Stripboards

Most of the DIY I do, I do on stripboards. These are fairly cheap, and I don’t need to deal with chemicals for etching PCBs. The stripboard is easy to use, but when the circuit is very complex or when many digital ICs are used, the stripboard layout tend to be messy, complicated, and big. I prefer to use the stripboard that has copper tracks running along the entire length of the stripboard.

First I draw the layout, usually by hand on a checkered paper. These draft layouts are ugly, but they do the work. But sometimes I use a illustration software to make a more easy to read layout… Normally, I see the copper tracks as going horizontally when making the layouts. I always draw all connections, even marking the copper tracks between components (when drawing by hand), that makes it more easy to see all connections and discover errors. Then I mark all cuts/breaks in the copper tracks with an “X”. I usually try to remember to add component values to the layout, as this will make the soldering process much faster. It is also good to remember to double check pins on ICs and size of trimpots and capacitors (etc) to make sure that the layout actually matches the components.

Stripboard layout

Stripboard layout

A more easily read layout...

A more easily read layout…

When cutting the stripboard to the correct size, I use a small hacksaw to cut the board to the right size. I use a small grinding file to trim the edges to remove any leftovers from the sawing that might create shorts between copper tracks.

Cutting and fixing the edges of the stripboard

Cutting and fixing the edges of the stripboard

Then I usually use a pen to make some markups on the board. This will help me when placing the components. A tip is to count the holes (the number of holes in between components) several times (!) before making a mark, to avoid mistakes.

Making marks on the stripboard helps when placing components

Making marks on the stripboard helps when placing components

When some components are soldered in place, I use a 3mm (or something about that size) drill to break/interrupt the copper tracks on the stripboard. I do this by spinning the drill between my fingers, and then I use a sharp knife to cut off any burring. A good idea could be to mark all cuts with a red pen on your layout, then count them on the paper, and when all cuts have been made, count them again to make sure that you’ve made all interrupts.

Cutting the copper tracks under the stripboard

Cutting the copper tracks under the stripboard, use a drill and a sharp knife

Use a magnifying glass to check all interruptions, and while at it check the soldering as well! If you’re careful, you can build any module you want with stripboards. I’ve built anything from VCAs to LFOs, via VCFs and clock pulse dividers.