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The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz may have needed a honking big oilcan to keep himself lubed up, but in most electronics projects, a little oil goes a long way. A great alternative to oil in squeeze bottles or cans is the syringe oiler. As its name suggests, the oil is packed in a small tube that looks like a medical syringe. The “needle” is a thin, long spout, ideal for getting into hard-to-reach places. You can buy this oil at many electronics stores, as well as at some camera and music stores.
Some mechanical components don’t require oil or grease, and in fact, some pieces can be harmed by lubricants. Certain self-lubricating plastics can break down if you expose them to a petroleum-based lubricant. So, unless you know for sure that a mechanical assembly or part needs oil or grease,
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56 Part II: Aisle 5, Component Shack: Stocking Up_
don’t automatically apply it. If you’re fixing some piece of electronic gear, such as a VCR or CD player, check with the manufacturer for instructions regarding use of lubrication.
Finally, although they’re convenient to use, spray-on synthetic lubricants (such as WD-40 and LPS) don’t mix with electronics projects. There are two main reasons to avoid spray-on lubricants:
You may have trouble controlling the coverage of the spray. The spray gets on a lot of parts that you don’t want it to reach, and it makes a big mess.
Many synthetic lubricants are non-conductive. The fine mist of the spray can settle on goodies that should make electrical contact with one another. If the lubricant interrupts that contact, your circuit doesn’t work.
You should apply a lubricant directly and specifically to the part that needs it.
Yet more cleaning and construction supplies
You may find a variety of other cleaning, maintenance, and construction supplies handy when you’re working on electronics. These supplies include
^ Artist brushes: These brushes let you dust out pesky dirt. Don’t get anything fancy, but avoid cheap brushes whose bristles fall out. Get both a small brush and a wide brush so that you can tackle all kinds of jobs.
You can also use old toothbrushes (rinse and dry first, please).
^ Photographic bulb brush: Combines the whisking action of a soft brush with the cleaning action of a strong puff of air. Get these brushes at any photo shop.
^ Contact cleaner: Enables you to clean electrical contacts. The cleaner comes in a spray can, but you can apply it by spraying the cleaner onto a brush and then whisking the brush against the contacts.
^ Cotton swabs: Help you soak up excess oil, lubricant, and cleaner. You can find them in quantity at any drug store.
^ Gauze bandage: The larger the sheet, the better. The gauze is clean (in fact, sterile) and lint-free. You may find this material useful as a sterilized cleaning cloth for electronic parts.
^ Cuticle sticks and nail files: Break out that manicure set! These personal grooming items let you scrape junk off circuit boards and electrical contacts.
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Chapter 3: Outfitting Your Electronics Bench
Pencil eraser: This bit of pink rubber goes a long way to rubbing electrical contacts clean, especially contacts that have been contaminated by the acid from a leaking battery. However, use care because rubbing the eraser against the circuit board may create static electricity. Be sure to use a pink eraser and not the white polymer kind. Non-pink erasers can leave a residue that can be hard to remove.
^ Modeling putty: The kind of putty that you use to assemble plastic models can fill cracks and chips on the plastic exterior of your electronic projects.
Sticky Stuff to Keep Things Together
Many electronics projects require that you use adhesive of some type. For example, you may need to secure a small printed circuit board to the inside of a pocket-sized project box. A dab of glue or other adhesive does the job nicely.
Depending on the application, you can use ordinary household glue, epoxy, cyanoacrylate glue (more commonly known as super glue), double-sided foam tape, or a hot-melt glue gun. Here’s the rundown on the best uses for each of these adhesives:
White household glue is available in supermarkets, hardware stores, and home improvement stores. Household glue comes in small bottles and dries in 20 to 30 minutes (the glue takes about 12 hours to cure, however). White glue is best for projects that use wood or other porous materials. If you’re using metal or plastic, opt for one of the other adhesives listed here.
Epoxy cement comes in two tubes. To use, you mix equal parts of the tubes together and then apply the guck to the parts that you want stuck together. Most epoxies set up in five to thirty minutes and cure completely in about 12 hours. Epoxy bonds are strong and resist moisture.
^ Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue bonds almost anything, almost instantly. Use it with caution because it can easily bond your fingers together. Use ordinary CA glues when bonding smooth and perfectly matching parts; use the heavier-bodied gap-filling CA glue if the parts don’t mate 100 percent.