DIY Audio Projects Forum

new member from Scotland
Page 1 of 1

Author:  scsibear [ 27 May 2016, 11:45 ]
Post subject:  new member from Scotland

Hi everyone I'm Ray from Scotland.

I've been playing guitar for as long as i care to remember and have a home studio, I've always been interested in electronics but never really took it any further than that, however i find it can be a blessing to know how to do some projects related to my music gear, mods, upgrades etc, so i've been reading a lot about it, and have just started to get my electronics workbench together, I was hoping i could come here for advice and info which i undoubtedly will need.


Author:  Mark Helms [ 01 Jun 2016, 03:16 ]
Post subject:  Re: new member from Scotland

Hi, Ray. Welcome! I'm a musician, audio engineer, and all around geek, to be honest. I've consulted this site for several years to work the kinks out of various projects, though I only got officially registered yesterday -- so I can finally get to contribute. There's never any shortage of opinions here, so you'll get answers. Keep a discussion going as long as you need to to get to the solutions you're looking for. You probably noticed already, but it's nice to know that many threads have been active for years.

Author:  Geek [ 01 Jun 2016, 05:33 ]
Post subject:  Re: new member from Scotland


Mark Helms wrote:
There's never any shortage of opinions here...

Sometimes we go a little "Aussie Rules footie", but we're a pretty good lot. Enjoy! :D

Author:  Peter W. [ 24 Oct 2016, 13:29 ]
Post subject:  Re: new member from Scotland

scsibear wrote:
Hi everyone I'm Ray from Scotland.

I've been playing guitar for as long as i care to remember and have a home studio, I've always been interested in electronics but never really took it any further than that, however i find it can be a blessing to know how to do some projects related to my music gear, mods, upgrades etc, so i've been reading a lot about it, and have just started to get my electronics workbench together, I was hoping i could come here for advice and info which i undoubtedly will need.



As this thread seems to have died on the vine some time back, I am posting something I did on workbenches - hoping for some feedback. Please let me know what you think.

I would appreciate any criticism/input/suggestions on this. I have been asked on other venues - mostly having to do with vintage radio work - to give some suggestions on workbenches.


Basic Electronics Workbench

As this is a forum that supports a lot of DIY, most everyone here likely has an established electronics workbench. However, there are some tips and tricks that 40 years in the hobby in three significant locations (cramped house, villa overseas, un-cramped house) have “learned me”, sometimes the hard way. Starting with the basics:

A. Bench Safety: For anyone who will be working around electricity, and doing repairs/building/testing/diagnosis, safety is the first, and last issue to be addressed. Accordingly, here are some of the ‘don’ts’: DO NOT set up your bench on a concrete floor. Concrete continues to cure for its entire life, and is also naturally deliquescent – meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air, transmits moisture from above or below (if a slab-on-grade, or roof slab), and is actually quite electrically conductive. Considering that a healthy adult human may be considered as a 10,000 ohm, ¼ watt resistor, it does not take much current to do damage. As tempting as that basement location might be, Don’t. DO acquire an isolation transformer for all work pieces, and all devices to be tested or operated on the bench. At a minimum, the IT should be capable of handling the largest anticipated load indefinitely. 300-400 watts would be the minimum for most of the equipment discussed here. More may be better, but cannot be worse. The entire bench should be on the appropriate GFIC device, preferably dedicated to the bench, only. A length of WireMold ® feeding from a GFCI device would be useful and effective. Test your GFIC device regularly. Each time you sit down for a session is best. Variacs ® will be discussed later. This is basic safety stuff.
B. Work Surface: The work surface should be flat, clean, smooth, non-metallic, non-magnetic and rock-steady. It could be a desk, surface purchased at IKEA or a sheet of heavy plywood cut to size. Depending on the size, grommet holes will add convenience. The key is that there is knee-space below it to sit close. Shelving above is also important, with tool holders (magnetic or pegs) to keep “stuff” off the surface when not in use. Shelving is also good for test equipment, parts bins and similar.
C. Seating: Whatever it is, it should be comfortable, easy to move, and supportive. I keep a military-surplus wooden swivel chair that is remarkably comfortable and may be adjusted for height as needed. This is very much a matter of personal taste, but make the final decision after a few hours, not a few minutes.
D. Good Lighting, and a LOT of it: I keep three articulated lamps, one a Luxo with an optical-grade magnifier. And, a clamp-on LED lamp with a spotlight beam and a gooseneck so that I can direct -very- bright light onto a small area to reduce shadows. Make sure you test the lights for noise, either from on-board ballasts, or types of lamps. Some (cheap) LED lamps can be incredibly noisy in the RF spectrum. But the idea is to have shadow-free light where you are working.
E. Hand Tools: Fewer good tools will do more good than many poor tools. I am known for a prejudice against some Chinese goods, this goes triple for hand tools. Mine come from the US, Germany, England, even Pakistan for surgical devices such as hemostats and clamps – very useful for parts-holding and long reaches. But not from China. Over time, additions such as those clamps, dental picks, small jeweler’s files, and similar tools are good to add. But in the beginning, basics such as long-nose pliers, good screwdrivers, tip-cutting pliers and diagonal cutters in various sizes are the focus. Expect to pay real money, and go to sources such as Cooper, Channel Lock, Klein, Esslinger, Wusthof and others along those lines. There is no such thing as “just as good as” in tools.
F. Meters and Testing Devices: Again, look for a good tool which will last, has good support for repairs or updates, and serves your needs. I keep a Fluke DVM, B&K LCR meter, Anatek ESR meter, and a very nice vintage Heath transistor tester that that has a scope output if needed. I also have a little digital tester (Peak) which is gradually replacing the Heath for frequency of use. There is a good argument that a very good DVM is all that is necessary for 80% of audio/radio electronics bench work, and that argument is accurate about 80% of the time. Writing only for myself, I acquired the LCR Meter and ESR meters well into the game. The Fluke has basic transistor and capacitor measurement functions, and did well enough until I moved into that 20% tier as often as not. As to scopes, I can count the times on one (1) hand where I have *needed* a scope to diagnose a problem accurately. If I ever get into FM alignments and similar tasks, that Scope will be needed every day. Now, it lives safely away from the bench as it is a real-estate hog.
G. Tube Testers: This is a separate category as the best test of any given tube is the device it lives in. Except for ‘shorts’ and ‘gas’. And a legitimate reason to own a tube tester that does these two tests. There are modern electronic computer-based testers that do nice curves and give a great deal of information beyond “good/marginal/bad”. These are also expensive, but if one is actually designing equipment, probably a worthwhile investment. There are GM testers that can do actual quality tests, and some very few of them will allow one to match tubes (with additional VOM(s)) and test different bias points and more. These can run to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars and are useful only for those on the bleeding edge of the hobby. Then, there is the humble emissions-tester. Useful and effective for 95% of the needs – as long as it does shorts and gas. In basic testing/replacing/kit-building, that utility approaches 99%. Distinguishing between an NOS Telefunken or NOS Philips – not so much.
H. Soldering: Get a good soldering device that gets hot enough for the need. 35 – 40 watts typically. If one wishes to splurge on a station, go for it. But, again, get either a high-end hobby device or a professional station if that is the choice. For many years, I used a 38-watt Ungar pencil that still lives in my travel kit and still does well. This one is 40 years old, and purchased new. On the bench, my wife got for me (totally researched on her own) a basic Weller station from 0 – 40 watts. Nice. And it has a pencil-holder and sponge holder. As I am not concerned with RoHs compliance, I use 67/33 eutectic solder (no plastic stage) for my needs – I do very little with “new” stuff. Others may have different goals or needs, and so make different choices.
I. Variacs ®: This is a pet peeve of mine. Unless one has a metered Variac that gives accurate information on voltage and current drawn, within a very few watts, this device should be avoided. Such metered devices are readily available with patience, and have been made by VIZ, Heath, and many others. I keep a Heath IP5220, and it is used _every_ time I sit at the bench. It also serves as my isolation transformer, and, so far, has always met need. When I got it a bit over 25 years ago, it entirely changed my attitude towards the species and got rid of a honking large Isolation Transformer as well.
J. General Stuff: Try to work over a soft surface. Dropped (expensive) tubes may not break, screws, nuts and tiny things won’t bounce, and a carpet sample or similar may be replaced cheaply as needed. A towel of a solid, bright color under the actual work piece is also a good catcher’s mitt. And, I use a soft silicon baking sheet directly under the work piece. The soldering iron, dropped bit of solder, and such won’t burn it or melt it, and as it is bright red, things show up against it. A magnetic dish is useful for holding screws and parts separated from the device. A solder dispenser makes handling the roll easy without getting sloppy. I keep a third-hand that I am not happy with at the moment, but beats nothing. There is a DIY solution using hydraulic coolant hoses and a wooden cutting board that has my attention. But, you get the concept. Hardest of all, KEEP THE BENCH AREA CLEAN!! This is my greatest failing – and were it not for my absolutely infallible memory (do you believe me? (don’t)), I would be constantly looking for parts and pieces under this, or stored there. There are those who do this naturally, I admire them. If a good glue-gun crosses your path, get it. There are many types of glue, and many uses for such a thing, from filling in oversized screw holes in a wooden cabinet to stabilizing components otherwise held in place only by solder. A pencil-type flashlight (Maglite, accept no substitutes) will carry its weight.

After which are the more specialized items such as regulated DC power-supplies, signal generators, AM and FM/MPX, distortion meters and more. Ultrasonic cleaners, compressors with a variety of air-tools, vices, lathe/mill, the things that can go on a bench are very nearly infinite. But, the basic stuff can fit happily and comfortably on a conventional business-type desk of perhaps six feet by three feet with one long shelf above and perhaps a couple of drawers.

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group