Make Your Own PCBs

One of these days, you're going to want to make a PCB for some cool circuit out there that nobody sells a board for because it's obscure or maybe because it's a unique design by a fellow pedal junkie. Whatever the reason may be, you can rest assured that the process isn't all that complicated. However, be forewarned that it does take some trial and error, and you will have to drop some cash on the right gear. The money spent is worthwhile if you think you'll make more than just a few boards.

Here are the basic steps for making PCBs at home:

STEP 1: Transfer the Circuit Design to Copper Board

The first step is to take the actual circuit image (not the layout image that shows the components) and transfer it onto a piece of blank copper board. This process puts the design on the board in an acid-resistant form.

There are three main methods by which you can transfer the image to copper:

• Toner transfer (more popular)
• Photosenstive transfer
• Acid-resistant "ink" (ie - a Sharpie)

Click on the method type to read a tutorial on how to make PCBs with that method.

STEP 2: Etch the Design

Once you've got your circuit layout transferred to the PCB blank, it's time to etch (with acid) the excess copper off the board and leave behind the circuit traces. There are three common etchants used in this process:

• Ferric Chloride
• Muriatic Acid + H202
• Sodium Persulfate

Which acid should you use? There are pros and cons to each, so click the link to read up on the details.

STEP 3: Drill and Finish the Board

Now that the circuit has been etched onto the PCB, you need to drill out each solder pad to accommodate components and hookup wire. If you plan to use standoffs, you also need to drill holes for them. I like to sand the edges of mine as well, but this is not required.

Equipment That You Will Need

Click here for an overview of the gear you'll need to make PCBs.