Q: Is circuit construction dangerous?
A: Any practical activity involves some risk but it is intended that completion of a project should be both challenging and enjoyable. If you Think SAFETY and Act SAFELY then risk will be minimised. Please ensure you familiarise yourself with the procedures on the Safety page. A Safety Guidance sheet is included with each kit.
an example of the track side of a complex printed circuit board
Printed circuit boards are often beautiful to look at but their design and construction adds another layer of complexity and expense for the beginner. Schools and other institutions often have access to computer software for designing printed circuit boards and the necessary hardware for producing them. The home constructor is unlikely to want the expense of such items . . . at least in the beginning!
Q: How do I identify different sizes of resistor?
A: Resistors are used to reduce the amount of current in different parts of a circuit. The size of the resistance is indicated by bands of different colours printed on the resistor as shown below:
Q: What sort of soldering iron should I use?
A: A low power soldering iron such as 15 watt, 18 watt or 25 watt should be fine. The tip on the soldering iron needs to be about 2-3 mm in diameter. If the tip of the soldering iron is too large you might find it difficult to use accurately with track board where the components are often close together. If the power rating of the soldering iron is greater than 25 watt you might find that the excess heat destroys the electrical components and your project will never work!
Several colour codes are in use. One of the popular codes is given below. Three bands indicate the size of the resistor and the fourth band, the tolerance band, indicates the precision to which the resistor has been made.
Always position the tolerance band on the right-hand side when trying to identify a resistor. There is usually a small gap between the first three bands and the tolerance band.
|Colour||1st Band||2nd Band|
For the first example, above left, the red, red, orange bands indicate 2 2 x 1,000 = 22,000 ohms or 22k for short. The tolerance band is 5% and 5% of 22,000 ohms is 1,100 ohms.
So, the actual resistance lies between 20,900 ohms and 23,100 ohms.
For the second example, above right, the yellow, violet, brown bands indicate 4 7 x 10 = 470 ohms.
The tolerance band is 5% and 5% of 470 ohms is 23.5 ohms.
So, the actual resistance lies between 446.5 ohms and 493.5 ohms.
Handy, laminated reference cards describing the resistor colour code are available on the Shop page.
Q: How do I solder?
A: Carefully! Serious burns can be caused by hot solder and by touching the metal part of a hot soldering iron. The aim of soldering is to melt just enough solder to make a good electrical connection between two wires or between a component lead and a copper track. If too much solder is used it could splash across the copper tracks and make unintended connections with other parts of the circuit. If you solder a component in the wrong position, your circuit might never work. So, always read the instructions very carefully - desoldering can be tricky!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can I buy a construction kit from Irby Electronics?
I also sell the kits at craft fairs and markets in the Merseyside area. Irby Electronics has Google Plus and Facebook pages where notices about forthcoming events are published. Please come along and say hello at my next event - it is always much better seeing the working kits in real-life rather than on a screen.
Q: Which tools do I need to make a project?
A: It depends on the project you want to make!
Projects 1-6, 14 and 15 are made on foam board and need the use of:
Soldering isn't essential for Projects 1-6, 14 and 15 and these projects have been made successfully without soldering. However, a soldered joint is usually better than a joint where the wires have just been twisted together and then squeezed tightly with pliers.
Soldering is essential for Projects 7-13 since they are constructed on track board. The components are pushed through the holes on one side of the track board and then soldered to the copper tracks.
Q: Who are the project kits designed for?
A: The project kits are designed for completion by someone with little or no experience of electronics and soldering. Each kit contains small parts and they are not suitable for children under 8 years of age. Adult supervision of children aged 8 years or above is recommended.
close-up of a 22,000 ohm resistor
close-up of a 470 ohm resistor
Q: Why is track board used instead of using printed circuit boards?
A: Using track board is a relatively inexpensive way of entering into the world of electronic circuit construction. In addition, it is often easy to see how the layout of components on the track board relates to the circuit diagram. As knowledge and experience grow, a home experimenter might be tempted to try making additional circuitry if they have some idea about how a new circuit could be arranged on track board.
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