Starter Equipment Purchase

Hey Guys,

What's a good place to start re: equipment (supplies, kits, etc...), and what's the usual no 1 online supplier that you guys could refer me to?

So far here's what I 'think' I need, but any input would be very much appreciated :

Ladyada's Electronics Toolkit - (

That's a mighty nice collection of tools, the same kind of stuff I have for making projects that will be finished items. For just plugging parts into a solderless breadboard, I would say it's a bit overkill. My projects usually involve several ICs in addition to an arduino, that size breadboard is very undersized. 2 chips, some LEDs, all of sudden you're out of room. I'd say $100 is a reasonable price to get all that at once.

For experimenting & working out designs, I have 3 65-row breadboards with power columns stuck on a clear plastic clipboard with a Duemilanove screwed down. Has been working out very well, nice & stable. The clip on top also helps secure wires that go off to actual devices.

If you are making anything with a decent # of connections, then getting some cards like these makes a great platform to assemble on.I do a lot of digital stuff with wirewrap. I don't see any wirewrap tool or 30 guage wire in that collection. Get some socket strips as well, also carries them, but you have to ask for them. What do you have for schematic capture to document your designs? I see a lot of folks here use eagle. I use, simple schematic capture, easy to create new parts if they're not in the library (I made myself a pro-mini foe example) , I use the PCB design part to show my layouts and play around with the fit of the parts on a board. This thread shows the kind of things you can do easily with it, scroll down to the bottom:

I am going to assume you have no experience or tools and are young. I think $100 is a bit much for that kit. Take the list of tools and price them out at a Radio Shack (preferably an older one with a real parts and tool area) and a few one line places like partsexpress, mouser, mcm and a few other on line parts places. If your going to be working with microchips I would also get a static free work mat and a wrist strap.

What is it you want to start with? Is there a local place you can go to for guidance? Growing up I had a few of the Radio Shack electronics books. I also had a few grab bags worth of parts from them and a few boxes of stuff I had scavenged. Oh and really read up on soldering, then practice, then read some more. It is not just melting some solder on some parts!

That piecemeal approach will just kill you on shipping costs tho.

True, I guess I am lucky. I have two OLD SCHOOL Radio Shacks less than 30 min from my house.

I have a place ~30-35 minute away called YouDoIt Electronic that carries a lot of stuff. And yet they never quite seem to have what I want. I bought one of the panavises there recently, was like $25, the different cutters & stuff are $5 each, spool of solder is not cheap either. It adds up quick. That's why I was saying $100 for that collection seemed pretty reasonable. I thought I had lost my little wirewrap tool (you may have seen it at the top of my remote control picture), wanted another - they only had 24 guage, not 30. Luckily I was able to find it. I wanted some common anode 7-segment displays - they only had common cathode. They did have a bag of unmarked LED displays for $20, all kinds of stuff. I found datasheets for many, others I had to buzz out with +5v and a resister to ground. Have been using them here & there. Same with RadioShack - have to hit 4 stores to get a total of 5 of anything. No one store carries any decent qty of anything.


Youre right, I've little to no experience outside of computer bits, which isn't anywhere near the level I'd be working on here, as for young as of yesterday I'm 29, so not sure if that does count as old yet ;) Being into reef tanks, $100 doesn't really count as a lot ;) thanks for the input thou!


Thanks for all the great input. I did look around for pieces and you're right, between shipping and etc... It came out to significantly more than that kit. I think I'd like to add in a few parts like you suggested and the anti static bit too! Thanks again for the the input.

Please forgive any spelling or language issues as I'm replying on a teeny keyboard with my giant monkey fingers!

Well I am 35 so I guess I will call you young! I guess cost is all relative. I just got into micro controllers but have lots of tools from over the years. I also tend to add tools (or extra shields or boards) onto other orders I have to make threw my biz. Up to 3 Arduno boards just because I wanted to try the new UNO.

What's a good place to start re: equipment (supplies, kits, etc...), and what's the usual no 1 online supplier that you guys could refer me to?

First off, learn to shop surplus; you can get great deals that way. My favorite places:

Between the three, they should have everything you need to get started. If you are just starting out with the Arduino, you mainly want to get a breadboard or three as already been suggested, plus some basic components, plus some jumper wires. If you have the cash, you could spring for the nice jumper wire sets out there (some like the stiff, pre-formed wires that come in a little plastic case, others prefer the looser bendable jumpers that you find on ebay and elsewhere), or if you want to save a ton of cash, find a place that sells 24-pair telephone cable, and order 3-6 feet of it, then cut the jumpers yourself.

You'll want some basic tools if you don't have them (screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, forceps, etc). If you are just starting out, and not figuring on soldering anything soon, you can hold off on purchasing a solder iron or soldering stations. Definitely get a multimeter or two (also, if you are serious about this hobby - buy an analog meter as well; it can be helpful in certain situations where a digital meter isn't, unless you spend a ton of money on the meter).

Don't worry about items like oscilloscopes, frequency counters, frequency generators, etc; these are tools that are helpful for certain project troubleshooting, but for basic learning they aren't needed, and you can spend a fortune on them and then find you don't use them as often as you thought.

For your parts, look at the components included in the various kits; build up a list of those parts and values, then go shopping surplus for as much as possible. Another place I would look into is Earthshine Electronics:

They are based in the UK, but they have an awesome kit and book (the book is a free PDF download, btw); well worth looking into. Other places for good learning information on a variety of general electronics topics: (for some reason, it is down today...)

Also - get a subscription to Nuts and Volts Magazine, and if you are into robotics, their sister publication, Servo Magazine:

Finally - if you are really serious about learning electronics, I highly recommend you to pick up a copy of Grob's book "Basic Electronics"; this is a textbook used by many EE101 type courses; it starts with the bare basics ("What is an electron?") and moves from there, covering the theory and practice of using electronics for circuit design and troubleshooting. Pick up an older edition if you want to get it cheap, since it is a textbook - current editions can be pricey; any edition published in the last 5-10 years will work.

Finally, note that there are a ton more than the three surplus places I mentioned out there; some of the places specialize in certain kinds or categories of components. You don't mention where you live, nor where you interests in electronics or using the Arduino lay - knowing this info could help us find you places to check out...


North Yorkshire in England received a bunch of snow, drifting to 6.1M in places? Holding up UK deliveries? Wow.

Wow, thanks for all the replies. Sorry about the delay in getting back to this topic, unfortunately I ended up having some family stuff, and then some work stuff pop up which made it rather a long week.

I’m currently living in the great ol US of A, in San Antonio. Originally I’m from South Africa, by way of the UK. My interests in electronics are currently around automation and mostly for the controllers on my Aquarium. I keep buying pieces of equipment around automation and thinking to myself that these pieces are certainly not built with ease of use, or flexibility in mind. For example the standard interconnect for most aquarium controllers is either serial, or plain old RJ11 based telephone wires. Surely there’re smarter, better, and simpler ways to do so… and it’s not like they use these ‘bus’ connections to make items cheaper because the going rate for the bottom of the line ones is upwards of 250 dollars (for the super small one, with no more than a probe for PH, another for Temperature, and 4 plugs to go with the head unit). There is already a controller based on arduino, but it seems to be very very basic, and I’m all for re-inventing the wheel :wink:

This got me thinking that I really want to get into electronics, and maybe, who knows, one day I may get to build a controller that either wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, and may even fit the needs of your average user… oh, and garden / hydroponics control is also on my mind.

Does that help? So far, I’m thinking about trying to get something going that :

  • Reads input from a probe
  • Displays bits on a LCD
  • Works on the network
  • Communicates with other boards on a Zigbee, or whatever network

Really all I was hoping to find was a good basics setup for getting into electronics, and that kit seemed to fit the bill at the time. Since then I’ve done a bunch of reading around soldering irons and have come up with a load of questions around temp, etc… so now I’m not so sure that pack has a good soldering iron? If some of you guys that are a bit more experienced were to buy your friends a get-going pack, what would you get ?

If you can afford it, upgrade. I have an EXtech EX330 multimeter, lady ada sells that also. Got it on sale for $40. I have a 60 W Weller soldering station, its moduler with really nice flexible burnproof cord, is similar to the Hakko 936 lady ada carries. Not a model Weller makes anymore. No adjustments, just change the tip used if I want more heat. Have had the same tip in it for years, small enough to solder SMT parts, big enough to heat larger pads for removing parts. I have a solder sucker, nice for cleaning up solder blobs, or for taking parts off boards. Small size Solderwick, like 0.075", for cleaning up excess solder that the sucker can't get, like off legs that won't fit in a socket or thru a hole. I have a panavise, much better than the alligator clip things (I don't find those good for much besides holding wires to tin the ends, they don't seem to stay in place well). I have a handheld lighted magnifying glass from Great Point Light, good for checking out solder joints up close. (rectangular, ~4.5" x 1/75", LED lights up when you slide it open - look in walgreens, walmart). Other tools - I would get a multisize wirestripper, easier to strip stranded wire more accurately (and not lose so many strands). Needle nose pliers - small ones are nice, I have several different sizes. Small cutters - good for trimming component leads & wires - I have several. Solder - I just got some 23 guage. 0.025" diameter - really easy to get just the right amount of solder and not have to clean it up later. Wire - purchase as needed for your project. Breadboard - I would get 2-3 830 point boards, lets you experiment with more components, can spread things out a little more to make it easier to see what you're doing. Terminated wires from and crimp connector housings - these are really nice for making up cables to connect your stuff. Jumper wire kit - I bought a couple bags of 50 wires in different lengths for breadboarding. I have used 24 guage solid wire over the years, just stripping as needed (basically just telephone wire). The flexible wire with the little pins are much nicer to use. Not sure where I got them from, but its this kind of thing: After that, parts as needed for whatever you're designing. I wirewrap a lot of things after prototyping sections on breadboard, beats point to point soldering. So sockets to support that, and some boards like Vellerman ECS 1/2 to build up on. So socket strips like these or similar. I've also bought resistors in bulk packages - something like 8-10 each of a mess of values, for $10 kind of thing. I have done PCBs via a couple of times, I find their software easy to use. Just check the size of thru holes on things like SIP sockets, make sure they are what you need. Very easy to pick something undersized. You are not far from in AZ, go poke around their site too.