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Cutting veroboard tracks

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If you use veroboard you’re going to have to get used to cutting veroboard tracks. This is when you want a break in the track so there is no continuation of the connection. Again there are a few different ways of doing it. There is a specific tool manufactured for cutting veroboard tracks. It looks a bit like a screwdriver but with a cutter on the end. You hold the tool in your hand and put the sharp end on the hole where you want the track break to be. Then apply a little pressure and rotate the tool. It will score into the board cutting through the copper and remove it producing a break in the copper track. You can also use a drill bit to do a similar job. You just hold it in your hand and rotate it till you start to bite into the board removing the copper.

Make sure you use the right size drill bit. It needs to be wide enough to cut through the whole track without leaving any traces of copper on either side but not too wide as to start damaging the tracks either side of the one you’re cutting.

These ways of track cutting veroboard tracks have a couple of disadvantages.

The first is that it’s a bit messy and doesn’t look too good. This is probably just a preference that I don’t like and a lot of people live with it. It’s always best to test what you’ve done with a multimeter or continuity tester. You’d be surprised at how easy it is for small slivers of copper to get left behind and therefore stop your circuit from working. It’s a good idea to give it a visual check with a magnifier just to make sure there are no bits that could cause a short circuit anywhere.

The main disadvantage for me though is that you waste a hole in the board. It might not sound like a big deal but when you’re laying out a big circuit all the track cuts add up. You can significantly save space over a large layout by cutting between the holes.

The way I do it is to use a six inch steel ruler and a fine tipped black marker pen. Something with about a 1mm tip is about the right size. Draw in the middle of the two holes with the pen so you have a fine black line. Double check that it’s where you want the cut to be. It’s extremely easy to get it in the wrong place and marking it first really helps. Using a razor blade or a craft knife with a sharp blade, with the steel ruler positioned over the edge of the black line so you’re just covering it, cut the copper track. Then move the steel ruler to the opposite side of the black line and cut the track again. You should end up with two straight cuts about a millimetre apart with the drawn black line in the middle.

cutting veroboard tracks two adjacent cuts

Two adjacent cuts about a millimeter apart.

This way also makes it a lot easier when you're cutting veroboard tracks in a line. Under an I.C. for instance where you need to break all the connections.

Then using the craft knife again, angle the blade slightly under the black marked part of the strip and run it under the cut and you’ll find that you can lift off the 1mm sliver of copper. Then you have the finished cut track, neat, tidy and with no nasty remnants to cause shorts. You should still visually check it with a magnifier and a meter but it’s rare you’ll find any problems with this technique.

cutting veroboard tracks short

The track lifted in the middle - not the small piece of copper debris to be removed.

cutting veroboard tracks the finished cut

The finished cut veroboard track.

Apart from the advantage of not wasting any board area, it’s a lot easier to repair the cut if it’s in the wrong place. You just have to put a piece of trimmed component lead along the gap and a blob of solder will mend the cut. It’s a lot easier than trying to bridge the gap left by the stripboard cutting tool or drill. For me this is the most convenient method of cutting veroboard tracks. By marking the veroboard you get the chance to properly check it is in the correct place and its neat and saves space.