Circuit Classics

by Star Simpson

Exquisite printed circuit boards that bring to life Forrest Mims' vintage designs from "Getting Started in Electronics."

View all updates Jul 12, 2016

Final Board Revs, Stands, and Alligator Clips

Piles of good news! I have a bunch of updates on what’s happened in the weeks since my last update to you: First Articles (production prototypes) are coming — the first boards we’ll see in blue! Lots of changes and testing the changes, as well as samples of accessories like wooden stands and alligator clips starting to come in. Woohoo!

The final board revs are done. (What a milestone it is — even committing to writing that sentence feels weighty!)

As with any creative project, when asked to sign off "done forever" on my board designs, I went into this whole flurry of fine-tooth-combing the project for details that I will never get to touch again: all the little annoyances that hadn’t cropped up before (the "well, I’ve finally noticed that this tiny detail is driving me mad and I can’t live with it this way"), as well as the things I didn’t have time to push to perfection previously (cashing the checks on my "this is way too annoying to do right now, I will deal with it later.." debt.)

And after a couple of weeks of furious polishing, I went ahead and ordered "final" board prototypes from OshPark. I have received those prototype versions back. Yay! Here are the adjustments I made between what you last saw, and these finals:

  • I harmonized the size of the title labels on all 3 boards. It's preposterously difficult (hours of work) to get consistent scaling when importing DXFs into EAGLE, but the board titles were vastly different sizes from each other before. (For some reason in some previous heat of the moment, I had decided on "consistent line height" in the first few revs. I can't explain. I changed it.) Shout out to Tom who pointed out that it did not look cohesive. So I tried to bring these moderately/decently into line and they do look much better.
  • The board battery cutout: in every single rev of this project I have tried to make the coin cell battery slot easy to insert and remove. I had YET to succeed. So in the latest revs I really went to town on making the battery cutout the correct size for the job - instead of a demure little ingress from the board outline, I have a cutout that is now frankly enormous. Toddler's bite of a cookie-sized. Yet it still looks great: the bottom edge of the battery clip lines up with the bottom edge of the board so that the board rests evenly in the holder and there is decent visual continuity when it's assembled. You can easily see whether or not the board has a battery in it, which is neat. And, the battery clip/cutout is not typically visible in the wooden holders, so it's still classily disguised when on display:
  • Now, I was sliiiiiightly worried that when I got the latest prototypes back that the cutout would be so great that the battery would simply fall out for lack of mechanical counterforce, but fortunately that is not the case in the OshPark samples I have. The center point and electrical contact pad is still present, which I think is the mechanical contact that matters most if there is any.

  • Relatedly, I have also been extremely unhappy with the previous battery clip. It was certainly acting as part of the problem, when it came to difficult battery insertion/removal. I searched high and low, and found this other, new clip which is explicitly designed for easy battery UX. It’s far better. (It’s even got "EZ" stamped on it!)

These boards also have the new potentiometer components, which required new footprints and land patterns (which you see in the new board silkscreen.) I ordered & received samples of them. And yes, they feel great.

Thus with the board design verified, I have been proceeding with getting First Articles from Bay Area Circuits. This is a big deal: these will be the first boards I get back in blue, and I’ll get to see that for the first time as well. I really really can’t wait.

For fun, I thought I’d share this paper print out of what my fab files look like. I printed out this piece of paper the day I needed to verify that my new potentiometer footprints were the correct size and scale (a keen eye will spot the minor perforation in the paper where I punched the legs through the page in mock-assembly.) The other thing that’s cool here is the fab notes style on the far right. This type of communication makes a big deal to the board house to check that what they think they’re making is the same as what you think they’re making. When I create my Gerber file package for the board house, I also include a PDF of this that shows those notes on the far right:

Okay so that’s good for Board updates — what ELSE is going on?

My tentative supplier for wooden stands has fabricated samples and is shipping those out to me right now, also! So many things are shipping that it’s difficult to keep track of. I’m looking forward to evaluating production samples later this week.

Aside from this I have been sourcing alligator clips. Samples arrived today. Tentatively, these clips are going to be 5" long, mini clips (about the same length as the board dimension overall) because you probably don’t need another pasta bowl’s worth of alligator clips, and, these cute lil’ thangs should do just the trick and no more. I’m going to make sure to test out the interaction with a variety of battery packs before I decide on this for sure, but I have enjoyed testing these out for right now.

Looking ahead to what’s next — I am teaching myself everything I can about how to design good documentation and I am focusing on creating decent instructions, and working on packaging design. In service of this I will also be svengali-ing a friend or two into assembling some of these while I watch, which I’m sure will be amusing for all involved.


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Product Choices


A Copy Of Getting Started In Electronics


Stepped-Tone Generator


Dual LED Flasher


Bargraph Voltage Indicator


Circuit Classics

Star Simpson

I like to build things, and fly gliders. I work at ThereCraft. My eyes are far bigger than my bookshelf.

Star Simpson


B&L Wood Creations


Display Stand Manufacturer

OSH Park

Prototype PCB Manufacturer Productions


Video Creator

Bay Area Circuits


Production PCB Manufacturer

H & H Imaging

Insert card printer


Component provider

Mouser Electronics

Component Provider

See Also

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