Getting started with recapping
My short list of recommendations for instruction, equipment, and parts
To get started learning about recapping I largely watched videos on YouTube, then I had to plan out which equipment I needed, and track down the correct replacement capacitors. Here are my recommendations.
Next, I researched the tools and equipment I’d need to do what I’d seen. My workbench is 6’ by 2’ so space was a consideration. I generally recommend doing some purchasing research at Wirecutter, which did have an article about soldering irons, but none of the other categories of item — listed here in my order of purchase priority: hot air rework station, microscope, tweezers, smoke absorber, solder, solder wick, flux, and hot tweezers.
Here’s what I recommend:
Soldering iron — Getting old capacitors off the board and new ones back on is the primary need. In part, because I wanted to consolidate some space on the workbench, I went with a combined soldering iron and hot air rework station. I’d soldered before but never at the level of precision of temperature and granularity that I’d be working with on these circuit boards. The hot air wand — think very small hair dryer — is an efficient means of loosening the surface-mount type of capacitors. In my recommendation the quality is quite good, and there are separate power and heat settings for each device. The box included a thoughtful array of accessories, including various tips for both the soldering iron and the hot air wand.
Microscope — Seeing the work seems important too, right? My recommendation has heft and is therefore stable and eliminates any wobble. I like that it has an adjustable spotlight to illuminate an area really well. The optics are great and it is easy to see through.
Tweezers — Both because these capacitors are small and temporarily hot, a nice pair of tweezers with a fine point are useful. My recommendation is also stainless steel and non-magnetic.
Smoke absorber — Personally, I work inside the house. There’s some nice peace of mind provided by this recommendation. It’s neither too loud nor too expensive, and you should add as much to your shopping list too.
Larger diameter solder — MG Chemicals - 4898-227G 60/40 Rosin Core Leaded Solder, 0.062" Diameter, 1/2 lbs Spool
Smaller diameter solder — MAIYUM 63-37 Tin Lead Rosin Core Solder Wire for Electrical Soldering (0.8mm 50g)
Flux paste — MG Chemicals No Clean Flux Paste
Hot tweezers — This soldering iron in the shape of a pair of tweezers is compelling for use with axial (a lead wire on either side) or radial (two lead wires on the bottom) capacitors, as it quickly and precisely applies heat to two leads and allows efficient removal. That said, I’ve ranked these last in my list of getting-started recommendations as there’s literally nothing these do that can’t be done with the other equipment.
I also needed more outlets for this gear and have had great luck with these power strips, which have useful spacing and directionality to the outlets to accommodate oversized plugs, and also provide 4 USB ports.
For the capacitors themselves I turned to Console5, which packages capacitors into kits based on the type of computer. For a beginner like myself this was very reassuring. For the first project I selected this kit for a Macintosh SE.
Supporters, please note that where possible and appropriate I’ve used links to these recommendations which may provide an affiliate payment to myself — such as those links to Amazon. If that ends up clicking with you, you have my thanks.