Tool Kit Essential

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What soldering kit, oscilloscope, and materials should I buy?

I've taking up electronics as a hobby. I've been working with the little kids' spring-connection kits you get at Radio Shack, and I'm ready to move on to something a little more advanced.

I want to set up a little workshop at my place, and I'm interested in anyone's opinions about what soldering irons are worth owning, what tools and materials are most essential, and what else should be included in a fairly complete home electronic hobbyists kit.

If you know of particular types of multimeters, oscilloscopes, educational or hobby kits, and all-in-one tool kits, I'd love to hear about them.

Here are some general recommendations (based on my experience as a tech) of brands & models that should fit your needs. Your ultimate choice will of course depend on your budget and the level of work you expect to be doing:

*Soldering Station, temp controlled;

Best:
-------
Haako 936
Edsyn 951SX

Very Good:
----------------
Weller WESD51,WES51

OK:
-----
Xytronic Auto-Temp 379
Weller WLC100

*Oscilloscope, 35-100 Mhz, used;

Best:
-------
Tektronix 465b (refurbished)
Tektronix 2235/A, 2213, 2215

Very Good:
----------------
Leader LBO-516
B&K Precision 1580, 1590

OK:
-----
Tektronix T932/A
B&K 1540, 1541/B
Hitachi V422

*DVM/DMM;

Best:
-------
Fluke 77-4, 115
Fluke 114, 113

Very Good:
---------------
Extech EX520, EX430
Protek 6500

OK:
-----
B&K Precision 2704C, 2407A, 2408A
Web-tronics CSI9303, CSI9300G

*Tools (pliers, cutters, screwdrivers, etc.);

Best:
-------
Klien
Xcelite

Very Good:
----------------
Stanley-Jensen (tool kits)

OK:
-----
Sears Craftsman (screwdrivers)

Tooled Up: Gifts for the Girls

Though tools are traditionally the domain of the males, there are an increasing number of tools aimed at the fairer sex appearing on the market.

Take one of the most masculine pieces of equipment of all time - the Swiss army knife. Ever since the boy scouts were formed the penknife has been an essential piece of kit for any straight guy. Infinitely useful with their various corkscrews, blades, pliers, toothpicks and tweezers, there are few men who don't own at least one of these.

However, Victorinox, the company behind the classic Swiss army knife have in recent years sought to double their customer base by making penknives aimed most definitely towards the ladies. The classic knifes are now available in more female colours (think: pink) as well as more compact, elegant designs that would slip into a handbag. Other innovations that target the female market include the SwissCard, a credit card sized multi-tool that fits neatly into a wallet and contains the essentials such as a nail file, mirror and scissors.

Other companies have also sought to feminise what has always been considered the domain of the male. In a bid to encourage more ladies to take matters into their own hands (and not to have to rely on the man of the house to put up those new shelves), there are now specially designed girls tool sets. The main difference in a tool set for the girls and a tool set for the guys is the colour; the ladies' kits tend to come in pink or in floral designs and some even come in a stylish hand bag style case, which not only looks good but is also bound to keep the men's hands off your tools.

The auto-industry is also recognising that females offer a significant market to tap and as such have begun to offer female-specific roadside tool kits containing all the essential emergency supplies such as jump leads, mobile phone chargers, screwdrivers, hammers and ratchets - again available in pink.

The move into the female market has generally been very well received, though there are some hardy feminists who feel that pink tool kits are patronising and have pointed out that women don't need tools to be pink to be able to use them.

However, the feminised tool sets continue to attract girls into this traditionally male dominated area and for the fairer sex, and the manufacturers alike, that can't be a bad thing.

About the Author

Andrew Regan is an online, freelance author from Scotland. He is a keen rugby player and enjoys travelling.

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