The "Three Fives" Discrete 555 Timer kit from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is a faithful and functional transistor-scale replica of the classic NE555 timer integrated circuit, one of the most classic, popular, and all-around useful chips of all time.
The Three Fives kit was designed by Eric Schlaepfer, in collaboration with Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. The kit is lovingly designed to resemble an (overgrown) integrated circuit, based around an extra-thick matte-finish printed circuit board. It comes complete with a tough and sturdy plastic stand that gives the circuit board eight legs in the shape of DIP-packaged integrated circuit pins.
Building the kit
The Three Fives kit is sold as an easy-to-build soldering kit [?]. It includes the circuit board, resistors, and transistors that make up the electrical circuit as well as printed assembly instructions. The kit also comes complete with the "IC Leg" stand, and 8 color coded thumbscrew terminal posts.
To build the Three Fives kit, basic electronic soldering skill and tools are required, but no additional knowledge of electronics is presumed or required. You provide standard soldering tools: a soldering iron + solder and small ("flush") wire clippers, as well as a Phillips head screwdriver.
The kit features easy "through-hole" construction ("No surface-mount nothin' nowhere!"), and (assuming that you have prior soldering experience) should take roughly an hour to build.
Using the "Three Fives" Discrete 555 Timer
The Three Fives circuit is a direct implementation of the "equivalent circuit" from the NE555 datasheet, built up using resistors and individual 2N3904 and 2N3906 transistors. It comes with terminal posts and solder points so that you can actually connect to it and build up classic 555 timer and oscillator circuits. Using those terminal posts and solder points, you can hook up with with bare wires, lugs, alligator clips, and/or solder joints-- however you see fit. And unlike the chip version, you can even hook up probes to monitor what goes on inside the circuit.
There are a remarkably large number of excellent 555 example circuits available on the internet (for example, over 100 here). In the photo to the right, you can see a simple 555 LED flasher built up with the Three Fives kit.