Well, I've got all the boards designed, and all the last of the parts arrived today from Digi-Key. Now I'm starting the actual build by etching the first board. This is a USB to RS-485 converter, and will provide my laptop with an RS-485 bus. Tomorrow I go buy a new soldering iron, and some damn sharp tweezers.
Smallbox and Angie's List for the $1000.00 Nice Grant that makes this all possible.