Loose Part Storage During Electronic Device Repair

I just tore down my old Realistic DX-390 radio to look at fixing its sticky keypad. I had lots of little parts to keep track of while doing so. As I was working on this, it occurred that others may find my parts storage trick as useful as I do.

I picked this trick up some time ago. I have no idea the source of the original tip. I suspect it was from some book I read.

I keep a stack of 3oz paper cups at my work bench. When I start disassembling a particular device, I flip over a paper cup and put each part or series of like parts (e.g. external case screws) into a cup.

As I remove each little part it goes into its own cup and I stack that cup on the prior cup. When I’m done I have a nice stack of cups:


Now I not only have each part separated from the others, but I also have the removal sequence saved due to the stacking of the cups. Note the big plastic cup to the right. I keep big pieces in it.

When it is time to reassemble the parts, I simply remove each cup from the top of the stack and reinstall the parts in that cup.

I can still have trouble remembering where the parts go, so I sometimes stick a note in the cup to help id the parts:


I also tend to take pictures of the device during tear-down to help remember where all of the parts go. Smart phones are sure handy!


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2 Responses to Loose Part Storage During Electronic Device Repair

  1. Sean Straw says:

    I have a roll of “butcher paper” – 18 inches wide and geez, about a mile long. Great for kids to draw on or do crafts with, but also for protecting a workbench when doing something messy. Besides protecting a benchtop, you can also write notes on it, set parts down, circle them, write a sequence number, location, and/or measurement (water pump, upper left, 9/16″). While the small stacking cup approach is a great idea for the small parts generally associated with benchtop projects, I propose you could merge the two. Number your cups, and then you can write notes on your workbench protection sheet, identifying tool sizes or other particulars as you go.

    When doing service work on some of my automobiles, I’ll set up a digital video camera and mutter things while I’m disassembling, or come up and hold a part out in front of the camera and say a few things about it (replacement part number, some specific condition to check for, etc). If you took something apart and put it back together without incident, you can just purge the video, but if you need to refer back to something from a few minutes earlier, it’s an easy thing to check.

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