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DIY kits - manageable with zero electronics knowledge?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY Goto page 1, 2  Next [all]
Author DIY kits - manageable with zero electronics knowledge?
tallrobphilp
Hi everyone. Annoying newbie again.

I'm curious about DIY kits for modules, that is to say complete kits and not my own self-designed stuff. I think it looks like it would be fun and satisfying but my electronics knowledge is basically zero.

So let's put it this way - if I'm the kind of person who has patience and can carefully follow instructions but doesn't know electronics, am I likely to be able to manage? Do these kits typically have instructions or just a bag of components and a schematic that I won't be able to understand?

I bought my Knurlies eurorack screws from Thonk and they have loads of interesting stuff on there at what appears to be very affordable prices. It seems like you can get some fun stuff that you might not find elsewhere and it's in the spirit of modular to try these.

Part of the modular "thing" for me is finding a hobby that is away from my computer, so this might fit the bill in that regard. That said, I don't have a lot of spare time to learn electronics to a high standard. I'm not trying to be lazy, just honest. I have a lot on my plate with work (I'm a software developer) and a fairly busy family life but I have enough spare time to spend a few hours in the evenings if this will be enough.

Cheers!
sleepgardens
This should probably go in the DIY section but yes, totally doable.

Of course there are easier modules than others (by easier I mean less components and clear and detailed instructions), for example Music Thing Modular/Fonitronik/AI Synthesis/God's Box/Erica Synth are a great start point, they all provide build guides with pictures and give you already sorted components.

After those you could go the next step to brands who provide full kits with less instructions like Befaco/SSSR Labs/Zlob/etc. Just read the build documentation before purchasing and you will get which brands I'm talking about.

After a while you could go ahead and enter the fabolous world of buying pcb/panels and sourcing the parts yourself. This is a whole different skill than building but worth it both economically (sometimes) and in terms of knowledge of electronics.

EDIT: Also some other suggestions: first get some cheap training soldering kit to get the hang of soldering. This is important to avoid the part where an actual knowledge in electronics is needed: troubleshooting. If something goes wrong you won't even know where to start to get it right... so it's good to at least have a good soldering technique beforehand.
Luap
Yes, do check the DIY section.. You'll find others have asked similar questions before.

But to add.. Youtube has some great soldering tutorials. So seek out some of those.
Also, whatever you do, don't start with an expensive kit. If you cock it up, you'll be pissed that you wasted a chunk of money.
And you'll need some tools beyond just a soldering iron. A decent multimeter for example is pretty much essential.
abelovesfun
Some great brands for beginners have been advised, including mine.

Yes, it is totally doable, that is how most of us started.

We do offer kits, but check out aisynthesis.com for guides on tools and articles around capacitor substitution, how resistors work, and other stuff.
If you do decide to buy a kit or PCB panel, every module has a full video how to guide, no wiring to confuse you, and extensive build guides with pictures for every step and free schematics always. Feel free to hit me up at aisynthesis.com/contact or in this thread if you have any questions.

Welcome to this wonderful hobby!
R.U.Nuts
... And better start with through hole kits. Before getting a kit check wether it requires SMD soldering. SMD components are way smaller and require a different soldering technique.
pieter
Great advice above, from my experience you should take all of it to heart, especially practicing on a cheap kit. Too bad Maplin is no longer a brick and mortar shop.

I'd like to add that you should not get a cheap soldering iron. A good quality iron makes the process so much easier and more enjoyable (good heat transfer is essential). Also get decent soldering tin. Once you mastered putting kits together you can gradually learn more about circuits and venture into simple circuit design. Before you know it you'll be reading the Filter Cookbook...
roya
Until a year ago, I never touched a soldering iron. I decided that I’m going to build a mutable instruments elements... people I talked to told me it’s not a good idea wink

I watched tons of YouTube videos on how to solder, bought all the components and started my journey. I tested each component after soldering it, destroyed some along the way, but after a week, had a working module.

Just go for it and don’t be afraid, soldering is way easier than people think...
motorhead412
Go for it! Yeah, you're gonna mess up a few times and you'll get frustrated as hell but there's nothing more satisfying then making a thing that works. Plus, some of us enjoy the smell of solder fumes or maybe that's just me....
joem
Just to echo what I believe someone else already touched on: Actual knowledge of electronics is really only needed for troubleshooting or for modifying or designing circuits (and it helps if you ever source your own parts). For building modules from a well documented kit, you usually don't need to know a single thing about electronics, though you do need to know how to solder (and even then, some kits are designed as intro-to-soldering kits).
mskala
tallrobphilp wrote:
So let's put it this way - if I'm the kind of person who has patience and can carefully follow instructions but doesn't know electronics, am I likely to be able to manage? Do these kits typically have instructions or just a bag of components and a schematic that I won't be able to understand?


You can often download the instruction manual for a kit from the same Web site where the kit is sold, so that's a good way to evaluate whether you'll find the instructions adequate. You don't usually need a deep understanding of electronics, but for most kits it helps to at least be able to tell the difference between a resistor and a capacitor, and have some idea of how to use a multimeter.

People put a lot of emphasis on soldering, but don't forget adjustment/testing/calibration/etc. I try to make clear with the kits I sell just what will be required for that part, and it varies. If you're building a Leapfrog VCF it'd be a good idea to have an oscilloscope, whereas the Transistor ADSR doesn't need to be adjusted at all.
FarmerPhilip
DIY Kits run the gamut from superbly documented with useful pictures (Turing Machine) all the way to kits were you get the board, the face plate and a BOM, after which you are on your own to source the components and build it.

Definitely check YouToob but you may also want to look into some of the "Practice" kits that are available to hone your soldering skills for a lot less money.

I mention the Turing Machine specifically because it was the first kit I built and I think it is the best documented kit out there, making it a good early kit even though it is a fairly complex piece of hardware.

Also - stick to through hole soldering at first. The surface mount kits I have seen tend to assume a greater level of knowledge about electronics - and, though certainly doable, they do, without doubt, require soldering skill and experience, plus the potential for frustration is a good deal higher with them.

Once you get started, don't discount the possibilities of designing your own simple circuits from scratch - that is a ton of fun and immensely satisfying!
electricanada
Everyone starts from zero knowledge. I have found building well-documented kits to be very meditative and relaxing. On the other hand, I have found building poorly-documented kits (and trouble-shooting even the well-documented kits) to be a frustrating experience. You take the good with the bad.
BlinkyLights
I am buying a soldering station next week to get into DIY.
xenosapien
when my friends and family ask me since when I know anything about electronics (usually after they see & ask about my modular and me telling them which ones I assembled myself), my reply usually is:

"it´s like lego for grown-ups".

and I think that´s fairly accurate, at least (as others have said above) for those companies that include really nice build documentation.

stuff I have had great experiences with:
-MusicThing
-Befaco
-Worng
-hexinverter (they don´t do DIY themselves any longer but synthCube and others carry on their DIY lines and -I imagine- the documentation is still great)
pieter
xenosapien wrote:

"it´s like lego for grown-ups".


1. Lego is for grown-ups. hihi
2. The real "grown-up" part is the relative difficulty in fixing mistakes. With Lego it's easy, with soldering often not so much...
xenosapien
pieter wrote:
xenosapien wrote:

"it´s like lego for grown-ups".


2. The real "grown-up" part is the relative difficulty in fixing mistakes. With Lego it's easy, with soldering often not so much...


you´ve never had two 1-row flat lego pieces stuck together before, have you? razz

wink
pieter
You need both:

Just another rookie
Absolutely yes!

I manage with virtually zero knowledge.
But I did practice some things first!

My whole diy set up costs less than £50!

It’s enough, and yes I dream about a mad lab and a white coat but seriously, i just don't get it


I’d say start with a cheaper kit, for me it was the zlob min eq. Great thing and useful! In fact before that, start with some vero/strip board and a bag of random bits. Try and solder a couple of basic circuits on that stuff, your simple 555 led blinker type things. Get the bug! Then go big!

That’s how it happened for me.

(And in the same vein as above, standing on snipped off legs or upturned IC chips is just as painful as standing on a Lego!)
So be careful!

Also, a soldering iron is not a screwdriver.
Beyond the handle it burns like ****
That’s the only real advice I can give you!

White and black burny digits will upset your wiggling mojo.
ambrohski
The link below is for (the best?) tutorial on how to solder-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vynb_HdEIDU

It is WAAAAAAAY more advanced than needed for building successful DIY kits, but I feel it sets the bar for the best technique you could use. I found it very helpful to see the best possible approach, nothing wrong with spending 15 minutes to see how it's done when they're doing aerospace work. It explains the concerns in making proper solder joints, and even though I never did any of the alcohol cleaning (before, or after soldering) and have had very few issues with soldering issues. Careful component placement and good solder joints is all there is to it-

Take your time, be sure to place components minding the orientation and correct values. Slow is fast- it is better to take your time, and get it right initially, than to troubleshoot later. Start with kits that have detailed instructions (Befaco is great for this, but there are a bunch). w00t
JakoGreyshire
My first kit I bought had a lot of problems with part counts, wrong sized parts, wrong knob types... I kept finding problems and contacting the vendor... They would send me the right parts until they said "oh well, I'm sure you'll deal with it" (basically)..... I won't be buying another kit from them...

The board had a short in it for months and I couldn't figure it out until yesterday when I figured out that I had the "old" version of the PCB...
I could go into griping mode about other things involved,but...

Long story short..... A few months back I spent two weeks learning how to source my own parts on mouser, that way if there is a screw up I can only blame myself..

I mostly look at PCB and Panels now, unless the kit is super easy and cheaper then sourcing my own parts..

Now I've got a bunch of awesome modules that I've built and a small stock pile of parts....

Eh, it's bitter sweet... I won't be able too stop now.... I like it, but I need to make another parts order..... Can't decide what to build next.... Etc..
eek! meh help hmmm..... seriously, i just don't get it

I've learned a lot in the process...
Joe.
Production line workers aren't employed because they understand a schematics, or even what the different components are. They're just really good at following instructions, like the correct orientation of parts, and soldering.

Soldering is something you could learn in a day, and just requires some (very repetitive) practice to get good thumbs up
electricanada
JakoGreyshire wrote:
My first kit I bought had a lot of problems with part counts, wrong sized parts, wrong knob types... I kept finding problems and contacting the vendor... They would send me the right parts until they said "oh well, I'm sure you'll deal with it" (basically)..... I won't be buying another kit from them...

The board had a short in it for months and I couldn't figure it out until yesterday when I figured out that I had the "old" version of the PCB...
I could go into griping mode about other things involved,but...

Long story short..... A few months back I spent two weeks learning how to source my own parts on mouser, that way if there is a screw up I can only blame myself..

I mostly look at PCB and Panels now, unless the kit is super easy and cheaper then sourcing my own parts..

Now I've got a bunch of awesome modules that I've built and a small stock pile of parts....

Eh, it's bitter sweet... I won't be able too stop now.... I like it, but I need to make another parts order..... Can't decide what to build next.... Etc..
eek! meh help hmmm..... seriously, i just don't get it

I've learned a lot in the process...


This would be a useful post if you named the vendor.
Just another rookie
Two weeks learning to source parts......
Honestly!
It’s just reading writing and clicking on a tab.

Not trying to start a war but.....
(Actually there may be reasons I’m unaware of)
Eg more than one toddler insisting on helping daddy type.
Do you have too many cats?

I’ve only a few kits under my belt.
Both full kits and pcb/panel.

Only one had a problem and it was dealt with swiftly.
If I had a kit with that many errors, I’d back it in a flash!

Sourcing parts is ok but you’ve to be careful initially.
Especially with switches! And maybe electrolytics?
But that’s been my experience. Your problems no doubt will be different!

Just double check pin pitches/body diameters and you should be ok.

It really is satisfying and so far only one build went wrong.
And it wasn’t my fault! Hurrah! Wrong BOM baby!
All fixed.
JakoGreyshire
electricanada wrote:


This would be a useful post if you named the vendor.


My post may not be useful to you, as my posting was not directed at you. It is useful to others (the OP) who don't know because they have zero electronics knowledge and are asking about buying DIY kits... Which is what the topic of this thread is about..

It would not be useful to slander a shop due to one bad experience. That doesn't mean that all the kits they make are fucked up. People make mistakes and the lesson here is check your parts thoroughly when you receive a kit...

In which case, I did check the parts when I received the kit. However, I didn't check that the correctly labeled parts in the individual bags would go to the correct spots on the PCB until I was at that stage in soldering the project.... Then I found errors...

For example: 6 D-shaft pots and one round shaft pot with 7 D-shaft knobs... Opps.... "Oh well, were not going to send you one round shaft knob in the mail"..... And that was just one of the last fuck ups I found.... I had 0603 parts when the BOM required 1206 or 0805...

So the real lesson here is check to make sure you have the correct parts according to the BOM and, that the parts are going to assemble together in the correct fashion to each other and the PCB before you start the project.

With the other fuck ups, they did send me the correct amount and part types... although it was a hassle and caused delays which lead to a delay in finding the other fuck ups... So, I didn't find all the fuck ups at the same time in order to send the kit back right away... This was not a simple through hole project kit. Also the people I dealt with are really nice people. I'm not going to condemn anyone for having made a mistake.

I did imply that I will not be buying kits anymore from anybody, unless it's dead easy for them to pack and it's cheaper than sourcing parts from multiple part vendors... If someone knows of one vendor that has everything in one spot, then let me know.

Thank you for helping me clarify my point electricanada.


Just another rookie wrote:
Two weeks learning to source parts......
Honestly!
It’s just reading writing and clicking on a tab.

Not trying to start a war but.....
(Actually there may be reasons I’m unaware of)
Eg more than one toddler insisting on helping daddy type.
Do you have too many cats?

I’ve only a few kits under my belt.
Both full kits and pcb/panel.


Only one had a problem and it was dealt with swiftly.
If I had a kit with that many errors, I’d back it in a flash!

Sourcing parts is ok but you’ve to be careful initially.
Especially with switches! And maybe electrolytics?
But that’s been my experience. Your problems no doubt will be different!

Just double check pin pitches/body diameters and you should be ok.

It really is satisfying and so far only one build went wrong.
And it wasn’t my fault! Hurrah! Wrong BOM baby!
All fixed.


"There may be reasons that I'm unaware of"? Actually, you are unaware of all the reasons it took me a couple of hours every other night or so to learn how mouser organizes their many parts to choose from..

"Just check pin pitches and body diameters and you should be ok"? Really? what about voltage ratings, tolerances, and pin layouts? Not all Op amps have the same pin layout.... you can't just slap a TL072CD when the BOM/Eagle files calls for a MCP6002 TL072...
There are also many parts listed in BOMs that are obsolete, so it requires more than just "reading, writing and clicking on a tab" as you said.... Nah, you actually have to use your brain here and find a suitable replacement part in possibly hundreds of different parts...

I've seen quite a few postings where someone says,"oh this part is obsolete, can someone tell me if this part will work instead?" Or, "can you tell me which part I should get to replace it with?" Some people can't figure it out. Why? Because it takes time to learn how and some may not have the time to do so.( Too many cats and brats you will assume... hihi ) I don't ask those questions because I took the necessary time to learn how to source parts for myself.

Your posting makes it seem like your DIY projects were real easy if all you had trouble with was switches and electrolytics! HA!
You say that you've only had a "few kits under your belt, both kits and PCBs/panels".
Well, that's apparent isn't it?

I realize that you are probably trying to be nice by saying that you're "not trying to start a war, but".... Then don't, it's that simple.... the rest of what you said after that was not very nice at all.. I had no reason to take it personal, just thought you should know that just because you said that disclaimer first doesn't excuse you for being crass. You probably thought it was funny to be crass, eh? Well, I thought it was funny too.

Do you make it a habit to criticize and assume you know something about someone you "actually" know nothing about? Well, it is not lending you a good light to be seen in. But hey, if you want to expose yourself that way then go for it! just more laughs for me and others I guess..

If you did know the difficult DIY modules that I'm building then you wouldn't have made yourself look the way you do by using assumptions.

It's laughable! I'm actually enjoying the station your broadcasting from! You've given enough to see a side of you that is hilarious!... You have reinforced the suitability of your avatar name!
hihi hihi

As I said, my problems were with the busy, possibly stoned people who packed the kit I bought. That is the only problem I had, and I met the problem like a well rounded individual would do.

If we remember what the topic is that was posted by the OP, then we can realize that my posting is useful because it can be a bit of knowledge as to how things can sometimes happen out there. The two postings I'm responding to here are lacking in the usefulness department to the topic at hand. I'm sure that they are good contributors in other threads and can also conjure up some good contributions in this thread as well.

Thank you for the laughs! hihi hihi




not this shit again
Troubleshooter
You will allways need a tech friend for:

1.) Judge kits on how well the build is documented and doable for a noob.
2.) Assist you with your first soldering work
3.) Safety while testing
4.) Debugging assistance
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