Beginner's Guide to Choosing, Building and Troubleshooting Electronic Kits

Welcome to the world of electronic kit building! It’s a fun educational hobby with endless possibilities. Whether you’re interested in building for the educational experience or have a special project in mind, there are several things to consider before starting your endeavor that will enhance your kit building experience.

Choosing an Electronic Kit

Choosing your kit is the most important step of all. It’s important to match the kit to your skill level. If you are just beginning, pick a starter kit to hone your assembly and soldering skills. We rate all our kits and minikits on a scale of 1 to 5. Check the kit’s difficulty level before choosing. Beginner kits with a difficulty level of 1 or 2 usually have a low part count and easy to understand circuits. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of success.

If you have a special project that you want to create but have never built an electronic kit, go ahead and start small with beginner kits and work your way up to your project. As the saying goes “Practice makes Perfect.” Mistakes are to be expected but learning from them is most rewarding.

If you’re not ready to start with soldering kits or just want to learn more about circuits and components, start with bread boarding. This is a fun, easy way to start.

When you find the kit or kits you want to build, review the specifications and assembly details. Carefully check the power supply requirements. Most kits don’t come with power supplies, so it’s important to know what is needed. Another important specification to check is if the kit requires any additional external components such as switches or connectors. Having all the required components and equipment will allow you to have your kit up and running right away after assembly.

Basic Tools & Equipment Needed

Here’s a list of the basic tools that you will need for kit building:

Organize your tools and work area before beginning. Make sure you have adequate light and ventilation. Here’s a list of additional items that are useful:


If you think you're ready to dive straight into the world of kit building with a home makerspace, check out our guide to setting up a home electronics lab.


Recommended Starter Kits & Guides for Beginners

Starter Kits & Sets

Guides

How To Solder: A Beginner’s Guide

A Beginner's Guide to SMD Soldering

Building Your Kit

Now for the fun part, you have your kit and are ready to build! Familiarize yourself with the components and instructions before starting. Inventory the kit components. If you are missing any components, contact the manufacturer right away.

Building Checklist & Tips

  • Familiarize yourself with safety procedures for soldering, assembling and using the kit.
  • Follow the assembly instructions in the order they are presented because skipping steps or adding components out of order will cause poor results and make it more difficult to troubleshoot the circuit should it not work.
  • Read and understand each step before proceeding.
  • Compare each completed step to the assembly manual instructions to make sure the component is installed correctly. Some components are polarity sensitive and if installed backward in a circuit will not work.
  • Mark off each step as you go so if you have to stop you will know where to pick up when you start again.
  • Working slow and methodically will pay off.

The magic moment comes when you complete the kit and are ready to power up. Read the testing/operating instructions thoroughly. Connect your power supply/batteries and enjoy your creation!

The Basics of Troubleshooting

What if your kit doesn’t work? No worries, with a little troubleshooting most folks can get their kit working. Here are the most common problems: soldering, misplaced components, skipped steps, inadequate power. So always double check these things first.

Check soldering carefully. Use a magnifying glass to look for cold solder joints, unsoldered joints and broken traces/pads. Carefully touch up solder if needed. If you find a broken trace or lifted pad you can usually add a wire in place of the trace.

Review each step of the assembly manual. Check components for correct placement and orientation. If you find a misplaced or backward component, carefully desolder and replace the component./

Make sure your batteries are good and installed correctly.

A basic digital multimeter is always handy for troubleshooting. It will allow you to measure voltage, ohms and continuity. In the unlikely event you can’t get your kit working, contact us for help. Just give us a call at 817-284-7785 if you have any questions.

Happy Kit Building!