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Police Automaton
Mar 17, 2009
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I'm not a fan of these digital soldering stations from china. Try to go with Ersa or Weller. Even used, relatively ancient ones you can pick up for cheap are very good and spare parts are plenty, which is often a problem with these chinese stations. They also seem to be less forgiving in general regarding wrong handling from all I have heard, although accounts vary here.

Also if you don't want your boy to hate soldering forever, don't get him lead-free soldering tin. Soldering tin containing lead is much easier to solder. Better teach him proper etiquette regarding cleaning up his work area after himself so that rests of soldering tin flying around don't become an issue. Soldering with lead-based soldering tin isn't really all that more poisonous as the lead doesn't turn into anything that's easily taken up by the body at these temperatures and with 15 he should be smart enough not to eat the soldering tin. The stuff that's harmful for human health and you have to watch out for is the flux. You might want to invest into a fume if he picks this hobby up and solders a lot, as that's the stuff that'll end up in your body, lead or no lead.

To make SMD soldering painless, just get "no clean" flux pens. Which brand they are is mostly irrelevant. Again: Always wash hands after using, this stuff is bad for your health. A good pair of ESD safe precision tweezers is a must for SMD soldering and always handy.

At this stadium, I'd skip oscilloscopes entirely as they are not strictly necessary to build small hobby circuits and not really helpful when you don't even know what you're looking for. The moment you want to have an oscilloscope in design because you have trouble with reflection, jitter and stuff, you probably need one with a relatively high bandwidth anyways and they're pricey. As a rule of thumb an oscilloscope should always have ten times the bandwidth the fastest signal you want to look at, else all you'll get to look at is malformed sinus waves. A logic analyzer might be more interesting in seeing how things work in relation to each other in existing circuits, but I'd only look into that direction when things get a little more advanced. He's not desiging for a living and the stuff we look at here can easily be designed "blindly".

Also, get a nice, manual desoldering pump preferably made of metal with exchangeable tips. That's a tool (along the soldering station) that he will have his entire life when not bought too cheaply.

EDIT: Oh, also there's really no point in buying passive components for storage, as you'll always have that one part you need and don't have. Better find a good, cheap distributor in your area and get used to the thought of ordering parts regularily (or driving to the shop, although that's getting more rare these days). Don't go to some "hobby store" or something, as they'll charge you an arm and an leg for parts that cost mere cents elsewhere. For some of the more pricey ICs, you can also often easily contact the manufacturer and they'll send you production samples at no cost, even by courier. That falls into their advertising budget and is rarely a problem. Just don't do it too often.

Police Automaton fucked around with this message at 16:38 on Mar 2, 2015

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