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Sorting Components

When you're constructing an experimental circuit, the last thing you need is to go hunting through a pile of assorted components for just the right resistor, capacitor, or coil. To avoid this, you need to have your experimental components organized in some way that makes it easy to locate and select the particular part you want.

There are many different ways of sorting and organizing your components so that later on you can easily find them when you need them. You are welcome to use one of the methods described here, or possibly adapt it to your own preferences and methods. If the methods discussed here do not suit you, you are of course welcome to use your own methods. Whatever method you choose, however, you will need to be able to sort rapidly through your components to find the ones you need for a particular experiment.

One simple method, which is also used when assembling a permanent piece of equipment, is to use strips of corrugated cardboard, such as the cardboard used in shipping cartons. The corrugations are large enough to hold component leads, but will not pass most component bodies. In the case of ¼-watt and smaller resistors, you can put a piece of transparent tape across the edge to make sure the resistor body can't fall inside.

In any case, the idea is to group components together be value and by type. Thus, one or two cardboard strips might have all your resistors on them, grouped together by value. Another strip would hold your capacitors, again grouped together.

The main drawback with this approach appears when you have a large number of experimental parts which are to be used and then returned to their "home." It can become difficult and confusing, and occupy a lot of table surface.

An alternate method is to use "parts cabinets" to hold your components. These are metal or plastic boxes with a number of plastic drawers to hold the parts. In most versions, plastic dividers may be used to separate the drawers into smaller compartments.

In my own case, I use a 24-drawer cabinet for ¼-watt resistors, a second one for ½-watt and larger resistors, and a third, larger cabinet for capacitors. The drawers for the resistors are labelled according to the significant digits of allowed resistance values. Thus, these drawers are simply labelled 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 43, 47, 51, 56, 62, 68, 75, 82, and 91. The "10" drawer holds resistors of 1, 10, 100, 1k, 10k, 100k, 1M, and 10M ohms. It is not difficult to check the color codes and locate which of these resistors I want, since all the rest of the color bands will be the same for all resistors in the drawer. (If necessary, you can review the Color Code and even get some practice reading it.)

Capacitors require more drawers because there are different types that cover different ranges. A 24-drawer cabinet would easily hold ceramic, polystyrene, and similar smaller types for general use. In this case, however, I find it practical to use dividers to separate capacitance ranges from each other. Most modern capacitors have a shape that allows the capacitance value to be readily printed on the body of the capacitor, although the numbers may be small. Therefore they seldom use color codes, and are harder to distinguish on sight.

In addition, there is another category of capacitors, known as electrolytic capacitors. These use a different construction method in order to get large values of capacitance in relatively small containers. These capacitors do not always follow the standard numerical values of the smaller capacitors and resistors, and are often physically larger as well, so they are easier to store and find in separate drawers.

Coils (inductors) and other parts need to go in appropriate drawers, bins, or boxes according to their size and purpose.

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