Cool Tools: Design Easy SMD Component Kits

Introduction

Inspired by Kevin Kelly’s book Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities, I have set out to document tools that I find particularly interesting or useful, primarily in my work as an electronics hobbyist and professional electrical engineer. This is the first post in that series.

Design Easy SMD Component Books

Design Easy SMD Kit

These SMD component books are super handy for all sorts of electronics prototyping, construction, and repair projects. I bought a full set of these books for my lab bench at the office some time ago and and have found them invaluable. I liked them so much that I bought a second set for home!

R0402 kit detail

I prefer these component books over other types of SMD kits such as trays, bins, drawers, or bags because they don’t take up much space on the shelf and they keep components nicely organized in order by value.  Components are easy to access and hard to mix up.

There are many other vendors on eBay and aliexpress that sell component books just like these, but I like Design Easy because they have reasonable prices and carry resistor and capacitor assortments from size 1206 all the way down to 0201. You can save on shipping by ordering a complete set at once.

Here’s a snippet from their eBay store:

0402 practical book: ( resistor 63value 3300pcs )+( capacitor 17value 950pcs )
0603 practical book: ( resistor 63value 3025pcs )+( capacitor 17value 700pcs )
0805 practical book: ( resistor 63value 3025pcs )+( capacitor 17value 700pcs )
RF practical book:    ( 0402 capacitor 12value 600pcs ) + (0805 capacitor 10uF 50pcs ) + (0402 high F inductor 38value 1900pcs)
0201 resistors: 106 values, 50 pcs/value, 5300 pcs in all
0402 resistors: 170 values, 50 pcs/value, 8500 pcs in all
0603 resistors: 177 values, 50 pcs/value, 8850 pcs in all 5%
0603 resistors: 170 values, 50 pcs/value, 8500 pcs in all 1%
0805 resistors: 177 values, 50 pcs/value, 8850 pcs in all 5%
0805 resistors: 170 values, 50 pcs/value, 8500 pcs in all 1%
1206 resistors: 170 values, 50 pcs/value, 8500 pcs in all

0402 capacitors: 80 values, 50 pcs/value, 4000 pcs in all
0603 capacitors: 90 values, 50 pcs/value, 4500 pcs in all
0805 capacitors: 92 values, 50 pcs/value, 4600 pcs in all
1206 capacitors: 38 values, 50 pcs/value, 1900 pcs in all

Their “practical book” series contains an assortment of SMD resistors and capacitors in one book, while the separate resistor and capacitor kits are more complete and IMHO generally more useful, particularly if you use capacitors a lot and need a wider assortment of values.

Bonus: If you want to create your own component assortment or add extra pages to an existing one, Adafruit carries Blank SMT Storage Books and extra Storage Pages.

A spotter’s guide to the SBM-20 Geiger counter tube

SBM-20 and friends
click to enlarge

The picture above shows a variety of Geiger tubes that are commonly sold under the name “SBM-20″. This post is an attempt to clear up some of the confusion around these tubes and to share some information about the different tube styles I have encountered in the wild since I first started selling Geiger Counter kits in 2011.

This is my spotter’s guide to the SBM-20 Geiger counter tube.

SBM-20

This is the quintessential Soviet Geiger Counter tube. 400V operating voltage. 105mm overall length. Gold (brass?) color. Symmetric end caps. Positive terminal is usually marked ‘+’, but if not, it’s the end closest to the CBM-20 marking. Date codes are always four digit, but I have seen both MMYY and YYMM (assuming I am interpreting the numbers correctly). Year of manufacture varies widely but most are 1970s – 1990s.

SBM-20U

Very common alternate version of the SBM-20. Shorter 95mm overall length. Positive terminal is exposed rod with no end cap. Soldering to this terminal can be a challenge as the plating is usually quite oxidized and the underlying metal is steel.  I’ve also seen the internal glass seals fail after soldering. These are often sold as SBM-20 tubes, and unscrupulous eBay sellers will sell the SBM-20/SBM-20U interchangeably.

SBM-20 (alternative negative terminal style)

Slightly longer positive terminal. 105mm overall length. Negative terminal is formed from the tube body (cost saving design?). Tubes I have seen are marked ’77’, presumably date code for 1977. Rare.

STS-5 / CTC-5

Older version of the SBM-20. Slightly longer overall length, approx. 110mm. Silver color. Positive terminal is marked + and closest to the CTC-5 marking. Date codes I have seen are mid-1960s through 1970s. I haven’t confirmed this, but I suspect date code is roman numeral month followed by arabic numeral year, eg. VIII 65. Aside from longer overall length, properties and performance are very similar to SBM-20. Less common than SBM-20, presumably because they are older and were not manufactured in great numbers across as many years. Sometimes sold under the name SBM-20.  They are generally interchangeable with “real” SBM-20 tubes, but given that they are significantly older, failure rate might be higher (unconfirmed).

Summary

My Geiger Counter kit will accommodate the STS-5 and all of the SBM-20 variants shown. The SBM-20U requires a short jumper wire to connect the positive terminal to the PCB. I recommend using an alligator clip or wrapping a wire around the terminal to avoid compromising the glass to metal seal with the heat of the solder.

Join the resistance.