The $50 Quick & Dirty Soldering Setup October 16, 2015 17:00

So, you want to start saving money and learning electronics by building your own gear. Great! But you don't have any of the tools.

No tools? No problem. You can get up and running with a very respectable setup for under $50.

The $50 Beginners' Shopping List

You only really need three basic tools to get started: a soldering iron, solder, and wire cutters. I made the shopping list below based on what I think are the best deals on Amazon right now (10/2015). The images and links are affiliate links, so we'll get a little commission if you buy something on Amazon after clicking them.

1. (A Good) Soldering Iron - $39

A soldering iron is a pen-shaped hand tool with a hot tip. You use the tip to melt metal to other metal to create electrical connections.

Your soldering iron is the most important part of your DIY toolbox. The better your iron is, the better your solder joints will be and the better your DIY gear will perform. So invest in a decent iron like the $40 Weller WLC100.

Don't even think of getting a $25 pencil iron at the hardware store—that can only lead to buying another, more expensive iron later, or giving up the hobby out of frustration at your crappy iron.

2. Solder - $6

There are two main types of solder: "tin" and lead free. I highly recommend using old school tin solder; it's easier to work with, it makes better, longer-lasting joints, and it actually makes less toxic fumes than lead free.

This spool of 60/40 (tin/lead) solder is a good diameter for circuit board soldering and will last you for several projects.

3. Wire Clippers - $5

Once you've soldered those parts together, you'll need to trim the left-over component leads. This small wire clipper will do the job neatly for $5.

Off to a Good Start

If you get hooked on DIY (as I'm confident you will), you'll want to expand your toolbox a bit to include a multi-meter, desoldering pump, and so on. But these three tools will serve you well for your first couple projects. Heck, even if you only ever build our L2A Reamplifier Kit, your investment will have paid for itself.