Find all your DIY electronics in the MakerShed. 3D Printing, Kits, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Books & more!

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.

SMD-1206fingertip2cropped.jpg
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!

Collin Cunningham

Born, drew a lot, made video, made music on 4-track, then computer, more songwriting, met future wife, went to art school for video major, made websites, toured in a band, worked as web media tech, discovered electronics, taught myself electronics, blogged about DIY electronics, made web videos about electronics and made music for them … and I still do!


Related

Comments

  1. Nate says:

    I love your videos, Collin!

    I’ve been wanting to get into SMD stuff for a while, but the gentle coaxing of my local hackerspace (HeatSync FTW!) and your video, I’m convinced that I can tackle it :)

    Thanks for the great, down to earth tutorials!

  2. KC8RWR says:

    Nice video! Makes me want to try SMT.

    What I don’t understand though is why Jameco would sponsor the video and then not make the kit easy to find on their site? Did someone say hey, let’s invest in advertising… and then later remember oh yah, almost forgot, we don’t want any customers?!

    It’s not found by typing the name or product number and it’s not in the educational kit section of their site. You’d think after sponsoring a video it would be on the front page for a while! Maybe this is how Jameco handles sold out products… complete delisting.

    1. mtgeekman says:

      It looks like the item number in the video is incorrect

      but towards the end of the blog entry that is a link to the kit which works fine.

      the correct Item number should be 2124197 not 2121497

      1. Gareth Branwyn says:

        Thanks for pointing this out. We’re making the fix now.

  3. theophrastus says:

    Your instructional videos are simply the best thing going for us electronics hobbyists. And I’ve always loved Mims handbooks done for radio-shack; but they’re getting a little old now. Is there any chance that Jameco or O’Reilly would produce an aggregate all your videos (with outtakes!), ideally with a book accompaniment? I’d buy it in a second.

    Thank you Sir!

  4. neilrqm says:

    I use my fingernail to hold the parts down (fingernail material is quite thermally resistant). This is easy to do if you use a flux pen to prepare the surfaces instead of relying on the flux in the solder. With flux from the pen applied to the surfaces, I collect a small bead of solder on the iron tip and briefly touch the bead to the surfaces to join them. That way I don’t need an extra hand to hold the solder, and I can get just the right amount of solder on the iron’s tip before applying it to the circuit. Another benefit is that the components don’t get heated up as much: the tip is in contact with a surface for just a second, and the iron’s temperature doesn’t need to be set as high as it does for regular soldering.

  5. TotalMonkey says:

    It *almost* makes me want to do SMD projects, if I weren’t bad enough already at through-hole soldering. You make it look easy, though.

    1. Collin Cunningham says:

      Well, editing certainly makes things look easier ;)

      I definitely took my time assembling the board, as it was my first foray into SMD. But patience is def a key element with thru-hole as well.

  6. spokehedz.clavid.com says:

    I realize the video is already done, but when holding down chips you should try to use flux as it can be cleaned with alcohol or water.

    Paste flux is thick enough that it will hold down chips easily.

  7. John says:

    Check out the SMT videos as curiousinventor.com -that’s how I learned to do it.

    They recommend fluxing the pads first and then “tack soldering” the chip with a well tinned iron tip. It works a treat. No putty was needed. My last project was all SMT and I’m never going back to through hole. There is just something so cool about making really, really tiny circuits.

    1. neilrqm says:

      Yeah, and SMT makes life way easier when you’re etching your own circuit boards and can’t plate the through holes. I have surface mounted through-hole parts for that reason, for example:

      http://nrqm.pbworks.com/Guitar-Tuner

  8. Collin Cunningham says:

    Yah – using flux just makes sense. I’ll pick up a pen or paste variety before my next surface mount mission.

    Psyched to hear folks are finding this series helpful. I’ll be rolling out more vids quite soon!

    1. robodude666 says:

      The series has definitely been a help!

      I have been doing hobby electronics for a number of years but have always stuck with solderless breadboards. Only a couple weeks ago did I soldered up my first prototype board. It looked horrible, but I was proud of it nonetheless.

      I’ve always wanted to make my own PCBs, do SMD work, and the rest of this fun stuff. The series has helped show it’s not as scary as it may seem. I can now see myself doing custom PCBs and SMD work in the future.

      Thanks!

  9. Howard says:

    Don’t know if you are still looking at these comments, but I’m having a problem with getting my kit to work. All I hear from the speaker is a sound like clicking or a Geiger Counter. I was surprised that it wasn’t that difficult to solder the small parts after a little practice, though.

In the Maker Shed