Finding Cheap Circuit Board Parts
Why Do I Need Circuit Board Parts?
I had a time in my life where I was really interested in amateur radio. I learned how to build circuits in the most basic way possible. As I finished college and started a career in graphic design, The hobby of electronics kind of waned and I didn't build CPUs anymore.
This year I started looking into building modular synthesizers and thought that it would be fun to build my own. I wanted to learn what it takes to build a voltage controlled oscillator and a sequencer and the other filters you can build to adjust the pitches and the sounds this system can create.
I don't have the money to buy all the expensive kits or even the modular sections themselves. I thought I would learn from the barest of bones how circuits work and build my own to do what I want it to do. If I can understand how they work then I will be able to create a better sound and have a unique bond between myself and the machine.
I Don't Have the Money to Spend
I know there are many people out there who spend a lot of money on the synthesizers. They have hundreds of thousands of dollars built into these units that can take up entire walls of their house. They're amazing machines and can take hours of your time learning how to make them work.
Eventually I might want to have something of that magnitude but honestly I don't really have the space for it. I want to know what each of my modules will do and how they interact with each other. If I buy something that someone has already built for me I will have to learn how it works organically and it can take days and years to learn something like that.
If I build the modules myself one step at a time,I will understand how they interact with each other. I will understand why they interact that way and what I can do to make interesting and unique sounds creating music that is totally awesome.
Using the App mPLUS Places to Earn eBay Money
I have been using an app called mPLUS Places for a couple years now. I enjoy it because I can earn a five dollar gift card about once a month. I feel like it's free money and it's fun to spend.
I usually redeem a five dollar eBay gift card when I earn enough points to redeem one. I like eBay because I can get electronic parts for about a dollar depending on what I'm looking for. There are a lot of things you can get from eBay that is under a dollar with free shipping and lot of these things come from China and seem to be of pretty decent quality.
Last year I was interested in buying things for my keychain to help me be prepared in case of an emergency. I bought things like a Can Opener and a pocketknife and a fire kit that fit on my key ring.
The last few months I've been gathering parts for my modular synthesizer. I figure if I can learn something new every time I purchase new parts then I will understand more and more how each part of the synthesizer works. The nice thing is I can find information on YouTube and Google that will help me build each part.
I already had a soldering iron and a Desoldering iron from when I built circuits back 15 to 20 years ago. Both of them still work very well and I still had solder that never goes bad. I also had a breadboard and a couple of parts from a project that I never finished.
Finding Kits on eBay for a Dollar
I started off buying small circuit kits from eBay. The small circuits allowed me to study how the electronics worked and allowed me to practice my soldering skills. Most of them worked off of 9 V batteries or a power source that runs 3.3 V to 5 V.
The first circuit I put together was a small flashing circuit. You can get a bunch of these for a dollar or two. They were very simple consisting of two LEDs two capacitors, four resistors and two transistors. They created an alternating flashing circuit that blinks back-and-forth. I was able to put it together but when I was testing one of the LEDs I put too much power on it and blew the LED. I learned something though and that was the whole point of the project.
Power Supply & USB Power
One of the first things I found on eBay I knew I would need was a drop-down power supply. I need to be able to adjust my voltage depending on the kind of circuit I was building.
I found a DC to DC voltage converter that would drop anything from 40 V all the way down to 1.5 V. The first few projects I want to do will need between 3.3 V and 5 V.
I was able to find a power supply from a bucket of old parts that it was hidden in my shed. It was a plug that provided 12 V. I cut the connector off the end and spliced the wires and connected them to the voltage converter. It turned out that power supply provides about 16 V unloaded and I adjusted it with the potentiometer built into the circuitboard to drop it down to 5 V.
I've had some fun playing with this circuit and I am teaching myself how resistors work. I figure I can buy a project box to put this board in. I'm thinking about getting a knob and an on/off switch so I can turn it on and off without having to unplug it.
I also got a couple of 5 V power supplies for a mini USB. When I ordered them I thought they were regular USB connections. Learning that they were not I set the components inside figuring I might come up with something else for them later down the road. I think now what I'm going to use them for is to power each individual module in my synth. I can run power to each of them through the power converter and be able to provide power to each module or synthesizer component.
40106 IC Chip, Potentiometers, 555 timers
On my second round of components I bought a few things I thought I could use. I found a listing for 10 100 K potentiometers for about 2 dollars. I'm hoping they will come in handy when I'm ready to build a VCO.
The IC chip 40106 is a Schmitt trigger that I can use to build an oscillator. I've seen people use it on YouTube and I am looking forward to playing with it. I got five of these for about a dollar. I was also able to get 10 555 timers for about a dollar. I'm not sure if this is a good price for any of these components but it was the best deal I could find on eBay at the time. The 555 timers are good for dozens of different projects and I am sure I will find uses for them.
I also found a bag of 300 disc capacitors for about $1.70. I had the resistors in my toolbox but I didn't have any extra capacitors. I'm hoping these items will help me learn a little more about what I'm doing.