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It can be really difficult to see those little components when surface mount soldering. Bring in the funny looking headgear! Some type of head-mounted magnification is a great solution, but it isn’t always the best choice. You might want to invest in a stereoscopic microscope. A microscope will give you more magnification and the ability to go from a magnified view to an unmagnified view more easily, and hands free. They’re great for checking traces, solder joints, and many other solder-related tasks. The down side is they can be very expensive, running upwards of $500 or more. The good news is they can be picked up used for very little money.

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Long story short, I picked up this beautiful stereo microscope for only $20 on eBay. Now that’s a deal! One of the nice things about this model is the ability to swing the entire head to the side, almost like a boom-style, except it’s about $1000 less. I love it! I still use my magnifying glasses headset, but having a microscope has been very useful and it didn’t break the bank.

Do you have any other great tips, finds, or stories about places to get inexpensive equipment? Share your insight with all our readers in the comments below. Thanks!