Building a Parts Library

Building a comprehensive component library is one of the most crucial steps to take as you delve deeper into the world of electronics. Having to order parts for each new project can be time consuming, cause delays as you wait for parts and limit your ability to experiment with different component values and test different circuit layouts to find what best suites your needs and tastes. That being said building a parts library is not something that happens over night, it is an ongoing process which will likely continue throughout your life in DIY. Today I’m going to go over a couple techniques I use to ensure my collection continues to grow. In an upcoming article I will also be going over a number of sites you can source parts from, which ones I prefer and what situations each is best for.

The First Order

The first online order you place can be a bit daunting. As you are likely new to electronics you likely won’t be familiar with all of the component types and a lot of the jargon used on supplier sites which can cause confusion. Further you probably don’t have a drawer of components  on hand in case you miss something or order the wrong piece.

The best advice I can offer here is research, If you are building a common project like an LM386 Amplifier or an Atari Punk Console (Which I highly recommend) you should be able to find comprehensive part lists and building instructions. Try looking at various sites for different interpretations of the project and compare the parts lists and instructions to make sure you have a firm grasp on what is required and have the list with you when you place the order to check against your shopping cart.

When you place your first order it’s also a good idea to order some general parts regardless of the project you are planning as they will get used and are useful to have on hand. A few things I would recommend are :

  • A range of resistors
  • A range of capacitors (both ceramic plate and electrolytic)
  • Some common Potentiometers (10 ohm, 100 ohm, 1K ohm, 100K ohm, 500K ohm and 1M ohm)
  • 555 timer chips
  • jacks (1/4″ or 3.5mm)
  • Battery Clips (9V)
  • Buttons (N.O) and SPDT switches
  • Wire (26 gauge stranded)

Two of all the Animals

The first thing I always recommend is to always buy more than you need for a project. For slightly more expensive or less common parts like Integrated Circuits or Potentiometers I typically buy double what I need and for low cost parts like resistors and caps I will buy at least 10 more than the project requires. As even the most expensive electronic components are usually only 50 cents to a dollar this should not put too much undue stress on your wallet. The reasoning behind this is twofold, first it allows you to build up your parts library quite quickly as for each part you are using you are putting at least one into your component drawer, and secondly it will safeguard you in case any of the parts are defective or in case you make an error that damages the part (which will happen).

Grab Bags

A number of mid-range and hobby suppliers (Jameco for example) will offer grab bags of bulk parts which they are trying to get rid of. These bags are typically labelled by part type (connectors, ceramic capacitors, variable resistors ect.) and will be sold fairly cheaply based either on weight or total number of components. If I have the funds available I will often throw one of these onto the end of my order to build up my supplies. Often times this is a good way to get parts you wouldn’t necessarily think to order on their own like pin connectors or tuning pots.

Salvage

Apart from being incredibly satisfying, tearing apart old or broken electronics is a great way to get parts. You can often find a wealth of valuable components in day to day electronics and especially in old audio equipment. As an added bonus taking things apart is a great way to figure out how they were put together, There is a vast amount to be learned by opening up old devices and looking at how they are built.

I plan to do a detailed tear down in the next week or two so I will not go to deeply into this subject today but I will provide a link here as soon as my tear down article is online.

Ebay

Ebay can be great or it can be terrible, always take it with a grain of salt. It can be an excellent place to get bulk parts incredibly cheap but there is no real guarantee when or if they will arrive (I’ve run into wait times of upwards of 2 months) and there is no real guarantee of  quality.

I do frequently order from Ebay but I have a number of rules I adhere to about doing so, They are as follows :

  • Only ever order from top rated sellers
  • Check seller feedback before buying
  • Never spend more than 10$ at a time (This amount can be more or less depending on your budget and what you are “willing to loose” if things don’t work out)
  • Only order one item at a time (This is more for self control, I’ve more than once started placing one dollar order after one dollar order without realizing how much cost i was racking up, its addictive)
  • If you find a reliable seller stick with them

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