Many of us have never even touched a soldering iron — but making things can be incredibly helpful. There are a few key skills you’ll need when working with electronic projects — whether you’re planning to fix faulty devices or build Arduinos (our Arduino guide), having the right skills makes the difference between rage and delight. Here is a quick overview of ten essential electronics skills to help you get started:


The layout allows you to build a circuit, but without soldering. What for? Because you don’t want to assemble with solder if any single part is faulty or you misunderstood the circuit. It can also teach beginner electronics and circuit engineering students about the various components that go into many devices.

The breadboard allows DC injection using channels on the left and right sides of the board. The current through these channels conducts vertically. The rows on the breadboard allow the current to follow horizontally. Here’s what the back of the breadboard looks like — remember that each length of metal functions as a wire:

reverse layout section

I’ve watched a few tutorials on YouTube that teach the basics of working with layouts — and Ian Buckley’s video below is one of my favorites:


Soldering irons run the gamut from expensive to cheap — I recommend this iron. While you can prototype circuits on a breadboard, you’ll need some soldering skills to do a lot more.

One particular method from this tutorial that I don’t recommend: solder click . When clicked, the solder ejects liquid metal and can be dangerous. I recommend that users instead use a metal spacer and rub a heated soldering iron over it to remove the solder. There will be dirt on the tip of the soldering iron, but for the main work it does not matter much.

Here is an example of using a metal Brillo pad (not actually a Brillo pad) to clean your soldering iron tip:

Using a multimeter

Multimeters perform a number of tasks. The most common use is to measure current, resistance, and voltage. They are also relatively inexpensive: a cheap model costs about $6 — more expensive models cost upwards of $20. Professional models cost hundreds of dollars.

Be aware that multimeters can damage or damage the electronics you are working on. Check out at least one tutorial if you’ve never used a multimeter before. There are quite a few clips on YouTube. I chose one that is relatively complete, being broken up into a series of four parts. It covers security and diagnostics in a reasonable and understandable way.

Battery testing

Multimeters can do a lot of practical things as well as troubleshoot printed circuit boards. For example, you can also check batteries:

Drilling holes in project boxes

At some point, you will need to drill holes in the project boxes. The project box keeps all your wires in one place — they offer convenience, ease of assembly, and the ability to hold circuit boards.

I won’t go into details — just keep in mind that there are many methods for drilling holes in plastic. I recommend using a variable speed rotary drill (colloquially referred to as «Dremel», which is actually a brand name). Dremels offer several different bits for different applications. While other methods work, they do so with more difficulty and less precision.

Using hot glue guns

Hot glue guns are not expensive. I found one for ~$6 on Amazon. and it includes several glue sticks. While you can use any kind of non-conductive adhesive (insulator) to hold various components in place, hot glue guns offer a good combination of convenience, low cost, and ease of use.

The glue used in the hot glue gun is actually plastic, not glue. The plastic acts as an insulator, meaning it does not cause a short circuit. This property makes it an ideal adhesive for working with electronics. No chance of causing a short circuit.

Using Liquid Electrical Tape

Exposed wires and solder points can create shorts. The use of duct tape or heat shrink tape in rigid cases is sometimes not suitable. Liquid duct tape eliminates both problems. Although it costs more than regular duct tape, it provides ease of use as well as some additional features such as waterproofing, insulation, and increased solder joint durability.

Electronics safety

There are many dangers to be aware of when working with electronics. Capacitors can kill you (never take apart a power supply like James Bruce, bad James! ), ESD can damage sensitive electronics and always turn off power to your devices before working on them.

Here is a clip of an electrostatic discharge:

Cleaning the Circuit Board or Solder Joint

Here’s a great way to clean up organic solder residue or if you just want to clean a printed circuit board (PCB):

Wire stripping

I prefer thicker, unbraided wires for use with a wire stripper. I don’t recommend using the cheaper (adjustable pullers) that come with technicians — they tend to cut straight through braided wires. The best are automatic wire strippers (or heated automatic wire strippers), but they tend to cost quite a bit. Gap wire strippers offer the best value for money.

Here is a tutorial that covers several wire stripping strategies:

Using Solder Sucker

Solder suction cups can pull melted solder off the motherboard with little effort. There are various types of soldering suction cups, but the most economical solution is the suction cup in the form of a pump. Here is a video of the soldering iron in action:

Do you have any tips for electronics?

With these skills, you are ready to take on some newbie electronic projects and start building things! Are there any skills you would add to the list?

Image Credits: Chip captured via Shutterstock

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