Let's Make Robots!

Build a PCB and component holder

Holds your parts while you solder so they don't fall over or scoot away

Edit:  Added build photos.

After many years of chasing my parts around the bench while working on them, I finally got around to building a decent work holder.  There are a lot of commercial solutions available and I have tried some of the cheap ones but was not satisfied.  So, being cheap, I finally designed and built one I like.  So far it works well so I thought I would share in case you want to build one too.  

This is quite a simple device and pretty cheap and easy to build.  If you don't already have any of the materials you should be able to buy everything for about $10.  Build time should be around two hours.

This device will provide a steady base to hold your work. It is designed to hold a pc board in whatever orientation is best and rotate it as you work so you can place components on one side, turn it part way over so you can solder with it held still and the parts not falling out, and repeat quickly and easily to speed your work. It can also hold other work between the arms. I have several accessories planned and many ideas for more that I will post later as I make them. But it is quite useful in it's current form.

Let's build it!

Parts List: nothing real critical here, use what you can get

all parts

metal rod 1/2 inch (12 mm) by 2 or 3 feet (0.6 to 1 meter)

piece of solid wood about 6 inches (150 mm) wide by 12 to 18 inches long (300 to 450 mm) and about 1" (25mm) thick. 3/4" (18mm) that is commonly available should work with a bit of extra work as noted below. Don't use plywood if you can avoid it.

(2) 1/4"-20 by 2" ( 6mm by 50 mm) machine screws with screw heads (that take a flat screwdriver blade) with nuts

(4) #8-32 by 1 1/4" (4 mm by 30 mm) screws with wingnuts

(2) compression springs about 1/2" to 1" (12 to 25 mm) long that fit over 1/4" (6mm) screws and are fairly stiff

Drill and drill bits as needed

saw

(optional) 1/2" (12mm) wooden dowel rod about 6" (150mm) long

From the solid wood we need to make 4 pieces:  The base, the bracket, and two arms.  If your wood is 1" thick there will be no problem.  If it is only 3/4" thick the only change will be you need to glue two pieces together for the bracket to get more thickness.  Start by cutting the two arm pieces from the end of the wood.  Cut three pieces 1" long from the end.  They should end up 1" by 1" by 6".  Two of these will be the arms and the third will be used to make the bracket.  Take the two pieces for the arms and drill a hole in one end of each that is the same size as your metal rod (1/2").  Drill the hole centered on the 1" side and 3/4 inch from one end.  On the same side but 1" from the other end, drill a hole the same size (1/4") as your long screws.  Now rotate the piece 90 degrees and drill a hole halfway from the end to the edge of the first, larger, hole, using a drill bit slightly larger than your small (#8) screws(3/16" should be about right for #8 screws).  This hole will be for a screw to tighten the arm on the rod.  Then rotate it back to the original position and saw a slot from the end to the edge of the large hole.  The arms are complete.  The large hole should slide fairly smooth onto the metal rod.  A small screw goes through the small hole with a wingnut on the end.  The slot you cut allows the arm to squeeze and tighten on the metal rod to hold in place.

bracket

Now make the bracket.  Take the third piece of solid wood you cut off.  Cut a piece from that 2 1/2" long.  If your wood is only 3/4" thick cut two pieces and glue them together face to face to make it 1" by 1 1/2" by 2 1/2".   Drill a hole the same size as your metal rod (1/2") on each end, 3/4" from the end, but 90 degrees apart.  So the two holes will be at right angles to each other.  Then cut a slot on each end and drill holes for the tightening screws on each end just as you did with the arms.  The bracket will have a metal rod in each hole, holding them at right angles.  Take the four small screws and put them into the four holes drilled for them, then put a wingnut on the end of each.

Cut two pieces from the metal rod.  One piece should be about the same length as your base piece of wood (about 12") and the other should be a bit less, about 10".  You will probably want to smooth and round over the ends to get rid of burrs and sharp edges for safety and to make them slide into the arms, bracket, and base easier.

Take your base piece and drill a hole the same size as your metal rod, 1" from one long edge and centered end to end.  Don't drill all the way through.  Stop when the drill bit just starts to break through the other side.  If you are using a hand drill make it as straight as you can.  Drill another hole that is a snug fit for the wooden dowel along the same long edge but at a corner.  This will be a holder for wire and solder spools.

Assemble it.

Take the short piece of metal rod and force it into the hole in the base.  Take the bracket and slide it onto the other piece of metal rod, center it and tighten it down.  Then slide the other hole in the bracket down onto the metal rod sticking up from the base. Tighten it down near the top.  Slide the two arms onto each end of the horizontal bar and tighten them.  Take the two 1/4" screws and slide the springs onto them.  Put the screws into the holes drilled for them so the heads face each other and the spring is between the head and the arm.  Put a nut onto each screw and tighten until the spring just begins to compress.  A PC board fits nicely into the screwdriver slots in the head of the screws. The screws are free to slide in the hole and the springs put tension on the board to hold it in place. You can adjust the arms to the position you want and so that you have to press in on the springs to put the PC board in.  Now cut a short (6") piece of wooden dowel and glue it into the hole drilled for it.

Use:

in use

If you need much instruction on how to use this you probably shouldn't be holding a soldering iron :-).

The above photo shows how it should look with a board in place.  If you have questions or some things aren't clear just let me know.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find this useful.

 

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I totally need to build one! My suggestion for the dowel would be something (piece of wire  maybe?) that you could position to hold the component while the board is upside down to aid with soldering. Then you wouldn't have to get that perfect balance of almost falling out but not quite.

Been pondering the component holding issue and I have a couple ideas.  I haven't tried anything yet though.  Thanks for the kind words.

Cool.  Thanks to Birdmun, this got a mention on Hackaday:

http://hackaday.com/2013/10/27/hackaday-links-october-27-2013/

 

after completion of my amp project, i will build this one. very useful one. thank you for posting..

 

Great project bdk. There is something very satifying about building a tool that helps you build more things.

Nice build, bdk. I was actually contemplating building one of these just a week ago actually. I like how the large flat head screws spring load against the edge, and you can spin the board on that axis. I'm going to "borrow" a few of these ideas when I build mine. :P Excellent work, Hope you post your upgrades too.

And so do yours and mine!

I plan to post mods, upgrades, and accessories.  I hope others will post what they do as well, whether it be mods to this design, accessories, or completely different systems.  

Thanks for the nice words.

Like the idea of using wood and the spring loaded approach. My radio shack version with the metal alligator clips is a shorted circuit waiting to happen so I'm always leary of using it. Have to give the machine screw spring setup a try sometime. Thanks for sharing Stephen.

Not that I condone keeping the third hand (I'm going to build a PCB holder myself :P ), but I put some 3/16" (5mm) heat-shrink tubing about 5/8" (~16mm) long on my aligator clips. Insulates them from shorting and is a little grippier too.

Excellent.  I love inexpensive stuff :)

I've gotta know, is that the new scope at the top left of those pics?  I'm green.