The Art of “Manhattan” Style Circuit Construction

“Manhattan Style” is a technique for constructing electronic circuits by gluing pads or traces to make “islands” of separate conductivity on top of a base material. The pads or traces are cut (with a shear^ or nibbler^) or punched^ from copper clad board or thin sheets of metal, or clipped and bent from solid wire, then affixed with super glue or other adhesive. Component leads are then soldered to the top of the pads and traces to build the circuit. A metallic base board can provide a good ground plane.


Here are some examples of circuits made using Manhattan construction: (thanks to Carel Mulder – PA0CMU, and Paul Harden, na5n for permission)


Notice that you can use surface mount components just as easily:

And you can use through-hole components without holes as demonstrated by the resistor in the lower right corner. picture from Paul Harden, na5n used by permission 




IC’s can also simply be glued in place upside down and components or wires soldered to the IC leads. This is often called “dead bug” construction.

Another option is to attach the IC right side up with a spacer under it and with the leads bent out flat, like a surface mount chip, with components and conductors soldered directly to them. Call it “live bug” construction!

The circuit can be very, very complex:

Of course, if you really don’t want to use a PCB blank as the base, you don’t have too… Here is an Arduino made on a sheet of high temperature plastic:–The-future-is-lightweight–low-cost–and-flexible

Actually, you can make a circuit on nothing at all:

That is actually a USB AVR programmer, believe it or not.. the USB cable hasn’t been soldered on yet.  How cool is that! More at:

How it’s done:

Here are a few pictures and descriptions to give the general idea. There are several very good tutorials listed at page linked below for more detail.


A harbor freight punch held in a vice; used to make small round pads from copper clad board. Other methods of making pads include cutting small square pad or long strips with a shear or PCB saw, or using a sheet metal “nibbler” The long strips are most useful for surface mount designs or as buss bars. Wire can also be used to connect separate smaller pads. You can also make isolated pads in a solid PCB with spot weld drills at Harbor Freight. These drills have a spring loaded center pin that keeps the boards from wandering while you drill them. You can also drill very small pilot holes through the board to make matching pads on the opposite side of the board for feed through connections. pictures from chuck adams, k7qo and Paul Harden, na5n used by permission


PCB pads made from the above punch, glued to a base of copper clad board. The tops have been tinned with solder, ready for component leads.Care must be taken to remove any burs or “flashing” of copper that might short the top of the pad to the base ground plane. This is also important for safety. Acetone can be used to remove the super glue holding the pads if they must be repositioned, but this can be very difficult to apply to only one pad in a tight layout, so get your pads set right before adding the components. Components can be soldered vertically or horizontally between pads or from pads to the ground plane. Notice that the ends of the leads are always parallel with the surface they are being soldered to. As this excellent example from chuck adams, k7qo shows, Manhattan construction can be very artistic. picture from chuck adams, k7qo used by permission



Pads for Integrated Circuits can be made by cutting away the copper from a piece of copper clad board to make isolated segments matching the spacing and number of pins. picture from chuck adams, k7qo used by permission


ICs can be soldered direct to pad or sockets can be used. In either case, the leads should be bent over to provide a larger contact area with the pad. picture from chuck adams, k7qo used by permission