The growth of small order, affordable PCB production houses has led a to a definite drop in people building their own printed circuit boards from scratch - but for those determined to build something entirely homebrew, nothing beats the bubble of the etchant and first successful solder joint on an entirely hand-made board.
If you're curious as to how to make your own circuit boards without relying on an external production house, Chris Holden is currently running a series of interesting step-by-step posts on the Nerd Club blog. Starting from design and working through transfer to a blank board, chemical etching, drilling and finishing, and finally concluding with the task of soldering on components, Chris' posts offer a great insight into homebrew PCB production from someone who has been there and done that.
"It's not the 'perfect' way of making the 'perfect' board, Chris readily admits. "We often cut corners and don't always use the cheapest nor optimal method. But after a good few years of experience, it's a balance between how quickly we want to get a result, and how much in time/materials we're willing to invest to get the result we're after."
One question we're asked - quite regularly, but especially after posting anything with a custom PCB - is how we make our homebrew boards. So we'll do a complete run-down of making a board, from design to printing and transfer, through to etching and drilling.