Salvaging components from old or broken electronics equipment is a cheap and useful way of gathering bits and pieces for DIY electronics projects, making robots, and general tinkering. This blog is merely an overview to get you started. You should be able to work most of it out fairly easily, and before you know it you’ll have a huge collection of parts.
First thing I want to talk about before we start pulling things apart is safety. We will be using several sharp, hot, or otherwise dangerous things, so be careful.
When using a soldering Iron its a very good idea to wear eye protection, and make sure your work area is in a well ventilated place. Then there is the obvious risk of the extremely hot end. Don’t pick it up by that end!
Some of the items we will be dismantling are mains powered, so be careful. Make sure your subject is unplugged. I don’t need to say mains power can be very dangerous. And something else to keep in mind is many mains powered devices have a power supply unit which can hold large, and dangerous voltages inside, even after it has been unplugged.
OK, in order to do the job, we are going to need some tools. There isn’t too much we need, and none of it is very expensive, and chances are, you have most of it already.
- A screwdriver set – Screwdrivers are probably going to be your most used tools here. Its best to have a range of them if you can. All hardware stores will have a range. Good ones will last longer, and should destroy less screws.
- Pliers – you’ll find these useful for getting a grip on bits and pieces, and undoing springs etc…
- wire cutters – Most things you’ll find wire hooking up various circuit boards. you could unsolder them if they don’t unplug, but the quickest way is to just cut the wires (this is assuming the connectors are not aiming to be saved)
- Soldering Iron – A soldering iron will come in handy in actually removing electronics components from circuit boards
- Solder sucker – used with the soldering iron to remove components. Solder wick can be used as well, but i prefer the solder sucker
That will get you started. You will probably find a screwdriver set with a range interchangeable hex bits will come in handy on equipment with security bits, but you can probably get one of those a bit later. There are other things that are good to have, such as a bench vice, an electric screw driver, Vice grips.
Things to pull apart
The list of things you can pull apart is virtually endless, but here is a few things you can start with that you might have laying around:
- DVD players
- Kids electronic toys
- stereo systems
- computers and computer hardware
- fax machines
Be Very careful with TVs and CRT monitors, they have extremly high voltages inside, and i recommend staying away from them, especially if you are new to electronics.
Components you are likely to recover:
There are many interesting bits and pieces you are likely to come across such as:
- Screws and bolts – almost everything you find will have at least some screws holding it together. I like to save them all. you never know when the screws will be the perfect size
- electric motors – you’ll soon start a collection of electric motors of all different sizes and voltages, stepper motors, geared motors, highspeed motors. these were always the most fun when i was a kid.
- Components (resistors, capacitors, ICs….) – Depending on how dedicated you are, some things like resistors may or may not be worth salvaging to you. resistors can be purchased cheaply in bulk, but ICs and other components may be of value to you. its up to you what you think you can use.
- Switches – All different types of switches can be found, especially in slightly older equiptment (newer stuff tends to have those rubber contact switches like on TV remotes)
- LEDs – they can be found in all kinds of equiptment as power and status lights, you’ll find Infra red ones in remotes
- Guages – things like old cassette decks will have VU meters you might want to save for future projects.
- Connectors – all kinds of things will have connectors, be they headphone jacks, RCA audio and video jacks on cassette players and VCRs, or USB, Serial, parallel, or any of the myrads of connectors found on an old computer motherboard
- Cogs, Gears and pullys – all can be used with electric motors to make movement for robots or any other gismo you are making
- Cases – Some items, the box might be as useful as the stuff held in it for future projects. Holes can be covered up with plastic or metal plates (which could come from other cases)
Thats not a complete list, in the end, what you save and what you use is up to you
OK, so now you have a jar, or several jars of bits and pieces. You’ll want to sort your collection out so you can find and make use of it. there are several ways to do this, you can use one or all of them at once. The photos above show my main method of storing bits and pieces. I like the tackle boxes, because they are portable, if i need to take them somewhere else, i can just grab the cases i need. I also have a few small cardboard boxes full of bits and pieces, as well as large boxes and plasic crates full of the bigger bits, and stuff to be desoldered and salvaged
Ways of storing bits and pieces
- small boxes
- small parts draws
- Tackle boxes
- Jars and tins
- Plastic tubs for larger parts
So now you know where to start, i encourage you to go forth and start collecting bits and pieces, and get your hands dirty.
Sorry about the text intensive blog. I tried to get some more photos, but I don’t have them with me when i wrote the blog, so I’ll try and update them later.