Getting Started With Electronic Projects

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Once you've decided to put together the parts that make up a circuit there are several things that you should do before starting actual work. The first is to understand exactly how the circuit works; what each part does in the circuit. Don't just put it together hoping it will work. You can be sure you have put it together properly, so that it'll work, only if you know what each component does to the flow of electricity ( electrons) going through it, as well as through the rest of the circuit.

If you don't understand the circuit thoroughly, every part as well as its function, read the article again, carefully, until you do. If that's not enough, look up words you're not familiar with in a good electronics dictionary. Read the "teaching" articles that we include in each issue of the ELECTRONICS HANDBOOK, like the one on "Capacitors" in this issue and the ones on "Resistors" and "Understanding Schematic Diagrams" in the issue before this.

Once you understand the circuit and what each of its components does, and after you've got all of the parts together, clear a good workplace. Be sure you've got a good light and that you've got all the right tools, including a small soldering iron or pencil. 25 or 35 watts is usually just right. Also be sure that you can solder properly before you start the project. If you're not comfortable with soldering, it is suggested that you review the brief (2-page) article on "Soldering Technique" by James Dunnigan, in the last issue. A little practice and you can become adept. Good soldering is essential for good working projects.

If you don't have a copy of the last (Winter) issue, the publisher has back issues for sale. Write for more information.

Another caution is in order, even if you've worked with electronic parts before but haven't handled integrated circuits ( ICs ). Be sure to observe these simple precautions: Don't mount the IC directly into a circuit or solder its terminals into the circuit. Instead, do what experienced experimenters do - solder an IC socket into the circuit (unless you're using a quick assembly experimenters board, in which case you'll just plug the socket into the board's holes). Also, don't handle the IC any more than necessary, to keep from damaging it with static electricity.

Most ICs are sold mounted temporarily in a little piece of anti-static foam. Keep the IC in its foam mount until you're ready to plug it into a socket. Finally, keep excessive heat away from ICs, particularly when putting them into a circuit with a soldering iron (another good reason to use a socket whenever possible).

Also see: Short-Cuts to Short Wave Antennas

More from EH magazine: Tandy's Radio Shack

Adapted from: Electronics Handbook--Spring 1987

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