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    element14's The Ben Heck Show

    Join Karen as she shares her enthusiasm for teaching STEM subjects, gives you what you need to know to get started on electronics projects, and more.

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    The Learning Circuit
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    Karen goes over wires and wire tools, and gives advice on selecting the right hand tools to get you started making circuits. Wire is the artery through which electricity flows. Wires come in two types, stranded and solid.  If your application requires flexibility, such as in a robotic arm, stranded wire is ideal when the wire needs to be moved frequently.  If little or no movement is required, such as when you are prototyping circuits on a breadboard, solid wire is easier to push through.

    Karen's Toolkit:


    Product NamePart Link
    Hook Up Wire, Black, 22 AWG, 25 ft, strandedBuy NowBuy Now
    Hook Up Wire, Red, 22 AWG, 25 ft, strandedBuy NowBuy Now
    Hook Up Wire, Red, 22 AWG, 25 ft, solid
    Buy NowBuy Now
    Hook Up Wire, Black, 22 AWG, 25 ft, solid
    Buy NowBuy Now
    Duratool 7" Diagonal Cutters
    Buy NowBuy Now
    Duratool Flush Cutters
    Buy NowBuy Now
    Duratool Mini Side CuttersBuy NowBuy Now
    Wire strippers, Duratool 10-22 AWGBuy NowBuy Now
    Wire strippers, Duratool 18-30 AWGBuy NowBuy Now
    Wire strippers, Klein 11046, 16-26AWGBuy NowBuy Now
    Wire strippers, Duratool 5-in-1, Automatic Wire StripperBuy NowBuy Now
    Duratool Wire Stripper, Parrot-Type, Automatic, 0.2-6mm, 25mm LengthsBuy NowBuy Now
    Small Breadboard - 170 PinBuy NowBuy Now
    Small Breadboard w/ Power Rails, 30 rowsBuy NowBuy Now
    Large Breadboard w/ Power Rails, 60 rowsBuy NowBuy Now
    Needle nose pliers, long, skinny noseBuy NowBuy Now
    Needle nose pliers, heavy w/ teethBuy NowBuy Now



    Solid wire consists of a single strand or core of wire, insulated with non-conductive material.    Its cheaper to manufacture and provides mechanical ruggedness, due to less surface area to be exposed to corrosives or environment. A stranded wire tends to be a better conductor than solid wire as the individual wires comprise a greater surface area.  It’s good for connections between circuit boards where rigidity could cause stress due to movement.

    Electrical wire typically has an insulative cover that has to be removed to access the conductive metal inside.  Conductors are materials characterized by their low opposition to electrical flow. Conductive means that electricity can flow through like with metals.  Insulators are known for their capacity to stop the flow of current.   Electrons flowing through a conductor or wire tend to generate heat.  Thicker wires handle the heat better than thinner wires.  Thinner wires can even burn up if too much electricity flows through them.   Rubbers and plastics used as insulative materials.

    Karen goes over different examples of needle-nose pliers.  For doing electronics work, small and narrow pliers work best.  They allow you to get into tight spots in circuits and they make it easier to manipulate parts and wire.   If using very small components, such as surface mount components, you may decide to use tweezers for a more precise grip.  However, you may find that using needle nose pliers will give you a stronger, more secure grip on those same parts.  The heavy-duty needle nose pliers also come with a built in wire cutter that can be pretty handy.  Wire cutters are also referred to as snips, side-angle cutters, or flush cutters. With flush cutters, the blades come together in a manner where they cut flush.  The rest of these are side angle cutters. You can see that the blades do not come together at the face of the cutter. For electronics, again, smaller tends to be better.

    Large pairs give you more leverage, making it easier to cut thick wire.  Smaller pairs allow you to get in closer to your circuit making it easier to trim off the little bits. Breadboards come in different sizes but pretty much function the same.  Wire strippers, are the simplest and least expensive. They can function as both wire cutters and wire strippers.   On the side there are two columns which are each connected.  The negative blue column is all connected and the red positive column is all connected.  These are intended to be used for power and ground.  In the center there are rows, most often with five holes, where all five holes in each row are connected.  Breadboards come in different sizes but they all pretty much function the same.