I want to take up electronics as a hobby

I retired in February 2014.
For many years I've wanted to take up electronics as a hobby.
Before I can start, I need tools. I need a hot glue gun, a soldering iron & a drill.
If I ask 10 different people for a recommendation, I'll probably get 10 different answers.
So, I've got questions.

Unfortunately, Radio Shack is bankrupt so I don't have a local source for electronic supplies. Fortunately, there are a bunch of websites for electronic hobbyists. Any preferences?

What wattage soldering iron? Do I use acid-core or rosin-core solder? Do I get a pencil-type or a gun-type soldering iron? Any recommendations?

What do I look for in a hot glue gun? Are there any recommendations on brand?

I don't need a super heavy-duty drill. A corded drill is probably cheaper if there is such a thing. Is there a brand of drill specifically for electronics hobbyists? There are so many brands - Craftsman, Ryobi, Dewalt, Black & Decker & others. How many volts? Do I get a keyless or keyed chuck? As far as I know, there are only 2 drill bit sizes - 3/8" & 1/2". I probably don't need the 1/2". I'll need a drill with enough oomph to drill through plastic, wood & steel. Any recommendations?

Congratulations on retiring! I'm looking forward to it when my son graduates from college.

Hot glue gun? Don't see how that really fits in with electronics. I have a high temperature hot glue gun that I got at Home Depot, we had a couple of the low temp craft style guns, not really sure what project we needed the t hotter glue for.

Drills - catch a drill on sale at Home Depot as well. I bought a combo set recently - Ridgid cordless drill and Ridged Hammer Drill, 2 batteries, charger, case for holding it all.

Find the smallest rosin core solder you can. I use leaded 23 gauge solder from MG Chemicals:

Soldering iron. I have a combo hot air rework station/soldering iron, both temperature controllable.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/X-TRONIC-4040-HOT-AIR-REWORK-SOLDERING-IRON-STATION-/180672745995?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2a10ef520b
If you're not doing any surface mount work, you can get just the soldering iron part.
Weller and Hakko also make very good soldering iron stations.
We use the soldering iron part way more than the hot air part.

Before I can start, I need tools. I need a hot glue gun, a soldering iron & a drill.

You don't need any of these to get started. Take a look at any of the Arduino starter kits or indeed any electronics "experimenter" kits.

Mark

Electronics is great, and I think you chose the right forum and community.

Macnerd:
Before I can start, I need tools. I need a hot glue gun, a soldering iron & a drill.

Electronics is a big field, and we need to know what do you want to do:
1)Building circuits from scratch
2)Using premade tools to avoid manufacturing and focusing on electronics and programming.

I'd start by buying the Arduino starter kit (which would be the second option), you won't need any of those tools you mentioned (unless you want to do everything by yourself, which is nice but takes lots of patience and learning curve is slower).

From one person who just took up the hobby to another - don't buy anything until you actually need it! Otherwise you will spend more time shopping and looking at new tools and components than actually learning about electronics.

skreech:
From one person who just took up the hobby to another - don't buy anything until you actually need it! Otherwise you will spend more time shopping and looking at new tools and components than actually learning about electronics.

Great advice.

mart256:
Electronics is great, and I think you chose the right forum and community.

Electronics is a big field, and we need to know what do you want to do:
1)Building circuits from scratch
2)Using pre-made tools to avoid manufacturing and focusing on electronics and programming.

I'd start by buying the Arduino starter kit (which would be the second option), you won't need any of those tools you mentioned (unless you want to do everything by yourself, which is nice but takes lots of patience and learning curve is slower).

I watched a YouTube video that showed how to make a bench power supply from a PC power supply. A project box was drilled for mounting LEDs & the person used a hot glue gun to glue the LED into the project box. The person also used a glue gun to glue the project box to the power supply. It is true that I won't need a soldering iron and/or a drill and/or a glue gun in the beginning. I want to build a PC. I want to build projects from scratch. You're probably right to suggest that I start with Arduino. I'd also like to try the Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone Black, but I believe that I would find the Arduino less confusing & intimidating than the Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone Black.

I read about soldering guns on Wikipedia. They have a transformer & don't have automatic temperature regulation. They're probably heavy, too. Personally, I'd prefer a soldering iron to a soldering gun. It would be better in tight spaces & I could more precisely control it.

I want to build a PC.

No soldering, glue or drills required for this.

DO NOT PLAY WITH MAINS POWER!

Mark

skreech:
From one person who just took up the hobby to another - don't buy anything until you actually need it! Otherwise you will spend more time shopping and looking at new tools and components than actually learning about electronics.

I utterly agree. Therefore, I would advice the OP against buying the starter kit: it will probably contain stuff you don't need and lack stuff you do need. We are on the arduino forum, so of course the arduino board comes to mind, but even the arduino itself isn't really necessary to get started in electronics.

I would start with a breadboard (no soldering needed), a handful of resistors and capacitors, maybe a couple of potentiometers, some NPN transistors, a dozen of so LEDs, some switches/pushbuttons and maybe some diodes. Some common ICs, like the 555, make a nice addition.

Jumper wires: yes, they are nice and flexible, but some solid-wire cat5 cable or telephone cable has always worked for me.

A power supply is a nice thing to have, but 3 or 4 AA cells in a holder will do.

A decent digital multimeter.

Let's add an Uno board, some online tutorials and this forum, and we've got a custom-made kit for a fraction of the price.

holmes4:
DO NOT PLAY WITH MAINS POWER!

Mark

Hey, the man's no kid, let's assume he knows what he's doing, shall we?

330R:
Hey, the man's no kid, let's assume he knows what he's doing, shall we?

When regarding safety it's better to not assume anything.

Temperature controlled soldering station. Don't skimp. The $20 things are garbage, cheap tools are expensive because you buy them twice. You don't have to go crazy on price, though.

Don't buy a soldering -gun-! I don't know what those things are good for. The body dissipates more power than the tip gets.

I bought an Aoyue soldering station and it has been working very well. "Station" just means that it is a pencil iron that plugs into a base that has the temperature control electronics, power supply, and holder.

polymorph:
Don't buy a soldering -gun-! I don't know what those things are good for. The body dissipates more power than the tip gets.

A good 100 - 200 watt soldering gun is very useful - just not for (most) electronics.

Basically, if you need the ability to dump a ton of heat into some metal or such to solder, they are a great choice.

Usually, you can use them (with large gauge acid core, or rosin core - depending on what you are doing) to solder metal parts together (for instance, making a metal box with soldered seams). They can also be used for cutting plastics (with the proper tip, which look like a knife), or for heat-sealing plastic film and sheets (the tip looks like a flat plate).

With the standard soldering tip, if you need to solder together a bunch of large gauge wires (generally automotive or mains-power related), they allow you to dump enough heat in to get the solder to flow (otherwise, with a small iron, the heat just gets wicked away by the mass of metal).

Beyond that, in order to get more heat, you're generally looking into using butane and propane torches (such as when soldering tubing and pipe - and generally with non-leaded solder if the pipe is for potable water)...

If that 100/140W soldering gun were -really- dumping that much power in the tiny tip, it'd glow and melt.

Look at the size of the tip:

Yet the entire shaft of this soldering pencil iron has only 25W in it, but manages to get the tip up to 600F or higher.

My experience with the old Weller soldering guns is that the body gets -very- hot in spite of the very large mass.

I have had to desolder quite large steel wire from PCBs in old TVs, it was a U shaped piece holding the flyback down. Every shop I was in had a Weller, and they stunk. I had a butane iron that I snipped one tip short - that sucker worked -great- for that and desoldering shielding, and repairing cable connectors on varactor tuners. Much better than the Weller 100/140W gun.

I retired in February 2014.

Welcome to the group.
Just remember you buy a soldering iron she gets a pair of shoes.
You buy a scope she gets a new outfit(s).

Make sure you buy enough solder so you don't run out at 2:00 in the morning while finishing up a project
you want to show the next day...

I watched a YouTube video that showed how to make a bench power supply from a PC power supply

I built something like this for my first DIY P.S. except I used a nice wooden cigar box for the case and machine screws for the terminals.
(it was my first semi complex project). All the voltage outputs had foldback current limiting so I could run
a metal bottle opener back and forth across the terminals (shorting them with sparks flying) and they still
worked.

I would recommend keeping a project journal with copious notes.
And take lots of photos.

I would recommend keeping a project journal with copious notes.

Where were you 45 years ago? :slightly_frowning_face:

Where were you 45 years ago?

Not sure what this question is about but , since you asked;
In the Air Force , stationed in Japan with the 659th Tactical Air Wing (with 30 days TDY in Thailand with a M.A.S.H unit). I didn't start in electronics until 1979. I used a spirel binder for schematics and notes. I didn't even have a PC. (probably because IBM didn't start selling them until like 1982. I couldn't afford one then anyway so computer notes were out of the question. Actually , there's two other reasons to keep a
journal with all your notes:
1- If the power goes out to your house
2- If you don't have a good backup program and your computer crashes you're screwed.

A one pound roll of solder will last you for decades....

raschemmel:
Not sure what this question is about but ,

I think LarryD meant he would have liked to hear the journal advice 45 years ago, he would have now a journal with 45 years of info.