Tools of the Trade in .NET

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The idea I stress here is to always buy high-quality tools. Blade hardness, jaw alignment, and hand comfort are all important in small electronics tools. You ll often see great tool quality and prices at yard sales, if you re lucky enough to find electronics tools. Short of this, visit your hardware store or shop online and get the good stuff.
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The main wire you ll be using is very thin: solid core wire wrap wire of 25 30 gauge. Your stripper s ability to strip such a thin gauge well is crucial you ll be doing this a lot. Look for the simple stripper with two scissors-like jaws (not the automatic type that strips all gauges by sticking all wires in the jaws). The correct kind will have two flat blades, each with a series of semicircular notches in the blade edges, ranging in size from small to large, each to strip a separate gauge (down to 30 AWG). Be sure that there is no slack or play in the axle that joins the blade halves. Blade halves should be snug against each other at all times. Spring-return and cushioned handles are a nice addition (see Figure 5-2).
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FIGURE 5-2: Wire strippers
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Part II Building Your Circuit-Bending Workshop
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Although your stripper will most likely have a clipper section to the blades, having a standalone clipper is a must for getting into tighter spaces than the stripper will allow. Choose a pliers-type clipper with forged and ground blades over the pressed sheet steel kind. Again, spring-return and cushioned handles are nice (see Figure 5-3).
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FIGURE 5-3: Wire clippers
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Pliers
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Everyone needs pliers. It s a general-use tool, and you re sure to find something to hold on to with it. Get a standard pliers as well as a needle-nose pliers, still thinking small for electronics (see Figure 5-4).
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FIGURE 5-4: Small pliers, standard and flattened needle nose
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Wrenches
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We re talking crescent or box-end wrenches, smooth and chromed, like the mechanic s crescent wrenches but way smaller. These are used for precision tightening of panel-mount hardware (such as switches), but they come in handy elsewhere, too. You ll want to obtain a set that, in both standard and metric sizes, covers the range from about 3 4" to 1 4" (see Figure 5-5).
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FIGURE 5-5: Small crescent wrench set
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Some Sears outlets carry sets of small crescent wrenches. They re also available individually, including designs incorporating ratchets in their box ends like my 5 16" for the thousands of panel nuts common in that size.
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Drivers
By drivers, I mean screwdrivers and their ilk. You ll need standard and Phillips drivers from medium sized on down to tiny. Buy a good jewelers driver set and you should be covered. You ll also need star (Torx) drivers in smaller sizes. There are many sets of drivers on the market that will supply you with all the standard, Phillips, and star drivers you ll ever need. Don t buy a set with one handle and many driver blades. Get a set with high-quality blades affixed within comfortable handles (see Figure 5-6).
FIGURE 5-6: Screwdriver set
Really unusual screw heads are tackled with security blades. My security driver set is by SE (part #7518SD), contains 30 bits, and is available through American Science and Surplus.
Part II Building Your Circuit-Bending Workshop
A socket driver looks like a screwdriver except that where the tip of the blade would be is a socket similar to the sockets in a ratchet wrench socket set. You ll also want a set of socket drivers, again in standard and metric, sized from 3 4" on down to 1 4". Be sure to get socket drivers for electronics, because these have hollow shafts instead of solid. The hollow shaft allows the handle of toggle switches and other components a recess while the wrench tightens their hardware (see Figure 5-7).