How to equip your EE lab Kinda like a very expensive todo list

This is a basis for how one may go about setting up an electronics workbench in a company or well-equipped home shop. Tools are divided up by type and are categorized by importance and possibly even quality.

Pretty much essential
Very useful
Perhaps useful

In general, I decided to go with Jameco & Digikey as suppliers. Suggestions for other reputable distributors are appreicated.

Nota Bene: this is a medium to high-end set of tools, cheaper ones may work just as well for beginners. The list is more meant to be a reference point for a laboratory used by multiple people on a day-to-day basis.

Froogle/Ebay is your friend, I bought my Metcal MX500 for $200 on eBay and it works great.


If you're just starting out, I have collected selected tools into 'kits' that you can buy complete from Electronics Express

Check out the lists here

Hand tools

These are the day to day tools necessary.

Tool Image Description Manufacturer & Part # Price Notes
Shear cutters Cooper Tools "Xcelite" 170M

Elexp 0602MS01

Essential, and get a nice one, they are extremely useful!
Wire Cutters/Strippers 20-30AWG HT5023

Elexp 0602HT5023 $7.95

20-30AWG is the most common gauge range used for hobbyists
ESD-safe tweezers

GCP-018 (OK-quality)
Wiha #44501 (hi-quality)

Elexp 0604SSSA $2.25

Digikey $13.68

If you're doing a lot of surface mount soldering
Needlenose pliers


Elexp 060210 $1.75

Useful for basic assembly of all kinds, any pair is OK so get the cheapest available
High quality precision screwdriver set Wiha #26190

Digikey $24.48

All-Spec ($16.55)

For disassembling & reassembling electronics. I wouldnt get a cheap set, they're not nearly as useful
  High quality torx screwdriver set   Digikey Eventually, you'll need to open weird stuff

G/S GMC160 (for example, economy dial)
Mitutoyo Digimatic #500-196-20 (extremely nice)

Jameco $29.95
McMaster-Carr ($100)
For basic/precision measurements. 6" steel jaw is good. Dial calipers are better than nothing but eventually you'll want to upgrade to digital. Unless you are doing 1mil precision work, a $20 pair will be just fine
  Tin snips "Generic" McMaster #3585A12 ($13) Great for cutting boxes, plastic, PCBs, etc.
Universal Crimp tool Molex #63811-1000 Jameco $42.99 If you're making any sort of connectors/cables
IC chip extractor HT103A Jameco $1.49 An extremely poor device, requires dexterity. I would just use a "chip lifter" or a small flat screwdriver.
Nibbler / Nibbling tool HT-204

Jameco $7.95

Used for cutting square holes in plastic/aluminium enclosures.





Soldering tools

Tools required for soldering. Of the three soldering irons available, only one is necessary, and then upgrade as desired

"25W adjustable" soldering iron (marginal quality)

Xyltronics SUPERPASE 258VL

Elexp 0605258
Elexp 060842 $3.95

Doesn't come with stand

Adjustable 50W soldering iron (Good quality)

Weller WES51 (digital version is WESD51) or WES50 (older version)

All-Spec $93

Elexp 0603WES51 $99.50

Good for most larger surface mount & all thru-hole. You can upgrade to a smaller tip for finer pitched SMT.
Inductive heating, quick-change tips. (Highest quality) Metcal MX-500S

Wassco $485

For intense surface mount and rework. Quick-change tips are awesome and make working on mixed SMT/thruhole a lot faster. A dream!
Inductive heating, quick-change tips. (Highest quality) Metcal SP-200 HMC $285 A possible alternative to the MX-500?
60/40 Lead Solder, rosin core .031” 1/2-1 lb Kester 60/40 1lb Elexp 060701 $2.75 For general purpose thru-hole, wiring, repair, large surfacemount

60/40 Lead Solder, rosin core .062" 1lb


63/37 Lead Solder, rosin core, .025" 1/2 lb

Kester 24-6040-0061


Kester 23-6337-0007

Digikey $13.75


Digikey $18.05

For mechanical connections


fine SMT work

Solder sucker / Desolder pump Generic Elexp 060820 $2 Extremely useful for when you make mistakes or bridge pins!
Desoldering Braid, thick Techspray 1816-5F Jameco $2.39 General Purpose
Desoldering Braid, thin Techspray 1814-5F Jameco $2.29 In addition to thicker braid, this is good for SMT
Tip tinner Kester 83-4000-4010 Elexp 0603TTLF $4.50 Keeps soldering tips in good condition
Solder roll holder 8PK-033ST Jameco $8.95

Convenient, but not essential




Bench Tools

Non-hand tools.

"Third hand" tool   Elexp 060834 $2.95 For making cables, some repairs

Small circuit board holder

Panavise Jr. 201 Elexp 03PV201 $19.95 Good for small circuit boards
Large circuit board holder Panavise 324 or similar Elexp 03PV324 $68.95 Good for larger boards. Comes with solder spool holder and iron holder.
Magnifying 22W work lamp GC Electronics Unicorn Electronics $49.95  

Heat Shrink Gun

+ attachment



Jameco $39.95

Jameco $1.95

PCB Shear (low quality)   Harbor Freight $125 For cutting panelized PCBs. Paper phenolic boards (home etching) can be cut with a good papercutter. FR4 (commercial) need a real shear
PCB Shear (high quality) T-Tech OA-Shear T-Tech $545 A real shear! Probably overkill
Other tools

Assorted other things you'll want around

Alligator Clips GAL01 Jameco $4.95  
Test clips SF-207A Jameco $11.49  
Banana to test clips 3782-36-02 Jameco $7.95  
Solid 22ga wire 100' Red, Black & Green (or other 3rd color)
Consolidated Wire 9313-2, 9313-0 and 9313-5
Jameco $5.49 each
Get more colors as needed
10' .12” heatshrink
10' .24” heatshrink
10' .43” heatshrink

KSS 0927F32-3
KSS 0927F32-6
KSS 0927F32-11

Jameco $1.19
Jameco $1.71
Jameco $2.90
Get different sizes depending on what you need
Benchtop Tools

The expensive electronic bench-top tools

LCR Meter B&K Precision 875B Digikey $190 If you're doing any analog work, this is essential
  Portable, color LCD, 4-channel oscilloscope (high quality) Tektronix TDS2014 $2000 100MHz, 4 channels. Tektronix makes high quality affordable scopes.
  Portable, b&w LCD, 2-channel oscilloscope (very good quality) TDS1002 $850

40MHz, 2 channel

May 17, 2011 20:07