If you have ever populated surface mount boards by hand, you know that a stencil for spreading the solder paste is invaluable. Before the Kickstarter, I tried to do it by just spreading the solder paste on using a dental pick, but I would get too much in some areas and not enough in other areas. This would mean that I would have to go back through and use solder wick to clean up the extra lead. It also meant that I would have to rework 2 or 3 pins per incandescent wing board. Identifying issues and fixing them took a long time.
During the Kickstarter, I knew that I was going to need to build up about 30 of the incandescent surface mount boards for the big spenders. Building them up using the through hole cards would take a long time to clip all of the leads and solder all those pins. (The incandescent wing has the most solder connections on it.) I ended up getting a stencil from OSH Stencils because they were the cheapest. I dropped the Gerbers for the stencil in the repository so other people could order one if they needed it, assuming nobody would ever need one.
A couple weeks ago, the Mezels said they sold out of the incandescent surface mount boards. I was surprised. I reached out to OSH Stencils to see if there was a way to make the stencils available using a link so people don’t need to upload the Gerber files to order them. Luckily the guy had just added that feature to the website.
If you are populating a surface mount incandescent wing board as a low side switch (i.e. enable and disable the ground connection to turn on and off the bulb), use this link: Low Side Incandescent Wing Stencil.
If you are populating a surface mount incandescent wing board as a high side switch (i.e. enable and disable the power connection to turn on and off the bulb), use this link: High Side Incandescent Wing Stencil.
If I needed to build 8 or 10 boards, a stencil would definitely make sense. Less than that, I would probably just muddle through it and not get the stencil. It is really based on what your time is worth. The other nice part of the stencil is because you always get the right amount of solder paste, my yield rate jumped to 100%. (i.e. I never had to rework any of the boards) That made testing that much faster and more convenient because I could run through and test all 30 of the boards without needing to stop and fix issues that I found.