Preparing the circuit board:

Before you install the various headers (collectively known as 'mechanicals'), you need to separate the board that came in the bag into sub-boards and clean them up.

Grip and bend

The board is tab-routed, which means it's designed to break apart. Grip the board on either side of a tab and bend it like you're trying to fold the sattelite board back on the shield.

Try not to twist the boards while you bend them. That can cause the board material (basically layers of fiberglass in an epoxy matrix) to delaminate.


The tab should break along the row of holes down its center.

Extra copper

When you break the boards, you'll probably notice cylinders of copper running through the holes.

Those are vias, or plated through-holes.

Circuit boards are fabricated by drilling the holes first, plating copper through them, then masking and etching the surfaces.

While you can have extra holes drilled after the board is etched, it's an additional process. It costs more and there's a risk of misalignment between the new holes and the parts that have been etched, so it's the kind of thing you only do when you specifically need non-conducting holes.

In this case the electrical characteristics don't matter, so it was easier to do the separation holes as vias.

Separated boards

With the tabs broken, you'll have the five sub-boards necessary for the project. The inline satellite boards are shown to the left, the shield is at center, and the right-angle satellite boards are on the right.

Dressing the boards

You can leave the broken edges raw, but the boards will look better (and snag less) if you take a couple of minutes to dress the edges with a file.

Like I said earlier, the boards are basically fiberglass, so they're easy to work. You can grind them down with sandpaper or a nail file, but a metal file will give you a smooth, flat surface with minimal fuss.

Sharp files work much better on plastic than old, dull ones. Plastics are springy, so if a tooth is too dull the material will just flex away from it. The file will skate across the surface without cutting anything.

A rough file actually works better than a smooth one in this case. You'll still get a good finish, and a rough file cuts a whole new surface every time. A file that's too smooth will only round over the corners of the surface that's already there.

Finished boards

Once the boards are dressed, you're ready to start soldering.