Electronics project notes/Common terms, useful basics, soldering

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This is for beginners and very much by a beginner. It's meant to try to cover hobbyist needs, and as a starting point to find out which may be the relevant details for you, not for definitive information.

Some basics and reference: Volts, amps, energy, power · Ground · batteries · resistors · changing voltage · transistors · fuses · diodes · varistors · capacitors · inductors · transformers · baluns · amplifier notes · frequency generation · skin effect

And some more applied stuff:

IO: IO and wired communication · localish communication · wireless (ISM RF, GSM, RFID, more) · 802.11 (WiFi) · 802.15 (including zigbee)

Sensors: General sensor notes, voltage and current sensing · Knobs and dials · Pressure sensing · Temperature sensing · humidity sensing · Light sensing · Movement sensing · Capacitive sensing · Touch screen notes

Actuators: General actuator notes, circuit protection · Motors and servos · Solenoids

Some stuff I've messed with: Avrusb500v2 · GPS · Hilo GPRS · Bluetooth serial · JY-MCU · DMX · ESC/POS notes

Audio notes: basic audio hacks · microphones · amps and speakers · device voltage and impedance, audio and otherwise ·

Less sorted: Common terms, useful basics, soldering · Microcontroller and computer platforms · Arduino and AVR notes · ESP series notes · Electronics notes/Phase Locked Loop notes · mounts, chip carriers, packages, connectors · signal reflection · pulse modulation · electricity and humans · Unsorted stuff

See also Category:Electronics.

Boards and wiring


Printed circuit boards (PCBs) refer to ready-made boards.

PCBs may be two-sided, or have three (or more) layers, where sandwiched layers usually purely have copper traces that allow more complex wiring than a double-sided board could give, with almost no added space.

Such PCBs are likelier to use SMT components, partly just because holes through everything are a design problem.

You can etch your own single-sided board fairly easily, and double-sided if you're adept. For more complex designs, or batches of a few dozen or more, it may become worth it to have them produced for you, though this is not particularly economical for hobbyists.

There are some PCBs that are useful to prototyping - such as pitch conversion boards.

Breadboard, protoboard, and such

Breadboard and Protoboard can refer to most boards mentioned below - solderless breadboards, raster/strip/perfboards, and more.

These are typically THT style and have 2.54mm (0.1") pitch, which means SIP, DIP and other packages, and wires up to roughly AWG 22, are also comfortable enough to use.

Solderless breadboard

Solderless breadboards, a.k.a. plugboards, are plastic boards with rows/columns of friction locked holes, very usually at 2.54mm (0.1") pitch. The arrangement s usually to connect columns, with one or two rows above and below (most often used for Vcc+Gnd)

These have a little bit more capacitance than PCBs, stripboards, and such, but this should only bother a few high-frequency applications.

People regularly use some solid-core wires to plug around these things (even pre-cut, partly just because shops tend to sell them).

Size is referred to by the amount of connection points. Some common sizes include:

170 point is the cute tiny sort
270 point
400 point seems to be the average and common one
830 point is basically a long variant of 400 (16x5cm)
1280 point
1660 is basically two 830s under each other (16x10cm)

Back of a used stripboard, with most lanes cut into two or more parts

Stripboard (UK: Veroboard) refers to holed boards with all holes for a row (or short groups, e.g. tripad) connected using copper strips. You can cut through these strips as you need to. Whenever you can use the copper strips, this can save a bunch of wiring and mess, particularly on simpler circuits.

Maximum current varies, but never count on moving more than half an amp (the copper width is decent, but at holes it's at most half that, so current that has to go past those holes is problematic). You can cheat a little with solder, or perhaps using multiple lanes, but soldering in an appropriate-gauge wire is often a better and easier solution.

Perfboard with verowire and plastic wiring channels

Perfboard / raster boards refers either to things with holes but no copper, (probably) more commonly, to boards with individual islands of copper, mostly for ease of soldering.

Exist in a bunch of varying looks and qualities.

Adjacent islands can be connected via channels of solder, longer-distance connections can be made with wires - a wiring pen can be handy if you have one.

Can be convenient when the circuit is somewhat complex, when stripboard would mean a lot of cutting and triboard isn't so convenient either.

Wiring pens/wiring pencils , wire-wrap, and the associated wire (UK: Verowire) are often used as an easy way to add individual between soldered points, particularly on perfboard.

Wire (usually copper with a thin plastic coating to insulate against other such wires) is often quite thin overall, and only for low currents (logic paths - fine for most 12-and-fewer-volts logic).

With a steady hand and some non-conducting adhesive tape (there are some specialists tapes) this can even be used for small-pitch / SMT components - which can be nice on protoboards.

See also:

Circuit drawing, circuit simulation

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)
  • various others (TODO)

See also:

Fixing in place

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

There's always hot glue. (Though it doesn't hold on every surface.)

If you want boards to be solidly in place, not contact anything near it, but still be removable, the simplest solution may be to use one of:

  • PCB edge holder
basically thin slots you slide the PCB into.
e.g. a few plastic clips
some project boxes have these along their length (for a single breadboard size)


Soldering irons - type and power

Tip selection

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

On buying solder

Some related physics and chemistry, a.k.a. tips and tricks

Further tools


Wick / braid

On reflow soldering

See also

On (not) damaging components

Typical components

Battery packs

Boxes, safety, weatherproofing

Some safety considerations

  • Chassis grounding
    • done for fire safety, human-shock safety,
  • Pull resistant cable clamps
    • Particularly on power cables, but useful for anything that avoids pulling on something weak via something stronger
    • may also be water resistant

Splash-proof / waterproof box, and moisture resitance


Tupperware is an easy and cheap splash-proof option - and often seals fairly well, to be decent against things like dew and rain with a minimal consideration, and perhaps a little hot glue to seal the holes you make for wires.

For serious projects you can buy nice-looking boxes and may may be IP-rated, and may react to heat better than, say, tupperware.


Usually most relevant is how condensation may affect closeby conductors.

Conformal coating, potting

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

Conformal coating refers to materials that don't conduct electricitly, that protect against forms of moisture (including condensation), fungus, corrosion (from salt or other), dust, heat and such.

Frequently acrylic, urethane, silicone, epoxy, or paraxylene, each of which have some specific upsides.

Usually applied as a thin layer (sprayed, brushed, or dipped). Sometimes potting[3] is used instead (note: potting has more direct thermal implications).

Keywords that might be handy while searching:

  • electronic coating
  • protective coating
  • conformal coating
  • (weather) protection/protective lacquer
  • Various brands / product names - Kontakt chemie, Humiseal, etc.

Some common coatings:

  • acrylic
easy to apply
good against moisture and such, not so good against abrasion, some chemicals, natural solvents
  • silicone
lower dielectric value than most others
can stand more heat than some others
arguably easier to repair than various others
  • (poly)urethane
resists many chemicals well
not the healthiest to work with
  • epoxy
easy to apply (but warm)
hard to remove
resists many chemicals well
not the healthiest to work with

  • paraxylene

See also: