Test equipment

Just wondering what some of you guys (and gals) have sitting on your bench for testing and building. I've acquired some equipment of time, some nice, some "works", and am always on the lookout for more. The biggest issue is the flood of "works" type stuff from overseas and even here. I realize I can't buy the latest and greatest stuff for a hobby, but hope to find out some good older stuff (and stuff to stay away from)

Currently I have a mix of mfg's, from HP, Tektronics, Tenma, and "others", and am somewhat looking for another scope and maybe solder station if I find one I like. I currently have a Xytronics temp controlled unit, but would like a digital model with sleep mode to go along with my hot air rework station. As for the scope, I currently have a Tektronics 2246, but would like to grab a digital unit, maybe not a 10Ghz unit, but more than the 100Mhz I have now.

A vacuum tool might prove handy for chips if anyone has a suggestion as well.

I guess it might help if I say that while I'm not against through hole components, I really like working with the smd stuff and making a circuit "tiny". It does makes it hard to breadboard a circuit though.

Any other suggestions on equipment out there are welcome. I really don't keep up on all the latest and greatest gadgets, because every one of them says they have the best product that works flawlessly. We all know that really isn't the case.

I have a Siglent scope (new, one of the recent ones with the big screen) and an older unremarkable tek' analog scope. I never use the analog one, and don't really use the digital one very often either.

For soldering, I use Weller irons, in the monkey-vomit-green cases, since their quality went down the crapper around when they switched to black plastic. I've got an 80W adjustable, a 50W adjustable, and a 50W magnetic tip one. For 95-99% of non-scrapping operations, I run the iron at 700 degrees - the 50W magnetic tip type is frankly fine for this work. For scrapping, the 80W one cranked up to 800 degrees works wonders. I've got a tweezer attachment for it too.

You want a sleep mode? You want your iron to turn itself off while you're in the middle of soldering something? I absolutely despise the sleep mode on my 80W one (the others don't have it). With good Weller irons and tips, you don't need sleep mode - the tips don't destroy themselves if left hot. Neither me nor my father have ever had to replace a tip because of that, and we've both done stupid things like leave the iron on and go to work, or even go away for the weekend.

Have not managed to score a working hot air reflow unit. I've bought and been unable to get acceptable results with several used ones.

I do reflow with a modified toaster oven (from ControLeo2 kickstarter kit) - very worthwhile.


it sounds like you already have some useful kit.

The testgear you need depends on your application. Do you need precision voltage to 10ppm? Or frequency to 0.01ppm? Or spectrum to xGHz ? or complex imdedance to yGHZ? or many channel complex digital waveforms?
or......... fill in your requirements. And empty your bank account - as appropriate!

Generally the higher the accuracy and frequency, the more expensive it gets. One old trick I found as a one-man band designer was to try and get the client to foot part of the bill - it sometimes worked!



Bench supply with analog meters (digital readout is hopeless for a testing supply - by the
time the display stabilizes you realize its way larger than you expect - a moving needle gives
immediate and intuitive feedback).

Cheap/cheerful rebadged Rigol 'scope (used to use a home-built analog oscilloscope I made
from a published design decades ago)


A spectrum analyzer would be nice, but the cost and the space is not encouraging!

maybe not a 10Ghz unit, but more than the 100Mhz I have now.

A Tek MSO4104 is a 1 GHz scope , but at $23,000, it's a little pricey. (we have one at work)

Maybe a MSO3054 ?



DrAzzy- For scrapping, I use a heat gun that came with attachments for scraping paint. I imagine it's up in the 1200W area on high. I use it on the backside of the board and hold the board in a vise, while I use my free hand and tweezers to pluck chips. It doesn't work too well for assembly though...it just blows stuff away. As for the auto sleep, sure. My hot air unit sleeps when I put it in the cradle and comes back to temp pretty quick as soon as I pick it up, and a DRO is a nice feature too.

I don't use my scope daily either, or even weekly for that matter, but it is nice having around. I'm sure I will come across a deal on a digital unit and add it to the collection too, just not the $23k for the Tek 1Ghz. Maybe in 10 years when it's "old tec" only worth $300

I managed to score a HP 3326 dual channel synthesizer, HP 54620 16ch logic analyzer, and a HP 16500 logic analyzer mainframe for $200. I really have no use for the mainframe unit, which needs a boot disc and hookup cables, so I'm likely to scrap it. Still, the other 2 pieces are nice, albeit a bit bulky for the sythesizer. I'm going to run out of room if I get too many things that size.

What I really need to find is a decent magnifier visor. Working with the small smd's has the problem of getting my face to close to the solder iron trying to make sure the part is where I want it to be.

" A vacuum tool might prove handy for chips if anyone has a suggestion as well."

I made one of these, used epoxy as the sealant.


Just got this a while back, would not be without it now.


Would love to have one of those microscopes - when I was a kid, every thing was vacuum tubes and large components. As I got older, things got smaller and the eyes got older. Now, I am 66 and we are working with SMD stuff - this is going the wrong way !! Can't see what I am working on these days - more frustrating than the old mica capacitors that had one of about a dozen different color codes on them - you figure out which one applies to the part in your hand ! One thing I did buy a while back just to check my cheap meters etc. was a (relatively) precision voltage reference .... I got the "DMMCheck" from http://www.voltagestandard.com/


" A vacuum tool might prove handy for chips if anyone has a suggestion as well."

I made one of these, used epoxy as the sealant.
DIY Manual SMD Vacuum Pick And Place Tool - YouTube


Hmmm, that looks like a project for tomorrow. I think I still have a few needles around somewhere from my brother (diabetic) I use for precision oiling of stuff. Just need to dull it up a bit so I don't stab myself.

The 1206's are not such a problem as the 0402s. Hope I don't just suck em up.

That stereo magnifier looks awesome. I'm going to think real hard about adding something like that to the desktop. (space is at a premium). I would have to get used to moving the piece instead of my head to change views, unless I could mount it to my head.......

I have placed the microscope on the far right side of the bench.
I then swing the boom At 90 degrees when not in use, back again when i need it.
Soldering has never been easier.

Got one of these for illumination.


BTW microscope and base is 65 pounds.


Made this for project development.

Put all your I/O in one place - General Electronics - Arduino Forum;


Mikey, I know what you're saying. You might have a few years on me, but I still learned more about tubes than about digital in the Navy.

I did the reference voltage thing already, but I ordered the chip and did my own board and circuit. It was pretty straight forward and I went with a 5V reference at +/- .025% max (125mV).

It is funny how with 3 different VOMs, you get 3 different readings. The only one to read it at 5v was my old radioshack unit (not the cheap one). That thing has to be 20yrs old now, calibration sticker faded out, but still working good.

Larry, guess I won't be strapping it to my head...

Nice development board. I've thought about doing something like that (not so extensive) with a Feather 32u4. I seem to have gotten a collection of 5v mini's, mega's, uno's, and 3/5v trinkets. Add in the pi's and I should be able to all sorts of things when I retire..

How things go together.


Larry, What is the bubble licious? I tried a search and all I got was 1000 different result for marijuana. ??? Got a kick out of that

Isn't the internet great!

Member Crossroads offers/offered this 8 digit LED 7segment display SPI board.
I use them to display messages sent from the Arduino.



Here is a logic probe I used one in:


This is a inexpensive hot air rework unit. $68.00USD