Electronics Kit | DIY USB Charger
iPhone and Android users rejoice – this electronics kit will make sure your phone never hits 0% charge again. In addition to saving your phone’s life, you’ll begin demystifying electronics and learn how to solder in the process. If you’ve never soldered before, don’t worry, you’ll pick it up quickly.
Check out the image below; it shows all the items included in your New Hobby Box to get you started.
Electronics kit contents:
1. The Box (working surface)
2. Tin (houses the project)
3. Soldering Iron
4. PCB (printed circuit board)
5. Resistors (three different types)
6. Toggle Switch
7. Voltage Regulator
8. Rosin Core Solder (lead free soldering wire)
9. 9V Battery
10. USB Connector
11. Battery Snap
Other items you’ll need:
- A flat surface that can dirty or messed up is a must. Make sure you set up on a sturdy table. The soldering iron get’s really hot, so you don’t want to burn a divot into your dining room table. The box your electronics kit came in works like a charm. Just don’t let your soldering iron sit on it directly for too long.
- Grab an old sponge around the house and get it moist – you’ll dip the soldering iron tip in it to clean the tip and it’s also a great place to set the iron when you aren’t using it.
- Scissors, pliers, or wire cutters will do the trick. This will be used to cut the excess wires on each component.
- Have good exhaust around the place, such as fans and open windows – although the soldering wire we sent is lead free, it’s a good idea to not inhale any fumes. I used a bandanna as well. If you’re in a pinch, napkins will work.
How to solder:
Soldering looks more complicated than it actually is. And seriously – it is an incredibly satisfying feeling when you realize that you soldered something correctly. The way the metal melts is awesome.
The general idea of soldering is that you are connecting two metal components together by melting metal around both pieces. A crude way to describe it, but that’s the basic principle.
One thing to note is that if you make a mistake, it’s not a big deal. You can easily melt it again and move the solder – so there is a lot of room to fix an error.
Don’t forget – the tip of the soldering iron gets crazy hot. Whatever you do, don’t touch it! Okay, we got that out of the way.
Watch this quick video to help explain how to solder correctly:
The wires with colorful bulbous mass in the middle are resistors. They help reduce current flow. Pay close attention to the colors in the middle section. The colors help signify a number that corresponds to the ohms. It follows the color coding system below.
There are three sets of resistors in your kit. You have a 22kΩ, 27kΩ, and a 39kΩ. Ω = Ohms which is electrical resistance. Look at the visual below – can you figure out which one it is based on the colors?
So with orange, white, orange it is 3, 9, 1k or 39kΩ. Pretty cool, right?
R1 on the board is 39kΩ = orange/white/orange
R2 and R3 on the board are 27kΩ = red/violet/orange
R4 on the board is 22kΩ = red/red/orange
The rest of your electronics kit is easier to digest at first glance. You have the board (green plate in the top middle) where all the pieces fit into. You have the voltage regulator which has three prongs on it. You also have a 9V battery with battery snaps, a USB connector, and a toggle switch to turn your kit on and off.
Your first solder:
Start with the resistors first. The wires are extremely malleable, so don’t worry about bending them when you take them out of the tape, you can bend them back to whatever shape you need. And if they somehow bend too much, don’t fret, there are 9 others waiting right beside it.
On the board you see 4 items called out as R1-R4.
Find your R1 resistor (orange/white/orange) and bend it into a “U” shape and pull it through.
You’ll want to make sure you have the colorful part of the resistor on the front side of the board – this is the side where you can read where all the components go in. It’s not a deal breaker if you solder it upside down, it just makes it more difficult with the components facing up.
So, make sure you solder on the same side that you see all the wires sticking out. Pull the excess wires to the side of the board so you can see an opening between the wires and the board. This is the area you want to fill with the soldering wire.
Plug in your soldering iron. Make sure you have a damp sponge on hand. It’s time to unravel the soldering wire too. Notice that the soldering iron is touching the damp sponge – keep it moist!
Begin by heating up the resistor wire without touching the solder directly. Try not to touch the PCB (green board) directly with your soldering iron – you don’t want to melt the board. Have the tip pointed on the metal opening of the PCB and wait about 15-20 seconds then move the rosin core soldering wire onto the soldering iron. Prepare for awesomeness. You may need to go half way up the soldering iron tip to get it started. The moment the wire melts is so cool. It will gob up like a rain drop and fall around the wire into the opening between the board and the resistor. When it’s liquid like this, try to move it into that opening space between the wire and the board. Check out this video from a few resistors in to see in more detail.
Go ahead and trim back the wires once you have the first resistor soldered in.
Here’s how it looks after the first resistor is in – it’s a little sloppy, but it will get fixed in the end during touch ups.
***NOTE: Make sure you are using your damp sponge! (You should see occasionally see steam)
Continue this process for the three remaining resistors – make sure you have them in the correct space!
Next up is the USB Connector U4 – it’s the typical USB looking object you’re used to seeing. There are tabs on each side of the USB connector that you will have to either cut off with wire cutters or bend back. I bent them then cut them. Not sure why they were made like that, but they won’t fit nicely to the board if they stay on – so get them out of the way. You will repeat the same soldering process.
Once you complete that piece move on to the Regulator U2.
This has to face a certain direction because it is polarized. Simply put, have the mounting tab in the same direction as the stripe on the board. On the board, that’s the narrow rectangle attached to the larger rectangle – the metal piece on the regulator that’s about the same size will fit into that spot. Once in place solder it in. Trim the prongs back a bit if you are looking for an easier way to navigate your soldering iron around this component. Go ahead and get soldering!
There was a gap between the regulator, solder, and the PCB, so this was a good time to go back and melt it down and make sure there were no gaps in the work:
Now let’s connect the power snaps to the board. This one’s super easy. The important thing here is to make sure that the black wire is going to the negative pad and the red wire is going to the positive tab. Solder away…
It’s time for the toggle switch – this is the most challenging component of the electronics kit. Pliers will come in handy here.
Here’s the challenge – this component doesn’t fit nicely onto the board. There are 5 prongs on this component. One set with two prongs, one set of three prongs. It needs to fit like the image below, but the 3 wires out the back don’t fit into their corresponding holes – see image below. You’ll see this is the way it’s supposed to sit, but doesn’t align to the gaps.
This isn’t anything we can’t fix with a little muscle. You’ll need to bend the set with the three prongs – the visible prongs in the image above. The shortest wire (one on the bottom of the component) of those three will go on the far left hole, so the other two need to bend back to the right. The middle will go in the middle hole, and the top wire will go to the far right. You’ll need to use some force to bend this – just go slow and apply some pressure.
Here it is after being bent.
You’ll want to put it on the pcb, start by putting the front two prongs in their corresponding wholes in the front facing section of the PCB. Next, place the back three prongs in their spots. You may have to stretch the prongs a bit to get them to fit into place.
Bending this will make the toggle go at a slight angle once in the board. This is totally fine.
Ready for the moment of truth?
Let’s test whether the electronics kit is working properly before installing in the tin. Grab a spare usb chord and find a device you want to give it a shot on. Hook up the 9V battery and see what happens. If you don’t notice a charge right away, hit the switch, you may be in the off position.
It works! If you can’t get USB charger firing on all cylinders, and you tried the switch, try out the following:
- Check that all soldering work is encasing the wires and components throughout the PCB. Remember, you don’t want any gaps in the spaces on the board.
- Check that your 9V battery was properly snapped on.
- Try your USB chord on another power source to make sure it’s not the chord.
- If you’re having issues, it’s most likely how the soldering was done around the board. Look closely – if you can’t figure it out, comment below and we can trouble shoot it together.
The tin housing has two pre cut lines. Be careful handling this part – this tin is sharp and can cut your fingers. Begin folding that piece facing outwards – you’ll need your scissors here. Cut about 1/2″ off the piece. You’ll take the remaining attached part and fold it back in.
Now, let’s place the electronics kit in it’s new tin home. It will sit on top of lip of the folded in tin piece.
You’ll notice that this piece can move around. You should have enough solder left over to make sure it doesn’t wiggle out of the tin. Two parts of the board and components can come in contact with the tin. The USB connector and the toggle switch. We will solder the USB connector to the tin.
Look for that part where you trimmed the sides off earlier on the USB connector. It makes a great spot to begin the solder. The key here is to make sure the tin and the USB connector metal piece is extremely hot before trying to apply solder. Make sure you do not cover any opening to the USB port. You are just focused on the outside bonding with the tin housing.
If soldering this piece to the tin isn’t your speed, you can easily tape the PCB to the tin inside to keep it from moving.
And that is how you solder an electronics kit! You are now the proud owner of a portable USB charger plus you’ve just learned the skill of soldering which is extremely cool. Did you enjoy this hobby? If so, leave us a comment below – and be sure to let the community know if you need some help building this kit.
Wondering how you can take this hobby further? We’d suggest:
- Checking out some of the thought leaders in this field:
- Looking for Electronic themed meetups in your area using meetup.com
- Here’s an example of a group based in Seattle: https://www.meetup.com/Seattle-Arduino-Meetup/
At this point you might be asking yourself….. What’s with the wooden tags?
The tags are for you to try your hand at wood burning!
Your soldering iron has many uses and we encourage you to test it out.
Here are some wood burning ideas & tutorials we’ve pinned for you on Pinterest:
In addition to wood, your soldering iron can burn onto suede, leather, and cork!!
We hope you have fun experimenting…. and who knows… maybe we’ll have a New Hobby Box dedicated to wood burning in the future 😉
Interested in a free year subscription with us?
(Whoa… That’s 12 New Hobby Boxes)
Submit a creative video of you with your New Hobby Box… When we say creative, this basically means anything you want to do (seriously, ANYTHING). Some examples we thought of: an unboxing, a tutorial, a comedy, a view of multiple hobbies, etc.
We’ll choose a winner on August 1st. That gives you about a month!
To be qualified:
+Submit the video on our Facebook
+Post the video in the comments below (or any of the tutorials)
+Send the video via email to email@example.com with the subject line: My Super Awesome Video
In the spirit of trying something new even if you aren’t a videographer, we hope you try it out!!!
Nowadays, even our phones will make high quality videos and there are so many tools you can get started with:
Looking forward to your feedback!!
-Kylie, Steve, & the NHB Team