Tools of the trade

Talking of cutters, thats the first tool you need. There are many types of cutters but the most useful sorts are sidecutters. Generally speaking, buy a small pair the larger ones are OK for cutting thick wires but not for much else. In electronics most wires you want to cut are thin so, for most things, the smaller the cutters the better.

Side-cutters like these are essential tools  buy the best you can afford

Photo 1.1 Side-cutters like these are essential tools buy the best you can afford

You can expect to pay from £4 up to about £50 or so for a good quality pair, so look around and decide how much you want to spend.

Hint: If you buy a small pair of side-cutters (as recommended) dont use them for cutting thick wires, or youll find they wont last very long, and youll have wasted your money.

You can use side-cutters for stripping insulation from wires, too, if youre careful. But a proper wire stripping tool makes the job much easier, and you wont cut through the wires underneath the insulation (which side-cutters are prone to do) either. There are many different types of wire strippers ranging in price from around £3 to (wait for it!) over £100. Of course, if you dont mind paying large dentists bills you can always use your teeth but certainly dont say I said so. You didnt hear that from me, did you?

A small pair of pliers is useful for lightly gripping components and the like. Flat-nosed or, better still, snipe-nosed varieties are preferable, costing between about £4 to £50 or so. Like side-cutters, however, these are not meant for heavy-duty engineering work. Look after them and theyll look after you.

Snipe-nosed pliers  ideal for electronics work and another essential tool

Photo 1.2 Snipe-nosed pliers ideal for electronics work and another essential tool

The last essential tool were going to look at now is a soldering iron. Soldering is the process used to connect electronic components together, in a good permanent joint. Although we dont actually look at soldering at all here, a good soldering iron is still a useful tool to have. Soldering irons range in price from about £4 to (gulp!) about £150, but fortunately the price doesnt necessarily reflect how useful they are in electronics. This is because irons used in electronics generally should be of pretty low power rating, because too much heat doesnt make any better a joint where tiny electronic components are concerned, and you run the risk of damaging the components, too. Power rating will usually be specified on the iron or its packing and a useful iron will be around 15 watts (which may be marked 15 W).

Low wattage soldering iron intended for electronics

Photo 1.3 Low wattage soldering iron intended for electronics

Its possible to get soldering irons rated up to and over 100 watts, but these are of no use to you stick with an iron with a power rating of no more than 25 watts. Because of this low power need, you should be able to pick up a good iron for around a tenner.

These are all the tools we are going to look at in this chapter (Ive already spent lots of your money youIl need a breather to recover), but later on IIl be giving details of other tools and equipment which will be extremely useful to you.

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