Set Up Your Electronics Lab - dummies

By Doug Lowe

You can build a fancy electronics workbench in your garage or in a spare room, but if you don’t have that much space, you can set up an ad-hoc electronics lab just about anywhere. All you need is a place to set up a small workbench and a chair.


Here are the essential ingredients of any good work area for electronic tinkering:

  • Adequate space: You’ll need to have adequate space for your work. When you’re just getting started, your work area can be small — maybe just two or three feet in the corner of the garage. But as your skills progress, you’ll need more space.

    It’s very important that the location you chose for your work area is secure, especially if you have young children around. Your work area will be filled with perils — things that can cause shocks, burns, and cuts, as well as things that under no circumstances should be ingested.

    Little hands are incredibly curious, and children are prone to put anything they don’t recognize in their mouths. So be sure to keep everything safely out of reach, ideally behind a locked door.

  • Good lighting: The ideal lighting should be overhead instead of from the side or behind you. If possible, purchase an inexpensive fluorescent shop light and hang it directly over your work area. If your chosen spot doesn’t allow you to hang lights from overhead, the next best bet is a desk lamp that swings overhead, to bring light directly over your work.

  • A solid workbench: Initially, you can get by with something as simple as a card table or a small folding table. Eventually, though, you’ll want something more permanent and substantial. You can make yourself an excellent workbench from an old door set atop a pair of old file cabinets, or you can hit the yard sales on a Saturday morning in search of an inexpensive but sturdy office desk.

    If your only option for your workbench is your kitchen table, go to your local big box hardware store and buy a 24-inch square piece of 5/8-inch plywood. This will serve as a good solid work surface until you can acquire a real workbench.

  • Comfortable seating: If your workbench is a folding table or desk, the best seating is a good office chair. However, many workbenches stand four to six inches taller than desk height. This allows you to work comfortably while standing.

    If your workbench is tall, you’ll need to get a seat of the correct height. You can purchase a bench stool from a hardware store, or you can shop the yard sales for a cheap bar stool.

  • Plenty of electricity: You will obviously need a source of electricity nearby as you build electronic projects. A standard 15-amp electrical outlet will provide enough current capacity, but it probably won’t provide enough electrical outlets for your needs. The easiest way to meet that need is to purchase several multi-outlet power strips and place them in convenient locations behind or on either side of your work area.

  • Plenty of storage: You’ll need a place to store your tools, supplies, and components. The ideal storage for hand tools is a small sheet of pegboard mounted on the wall right behind your workbench. Then, you can use hooks to hang your tools within easy reach. For larger tools, such as a drill or saw, built-in cabinets are best.

    For small parts, multicompartment storage boxes are best. Get one or two of these to store all the little components such as resistors, diodes, capacitors, transistors, and so on. If you get two boxes, get one that has a few larger compartments and another that has a greater number of smaller compartments.


    It’s also a good idea to keep a few small, shallow storage bins handy. These are especially useful for storing parts for the project you’re working on. It helps to keep your parts together in a shallow bin rather than having them scattered lose all over your work area.