Computing stuff tied to the physical world

New series: Crafted Circuits

In Hardware on Oct 13, 2011 at 00:01

I’m thrilled to announce a new series of posts for this weblog about how to craft, i.e. design and create, an electronic circuit based on all the neat Physical Computing stuff which has been flying across this weblog for several years now.

The purpose of these posts is to present and explain the complete process of producing a working product. It’ll be geared towards people who want to do this themselves, implementing designs of their own invention. Whether as a hobby for personal use, for teaching these skills to others, or to get rich and famous… whatever makes you tick!

Creating a complete product from start to finish is a major undertaking. But it’s also something I’m passionate about, so that’ll help stay on the path to completion. With as reward for me: a new product in the JeeLabs shop.



The product to be created will be a Reflow Timer kit – this is a circuit to control a heater in such a way that it can be used for reflow soldering. Hardware, software, PCB, assembly, enclosure – everything will be addressed.

It’s nothing new or earth-shattering, but it’s an excellent project for this series, because creating your own tools is a great way to extend your own capabilities. I’m all for empowerment. Given that reflow soldering is now within reach of any electronics hobbyist, and since I’ve already written many posts about this topic on the JeeLabs weblog, I feel confident that all the hurdles can be overcome.

And hurdles there will be, I assure you. Because creating a product is quite different from building a working one-off setup. Things like making it work under all sorts of real-world conditions, ease of assembly, repeatability, the availability and suitability of components for hobby use (since this will be a kit). Not to mention the 2,718,281 decisions which need to be taken.


I’m doing this to share what I know and what I’ve learned so far, but also to learn new tools and try out new ideas. So while I’ll stick to several technologies which are already familiar (like the ATmega and RFM12B), you’ll also get to see me start with a new tool and struggle as I learn how to put it to use.

My second reason is to end up with a nice Reflow Timer. I love my prototype, but now I want a real product!

So my motivation is in fact two-fold: to expose the entire process and to end up with a neat new product.


While writing down a first outline for this series, it dawned on me just how huge the task might become, so I’m going to try hard and keep things manageable and moving forward. An unfinished product is not a product.

The plan is to create a series of posts (two dozen?) which document different aspects of this process, in the same order in which things get tackled. If you’re interested in reflow control, great – if not, please keep in mind that a lot of this should carry over to whatever electronics project you decide to work on yourself.

Ok, so much for raising expectations. Now let me lower them again to get our feet back on the ground:

I don’t know yet how often I’ll be able to come up with a new post for this series. It will to some degree depend on what sort of issues come up – there’s little point in writing a new post for the sake of continuity, when there’s not enough progress to stay ahead of the game and come up with tangible results.

I’m no “star” EE designer. I haven’t created lots of complex electronic products, and I don’t have sophisticated equipment to analyze tricky problems (neither hardware nor software). What I’ll be describing is what works for me, and what I think any enthusiastic hobbyist with a technical interest can accomplish with limited means.

Knowledge is not a pre-requisite, but something you can pick up along the way. As you’ll see, there’s an amazing amount of stuff you can accomplish nowadays, if you’ve got the interest to dive in and the time to push through.

As always, I welcome all tips, suggestions, and of course corrections. Let’s make this series as good as we can.

And lastly: the entire series will be listed on the Café website. I’ll abbreviate it as “CC-RT” from now on.

  1. Oh you tease, the Café page has a link to tomorrow’s edition, but the link doesn’t work!

    Anyway, really looking forward to this. I’ve been dabbling about with Eagle and Fritzing recently, and would really like to see some of my ideas turned into bookmarks, sorry, I mean tidy working circuits!

  2. I think this is a great idea. I have been working with Eagle, and have been wanting to get started with the RF12’s. Always in for some helpful insight by learning new tricks.

  3. So now girls/wifes all over the world gonna miss their microwave oven because their husband/friend is addicted to the JeeLabs RT series????

    • Can you please promise to video your first (and I expect last) attempt with a microwave? :o)

  4. That’s great! I’ll sure follow this and try to build my own. Thanks!

  5. Sounds like an interesting series. Did you pick 1,000,000e decisions on purpose? :p

  6. THANKS !

  7. This is very very popular and I know many people will follow it, investing and learning… thanks a million

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