Lab and Tools

An electronics laboratory needs a modest amount of tools and equipment to be effective, and then you can go crazy from there. I’ll discuss the needs and then offer a peek into my own lab and equipment.

  • A well lit space with good ventilation
  • A sturdy workbench with a durable heat resistant surface
  • Storage- shelves, bins, boxes… can’t have too much storage!
  • Hand tools – pliers, screwdrivers, small socket set, hex and torx screwdrivers… the list gets long quick!
  • Drill and bits, dremel tool with cutoff and grinding wheels
  • Soldering iron(s) – What I use: Lab: Soldering Irons
  • A magnifying glass with light ( see pic following, right side)
  • Test Instruments: at a minimum, a basic VOM or DMM meter

Here’s my shop bench, with the usual assortment of projects and floobydust on it.

2019 workbench

And my test equipment rack. I’m in the crazy electronics nut category.

Shop Equipment, 2019

My shop equipment is heavily audio oriented. The centerpiece is an Audio Precision One, which is an older but still highly useful and accurate lab grade audio generator and analyzer. This older unit may not quite keep up with the latest ultra high fidelity analog and digital designs, but it’s more than adequate for the vintage audio gear I work with. It’s residual frequency response and THD (including cabling, connectors, and the breakout box for the oscilloscope) is quite low, as illustrated here:

AP Residual THD and freq response – with test cables, jig, and scope attached.

The blue/cyan lines are deviations from a flat frequency response on a scale of +/- 0.5 dB, left axis. The red/magenta lines are the total THD %, on scale of 0.000 to 0.010 %. Per the usual tech rule of thumb, this about a magnitude better than the equipment I’m servicing or evaluating,

This is a good place to touch on an important concept: testing your test equipment. To make this photo, I plugged the output cables into my input test jig to verify all is well. Instead, I found one of my patch cords had developed a high frequency roll off error; now I have to redo my tube buffer amp research  Tube Audio Buffers. Ugh.

Along with audio amps and pre-amps, I dabble with restoring FM stereo tuners. The rack contains several of the highly specialized signal generators for both AM and FM tuners.

A more unusual tester shown here is the capacitor analyzer. When I rebuild old vacuum tube equipment, I often need to measure the leakage current at the full rated voltage. When you’re at 450 volts, a leaky capacitor can explode from the heat. buildup! I also have an in-circuit ESR tester in the box.

Under the towel is a vintage tube tester, one of several I use. These too must be rebuilt and calibration verified after 60-80 years of use.

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