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Designing your own project.

Updated on January 8, 2015
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Neil got interested in amateur (ham) radio in high school. He currently holds a General Class license.

My finished RF detector
My finished RF detector

Other hints

For non-electronic designs it may be helpful to show closeups of structural elements. Other elements to consider during the design phase, especially with wood working are parts and cut lists.
For non-electronic designs it may be helpful to show closeups of structural elements. Other elements to consider during the design phase, especially with wood working are parts and cut lists.

I am not a full blown electrical engineer, but I have had enough experience to understand how to take a few basic circuits and combine them to do what I want them to. I am not a cabinet maker, but I know enough about wood working to modify pre-made projects or make my own if they are very simple. That said, lets imagine you've found a project that you understand and would like to build. In my case, it is a simple field strength (RF) meter, from the July 2006 CQ Amateur Radio magazine that uses only five parts. At this point you decide if you are going to modify the project, combine it with another project, or build it as is. This may involve creating your own schematic and instructions or it may be as simple as following the instructions that accompany the project. This project is an electronics project, but other types of projects will follow a similar process.
Next, decide what type of construction to use. For electronics projects, there are typically three types of construction, open wiring, circuit board, or surface mount. (For wood-working this would be a consideration of joinery, which could be a hub by itself) At first glance open wiring may seem the simplest especially if a circuit board is not provided, but it is also less durable than the other two styles. Any time you can move wires and joints you increase the chances of loose connections or broken wires. If you are going to move the project around, this concern must be addressed.
Creating circuit boards may seem more daunting at first glance, but with a bit of practice and patience circuit board construction is extremely durable and more reliable than open wiring. The creation of circuit boards is the focus of another hub (http://neildabb.hubpages.com/hub/DIYcircuitboards), and is a central part of both circuit board and surface mount construction. For my project a circuit board may seem like overkill, but I chose that because of the board gave me a place to mount the antenna on the large meter movement that I had available. This project also will be used and moved around a lot. The durability of a circuit board was well worth the effort.
Surface mount is best where space is an issue. It requires a steady hand and some special tools and it is an area that many electronics hobbyists are just beginning to consider.
Once the project is designed the next step it collecting the parts (see this hub on kitting at: http://neildabb.hubpages.com/hub/MakingKits). If the project is a modification to an existing kit, then it is just a matter of gathering any extra parts needed to complete the kit. Then assemble according to the directions, whether yours (see this hub on making your own instructions at: http://neildabb.hubpages.com/hub/DIYinstructions) or those from the manufacturer.
The rewards of designing your own projects are well worth the effort, and many times someone else does most of the work.

qed.


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