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Good tools for the shop

6/13/2004 5:25 PM
Good tools for the shop
I am getting excited about building/fixing amps and I am planning to buy a few tools and would appreciate some opinions. What should I look for in an ocilloscope, I have used them in the past and have one at work, but have used for non-audio applications. I see on ebay thay are quite inexpensive. I would also need a separate function generator. Then a soldering iron with a controller. Anything other tools that people find useful?  
6/13/2004 2:59 PM
Wild Bill

Ted, I've never had a need for a function generator with amp servicing. R G Keen has a nice little signal generator/oscillator schematic that's cheap and simple that I use a lot. It puts out a 1 khz sig at 10mv, 100mv and 1v.  
As for a 'scope, you can snag some real bargains when you only want to use it for audio. 10 mhz or even 5mhz bandwidth is more than enough Modern 'scopes are always much higher than this. There are lots of tube units on Ebay in this range that are going cheap.  
What IS important is that you absolutely must have a calibrated 'scope! You'll probably run across some cheap Eico or Heathkit that has a single input with a gain pot. Don't bother - look for something with a scale switch on the input that will dial down to less than 50 mv/div. If you can get one that goes down to 10 mv you can read a guitar pickup directly.  
Make sure you have reasonably good probes with it, too.  
The reason you want a calibrated 'scope is that you can then measure the input and output of a stage and directly calculate the voltage gain. The actual value may not be that critical but at least you'll know if the stage is doing as much of the job as it should. With no calibration you'll notice gain but have no idea how much.  
With a good 'scope you can also read voltage, both AC and DC!  
That and a good DMM are mostly all I ever use. I have a 40 watt iron/desoldering station for pcb work but with point to point I do everything with a 40 year old Weller 100/120 watt gun I've had since I was a lad.  
For mechanical tools I use an assortment of cutters, pliers and drivers. Nutdrivers are invaluable - especially for mounting input jacks.  
For chassis work I get a lot of use out of a nibbler. You'll find them in any disti catalogue like Digikey or Mouser, I'm sure. Great for mounting those computer power sockets or square switches.  
Thanks to twist-off caps I don't need a bottle opener anymore... :)  
---Wild Bill
6/13/2004 5:52 PM
Bruce /Mission Amps

My opinion of must have tools:  
1.) Good digital volt-ohm-amp meter  
2.) 30-45w solder pencil  
3.) Solder sucker and wick  
4.) Cheap signal generator ... ANY kind.  
5.) Half way decent O'scope with min of 50mv@500KHZ  
6.} Assorted screwdrivers  
7.) Full set of nut drivers  
9.) 1/4 socket wrench set with 3/8" to 9/16"  
8.) Assortment of small to medium needle nose pliers  
9.) Wire nippers  
10.) Mini bar along side the bench for a nip here and there.  
6/13/2004 6:23 PM
Eric H

One of the most useful things I found in my first and only build at this point was a physician's surgical clamp (I am not a doctor but my neighbor was a dentist and he was cleaning out his basement and I wound up with a bunch of dental tools). It is real good for latching on to things in tight places and positioning them -- where fat fingers have difficulty getting. I don't know where to get them but I am sure they can't be that difficult to come by. The other thing I found useful was a bench clamp so I could hold the eyelet board while soldering. Again, this all would be easier if you had three hands ......
6/13/2004 6:38 PM
Carl Gigun

If you're not buying a pre-drilled chassis, a drill press will be good. I've tried drilling a straight, evenly spaced row of controls with a hand drill and it's no fun. Even if you deeply center punch the locations the drill still walks a little.  
-Carl Gigun
6/13/2004 9:39 PM

Thanks for the suggestions, I decided to invest in some equipment instead of another guitar.  
I was planning to get a more modern scope like a tektronix. I am having trouble understanding a calibrated scope. Maybe the scopes I have used (all made within the last 30 years) were calibrated. I remember (vaguely) measuring bode plots for op-amps back in grad school on what I though was a regular old scope.  
I don't need a bottle opener either, just a tap handle! Two doors down the hall, Snake River Brewing's finest!  
6/13/2004 8:35 PM

I'm sure you all have one but,  
a solder sucker.  
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