Build an electronics lab for under $200

Modern technology has exceeded my wildest dreams as a teenager struggling to build an electronics lab. With an order, one can have an entire electronics lab for next to nothing.

As a teen, I paid a guy $100 for a used oscilloscope that took two adults to lift. These days, you can get a solid state one for under forty bucks. And the component tester listed below is cooler than anything I could have conceived.

So if you want to get started in electronics from scratch, here’s what I’d recommend to get started. I’m not saying this is the best way to go. A single Fluke meter would cost more than $200 but provide a lifetime of quality service. This is aimed at folks getting started on a shoestring budget.

Prices are rounded off and subject to change.

Workbench $0. You’ve already got a desk, kitchen table or something. Start there.

Lighting $8. I grabbed these LED strips and plugged them into a 12 volt power brick I had laying around. 16.4 foot LED flexible strip

Multimeter $18. This isn’t the greatest, but it gets the job done. Even includes a frequency meter! Tacklife DM02A

Soldering station $22. This is the model I’ve used for years. Works great. Stahl SSVT Soldering Station

Solder ($5). 63/37

Flux ($8). It took me far too long to realize how useful flux is in getting solder to flow onto a connection. If you shop around, be sure NOT to get anything acidic. Flux pen

Component tester $12. This completely blows my mind. Plug in nearly any component, push the button, and get a read of the pinout and operating specs. A good project might be mounting this in a nice case. Mega328 component tester

Oscilloscope $23. Not the greatest bandwidth, but for poking around in Arduino circuits and leaning it’s great. DSO 138 TFT scope

Signal generator $17. Once you start testing circuits, you’ll need to inject signals. This little generator is a good start. XR2206 Signal Generator

Power Supply $31. It’s a rite of passage for electronic experimenters to build their own power supply. A good start might be with an ATX computer supply ($21) which you can hook up to an external current limiting regulator ($7). Another good project is to replace the tiny trimmer controls on this unit with multi-turn potentiometers (2 for $3).

Grab bag of parts $20. Go to Jameco for this one. Sorting through the grab bag is a different experience every time, and an educational experience in itself. Component grab bag (but collecting and dismantling old devices will be your primary source)

Wire strippers $5. Over time you’ll want to try several and see what works for you. But this is a good start. CP-301G

Diagonal cutter $6. CHP-170

Screwdrivers $12. This kit works with lots of unusual screws that you’ll encounter in iPhones and so on. And it includes tweezers and spudger tools to get into modern devices. Pro bit driver kit

Breadboard & wires $18. This set includes lots of components that will be helpful to get you started, including a bare-bones USB power supply. Electronics Fun Kit

So this adds up to a bit over $200, but this (plus a few trips to the library) would be a great start for someone getting started in electronics. Check out the EEVblog which has a huge wealth of informational videos.

Let me know what you think!


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