Produce Your Own Printed Circuit Board

Make a printed circuit board from a kit, drill, decals and etching.

| November/December 1983

Power-Failure Alarm Parts Layout

The parts layout shows you were to put the descriptive pieces from the parts listed in the Image Gallery onto your printed circuit board.


Though electronics can seem pretty complex to the uninitiated, learning to use simple circuits (or to copy more complicated ones) really isn't difficult. Moreover, that knowledge can help you save a tremendous amount of time and money while allowing you to accomplish tasks that might otherwise be impossible. That's why you'll find, in nearly every issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, one or more useful projects that require at least a rudimentary low voltage circuit . . . and those devices are often mounted on what is called a printed circuit board.

Furthermore, for over a year now, my electronics articles have each been accompanied by access information, which has given a source for reasonably priced, commercially produced printed circuit boards . . . and I plan to continue that practice in the future. Nevertheless, some readers may want to learn how to make such boards, so that they can complete projects that are shown in this magazine, as well as start laying out their own electronic devices. Fortunately, Radio Shack offers a kit that can turn just about anyone into a designer of printed circuit boards.

The Fine Print

A printed circuit is actually quite simple (but very cleverly conceived) in both design and execution. Its basis is a sheet of insulating material — usually either fiberglass or phenolic plastic — over which a very thin layer of copper is bonded. In order to turn the metal surface into a circuit, a design is placed on the copper . . . and any unwanted material is removed, using a chemical etching process.

To begin, the pattern that the electricity will eventually follow is drawn on the metal with an ink that's resistant to the etchant's action. And after the process is completed, a copper network that duplicates the original inked design will remain. These thin metal paths serve as the connecting "wires" for the components that make up the final product. Now printed circuits may sound exotic, but the builder who isn't familiar with electronic construction will find them perfectly suited to his or her lack of expertise . . . because, once the board's been properly laid out, there's little chance of making a wiring error.

Radio Shack's Printed Circuit Kit (ask for part number 276-1576) contains everything you'll need to make a pair of printed circuit boards: two 3" X 4 1/2" printed circuit boards, one resist ink pen, one six-ounce bottle of etchant, a two ounce bottle of resist ink solvent, a 1/16" drill bit, and a plastic box to serve as the etchant tub. (The boards come coated with a protective lacquer that must be removed prior to use by scrubbing with water and an abrasive pad . . . which is included in the kit.)

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