Reader Question: What Do You Wish You Had on Your Bench?

April 20, 2018 by Kate Smith

If you could build your dream bench, what would you put on it?

If you could build your dream bench, what would you put on it? Share what's on your bench and what you'd add if you could.

From the most basic setup for building an electronics lab at home to the most advanced research lab, everyone's bench looks a little different. Most have basic tools on hand and some have the most cutting-edge equipment available. From soldering guns to multimeters, spec ans to waveform generators, solderless breadboards to basic components, everyone's needs are a little different.

If you could add any piece of equipment or hardware on your bench—or upgrade it—what would it be?



Tell us about your bench, in its present form and its ideal form, in the comments below.


Have a question you'd like to ask the community? Let us know in the comments.

  • Mark Hughes April 20, 2018

    If cost was no option, a bench top pick and place, reflow oven, and X-ray machine.  (I have a big workbench).

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  • davegsc April 20, 2018

    I have a great soldering station, several fixed and variable power supplies, one decent and several cheap multimeters, a shop-built reflow oven, a fine selection of components.

    A really good, oscilloscope would take my bench to a whole new level. It wouldn’t have to be a full-color, top drawer unit but ideally, if it came with 2+ Channel, 8+ bits, 100+Mhz, I would be very appreciative and SO hap, hap, happy!

    Thank you!
    Dave Davies

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  • Robin Mitchell April 20, 2018

    What would I wish for?

    Well that is a very good question and hard to answer! Firstly, as things stand, I can make all the projects that I need to without too many problems but having said that, I find my scopes lacking. They are all analogue types with the fastest one being 20MHz so a Digital Storage Oscilloscope would be wonderful. The scope itself would not even need to be that powerful since 100MHz would do just about everything I need it to do.

    Another piece of equipment that would be sweet would be a LAN Power supply that can both log power usage and supply it all over LAN! I remember using one at my last workplace and the machine was absolutely fab!

    With regards to soldering stations, what I have is plentiful and enough which is a cheap $20 iron. While BGA are obviously out of the question my iron is suitable enough for many SMD parts.

    If I had to choose ONE thing it would be the scope hands down mainly because I could build my own IoT power supply if I wanted to (in fact I made a simple version on Maker.Pro).

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  • RK37 April 20, 2018

    I already have a good oscilloscope, and that covers pretty much all of my measurement needs. A variable DC power supply would be handy from time to time, but I’m with Mark, the most valuable addition would be anything that helps me to assemble boards that include surface-mount components.

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  • R
    Raymond Genovese April 21, 2018

    I would not mind a nice 3D printer - could probably keep me out of trouble for a while.

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  • C
    chris.n April 21, 2018

    Probably a VNA.  I’ve been brushing up on my RF skills and playing with SDR and I keep thinking “I could test that if I had a VNA.”

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  • -live wire- April 22, 2018

    I would want a 500V 1kA cc/cv power supply. I would want a variety of different welding tools. A good soldering iron and very good ventilation. I would want a huge selection of components. I would want a multi-channel 100GHz scope. I would want an arbitrary waveform generator, CC/CV that can supply a few hundred watts at least. I would also want 100GHz one. I would want a scope-like multimeter that you can program to give you different readings. I would want a huge induction heater. I would want to also have a lot of mechanical parts for robotics things. Ideally huge li-po batteries too. I would want access to the 3-phase industrial power for my stuff. I would also want a high-voltage generator where you can get HVDC, HVAC, at various freq. and voltages.

    This is what I’d get if I was a billionaire. What I have now: a simple multimeter, some useful components, a soldering station, microcontrollers, and a few breadboards. I will probably be getting more important tools soon, but I will probably never get any of the stuff above unless I get really lucky.

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  • N
    ndavis17 April 23, 2018

    My bench currently includes two DMMs, an o-scope (though it’s borrowed), a small reflow over (again, borrowed), a DC power supply, a very nice microscope (by AmScope), a nice Metcal soldering station, a heat gun, a USB logic analyzer, and a bench-wide ESD mat.

    My shopping list includes my own o-scope along with a current probe and a high-voltage differential probe, my own reflow oven, a pick-n-place machine, a high-resolution camera for my microscope, a 3D printer, another bench (or two), more shelves/storage, and more lighting.

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  • M
    mrhat2010 April 25, 2018

    My own desk is just my computer since I moved my stuff to my local hackerspace, but there are a few power supplies (one variable, the rest fixed), one 100MHz scope, a few low price and one decent multimeter, two 3d printers and several soldering irons.
    What I would be overjoyed to have here are a reflow oven, a microscope for soldering, one better multimeter, a signal generator and a few RF specific tools like a VNA and a signal analyzer.

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  • cqtsdss April 26, 2018

    I already have many of the instruments I have always dreamed of, but have the feeling I don’t really give them the use I expected to do. Anyway, I have never had a Logic Analizer neither a good Spectrum Analyzer.
    But the tool I have always been waiting for and never found is “TIME”.  To use all the “toys” I have been gathering trough the years.

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  • R
    renesis April 27, 2018

    First of all, i would want a much bigger bench. And a much bigger room in a much bigger house to put it in

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    • R
      renesis April 27, 2018
      Weird, only the first part of my comment got posted. Tldr; i have a lot of nice stuff, but im missing a good DMM, a reflow oven, fume extraction, and a sick speaker system for my working tunes;)
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  • S
    SarahD April 27, 2018

    I wish someone made a 2ch Spectrum Analyser (with a decent size screen) for just Audio Frequency (0-22000Hz).
    Analysers are inherantly costly as they require very tight tolerance compnents to accurately analyse HF’s (up the Ghz & Thz range), an AF Analyser wouldn’t need the HF ability, so less circuitry, and a lower clock speed (200Hz or so) and so would be a lot more affordable.

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  • P
    Phil-S April 27, 2018

    Barn-sized workshop with decent benches, LAN, plenty of sockets, component and tool organisers.
    Working with data buses and wireless, a logic analyser and spectrum analyser would be nice.
    To play with? A three axis CNC, large or small would be nice and maybe a 3D printer to see what all the fuss is about

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  • jlachance April 27, 2018

    My bench contains a mixture of old and new. I have two Tektronix o-scopes (rescued from the salvage pile) and a newer DSO.  (Oddly enough, I use the old analog scopes more frequently!)  Let’s see, a modern DMM and an old analog VTVM, a new 3-channel programmable power supply, and vintage Heathkit gear - capacitor tester, signal tracer and RF signal generator. I have a good microscope and a reflow oven I built using guidance from an All About Circuits article published sometime back.  I have very good soldering stations but could use a decent desoldering tool.  I lack a spectrum analyzer and a precise and accurate RF signal generator.  Those would be my three wishes.  Oh, and a 5kW dummy load.  And an in-circuit capacitor tester.  And…

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  • C
    Copper dog April 27, 2018

    Besides the usual mix of test leads, multi meters storage etc.  my lab is equipped with two variable power supplies, a function generator, normal and hot air soldering stations, a coding station, Kinsten KVB-300 UV light box, heated etching tank and a 2 channel 100MHz scope. What I would dearly love( in preferential order) is a good PCB drill press, a proper printer for making exposure masks, an airflow oven and while we’re at it a quality 3D printer. I wouldn’t turn down a frequency counter, a good waveform generator and my white board never seems to be big enough.

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  • Rookietron April 27, 2018

    (1) Multiple plug-in power sources (5V, 9V, 12 V, 5-24V), (2) Oscilloscope ($35), (3) Illuminated desktop magnifier, (4) Transistor/inductor/capacitor tester (5) Bench mounted, good multi-meter (6) PCB making kit, (7) Soldering iron/hot air station on a side table, and, (8) a small ($150) mini lathe.

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  • G
    GEBevis April 27, 2018

    It is fun to fantasize about gear.  I have a decent bench populated with HP function/rf generators from DC to 1060MHz with modulation and Tektronix analog and digital scopes. I would really like a good spectrum analyzer, say HP 8595A for RF and a HP 3588A to cover the audio spectrum. I could also really use a stereo microscope and a top quality micro soldering station + hot air reflow from Pace, JBC,or Hakko. Also would be nice to have every value and rating of capacitor and resistor in SMD and thru hole on hand all in proper bins along with a few thousand feet of various gage, color and strand/solid wires.

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  • N
    N5KS April 28, 2018

    Currently, I have a Rigol oscilloscope, arbitrary waveform generator and homebrew power supply.  I would like to add a spectrum analyzer and better lab power supply.

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  • B
    belongumdave May 03, 2018

    I have a hone made reflow station, 2ch Rigol 100Mhz scope, a nice hako soldering station, and the various meters and hand tools. What would desire, is a decent function generator ( I use an XR2206 now), a 30A dual power supply, a good reflow oven, (I use a converted toaster oven now), a fume extractor with external fitting to go outside, decent lighting above my bench, and a decent adjustable chair to sit.

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  • P
    paulob160 May 04, 2018

    A good coffee machine and a microwave. One of the most important components in any electronics or computing engineers’ day is a Cornish Pasty. The temperature of a good Cornish Pasty is a critical parameter when considering the benefits a microwave oven can bring to the workbench. This only applies to real Cornish Pasties though, made and cooked in Cornwall. Other than that, a half-way decent digital oscilloscope and arbitrary waveform generator can always be added later…

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  • T
    Travesh May 04, 2018

    How about a nice precision source meter?

    For the hobbyist these days many tools are relatively easy to acquire or build. It’s truly a great time to be into electronics as long as you’re willing to dive in and work with today’s difficult form factors. It’s fairly cheap to acquire old test equipment for specialized needs. e.g. precision multi/voltmeter, electrometer, RF gear, etc.

    The precision source meter stands out to me as a great multi-purpose tool that would speed up my work. Precision, stable power sourcing isn’t cheap or easy. Old equipment still goes for real money. Maybe one of the lower cost brands has come up with something by now.

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  • Fozzy59 May 06, 2018

    I am re-starting my interest in electronic hobby skills. I would LIKE to have…..
    ¤ temperature controlled soldering iron.
    ¤ multimeter
    ¤ bench power supply 1) variable stable voltage with current limiting adjusted to required setting & 2) adjustable split power supply regulated voltage centre ground
    ¤ sine wave signal generator (af to uhf)
    ¤ pulse generator
    ¤ oscilloscope
    ¤ logic probe

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