While I was visiting Portland last month, I made a quick stop at SurplusGizmos in Hillsboro.

SurplusGizmos is what an electronics store should be, and it’s the kind of place that I love to visit.  It’s also the kind of electronics store that is completely nonexistant in Austin (oh, my beloved HSC, how I miss you), but I digress…

You can usually tell a good surplus electronics store by the pile of junk outside the door (usually with a sign on it that says “Make Offer.”   I’m not kidding:

What is this stuff?

Inside SurplusGizmos, you’ll find aisles full of electronic components like resistors, capacitors, connectors, random semiconductors, fans, motors, and miscellaneous surplus stuff.  Paradise!


AVR microcontrollers! Forrest Mims books!


They have cabinets with drawers full of electrolytic capacitors!  Yes!  This is what a real electronics store is like!


This way, resistors by the foot!!  This ain’t no Radio Shack!


Aluminum by the pound!


Interesting pieces of surplus equipment sold for pennies on the dollar!


They have a huge selection of “solder samples”, printed circuit boards that are used to…

Actually, I’m sure what they are for.  I think they are used by the PCB manufacturer to test their process, but can someone comment about what solder samples are for, and why you always get one or two when you order a full panel of PCBs?

Anyway, there were LOTS of them.  Hundreds.  Looking at these panels reminded me of Dave Jones’ PCB Design for Manufacture video.  Lots of examples of v-scoring, tab-routing, fiducials, etc.

I picked up a few to use as coasters/wall art/whatever.


Apparently SurplusGizmos has some deal with Oregon Scientific and gets customer returns of their weather monitoring equipment.   It seemed like if you spent the time to collect all the right parts, you could build a complete indoor/outdoor wireless weather station for a fraction of the new cost.


I wish I could have spent more time there, but my time was limited and my luggage space was small.  Next time!

If you’re ever in the Portland area and want to see what a “real” electronics store is like – check this place out.

I took lots more photos, many of which are available on Flickr.

Oh, and SurplusGizmos is listed on the surplus electronics wiki.  If there’s a good electronics store in your area and it’s not on the wiki, add it!  Help keep these small, independently-owned electronics shops alive!

13 thoughts on “SurplusGizmos”

  1. Great store. I saw this giant machine there was that was labeled something like “unidentified industrial xyz machine”. I think they sold it for about 10k. What a place. Stores like this are all too rare now.

  2. Love that board! Those coasters will look great. There needs to be more of these places around. It is a shame to think how much of this cool stuff just gets junked.

  3. Portland used to have a couple other great surplus stores. You never knew what you might find at Wacky Willies. A lot of electronic and hardware surplus but also medical and industrial/office sorts of things. On a typical trip you might score a tray of piezo beepers, a used kidney dialysis machine, straps and Velco from a laser-tag game and a picture frame.

    The other place was Cascade Electronics. More focused on electronics but with a deal to take overstock from a local medical electronics manufacturer so they had awesome enclosures and stuff. The last time I checked, they were still holding on, located in some far-out industrial park mini-warehouse, looking like a scene from the TV program “Hoarders” and having nothing much of interest at all.

    Surplus Gizmos is a great place to find the treasures you don’t know you need!

    1. Jon,

      I saw Cascade listed on the surplus wiki, and considered stopping by, but found out it was by appointment only with too little time left to make one. I’m not sure if they are actually still in business or not. I don’t think their webpage has been updated in a while.

      Austin also used to have a decent surplus shop, but it closed before I moved here.

  4. Solder samples are usually for testing solder-ability. Many times contract manufacturers (CMs) will purchase boards, then let them to sit for months before using, where they can develop an oxide layer that inhibits heat transfer, and thus solder-ability. Certain finishes are more susceptible to it than others, HASL holds up pretty well, but the flat, immersion or RoHS finishes don’t do as well.

    Most of the time, depending on how controlled their process is or how complicated you board is, PCA CMs will over build by 5-20% so they have extra, and if the boards pass test, they will send you the extras as solder samples.

    Love the blog, keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks! 🙂

      The biggest problem I have had with boards that were stored (improperly) for a while (~ 1 yr) was not solderability, but delamination of layers 1-2 on a 4 layer board.

      I suppose if I had solder samples, I could have run one through and then saved the $200+ in components I wasted on the 2 or 3 boards that had delam problems…

  5. Glad you enjoyed Surplus Gizmos. Its only a short drive for me, so I visit there often. They do sell some of their stuff online.

    The Oregon Scientific stuff is actually running low. Previously, you could get all kinds of great stuff. But it is mostly customer returns and a lot is actually non-functional. I’ve been told O.S. has found another outlet for their stuff.

    A solder sample is a board that hasn’t been continuity tested (or has unrepaired flaws). You use it to make sure that the batch of boards it comes from is solderable on your process. Too little or too much solder, contamination, maybe the traces lift off when heated, maybe they used lead-free by mistake. Things like that. You might also cut the board to check internal layers, plating thickness, material, etc.

    1. In the past I have always thought of solder samples as “WHOOHOO! Free boards!!!” so thanks for the explanation. 🙂

  6. That store is just freaking amazing. The best we have in my area is the electronics drop-off container at the council tip; or the week once every two years when we can put rubbish out on the footpath for collection.

    1. Austin (where I live now) doesn’t have a good electronics shop either. The best we have is Fry’s Electronics, which carries some components and prototyping supplies but nothing like crystal oscillators, bulk resistors, etc. I will say it is better than nothing (Radio Shack).

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