Here we are; our very first Make It Monday! How incredibly excited we are to launch this series of tutorials and information articles. This is one project that we here at Mojotone have long desired to undertake, and now it’s finally time.
What better way to kick off this series than to start from the very top? That’s right, today we are going to walk through how to set up a proper workbench. Your work space is the centerpiece of your creativity; without it you won’t get far at all. As we are going through these steps, please remember to give your workbench all the personal touches you see fit. This is your easel, if you will, and everyone’s easel should be unique to their needs and personality. Alright, that’s enough jibber jabber...let’s do this!
Step 1: Determining the right place and right size
Determining the proper location for your workbench should come easily since you are likely already aware of the areas you are and aren’t “allowed” to have one of these. You want to work in a place you can concentrate and feel comfortable. Garages and sheds are typically the best places to start -- this way you can make all the noise you want, howl the occasional swear word, and make whatever kind of mess you want. Here are a couple examples of prime locations for your workbench...
Next, consider whether you’ll be purchasing a premade workbench or building your own. Consider that the typical premade bench can run you anywhere from $100-$500 (and I’m sure you can spend plenty more if you want) and will usually be about 38-inches tall. Having a work area at this height is appropriate for many of us, but there is always the option to lower or raise the bench a few inches to reach the best height for you. A 24-inch deep bench will likely suffice for most workers but if you are buying custom or building your own, you may want to give yourself more depth. A couple examples of solid premade benches...
It is likely that your workbench will be used for more than just basic electronics, but in the spirit of amp and guitar work, we are going to aim this tutorial towards a workbench that is adequate for electronic builds and repairs. So, the width of our Twin Reverb style cabinet is 26+⅛”. You won’t typically run into a cabinet or chassis wider than this that you’ll need to work on, so let’s plan to give ourselves at least 8 inches on either side of this 26+⅛” work area for comfort and tool placement. This gives us a minimum desired table length of 42+⅛” but let’s round up to 43” for posterity’s sake.
Other factors we want to look out for are proximity to power and ventilation. We will be working with lead solder fumes that should be properly ventilated and you will definitely need access to good clean power, so make sure your location choice accommodates both of these bullet points.
Step 2: Power and Lighting
Having adequate lighting will be paramount in how well your work flows. It is important to have both static and adjustable lights in your setup so that your area is constantly well-lit and easy to work in, and so you can manipulate the lighting around small electronic components, tight areas, dark corners in chassis, and whatever else inevitably pops up along the way. For static overhead lighting, the classic ceiling-mounted fluorescent lights will forever be appropriate. They are cost effective, easy to install, and do a great job filling a room with light. For adjustable lighting, consider an LED light source with a gooseneck mount that can cast light exactly where you need it.
An important thing to note here is this: when shopping for lights, the crucial specification is “lumens” rather than “watts.” The lumen is the actual measurement of lighting brightness, which is what we want. Try to give yourself around 150 lumens per square foot of work area that needs to be lit.
And where would we be without power? We certainly wouldn’t get too far in the electronics repair department without a little AC power, so let’s get your workbench powered up! In the end, a clean and safe workshop is desirable -- this leads to increased productivity AND creativity...and also hopefully leads to fewer accidents and injuries. That said, please try to avoid running extension cords all over the place. Not only is this a tripping hazard, but it looks sloppy and takes away from all the hard work you’ve put into this beautiful workshop.
If you are starting from scratch, make sure you place outlets nearby. If you are placing your bench in an existing space, make sure you choose a location that has plenty of outlets and run power strips with reliable surge protectors. And don’t be afraid of hiring a professional electrician to install new power if need be. These guys tend to work fast and usually only charge $75-$100 per hour for this kind of work. An efficient electrician can likely install shop lights (up to code) in just a matter of a few short hours, and having clean quality power is well worth the money.
Step 3: Giving Yourself Adequate Storage
This is a very important step, and I promise you’ll thank me for encouraging you to be thorough in your storage setup. You can drop the money on a big sturdy tool chest with tons of compartments for small, medium, and large tools; these things are usually expensive but worth the money to not have nuts and bolts scattered in every direction with no way to tell what is what. But even something as simple as a well-labeled tackle box is sufficient for storing small pieces of hardware like screws and nails. You could even use a system like this to store and organize your capacitors and resistors by value and type. Many DIYers will find old kitchen cabinets and mount them where they need them in their workshop. Even buying large plastic bins to store bigger tools and items that are used less often will save tons of space and provide for a clean and productive workspace. Storage devices being used to their full potential...
Peg board is practically a requirement for any workbench. It is inexpensive, easy to work with, and a very quick setup. Mount a large panel of peg board on the wall behind your bench and use an assortment of hooks and pegs to arrange it so that it can hold all of your most frequently used tools. This will turn your workbench into a well-oiled DIY machine and bring an easy flow to your process. I know I’m being a little particular here but again, you’ll thank me. Here is a neatly organized pegboard in action...
Step 4: Stocking The Right Tools
Only you know exactly what tools your workbench requires in order to accomplish the tasks at hand; nonetheless, let’s go over the tools you’ll need to get started as a basic electronics DIY hero.
Some tools that apply to electronics as well as just about ANY job are pliers (flat nose, needle nose, and vice grips), a good hammer, wire strippers, wire cutters, a set of screwdrivers (phillips head and flat head), a set of nut drivers, a set of hex keys/allen wrenches, an adjustable wrench, a socket wrench, and an x-acto knife.
Here are a few things you’ll need that are more specific to the electronics world:
Soldering Iron Holder (if your iron did not come with one)
While there are plenty of other items out there for electronics work or otherwise, the above lists should give you a great start.
Note : It is important to keep a clean work area, as having too much clutter can lead to unforeseen accidents on your bench (dropping smaller parts, dinging guitars and amps, etc.). Additionally, a lot of techs like to pad their bench surface with carpet to help make their work area softer and reduce the possibility of dinging priceless instruments.
And remember, make your workshop personal. Let is say something about you, and let it also speak to you. You’re the one who has to go in there and be productive so it should be an area that makes you feel comfortable and ready to get stuff done!
Now that you’ve set up your workbench, make sure you check back with us each month for a new Make It Monday article so you can have a steady stream of exciting projects to undertake. You won’t be disappointed!