Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Capacity Housing Crisis

Here’s a sad little story for you…

I can’t say why it is but – ever since I started dabbling with electronics at the age of 10-ish – I have always accommodated resistors in more luxury than their passive cousins the capacitors.

I can’t say why but there are a few obvious factors…
1) I used to have more resistors than capacitors so housing the large number was more pressing than housing the few
2) when I was young I could figure out the colour code and so identify resistance values but found the mysteries of capacitor labelling more confusing. A resistor of known value is easier to place into pigeon holes with others of nearby value, whereas an unknown capacitor is harder to place.
3) Colour-code aside, I had the ability to measure resistance with a simple multi-meter – but had no capacitance meter (indeed, I still don’t). All the excuses about housing the named and known before the unknown above apply again.
4) To my simple mind, a resistor was always a resistor – whereas capacitors differed not only by value, but also by type. How could I manage all these ceramics, electrolytics, tantalums, polyesters, not to mention all those unidentified components with no measurable resistance which just HAD to be capacitors?
5) I can’t think of the fifth excuse – let’s just say…

The consequence of all the excuses above is that capacitors were always a jumbled, homeless mess, whilst resistors lived in luxury.

Fairly early on in my hobby “career” I got some sets of drawers which allowed me to separate the decades into a sort of “E3” series. Now I use a slightly expanded “E6” series of drawers with internal dividers to give me a unique place for all the E12 values from 10 Ohms to 1 MOhm.

One of the troubles with getting into radio homebrewing rather than the mix of AF and digital I played with before is that capacitors (and even inductors) take on a much more important role. It became such a trouble that it actually reached that threshold which triggered me into action the other weekend…

I decided to start a housing project for the ceramics! It doesn’t solve all the housing crisis for reactive passive components at m0xpd but at least it is a start.

Here’s what I was struggling with …

A stock of ceramics on bandoliers,

which became tangled up whenever you took your eyes off them, were difficult to find and involved the frustration of edge cutters or tearing (often leaving glue deposits on the wires, making them difficult or smelly to solder) before use.

A similar stock of ceramics in zip bags,

which were difficult to sort through and difficult to open / close.

Plus - if I’m honest - I even had a big zip bag with a lot of ceramics I’d used once in a circuit and then removed – I was too lazy to find the right bag, so they all ended up in the big “pot luck” bag.

It was taking too long to find the right capacitor and the “pot luck” bag was getting too big, so something cracked in side and I stopped off at the Stockport branch of Maplins and made the rash purchase of two Component Storage Boxes (order code: AN38) at the reasonable price of £1:99 a piece.

These have three rows of six compartments each row – giving me space for all E6 capacitor values in each decade – one box covers the pico’s and one the nano’s. I even went so far as labelling the whole collection…

It is an improvement – but I can see a couple of issues emerging already:
1) I’m going to have to buy some more stock to fill those unsightly empty compartments
2) I’ll swear impressively when I drop a box with the lid open.

I guess this is a small price to pay HI HI

…-.- de m0xpd

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