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Useful Tools


Knipex Magnet Wire Stripper

I normally remove the insulation from magnet wire by dunking the wire end in a solder pot. The molten solder melts the insulation and tins the wire within a few seconds. An alternative to the solder pot is a normal soldering iron and a "blob" of solder on the end. Run the molten blob up and down the magnet wire and the insulation will melt and the wire tinned.

Alternatives include removing the insulation with sandpaper or scraping it off with a knife or hobby knife. It's also possible to use heavy duty paint remover to chemically remove most magnet wire insulation. (At one time, small bottles of such chemicals were sold as "magnet wire stripper" solution, but it's been many years since I've seen that product sold.)

Of course, not all magnet wire insulation is removable by molten solder. The 200°C rated insulation, for example, can placed in a pot of molten solder for hours on end and it comes out with as much insulation as it went in with.

But there are times when I don't want to wait for the solder pot to warm up.

I recently purchased a special purpose magnet wire stripper tool manufactured by Knipex, a well known German tool company.

The tool has a pair of serrated blades that grip the wire and remove the film insulation as you pull the tool along the wire.

It works well, taking but a few seconds to remove insulation from the magnet wire.

The tool comes with a blade set optimized for 0.6mm diameter magnet wire, corresponding to about half way between AWG #22 and #23. Blades are available for 0.5mm (#24), 0.8mm (#20) and 1.0mm (#18).

In practice, a  blade can be used outside of the exact specified range; I've used the 0.6mm blade for #24 and #26 AWG without a problem and the 0.5mm blade for #30 AWG.

Blades are held in with a screw and can be changed in a minute or so. A right angle screwdriver is useful in the task.

Knipex's part number is 15 11 120 and I bought mine from Crawford Tool, along with a set of all three available blades.

The stripper with 0.6mm blade is around $18, and optional blades are $6 each.


Surface Mount Part Holding Tweezers

I've generally used a pair of curved, sharp nose stainless steel tweezers to hold surface mount parts in place whilst hand soldering them to a PCB. The particular tweezer I've found best for my purposes is the industry standard "5B" version.

However, there are special SMD parts holding  tweezers available and I recently purchased a Lindstrom TL SM 103-SA tweezer, purpose designed for holding surface mount parts.

Instead of coming to a fine point, the SM 103 has a "T" shape. This allows the tool to grip the edge of the part over a reasonable length, reducing the part motion when holding it in place.

I purchased a new SM 103 via E-bay at a reasonable price, around $14-15 with shipping.

I've retired my 5B tweezers from normal day-to-day assembly work.