Tools to Make Boards In My Bedroom


I can go from a copper plate to a quality PCB, all without leaving my bedroom.

I just finished putting together a PCB “pipeline” in my bedroom. It’s an ensemble of tools to help me make boards at low cost and fast. Here I’ll take you through the main components.

The Space

full shot

First off, the standing desk from Ikea, pictured above. 5’ x 2.5’, and 3.5’ tall, it keep all my work near my elbows so I don’t hurt my back, nor spend all day on my ass.

To separate all my stuff, I’ve got the small drawers to hold components, a drawer unit from Ikea to hold other parts, and a large plastic container to keep all the chemicals out of harm’s way.

The Machines

Going from right to left, I first have my Roland Modela I recently bought off ebay. It’s a fairly old machine, which is why I can get relatively cheap, but I’ve found it’s mechanics are better than anything else out there around the same price point. Also, I’ve been using the Modela at ITP for the past year, and have written my own software suite to interface with it. It’s the right tool for me.

Next, it’s a laminator from Amazon. Their cheapest one, I believe less than $20. I use it for applying toner and solder mask to my copper clad plates. It works much better if you rip the plastic top off, however it’s super hot so be careful if you do that same.

Finally, a simple black & white laser printer I found on ebay. This is used for printing out designs from each to assist my toner transfer and solder mask processes.

The Tools

Everybody who works with electronics should have a variable temperature soldering iron, but I recently needed to add a heat gun to my collection. It’s slim and seems to be working well for when I need to remove parts from a board, or for when I just don’t feel like using the toaster over.

My UV exposure box was made by your’s truly (that’s why it’s so ugly), but with so many UV leds inside, it works super fast! I’ve been using this for when applying solder mask, but it might come in handy for if I ever start using photoresist instead of toner transfers to etch away traces. Other UV expsosure units can be found online for around $80, and if I could do it again I would have just bought one of those.

Toaster oven, also from ebay, used for reflowing boards. Turns out reflowing in your bedroom can cause some pretty nasty fumes to build up, so I’ve also invested in a small fan and make sure to keep my windows and door open while doing this.

The hair dryer is fairly basic, I didn’t have one before, but now I use it to dry off my boards after cleaning them off in water. I’ve learned to never wipe a board clean because you can easily ruin whatever it is you’ve just done to it (removing wet toner or solder mask).