Machine pin headers make for easy chip sockets

Machine pin headers make for easy chip sockets


Fresh out of 8-pin DIP sockets, I broke off a couple rows of female machine pin headers as a substitute – using the chip itself to align the pins for soldering. That was about a month ago, and I’ve continued using them ever since. Though it seemed a bit ‘kludgey’ at first, this process has proven a lot easier than trying to keep a variety of socket sizes at the ready. As always, your mileage may vary.

16 thoughts on “Machine pin headers make for easy chip sockets

  1. Sam Littlewood says:

    I though everyone did this! – no need for a drawer full of different sockets.

    One tip – make up some jigs with perf. board and pin headers
    for common footprints to hold them in place while you solder.
    You only need 4 pins – one at each corner.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Been there, done that, back to sockets. Why?

      1. sockets are usually somewhat lower profile (YMMV). Total lead length is therefore smaller, thus so is their self-inductance.

      2. Pin-headers will tend to bend sideways over time, if there’s a lot of extraction and insertion.

      3. It is easier to extract ICs from sockets (using a flat screwdriver) then to extract them from makeshift pin-header assembly.

      On the plus side, pin headers are slightly easier to desolder/remove from the perforated board then the sockets.

      However, if you persist in using headers:

      In my experience, the pins are best aligned by using … sockets! DIP ICs come with leads spreading outwards and using them for alignment will give you crooked header sockets. One socket of each DIP footprint will suffice, because you won’t spend them, they are just templates.

      Optionally, use hot glue gun to fill space between lines with molten plastic and connect them structurally. Be careful to keep the plastic out of pin receptacle holes. In fact, using hot glue (or molten candle wax) is recommended for any assembly on single side PCBs, because solder is fragile and over time even small vibrations will cause solder points to deteriorate. Dual side PCB holes have tiny copper cylinders inside, and after soldering component pins are immersed in tin all the way side to side, providing much firmer grip.

      1. Anonymous says:

        “One socket of each DIP footprint will suffice, because you won’t spend them, they are just templates.”
        No need for that. What you need is a single socket per DIP footprint *width*, the smallest pin count for each width.

  2. KC8RWR says:

    The one problem I see with this is that you are using the chip to keep the headers lined up. That was one of the advantages of using a socket as opposed to just soldering the chip in directly, not heating the chip with the soldering iron.

    A solution might be to keep a dead (or at least cheap) chip around for each number of pins. You can use that for alignment while soldering then swap it w/ the real one after it cools.

    1. Collin Cunningham says:

      Actually, that’s exactly what I began doing recently. This little guy does the honors of alligning each row –

  3. Chris W says:

    I have seen headers used as IC sockets in production boards. I think they are called machined pins (as opposed to stamped pins). Machined are better, stamped are cheaper. Both kinds would likely work, but years ago I spent many hours replacing 16K memory chip sockets which had gone flaky. With really bad sockets I have seen the chips fall out over time even though the chassis was rack mounted.

  4. Tom Blough says:

    Using turned pin sockets also helps when making double sided boards at home. You can easily solder both sides of the socket thus reducing the number of vias and jumpers you have to place and solder.

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