Building Your Own Tools

Well, OK, not the regular tools like screwdrivers, soldering irons, or wire cutters.  I’m talking about things like breadboard-friendly alligator clips, etc.

I’ve seen a few other people that have done this, and I’m sure they’re actually sold somewhere (the breadboard-able alligator clips, that is) but I usually see at least one (if not more) comments on “Where do I get those?  Alligator clips are great for hooking up to <insert gizmo here> for testing, but they SUCK to attach to tiny leads on a breadboard.

This is true.  They do.  What I do is order the fairly long alligator clips (link at the bottom), and cut the colors that I want to use in half.  This leaves you with two alligator clips of the same color, attached to two long, floppy, completely non-breadboard friendly wires.  Still.  So then I take one of each pair and cut a bit off, on the theory that I’m going to want some short clips and some long ones.  If you have a better idea of what lengths you want, or want LONG ones, just cut them to those lengths instead.  Strip the ends.  Solder some hookup wire (linked below) to each of them, and use some heat shrink tubing (again, linked below) to cover the joints.  Strip the ends of the hookup wire that are exposed enough to plug into a breadboard.  Voila!  You have breadboard-friendly alligator clips that make a solid connection on a breadboard, and as solid of a connection as alligator clips ever make on your doodads and gizmos that you use them for.

I did the same thing with that little 9 volt battery “hat” that they give you to put on a 9 volt battery that ends in a typical DC plug.  Mine came with a breadboard power supply, that can be run from a wall jack, powered by 9 volt via the same port, or by USB.  Neat idea.  Except that 9 volt batteries suck.  I did want to use it in a couple of instances to connect directly to a few things, though, and the DC jack wasn’t useful for that.  So, instead of buying a new “hat” thing, I modified it.  I took two DuPont wires (M/F), and cut them.  And I cut off the DC plug, leaving enough wire to strip and solder.  I soldered the male ends to the wires coming from the battery hat, and the female ends to the part with the DC plug.  I used heat shrink tubing on the soldered portions, just like above, but I also used it on the female section as well, making it a more solid “plug” for the other side.  At first, I didn’t do this with the male side, since I thought that I might need them to separate.  Eventually, I just came to the conclusion that if I hadn’t needed it yet, then I probably wouldn’t, and shrink tubed that connection as well.  Now it plugs together nicely.

I see people do this sort of thing all the time.  I’ve done other things, that I’m just not thinking of at the moment, I know.  If you have any favorite modifications or home-made tools, I’d love to hear about it!  Feel free to leave a comment, or email me at

Links to the items mentioned above (in order as I find them on Amazon, no other particular order):

  • Alligator Clips:
    • Cheap, and plenty of them.  These are what I’m currently using.
  • Breadboard:
    • These are the most recent breadboards that I’m trying.  So far, so good.  All three have been used, no dead pins or jammed ones so far.  Feel solid, too.
  • DuPont Wire:
    • These actually aren’t what I’m using, but when I need more, it’s what I intend to get, or something just like it.  The wires I’m using actually came in my first Arduino kit.  I don’t use them all that often, so they’re still in good shape.
  • Hookup Wire:
    • Same stuff I use.  Solid core, tinned, and easy to work with.
  • Shrink Tubing:
    • Good stuff.  Again, this is what I’m using.  Honestly, though, it might be worth doing some additional searching to get things in fewer sizes for once, or colors or something.  These are all exactly the same color, but are WILDLY different in size.  I have not and don’t really expect to need a lot of the bigger stuff in this pack.  Good to have, though, I guess.
  • Breadboard Power Supply:
    • Mine came in a kit, but this one looks identical.  Selectable 3.3V or 5V on jumpers for each rail, fits across a standard breadboard.
  • Wire Cutters:
    • Really good flush cutters.  It’s worth the couple dollars extra to get a good pair.
  • Wire Strippers:
    • Same here.  A couple more dollars than the cheap pair I was using before.  Night and day.  Great product.
  • 9V Hat:
    • Apparently called a “battery buckle clip.”  Huh.  Who knew?

All of these (or similar) can be found in my Amazon Store, which is also linked at the top of the page.


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