I’ve tried my hand at quite a few different methods for circuit building —
breadboard, perfboard, custom etching, even some boardless freeform wiring, but somehow, I never got around to using surface-mount parts (until now, that is). Understandably, many balk at the idea of soldering the infamously tiny SMD packages, but once equipped with the right tools, and a bit of patience, you too can solder your own teeny-tiny circuitry.

Subscribe to the MAKE Podcast in iTunes, download the m4v video directly, or watch it on YouTube and Vimeo.

Behold the mighty (tiny) 1206 SMD resistor – one of the larger surface mount package sizes.

As my first build in the format, I decided to go with a simple and familiar schematic — the light-sensitive oscillator (aka “phototheremin”) as originally described in Forrest Mims’ book Timer, Op Amp and Optoelectronic Circuits & Projects. Once I got the hang of securing each part in place for soldering, the rest of the process was more or less straightforward, and the circuit worked the first time I tested it.

Though I didn’t run into any major snags, I’ll likely do at least a couple things differently next time. Firstly, I used .032″ diameter solder for the build, but .015″ would have deposited an appropriately smaller amount of molten solder on each pad. Also, I would like to try using some sticky solder flux instead of adhesive gum, to keep the parts in place.

Happily, the SO-8 pattern protoboard I used was a perfect fit for this little test-build. A few of these boards, plus a variety of SMD parts and related tools, can be picked up as a bundle from Jameco. If you decide to have a go at building your own electronic tinyness, we’d love to check out the results!