Surface Mount Toaster Oven

As part of my continued work on my Homebrew GPSDO, I’ve been working on a new circuit board design to both add new functionality, improve existing functionality, and consolidate a bunch of the parts in the last revision, onto a single board.

It’s a reasonably sized board at 2.5″ x 4″, with some fairly tight pitched components (TQFP-100). While I’ve soldered those sorts of components by hand before, I felt like this would be a good opportunity to up the game a bit. So, instead of soldering the board by hand, I decided that I would paste the boards (with a syringe, not a stencil), and place the whole board in an oven for reflow, which would solder all the parts at once.


I applied the paste by hand, and then placed each of the components on top of the footprints. The paste is tacky enough to hold the parts in place, and I worked from the upper left to the bottom right to avoid bumping any components I’ve already placed.


My reflow oven is a cheap toaster oven, and a thermocouple I monitor on my multimeter. Not advanced by any standard, but it works. I may consider making some sort of controller to manage the oven for me, instead of having to control it manually.

IMG_4517 Looking in the front glass with a flashlight, I can look at how the solder is flowing. Combined with the temperature reading from the thermocouple, I know when it’s all finished.


And out pops a nicely soldered board! I soldered the pinned components manually afterward, and did some cleanup of the finer pitched components with solder braid, as when I was manually dispersing paste, I put too much down. A stencil would help there. Plus, no board would be complete without the obligatory bodge wire. While not strictly necessary, this particular bodge makes it much easier to program the microcontroller.

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Recently a large portion of my family got together to celebrate a number of birthdays over at Moclips, WA. We had a good time, and so did our pup.


And managed to get some pretty cool slow-mo footage of the beach campfire.

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Black Rock 2016

Once again I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany the UW team on their yearly excursion down to the Black Rock desert in Nevada this April. My dad was also able to come along after hearing all the stories, and explore this landscape, so different from the Pacific Northwest.

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One evening, we had a chance to drive to the north end of the desert and visit the Soldier Meadows hot springs.


After the obligatory safety briefings…

There were a number of launches…


And of course, some failures…


Some good motorcycle riding…


Drone flying…

And overall a lot of fun.

And, on my way back, I took a bit of a detour on the way home through eastern Washington to spend a day back at a spot along the Columbia River where I learned to climb. Great to visit again.


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Some time ago I posted that I’ve been involved in a Kickstarter to create a ham radio shield for the Arduino platform. That project is called HamShield, and is now complete and the boards have been shipped to the Kickstarter backers.

I decided to take my board, and 3D print a box for it, to make a portable APRS tracker I could take down with me to Black Rock.

A home etched GPS board, and some 3D printing time later, I had a nifty little box.

IMG_4119 IMG_4120Just one example of many of potential uses for your HamShield board!

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Part Organizer

With all the electronics projects I do, I’ve ended up with a lot of very small spare parts that are hard to keep track of. Previous to now, I’ve kept them in a large number of small bags from the supplier, randomly strewn in a box, which made it very hard to know what I had, or find a specific part I needed.

I decided to inventory all the parts into a spreadsheet, so I’d know what I had, and then organize the parts into small vials so I would be able to find the specific parts I needed.

To keep the vials themselves organized, I set to building a case to keep them all in, and 3D printed a number of trays to keep the vials organized and upright inside the case.

Starting with some hobby wood from the local box store, I set to making two halves of the case.

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While I was working on that, the 3D printer was churning out a number of small trays to hold the vials.

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Finally, after staining the box, attaching the hardware, and putting all the trays/vials in, the box is complete.

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And now I know all the parts I have, and can easily find them when needed, in a beautiful custom wooden case.

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