It is now exactly six months since I joined up with Contextual Electronics. In that time I have three course related boards finished and tested, with two in the post. The tutor and mentor Chris Gammell also encourages own-projects, which is the main topic of this blog. For that I have two boards completed and tested and one ready for testing. Six boards in six months … and before that I was scratching my head how to get one done, let alone attempt SMD soldering.
Each board also means ordering more parts. I have learned that, within reason, it does pay to take up the price breaks. Especially for parts that are likely to be reordered from time to time like LEDs or perhaps transistors (and maybe those parts that are easy to damage?). One clear advantage is that it is really nice to be able to tick off the BOM and say “got it”, and move on. The draw back, though is the growing collection of small, silver bags, each with three or four inches of cut tape, lying around the work bench. We all see these and think “I will get to them later”.
I do have some racks of drawers for parts, and even have some empty drawers, but at the rate that my inventory is growing, this was not going to be a solution. I don’t have the space for more racks. I needed to do something before I lost the overview. Inspired by the SMD kits that come in folders, it dawned on me that I could do something about this. I grabbed a lever-arch folder that I had, along with some A4 plastic document holders and started to file these parts away. With some dividers, I have loosely separated the parts into Op Amps, Regulators and Chargers, Transistors and FETs, Diodes, Capacitors and Resistors. This is just the classification for the parts I have yet on hand and will surely change over time.
I have found that the A4 plastic document holders, while suitable for the larger bags, are only part way there. I had some CD holder pages. They are somewhat better as I can have more than one part per page. I insert the cut tape portion where the CD would go and the suppliers part label into the space for the CD label. It is still not perfect as the shape of the holder means it is easy for the larger cut tape portions to fall out.
Continuing with the experiment, I have discovered post card holders. These are an A4 plastic page divided into 4 individual holders. These seem really ideal for the small pieces of cut tape I have. For organising, where possible I apply the product label, however, since the envelopes are clear, there is nothing wrong with just leaving the part in the bag – especially if it is anti-static.
A couple of extra tips I have found useful, small stick-on labels with the project name helps to remind me what the part was originally for. The other tip is to keep the original vendor label. This helps with locating the data sheet quickly and will also help for any re-order.
Of course, this is just the start. It still takes a bit of effort to keep the folder in order. Especially when it starts to get full and I will have to branch out to Volume II. In the mean time I am still on the look out for that perfect holder page. Perhaps pages for holding Negative strips might also work for some cases but they are harder to come by these days.
You never know, maybe there is already anti-static document or post card holders already available?