I build audio projects and small logic control circuits using point-to-point on perfboard (see pic of a recent build).

point-to-point on perfboard

As you can see this allows me to select wire gauge in accordance to the currents at various parts. When the board is finished, tested and washed I spray paint a clear enamel on the underside. I have built circuits running up to 450V like this without problems, but these are all low frequency projects.

Now I want to build a switcher-style power supply running at 50kHz. For the moment I am only in the exploratory stages as this is terra incognita for me. Is this building method any good for medium frequency work? I seem to recall having seen HF projects built in dead-bug fashion without issues, that can't be any worse no?

The only potential issue I see could be parasitic capacitance between the copper pads. If it is a problem, I could dissolve the unneeded pads using etchant - I have done this for boards that are connected to mains in order to reduce the potential for arcing. This is done before soldering parts - I design my boards with autoCAD so I know in advance which pads need to be kept.

The second point is about the use of a ground plane; this seems mandatory for switching circuits. I can implement it with a piece of plain PCB stock under the perfboard with drilled pass-through holes for the few pins that need to connect to it but there would be a space of almost 1/8" between the two boards, can this be a problem? If so I can place the plain PCB stock on a spot that isn't under parts so it is in direct contact but it will be of smaller area of course.

Alternatively, could a large-gauge piece of wire be used instead of a ground plane? If a low-impedance path is all that is needed that could fit the bill. A 18AWG wire has as much copper as a sizeable PCB plane no? There might be problems due to skin effect in the wire though...

I could etch a bona fide PCB but I'd rather not - I hate drilling dozens of holes using those crazy-thin drill bits, and I'm not convinced at all about consistancy of home-etched PCBs tracks physical/electrical properties. This is the reason I build point-to-point on perfboard.

Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance for any help! -Joe

  • \$\begingroup\$ Check out a technique called "Manhattan" building. This uses a combination of dead-bug as well as top-mounting components on tiny pads cut from a sheet of copper-clad circuit-board material. It is (relatively) easy to do and is probably faster than the perf-board that you showed. The substrate is a sheet of copper-clad circuit board which gives a great ground-plane with which to work. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2022 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Radio Amateurs (HAMs) use this technique to build RF circuits into HF & VHF frequency ranges. For the tiny pads: I use a small Roper Whitney Jr hand punch to make pads 1/8" & 3/16" diameter from a sheet of 1/16" thick blank PCB material. A tiny dot of CA glue holds them in place. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2022 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ One of so very many examples <sdmakersguild.org/…> \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2022 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ For protoboards with ground planes, Busboard has ones for surface mount in their SPx series and Twin Industries has them for through-hole in their 8100 and 8200 series. 8200 actually provides two planes. Vector has them too but they are overprices by about 300%. Allows for things to be a bit neater than dead bugging on a plain copper board. \$\endgroup\$
    – DKNguyen
    May 30, 2022 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dwayne Reid Yes you remind me, I have seen projects built like that many years ago and they were pretty cool too! Thanks for your comments I'll keep this in mind. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    May 30, 2022 at 16:27

1 Answer 1


For switcher frequencies, you can forget about problems caused by excess pad capacitance, it's just not the right order of magnitude to cause trouble.

However, grounding is a more serious issue. It's not actually necessary to use a ground plane. It is necessary to have a ground return running close to all signal traces, to minimise the area of the current-switched loops that you will be creating in a switcher design, and to ensure that ground currents in one part of the design don't create stray voltages in other parts.

A gridded ground can work quite well. Something like a 10mm or 1/2" spaced grid of wires on both x and y axes, soldered together at every intersection, would be more than enough like a ground plane for switcher frequencies.

If you do use an additional board for a plane, the 1/8" gap should be fairly negligible.

What most RF engineers would do is start from a ground plane, and then mount components above it. You can get sets of pads, IC footprints, and transmission lines, on adhesive-backed copper clad. Another way to do this for cheap is to cut up some copper clad into tiny squares and strips, and epoxy or super-glue these down to the ground plane. Hint, 15 minute epoxy goes off in a few seconds if you hold a soldering iron to the pad.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Many thanks! I think I'll experiment will all the techniques you mentionned along with my original two-board sandwich idea, checking for transients in each. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    May 30, 2022 at 16:40

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