State of the art SMD/DIY best practices

@tehn was mentioning trying this just the other day and how successful it was! Would you recommend the particular hot-air station you use? I bought the big Hakko 888(?) on ebay maybe a year ago but it’s non-functioning right now.

If you search on eBay for something like: hot air 858D, you will find the one I bought. There are several different brands, but I believe they are all the same. One caveat: some people have found that their hot air stations came incorrectly wired, so if you decide to buy one of these you should probably read the following thread carefully, and inspect your station before using it:
Mine was wired fine except for the fact that the power on/off switch was connected on the neutral line instead of the high voltage line. Other than that my hot air station actually works very well…

I can’t offer any better tips than offered already but the random source stuff would be a really great place to maybe not start - but second project…
They’re either SMD Already professionally soldered main boards and it’s an assembly job for the hardware or the pcb isn’t very populated and there’s mouser carts for them as well. They sound fucking incredible as well

That’s one thing - avoid wiring if you can. Most modules nowadays are like this but just be cautious

I have 5 Mutable Instruments Grids PCBs I can give away to regulars here who want to learn SMD soldering. It not a total beginner project, but everything is spaced out nice and doesn’t have too many components. You’ll need to source components yourself, but there are one click order Mouser carts somewhere on MW.


I’m not a total beginner but I’d be interested in one of those PCBs of you still have any…

What’s y’all’s best source for irregular lengths of case rails? Tapped for end screws preferably.

Thinking I want about 24hp; a little more or a little less is okay.

In light of the NLC comments in @trickyflemming’s sale post, I figured I should tip my hat to him, and everyone else here who helped encourage exploring DIY.

If anyone’s been on the fence–or even, like me, in the beginning, totally written it off as a possibility–let me testify that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

So not only have I successfully built over two dozen modules now–SMT and through hole, and a mix–I’ve managed to successfully modify some of those modules with alternative builds, semi-figuring it out on my own (i.e., building a second,‘fast’ NLC Sloths; a pair of NLC 32:1s normalled together; a Triad with slightly lower output voltages, and a few other things), and built my own PSUs and cases from scratch, but I finally ended up with an Ornament & Crime, which is what got me at least thinking about this stuff in the first place.

I’ve also built a few passive gate-to-trigger converters and passive fixed rate slew inverters using existing Intellijel or Doepfer mults I had. Very, very useful stuff, at least for me.

I’m breaking in to 4U/Serge related stuff now too. Next up is a second, lower range NLC Plague of Demons, his new ARSEq, and, one of the Dervish modules using the FV-1 chip. Also a few other random things, and slowly, in between these, building up a Null-A. In no hurry with that one.

Mainly this is just to thank everyone for the positive nudges and advice, and to encourage others to jump in. It’s ridiculously fun. I could never have imagined how enjoyable it is.


These days I would probably buy easily available longer rails and cut them to size (to reduce costs).
Also a long time ago I bought irregular length rails from Erthenvar, but it’s more on the expensive side (in my experience).

Edit : I just realised you needed the rails three months ago…

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Thanks anyway! :slight_smile:

I ordered a couple different batches from Erthenvar, for home brew racks/cases. Worked out nicely!

My favorite new configuration is 6U 42hp, as a kind of desktop sidecar.

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Folks who use the Sparkfun lead-free “best solder in the world”: Do you clean your PCBs after soldering to remove flux, and if so what’s your process? My old technique of IPA bath + toothbrush doesn’t work so well with the water-soluble flux, and the manufacturer recommendation for that flux appears to be water only.

shooting the discussion over here - what should through-hole folks have / know before diving into a norns DIY or fates build ?

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Wayne and Layne have some SMT practice kits and a good series of overview & tutorial articles accompanying them:

I think the biggest thing is to get a pair of tweezers you feel really comfortable with. If you get that sorted, surface mount can be much faster and more pleasant than through-hole (no lead bending, board flipping, lead clipping, etc.)


a decent iron, a steady hand, and good light :slight_smile:

For 0805 components (caps/resistors etc), I find it helps to wet (solder) one of the pads first and then place the component with tweezers while re-flowing the solder. I found this much easier than just placing the part (and then soldering both pads), or using a flux pen (which can get messy) on simple 2 leg components.

Also, I found tweezers as shown below (with flattened ends) much easier to use than fine tipped versions:

Oh, and as @galapagoose says, use leaded solder (flows a lot nicer), and just breath out/blow while soldering :+1:


Yes this is absolutely the approach I take. The last SMD board i built i solder blobbed a single pad of every resistor and cap position on the board before placing parts. Then, you just heat and move parts into place one by one, and then follow later with the other side of every part.

v in-depth and informative video. answered a lot of questions I was gonna post here

Good stuff on that channel.

I think it’s hard to give advice since technique will/may depend on your own equipment, style, etc.

Like I use a very fine point tip on my iron so I can touch individual pins on a TSSOP, but others might prefer drag soldering instead.

I did just get wise to using a solder sucker to fix big solder blobs on ICs (instead of copper braid) I think that might’ve been in an adafruit video.

Another tip

I like this no-clean liquid flux.

Then I have a small syringe with a fine flat tip and just suck up a milliliter or two at a time and squirt out a tiny bit where you need it.

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o how much do I need to think about grounding ? I don’t have a strap :0

I’ve never bothered with it. I think it really will only be an issue with real sensitive electronics like fancy micro controllers and stuff, which I haven’t messed with very much. It won’t hurt to have a strap though!

I also do all my DIY work outside on the porch right now, so my practices are probably not state of the art