Your favorite DIY trick

Discussion in 'DIY' started by birchoak, Jun 14, 2018.

  1. birchoak

    birchoak Hi-Fi Nut Subscriber

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    I am no tech but I do love working on vintage hi-fi. The more we do something, the more we alter our tools/work environment (I do, anyway). I thought I'd share a few things I do, with the caveat that I am not a trained tech and do not pretend to be. Use my ideas at your own risk.

    Firstly, to help dig old crud off the backs of PCB boards I sharpen the end of my wooden artist's brush in a regular pencil sharpener. I figure the wood is pretty soft, I can get a nice, sharp tip to get in between narrow joints, and it can be re-sharpened as needed. I also use that tip to apply dabs of flux to solder joints. In a pinch, I can whittle the tip a bit and use it as a non-conductive trimmer tool (after sharpening it again to get flux off--make sure it's dry, of course). I seem to always have the artist's brush nearby to rinse solder joints with acetone, so it made sense to me to do something with the other end of it.

    Don't want to take that board out to work on (because there are 32 tension-wrap connections on it) it but fret about the mess? Get it as far out of the chassis as you safely can without stressing any wires/connections/etc., zip-tie it to something on the chassis so it doesn't try to slip out of position, and put clean shop towels under it. If you're spraying cleaner, etc. on the board, change out the towels as they get wet--don't leave a saturated towel in place.

    Work area: man, it took me a while to upgrade this. I now work on a 4x8' sheet of 3/4" melamine, with a 4x4 screwed to the top of the back edge so nothing can skid off. Plenty of LED shop lights. If I lay an old bath mat down first (a pretty big one), the receiver is well cushioned and if a part jumps it doesn't seem to travel far. I can spray cleaners, etc. and the bath mat absorbs it. In a pinch, I can jot notes directly on the melamine and clean it off later.

    Really, really dirty pcb boards? Try an old electric toothbrush. You can even buy fresh heads if you're in super OCD mode. Whatever you're cleaning with, you can float the scum off with Windex, tilting the board so it runs onto your clean towel (I don't use paper towels; only 100% cotton). You can lightly "rinse" any Windex residue off with distilled water in a spray bottle, but frankly, Windex seems to leave very little trace of itself. NOTE: clean boards at your own risk! Some people will say, "For the love of God, do not touch or mess with anything that you don't have to!" and they're probably right. It's been working that way for 40 years, right? But sometimes I can't see what's what when I'm resoldering because the board is so unbelievably dirty with old flux, grease, dust, etc. that I just go ahead and clean it, knowing that I could also ruin the board if I'm not careful.

    Do you have any tricks to share? Horrified at anything I've suggested? Chime in/scold away as needed! We're all here to learn and share.
     

     

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  2. birchoak

    birchoak Hi-Fi Nut Subscriber

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    Ah, c'mon, people! We're supposed to share cool secrets and tips here, veritable Knights of the Resistance. I have to say, until EchoWars mentioned those Pomona mini-grabber multimeter leads I never knew they existed and destroyed at least one receiver when a lead slipped. His post about fixing audio gear is solid gold and mine is, well, probably soft lead, but never mind that. Maybe you think your hack isn't that amazing, but I'd like to hear it anyway. This is what I do with much of my free time and, obviously, I enjoy discussing it with like minds. Wait a minute, am I accidentally in the Frilly Lingerie Chat Room? No? Phew. So, yeah, please share your solder station hacks so I don't feel like a complete fool here.
     
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  3. 4-2-7

    4-2-7 Smart Ass Sponsor Subscriber

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  4. birchoak

    birchoak Hi-Fi Nut Subscriber

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    Awesome post, 4-2-7. Thank you for sharing your wealth! All of my speakers have real wood so I may need the Oxalic acid trick. Oxalic acid will also clean stains on stainless steel, a trick the Simpson Strong Tie rep showed me last month.
     
  5. gort69

    gort69 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    "Helping Hands" for holding a small part to unsolder clipped wires. If it doesn't work out, you smash the part to bits with the rubber hammer.

    P4180494.JPG
     
  6. birchoak

    birchoak Hi-Fi Nut Subscriber

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    Love it! Are you a carpenter, too? I never thought of that and the damned clamps are five feet away from the electronics bench.
     

     

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  7. birchoak

    birchoak Hi-Fi Nut Subscriber

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    Here's another one: I enlarged (200%) the parts list for a power amp, printed it using poster size setting on printer. I had sort of a puzzle when I was done and had to do some edge trimming, but once it was taped up I could read the damned thing and had plenty of room for notes.
     
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  8. avionic

    avionic " Black Knights " Subscriber

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    Don't solder in your underwear.:biggrin:
     
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  9. House de Kris

    House de Kris Loud-n-Deep

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    I can't think of any hints right off the bat. But your hints remind me of some hints I can share. I take a picture of a unit before I start removing screws and other parts in the hope that it will help me put it all back together to look like it did originally without any extra parts left over. Also, if you really want to clean up a circuit board, I can recommend a fluid we used to call "EX147" as being a really great cutter of all things gunk-ish. I did a search on EX147, and it appears to be Hydroxylammonium nitrate, or H4N2O4. Don't get it on your skin or breath it. Used to fill a vapor bath with it. Boards come out clean as a whistle, however clean that is.
     
  10. soundmotor

    soundmotor super modified Subscriber

    My favorite DIY trick? That's easy! I have a good friend that repaired A/V gear for a living years back. I take gear I'm stuck on over to him then buy him lunch after.

    /works every time...
     
  11. robgmn

    robgmn Super Member

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    I've posted this before, but in the spirit of the thread:

    For the ever-disappearing spray tubes on aerosol cans, I tape a short section of surgical tubing to the side of the can with a slight bend to it. Slide the tube in the tubing, and the bend in the silicone "grabs" it so it's there the next time you need to use it.

    I do the same with my flux jar (in which the internal brush broke off the cap years ago), but I made a "pointy stick" out of a cotton swab with the cotton stripped off.
    Speaking of cotton swabs, my wife works in a hospital and always ends up with a few of those extra-long specimen swabs in her pocket. They can't get returned to the box, so she saves them for me.

    "Where the eff did THAT piece belong?!?!"
    Going to back to my days as a mechanic where I would diagram where certain bolts came from (think transmission housing with seven bolts of which only two may be the same length), I do the same with electronics. Sometimes I'll just take a few good pictures in case a mystery crops up down the road.
     
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  12. EngineerNate

    EngineerNate AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Bamboo skewers are great for putting pressure on the legs of through hole components you're desoldering once you've sucked the majority of the solder out.

    Wrapping a piece of paper towel around the end of said skewer and dipping in alcohol makes a decent facsimile of a very long q-tip.

    They're also great gentle scrapers when you have glue or other reside you want to scrape off without digging into the surface of a circuit board.
     
  13. shelly_d

    shelly_d Not An Audiophool

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    Using tape to hold the screw to screwdriver or nut to nut driver when you cannot actually get your hands in place.

    Push the screw through the tape with the sticky side facing towards the shaft of the screwdriver. Fit the screw onto the end of the screwdriver then fold the tape up onto the shaft. Feed that into the hole and get the screw started and firmly in the threads but NOT tight. gently pull the screwderiver off the screw, if you have the room, rock it off to the side as you do so. Tape should pull off the screw. If it stays on, use needle nose pliers to retrieve it. Remove the tape from the screwdriver and then seat the screw. Works especially well in Microwave ovens where existing magnets make magnetic screwdrivers worthless.

    Shelly_D
     
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  14. Descartridge

    Descartridge "I hear, therefore I am" Subscriber

    The knot is hot
    For simple speaker wire polarity identification, I tie a knot into the positive side.
     
  15. kaplang

    kaplang Works for me ! Subscriber

    Here is something I’ve used a lot and it has helped me avoid crawling around on the floor looking for something small I dropped.
    Don’t try to catch it. Watch where it goes instead. If you miss the catch you’ll lose it. If you watch were it goes you can pick it up. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s saved me many times.
     
  16. kaplang

    kaplang Works for me ! Subscriber

    Doesn’t that slow down the electrons for that wire and take the music out of sync?:rflmao:

    Good idea, Actually, I do that exact thing.
     
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  17. smurfer77

    smurfer77 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    come on mate we all do it and have the scars to prove it :)
     
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  18. petehall347

    petehall347 the brandy coffee man Subscriber

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    i do that with 12v stuff..
     
  19. shelly_d

    shelly_d Not An Audiophool

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    :thumbsdown: Nope, not all of us. My solder work work was long ago banished to the patio. No underwear work for me.
     
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  20. OMGCat!

    OMGCat! AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Not my trick but I use it, mark all caps with a dot or line facing the front of the unit. That way if you pull a cap and can't remember which way it went you've got the old one marked to use as reference.
    Also pictures. Lots of pictures. What color screws went where, leg orientation of transistors you're pulling out, wire harness routing, everything basically. You can never have too many before pictures.
     

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