Electronics gear recommendations

Hello BLF,

While being quarantined for the last month, I have had a plenty of time to catch up with a pile of projects that I have been procrastinating about in the last couple of years. One of those was to assemble the soldering station I had received from China a while back. It is a Ksger T12 + hot air combo with oled interface, but without the case. The problem were missing headers for the handle connector and couple of solder points needed bridging. Thankfuly, I had found mysku.ru thread reviewing the same product and showing the necessary modifications and brought it to life.
Now that I have a proper temperature controlled iron, I want to purchase various supplies and tools that I may need for electronics assembly and repair, mainly flashlights, drivers, and mechanical keyboards (so smd stuff). My research led me to believe that most of this stuff from Aliexpress is either counterfeit or simply of inadequate quality, so I would like to order from Arrow.com since they are the only site of the kind offering free shipping to my country for orders over $50. Another option is Farnell.com with 15 GBP shipping, but I’d prefer Arrow since they carry $5/1kg 3D printing filament and I need some (when I mentioned projects on backburner, Voron 3D is one of them).
I have a list of things I think I need, and I would really appreciate your input and suggestions.

solder - MG Chemicals RA 63/37 0.8mm 225g $17 - 63/37 should be the easiest to work with, and 0.8mm diameter seems like a solid all-around choice
flux - MG Chemicals RA Liquid flux 835 100ml $9 - I don’t mind cleaning up with isopropyl and everybody seems to agree that RA is the easiest to work with. I will buy some sort of empty refillable marker and fill it with this stuff since flux pens are hugely overpriced.
solder wick - MG Chemicals Wick 424 1.5mm $3 - soaked with RA, I think 1.5mm width makes it versatile enough
wire - I know I need a bunch of it, all kinds - enameled, silicon, flexible, solid core, but I’m not sure what gauges to get.
wire stripper - these things, as anything made from metal as I learned, can get expensive. So I need something cheap, but reliable, for small gauges. I’m really tired of stripping wire with swiss knife as I have been doing it until now.
crimping tool - I jusy want to be able to securely crimp the most of the common connectors. 2.54 dupont stuff, jst, xt, you get the idea. Since I’m building a 3d printer, this one I really need - bunch of connectors everywhere. Crimping computer psu molex connectors could come in handy for custom cables.
cutters - Weller Xcelite products seem to be praised and are not too expensive (~$20), but have no idea what to choose. This producer was also recommended by our ttrev3 here, but his cutters are not available. (I also completely forgot about asking, sorry Everet!)
tweezers - never thought there is a science behind tweezers, but apparently there is. Wiha recommended by Everet is not available (again) and everyone else seems to be hung on Swiss vendors such as Ideal-tek, but Arrow doesn’t carry them and are quite expensive. From stuff available there, I know Knipex to be highly praised and most of their models are available at ~$15-20. But again, which to buy? Most of the recommendations (eevblog forums and similar) are based around Swiss size designations, and Knipex has their own.

As far as stuff that I’d feel comfortable buying on Aliexpress, here are some ideas:
helping hands - I will make something from coolant hoses and aligator clips. They sell them like this, but with huge markup.
silicone mat - to prevent small stuff getting lost forever on the table and the carpet, plus it is temperature resistant.
magnification - I will get a loupe and a usb microscope - I know the quality probably leaves lot to be desired, but for $16 I don’t think it can be bad. I most certainly can’t afford the real deal and after seeing similar devices in various yt videos, I’m certain it serves its purpose.
T12 tips - I already have IL, KF, B2, BC2, and D24 tips, as seen here, but maybe some other could be useful. They are Hakko clones, but currently I can’t afford anything better and I believe for the money paid (around $80 shipped), I chose a nice soldering station.

I’m sure I have missed some stuff, but this is all I have came up with.

I’d also really like to see pictures of your work environments and tools, and I believe others would, too.
Maybe this thread can even become a sort of a guide for newbies like myself when it comes to equipment.

Thanks! :beer:

I know you would prefer to stay away from AliExpress, but most of my tools come from there and because I’m very happy with them I’ll still recommend them to you :innocent: I generally don’t have high expectations, do a lot of research and look for reviews beforehand and almost every time I am impressed by the quality of the things. I do however tend to buy from official/”brand” stores, and in the case of wire or connectors from “specialized” stores.

Regarding the wire stripper and crimping tool, I’ve had really good luck with my tools from IWiss. They’re rather cheap and simple but work very good every time! See https://aliexpress.com/item/4001024855697.html and https://aliexpress.com/item/32861673742.html For really small gauges I sometimes use this (5023 no box: https://aliexpress.com/item/4000084185406.html) tool. The quality doesn’t match that of IWiss but it works when I need it. Regarding how I use them: I don’t always put, for example, my 18AWG wire in the designated hole but use the biggest size which still barely strips the wire. That way I make sure I don’t nick any strands.

I also use a crimper for wire ferrules but the original buy-link doesn’t work anymore. Maybe you can find one starting with https://aliexpress.com/item/32845981687.html I prefer the ones that crimp square because IMO with big wires these go easier in screw-connectors.

Regarding wire-gauges I ordered a few assortment boxes with different colors. So far I’m really impressed by the quality, and for sure get silicone wire! That stuff is amazing to work with and doesn’t really melt when tinning them for too long. I tend to use 24 AWG most of the time, 30 AWG for when I have to solder to small pads and 18 AWG for when I use cables that need to carry a bit more current. Recently I bough some 14 and 16 AWG wire to make my own test-leads. I also have an assortment of solid core but never use it anymore since this flexible silicone wire is such a blast to work with.

Regarding helping hands, I recently got this (N-4AB-BK9: https://aliexpress.com/item/4000001649975.html) and so far I am very happy with it. It’s from the same “brand” of my magnifying thing (see below) which I also really like. I should have bought this type of helping hands (with PCB holders as well) wayyy sooner, the crappy tiny and light helping hands I’ve used for the last 10 years or so bugged me all the time… Before I got this I wanted to buy a “Stickvise” (Stickvise PCB Vise : ID 3197 : $37.50 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits and Stickvise Part Lifter (pack of 2) : ID 4705 : $16.50 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits) but in the end I did not buy it because it’s more on the expensive side and it’s not as useful as the helping-hand-thing I got now.

Regarding a magnifying and illumination thing, a while ago I got this (N-MCS-GY + 105mm: https://aliexpress.com/item/33009383885.html) and so far I am very happy with it. The only negative thing is that, while it has different color temperatures, every time you power-cycle it it starts on the coldest temperature. Not that big a deal, I just remember that I need to press the power button once and the color selection button twice. Magnification IMO could be higher but it for sure comes in handy quite often. It also produces very even light.

For bigger magnification purposes I sometimes us a USB microscope. I ordered it quite a few years ago but it still comes in handy from time to time. Back then I ordered a version with a sturdy metal stand instead of a cheap plastic one and I’m still quite happy with my purchase. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32737282511.html

I’ve been thinking about publishing a list of all of my good/handy purchases on AliExpress (of which there are quite a lot, I’ve ranked up 40+ pages over about 5 years now :innocent: ) and I suppose now is a good time I went through all of them and started listing/grouping them here.

Power stuff

  • I recently got this charger (without the power supply) and it’s quite handy to (balance) charge all types of batteries. Normally it can be used to discharge them but it can’t dissipate much power. You can buy more advanced, higher quality and thus more expensive chargers, but this one does the job just fine. The only downsides I noticed is that it won’t recharge deeply discharged batteries and has quite a loud fan. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32847556295.html
  • 10A 60W load - “Bare-bones” but works very well, it can even do 4-wire measurements to get more precise capacity measurements. I use it all the time to test batteries (has a testing mode) or just to load certain adapters with a constant current (constant-current mode). There are also some firmware mods available to have constant-power functionality and such but I haven’t taken a shot at those. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32776310672.html
  • Portable power-supply - It has come in handy quite a few times but I managed to blow something up inside when I recharged a battery with it. They gave an external diode I should have used in-line when charging batteries but was too lazy to do so. I’ve opened it up and I think I just need to replace a SMD fuse. See https://aliexpress.com/item/1005001530484759.html
  • Highly portable USB power-supply - I’ve used the constant-current capabilities quite a few times already. Doesn’t seem to be the most efficient device but works just fine for small on-the-go tests. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4001340365089.html
  • Smaller load with less dissipation-power and also no 4-wire measurements but also sometimes handy. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32991894813.html
  • 4-wire 18650 (or smaller) battery holder - Used together with my loads and other meters. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4000606429744.html In the future I might buy a more expensive version which has an easier mechanism to change the battery-length, fits 21700 batteries and has higher current-carrying capabilities. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32845887429.html
  • If you have some old PC power-supplies laying around, a power-adapter-breakout-board like this might come in handy too. I’ve got one but haven’t really used it though… See https://aliexpress.com/item/32898325823.html

General tools and accessories

Hand-held devices

  • No-contact power-detection stick (and socket-tester). The stick has come in handy quite a few times, it’s much easier to find live wires this way instead of using a multimeter. UNI-T is also a brand of which I have quite a few instruments and I’m very happy with all of them. See https://aliexpress.com/item/33036736656.html
  • UNI-T current clamp - I bought it because it was rather cheap and has (low) DC current ranges. The interface is a bit clunky (defaults to AC volts/amps/…) but it’s possible to hack the EEPROM inside and change the default modes. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4001222938892.html
  • UNI-T no-contact temperature meter - This version shows a red laser-circle to get a better indication of where the device measures the temperature and works quite well. Haven’t used it as much as I thought I would though.(UT301C Plus: https://aliexpress.com/item/4000145101964.html)
  • Battery-powered air blower — Kind of replaces a compressor or canned air. Works very well and I use it all the time to clean my bench/parts I made. A bit on the expensive side for what it is but I think the price has gone down now. (Black air duster: https://aliexpress.com/item/4000450271819.html)
  • Generic cable-tracer - Has come in handy from time to time to check where cables run to. One end puts a “tone” on a cable, the other end receives this (or other) tones. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32960874032.html
  • I might buy this battery analyzer in the future but I’m still not sure if the high price is worth it. Seems to be one of the more decent devices and not a clone. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32949622654.html

Smaller “handworking”/marking tools

Small testers

  • This is a cheap battery tester/voltmeter but it’s more accurate than I though. I recently bought a second one. It has no internal battery and has a wide input-voltage and supports a lot of different battery-sizes (AA/AAA, 18650, …). I had the wire inside break but you can easily open it and fix it yourself. I plan to add some high-power resistors and switches inside to test batteries under load. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4000758328578.html
  • Component tester - Quite handy to quickly check the pinout of, for example, transistors. Also measures quite a few parameters (gain, threshold voltages, ESR of capacitors, forward voltage of LED’s, …) so it’s very handy in the lab. I believe there are also firmware mods for it. This link is not where I bought it from originally but the type seems to be the same https://aliexpress.com/item/32859039738.html

USB (-C) stuff (a small amount, I have bought very much cables/breakouts/… over the years :blush: )

  • Baseus 100W car charger which can boost 12V to 20V PD to charge my laptop on the road https://aliexpress.com/item/1005002552464392.html
  • Baseus 65W charger which I use literally every day since I’ve bought it. Fantastic charger, very good brand. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4000264931432.html UGreen is also a good brand for cables/adapters.
  • Witrn WEB-U2 USB-A/C tester/protocol/cable-tester/… For this one I won’t provide a link because the link where I bought it from doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a bit of a pricey device but it has a ton of useful functionality. You have to watch out to get a real version though, not a clone…
  • TC66 USB-C volt/current/powermeter. I use it at least monthly, almost weekly, to check the charging speed of my devices/flashlights. I didn’t buy the Bluetooth-enabled version because I mostly use it for quick measurements instead of logging. See https://aliexpress.com/item/32968303350.html
  • USB-C PD trigger - Can be quite handy to get a wide range of voltages out of PD-compliant chargers. The Witrn WEB-U2 and other USB-C meter in this list also have this functionality but this one has a better interface for when I just need a voltage trigger. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4001207306888.html
  • Generic USB loads - Handy from time to time to discharge powerbanks, … I haven’t bought mine through the following links but the types seem about the same. See https://aliexpress.com/item/4000026696876.html and https://aliexpress.com/item/4001265176571.html

I’m sorry it’s all AliExpress stuff (and that it’s such a long list) but I hope you still find some useful things. I haven’t even included all of the (component)-assortment boxes and such I bought over the years haha :innocent:

EDIT: oh this is quite an old post that came higher in the ranking due to a spam message, oh well…

Never mind how or why it got here, this post is great info! A fair few things here for my AliE wish list. Thank you, very much!

No worries, happy shopping :smiley: