Tag Archives: Electronics

New Flickr Group for your Electronics Workbench


Ahh, the electronics workbench – shrine to the electron, the diode, the transistor, the soldering pencil and flux pen.

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their workspace. Note the way that they store components (in pullout drawers or plastic organizers?), hang test leads (on hooks or wire racks, or on a nail?), and keep spools of wire at the ready for repairs and new projects.

A look at someone’s electronics workbench gives you a small glimpse into what is usually a fairly personal space – a space where visions become reality and electronics projects are brought to life.

While there are quite a few electronics workbenches on flickr, I determined after a quick search that there had been no attempt to bring all of these glimpses into a hobbyist or engineer’s soul together into one place.

And thus was born the Electronics Workbench flickr group:

Electronics Workbench

Getting organized in the lab.

Me in my electronics room.  I'm holding the beginnings of a cryogenic receiver project.

Have a photo of your bench? Add it to the group!

No? Then go downstairs into your basement, out into your garage, or up into the attic and take one!

And don’t spend too much time cleaning it up first – noone will believe you that your workbench is that clean when we’re not looking.

Also, a shoutout: This group was inspired in part by the Workbench of the Week (WOTW) page over at The Amp Hour. I don’t think WOTW has been a feature on the show for several months. Maybe we can get Chris and Dave to bring it back??

Happy soldering!

– Jeff


items in Electronics Workbench More in Electronics Workbench pool



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!

Surplus Electronics Wiki Growing Fast

The past few weeks have seen a lot of activity on the MightyOhm Wiki!

Since it was mentioned on the Make: blog last week, helpful readers have been making significant contributions every day.

One highlight of the wiki is the Surplus Electronics Resources page, which I first posted about in February.  It has more than quadrupled in size since then and now includes surplus shops in the United Kingdom and Canada in addition to dozens in the United States.  If you haven’t seen this page yet, you should definitely check it out.

If you don’t see your favorite electronics surplus store on the list, please add it!  Several of these “junk shops” close every year due to rising rents and competition online.   Anything we can do to keep them in business will benefit the maker community.  One way to do this is by making sure that folks know that these resources exist, and this is where I hope the wiki will help.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has been contributing to the wiki.  In particular, thanks for making it one of the best directories of electronics surplus stores on the web!

Photos of The Black Hole

The Black Hole

Last May, my brother and I went on a week-long roadtrip across the US.  Ambling down the highway in a very large moving truck, we travelled from California to Texas by way of  Tuscon, Socorro, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and quite a few rest stops, gas stations, and fast food restaurants in between.

Intoxicated by the chile verde, we spent considerable time in New Mexico, a state that neither of us had visited before.  One of the highlights of our visit to the Land of Enchantment was a side trip to Los Alamos, birthplace of the atomic bomb and home of two major attractions for any electronics geek:

Los Alamos National Labs

Sadly, armed guards prevented us from taking a close look at the Los Alamos National Labs.  Actually, the museum is pretty decent, and includes scale models of Fat Man and Little Boy, some exhibits about radioactivity and nuclear weapons, and a short film about the history of the labs.

Fat Man

The Black Hole

The Los Alamos Sales Company, aka The Black Hole, is a surplus store started in 1951 by the late ‘Atomic’ Ed Grothus, a former LANL machinist turned peace activist.

I have never seen a more fascinating collection of electronic test equipment, laboratory glassware, chunks of machined aluminum, LN2 dewars, bell jars, dusty old databooks, and just plain weird stuff.   Good news: most of it is for sale, although there are very few price tags around and some items are probably in the “if you have to ask…” category.

A controversial Los Alamos institution, it has even been the subject of a documentary, although I haven’t managed to track down a copy (yet).

Here are some photos to give you a taste of what it’s like to wander around The Black Hole:

A geiger counter near the front door clicks away in response to some radioactive source nearby.
Eberline Geiger Counter

One of several aisles of surplus test equipment. You name it, it’s here.

Mmm…  Organic Plutonium!
Organic Plutonium

Anadex CF-300R Timer with gorgeous nixie display.
Anadex Timer Model CF-300R

Racks of vintage test equipment.  Scopes, counters, power supplies, etc.
Racks and electronic test equipment

Period datasheet for the Fairchild uA741 operational amplifier.
uA741 original datasheet

Pan Am hard hat.
Pan Am Helmet

Oscilloscope with permanently attached scope camera.  This is the same setup you see in the pictures of atomic bomb test shacks in books such as How To Photograph an Atomic Bomb, by Peter Kuran.
Scopes with cameras

Honestly, the pictures capture only 1% of what you’ll find here – you have to actually visit to appreciate this place. Oh, and budget an hour or two minimum.  If you enjoy looking at dual trace oscilloscopes and dusty cold war relics as much as I do, you’ll need an afternoon to really do it justice.  If you want to see more, check out my Bradbury Science Museum and The Black Hole albums on Flickr.

By the way, The Black Hole is listed on the Surplus Electronics page of the MightyOhm Wiki.  Is there a surplus electronics store in your city?  Add it to the wiki!

Announcing the MightyOhm.com Wiki

I am pleased to announce that the MightyOhm Wiki is now online and open to the public.

While there isn’t a ton of content yet, my hope is that the wiki will become a useful means to share information and resources relevant to the site.  At the moment, there are pages for electronics vendors, hardware/software tools, and PCB manufacturers.

Another page I have been working on for a while is the surplus directory, which lists surplus electronics stores around the country.  If you have a favorite surplus goldmine in your area, please create an account and add it to the wiki!

MightyOhm Has a Wiki.  Check it out.