Capacitance meter kit from SparkFun

Several months ago I built a Morse-annunciating capacitance meter from Jackson Harbor Press and posted a video of its operation here. It sold out soon after that and seems to have been cancelled altogether from their line of kits. That’s unfortunate because it is a handy gadget for the workbench.

Last week I ordered another capacitance meter kit from a vendor that has quite a number of electronic kits. It arrived 4 days later from Colorado.

In addition to being easy to build, this meter can be more easily installed into a case. And at $14, the price is right.

With only 30 parts (all through-hole) and a high quality circuit board it would make a great kit for the first time builder.

The build instructions don’t hold your hand – they simply have you install the components from the Bill of Materials list which is entirely sufficient for a kit of this simplicity. I installed all the caps, then the resistors and then everything else. Actually, there wasn’t much else after the caps & resistors.

The complete instructions

The board is clearly marked for each component but be careful not to mis-identify the values of R11 and R12.

 A description of the kit, as well as complete owner’s manual, is available online here.

45 minutes after heating up the soldering iron the kit was finished and ready to start earning its keep. I measured caps with labeled values ranging from 7pF to 220uF and found the measured values to be within the spec’ed 1%.

The manual says that to achieve the highest accuracy when measuring small value caps, that the meter should be installed into a metal housing, however the 7pF cap mentioned above read as 7.1pF with the circuit board bare and homeless.

One thing I like about this meter compared to the one from Jackson Harbor Press is that, once zero’ed, the zero value is written to firmware. I’ve gone through several On/Off cycles and have not needed to re-zero this meter as I would have had to do with the other.

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  3 comments for “Capacitance meter kit from SparkFun

  1. September 3, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I saw this on SparkFun a while back and was wondering how it was. Good to know that it worked out well for you John. I might end up getting this at some point.

  2. Neal Argeny W3CUV
    October 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    John, I just built this capacitance meter. I wouldn’t have known about it if a friend hadn’t told me about your writeup here. It seems to work OK except numbers jump around a little when measuring small picofarad caps. PCB assembly was easy, making the enclosure was much more difficult. I’m sending a couple of photos in a separate email.

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