by only sanding
in one direction. Always sand with the
grain and progress to finer and finer
grades of sandpaper.
Sandpaper can also be used to
prep surfaces for epoxying. In this
case, use a coarse grit and sand in
multiple directions. For fine and wet
work, I like Flex-I-grit from K & S, but
other types are sufficient.
K & S tubing cutter: This is
superior to a standard tubing cutter
for small sizes of tubing. Make a mark
with an ink marker at the distance
where you want to cut off. Then,
precisely scribe the exact distance
you want. Set this in your cutter and
tighten the adjustment until the wheel
just touches. Tighten just a bit more
and slowly turn the tube until it
rotates loosely. Continue tightening
and turning until it breaks. If you were
gentle enough, there will be very little
— if any — burr to remove. If you wish,
a drop of light oil helps, too. A set of
calipers can be ultra handy to get the
exact distance you want.
If you plan on soldering brass
tubing, it helps to clean it before you
cut it, since small sections can be
difficult to work with. Lightly buff it
with steel wool or sand it before cutting to remove oxidization.
K & S tubing bender: These are
a tremendous way to bend tubing
without kinking it. You can also
attempt to bend larger diameters by
crimping one end, filling the tubing
with sand or salt, and then crimping
the other end until it is tightly packed.
Perform your bends around steel
posts in a vise.
Soldering iron: If you are going
to build robots, you will be doing a lot
of soldering. Here is where I choose
not to skimp. I prefer a 42-watt soldering
station from Weller. Here are a few
tips for successful soldering:
• Use 60/40 rosin core solder. Never
use acid core solder.
• The key to soldering is to keep the
iron and sponge clean, with the
sponge damp, but not soggy.
• Clean your iron every time you do a
Razor Saw and Miter Box
• Clean what you are soldering. PCBs
can be gently cleaned with fine
steel wool if they are not pre-tinned
(solder-coated pads and races).
• Solder opposite the component
side. Bend component leads to
keep them in place.
To solder a joint, follow these
• “Wet” the tip with a bit of solder.
• Touch the wetted tip to the thing
you are soldering — usually the thing
with the greatest thermal mass. Let it
warm for a second, then feed more
solder into the wetted area. At some
point, the solder needs to flow on the
components. If it does not, they may
be dirty. Use the iron to bridge the
gap to allow solder to flow to both