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 A Padawans Guilde to Assembling and maintaining your Lightsaber Electronics

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Askai Katani
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Posts : 17
Join date : 2012-09-12
Age : 44
Location : Nar Shaddaa Temple

PostSubject: A Padawans Guilde to Assembling and maintaining your Lightsaber Electronics   Thu Feb 11, 2016 4:58 pm

Hello all!
My name is Dan (Jedi Knight Askai Katani/ Qi Morandan or Darth Malygnus) I live within the bounds of Temple Prime and have been its local saber smith on and off since 2012.
Last week i was approached by Robb, and asked to post some tutorials on soldering and electronics, to that end i decided to start with the basics. and i asked myself "what is soldering?". I began constructing a very lengthy article that went all over the place and eventually found myself going places i didn't need to go. To that end i did some research on the interwebtubes, and came up with this. I hope this empowers you all and allows you to either take the next step in your journey of DIY electronics, it affords you the information you need to make better informed choices when repairing your sabers. I will be adding to this thread weekly in the form of threads. next week i will be adding an explanation on battery usage and how it applies to our art. that being said, if you have any questions at all please sent them via email, or to me via text 6572625427. I will add these questions to the  following weeks update.  


For me Soldering is as much an art form as it is a science. i say that because it can sometimes require a lot of creativity as well as know how. at first it can be frustrating, but with anything you can learn the skills needed to do some great work, Before the article I have posted the things i keep in my box for use at practice to fix sabers. (most of you saw that last week), so that you can get an idea of costs to simply get started soldering, keep this in mind when looking for a smith to do work, most will apply a small percentage charge for the tools of the trade as most are consumable items.

TOOLS needed to solder

  • Soldering iron - I recommend a 40 watt soldering iron, a 30 watt will work, or an adjustable butane iron. 14.99 to 300 dependent
  • fine and regular soldering tips
  • Solder - 1 roll Rosin Core 26-28 gauge - 7.99-14.99
  • Wire cutters, small/fine -4.99 and up
  • Wire strippers - multi gauge (optional)
  • Xacto knife - 4.99-10.99 recommend standard size, but large will work for bigger hands, it just requires better fine control
  • helping hands 2.50 for DIY -100.00 for ridiculous optioned brands, not needed, but really good to have, ill cover a tutorial later, or i can get you a set made for 10 bucks.
  • denatured (wood grain) alcohol (for cleaning finished parts 
  • Liquid rosin flux- 7.99 a bottle
  • applicator bottles
  • tip tinner or cleaner 
  • sponge and water or paper towel and water
  • shrink wrap in various sizes
  • permanent marker
  • heat gun or butane soldering iron with removable tip for use as a heat gun

as you can see the majority of the list can get pricey, so getting started can be an investment, remember this when trying to fix a wire, whats more cost effective spending a few hundred bucks for tools, or just a few bucks to have a local sabersmith do it?

the article below is on basic through hole soldering, i will add a more detailed section on wore soldering afterwards at the next update mostly becuase id like to include pics.

What Is Soldering and How Do You Use Solder Tools?
Soldering (pronounced "soddering") involves a material called solder that melts when placed on a hot object; the melted solder cools and forms a bond between two items. Your most basic soldering tool is a soldering iron with a soldering station.
soldering station holds your hot soldering iron and keeps your solder and tip cleaner organized. Purchase a small 15- to 30-watt soldering iron made for electronics and a soldering station. Also buy thin .032-inch-diameter rosin-core solder. You can purchase these at your local Radio Shack and other places.
Don't use a big soldering iron and the big 1/4-inch, acid-core solder used for plumbing, which are typically found at home improvement stores. If you do, you might damage sensitive electronic components. Use rosin-core solder to form the bond in your projects.
Figure 1 shows the basic process of soldering. Figure 2 zooms in on the process.

Figure 1: Soldering requires the right tools and a little skill.

Figure 2: Here's soldering, close up.

How to solder

The best technique for soldering is simple, so repeat this mantra: Heat the metal, not the solder. For example, you heat the metal of a component pin and the metal of a circuit board pad simultaneously, and then you touch the tip of the rosin-core solder to the pad or the pin, but not to the iron. If you have sufficiently heated the two metals (the pad and the pin), they will heat the solder, which then flows quickly to both the pad and the component pin. See Figure 3 for an example of good and bad solder joints.

Figure 3: A bad solder joint (on the left) — and a good one (on the right).

It's also important to know which piece to solder to which other pieces. For example, a pad is the little copper metallic doughnut around a circuit board hole that you can put a component pin through. A trace is one of the copper lines on the circuit board. You usually solder a component to a pad, not directly to a trace.

When you need to undo solder mistakes

If you do make a mistake with solder, you'll be glad to know that you can undo a bad solder. One method is to just heat up the bad solder and then suck it away with a solder sucker, a desoldering pump you can purchase.
Another way to remove unwanted solder is to use copper braiding. You put the braiding on top of the solder that you want to remove and heat it with your soldering iron. The copper braiding absorbs the unwanted solder. You then discard the used copper braiding.

Ten tips for successful soldering

Because soldering is an important skill, you'll want to master the basic techniques quickly. Here are some essential tips to good soldering:

  • Remember the old joke about knowing which end of the soldering iron to hold on to? Seriously, a soldering iron can burn you or cause a fire. Liquid solder can cause severe burns too, so always use caution when melting solder.

  • When you solder something, it will remain hot for many minutes. Always grab parts with pliers to avoid getting burned even after the soldering iron is removed.

  • Purchase the correct solder type and width, as well as the correct soldering iron and tip. Think small tip and thin solder.

  • Some soldering kits include training materials to help you master the art of soldering. Although people can tell you how to solder, good soldering requires hands-on experience. Take the time to solder a few cheap test components into a test prototype board to get your technique down before using your skills on somewhat more costly electronic parts.

  • If your solder looks like a clump of wadded-up aluminum foil, you've soldered it incorrectly. The solder should look smooth and shiny and must cling to both items (for example the component pin or wire and PCB pad) to make a good connection.

  • Incorrect soldering (such as cold solder joints) can lead to all sorts of problems that can be hard to track down.

  • Be careful not to apply your soldering iron for long periods of time. Otherwise, you can damage sensitive components or burn up a circuit board trace. You should solder quickly so that your components or trace don't stay hot for too long.

  • You should always make a mechanical connection before making a solder connection. For example, check to make sure the component pin actually touches the wall of the pad hole before you solder it. This will ensure that your soldering goes quickly and smoothly and will help to keep a solder joint from "bridging" to the pin and separating.

  • You may want to flux before soldering to get a cleaner solder. Flux is a pasty, greasy, oily substance that helps to clean the metallic surfaces being soldered. It also helps you produce smooth solder joints that adhere well to pin and pad surfaces.

    Rosin-core solder has flux conveniently within the solder, so fluxing is usually not necessary. However, for a dirty or older solder joint, where the flux may have dissipated, you may want to brush a little flux on to help you rework the old solder joints and make them clean and smooth again. You can purchase a small can of flux at just about any electronics store.

  • Only experience will tell you if you have soldered correctly, so ask an experienced soldering friend to check your work. Doing so can save you hours of debugging time later.

Keep your soldering tools clean

You should perform preventative maintenance and regular cleaning to prolong your soldering iron's life. Don't let your soldering iron tip get dirty. While your soldering iron is hot, clean the tip often with a bit of tip cleaner and a moist sponge or paper towel. Remember: A dirty soldering iron will make terrible solder joints.
While your soldering iron is hot, you may want to tin the tip with solder to get it shiny and clean and to remove any dross or rosin. Tinning also helps prevent oxidation. To tin the tip, get your soldering iron hot and then coat the tip with solder. Your tip should look like chrome or silver.
Always unplug your soldering iron when you're finished using it to help prevent oxidizing and burning up the tip.

Voltage and Milliamperage what are they?

First a disclaimer.

There is a LOT of claims in the saber community about 3 watt versus 6 watt versus 12 watt… let me tell you this is a great misleader in the grand scheme of lightsaber circuitry. A great example of this is your house lights. If you have a 100 watt incandescent light it’s fairly bright. If you have a 100 watt rated LED light it’s going to run at about 18 watts and be just as bright as the 100 watt bulb, why? Wattage is a measurement of consumption not luminosity, and therefore cannot be a great teller of brightness. I can put a 6 watt LED next to a 12 watt LED and you wouldn’t really see so much difference you’d be sold on paying more. My first saber runs a 3 watt LED in cyan its 4 years old and it still as bright as most LEDS in the 6/12 watt range. For the example below, well be assuming we are using a single dye 3 watt LED. For those interested wattage is figured out my wattage you use the amperage times the voltage.

1000mah=1 amp
1ampx2.5volts = 2.5watts, so a four dye LED would actually be 10 watts total not 12.

Onto the reason you’re here.

The base ingredient for a stunt lightsaber is the battery or power supply. There are a myriad of options you can choose from, but it comes down to voltage and milliamperage, so, what is Voltage and millamperage? In this case, the best way to explain this is using the water pipe analogy:

Voltage is like the pressure of the water through a pipe.
Milliamperage is how much water there is.

How does this work with an LED and how does it affect how bright it is?
In the case of voltage, that’s going to decide how bright or dim our saber gets, but milliamperage also plays a deciding role, because they work in concert until the amperage drops because you run out of capacity which causes the LED to fade – for those with purple Sabers we see them go from purple to pink to red because they blue LED in the color mix has a higher voltage and thus requires more amperage to sustain it. For our purposes we will focus on one LED and how that works.

Ohms’ Law – what is it?

Ohm's Law is the mathematical relationship among electric current, resistance, and voltage. The principle is named after the German scientist Georg Simon Ohm.
 In direct-current (DC) circuits, Ohm's Law is simple and linear. Suppose a resistance having a value of R ohms carries a current of I amperes. Then the voltage across the resistor is equal to the product IR. There are two corollaries. If a DC power source providing E volts is placed across a resistance of R ohms, then the current through the resistance is equal to E/R amperes. Also, in a DC circuit, if E volts appear across a component that carries I amperes, then the resistance of that component is equal to E/I ohms.

Mathematically, Ohm's Law for DC circuits can be stated as three equations:

E = IR

I = E/R

R = E/I

When making calculations, compatible units must be used. If the units are other than ohms (for resistance), amperes (for current), and volts for voltage), then unit conversions should be made before calculations are done. For example, kilohms should be converted to ohms, and microamperes should be converted to amperes.
Let’s say you have a Red LED and you are using 4 AAA batteries to run it. How long will it run? A quick search on Google tells us that AAA batteries are 1.5 volts and have around 750 Mah each. Another search show us that our red LED is set up to run on 2.5 volts and can run optimally at 750Mah given all these factors we can see how long our setup will run. The one thing to remember is that Mah does NOT multiply, however voltage does when you have multiple batteries of the same size, Mah CAN change if you have batteries with differing capacity, but that’s something you should never ever see. We need to find a way to drop the voltage down to where we need it. In this case 6 volts down to 2.5 volts, you would do that with a resistor, which I will cover later.  At 750 Mah we would get about an hour of straight “on” time before we’de start to lose the lights real intensity. This kind of math can be applied to multiple dies as well. You will still see time on based on the Mah of the battery setup and LED, this can vary slightly with all the other items that can be in place like Resistors, LED accents, soundcards, and buckpucks.


Resistors, BuckPucks, and Soundcards and all those other cool things that make a saber light up!

This part will be pretty straight forward, as the bigger part we covered previously with batteries.

What are resistors?
A resistor is an electrical component that limits or regulates the flow of electrical current in an electronic circuit. Resistors can also be used to provide a specific voltage for an active device such as a transistor.

 All other factors being equal, in a direct-current (DC) circuit, the current through a resistor is inversely proportional to its resistance, and directly proportional to the voltage across it. This is the well-known Ohm's Law. In essence you can use a resistor to regulate current, or drop voltage dependent on where you put the resistor.

What is a buck puck?
A Buck Puck is a high powered LED driver that works much the same way as a resistor, but draws power from the power source then uses it to drive your LED, for our use this is a “smart”driver for the LED as it removes the need for resistors (unless color mixing several LEDs) and can usually take any type of battery source from 5 to 25 volts DC. This means if your saber is set up correctly you can use a 9 volt in a pinch or even a cell phone charger! The circuitry within uses almost all the power from your power supply to keep a steady supply of power to your LED and keep them from fading, once it cannot get an operating voltage from the power supply it simply shuts off.

These need little explaining in our community. A soundcard basically adds sound to your saber, as well as Flash on Clash hit sounds and a myriad of other options, and usually will also act as a Buckpuck AND resistors using on board settings. Because of their size resistors may have to be used in order to keep from burning out an LED. There are several makes out on the market, and several price points. So you will have to shop for what is in your price range.

Flip Flop Circuits.
These are small circuits that allow you to make a momentary button into a latching one. Usually used with an unsounded saber. Most soundcards have this option in their build.

There are three general types of buttons used in saber building Latching, momentary, and tactile.

Latching – there is a mechanism within the button which closes the circuit and lock the button to an on position, until pushed again.

Momentary – also referred to as mom switches, these look the exact same as a latching switch, but do not lock into the on position, they simply close until no longer pushed. Used with soundcards and flip flop circuits.

Tactile switches.
These tiny switches are exactly like momentary switches, but are very small often the size of an eraser head. When depressed they have a tactile “click”. Can be used just like a momentary switch or added as an optional switch for soundcard functions like lock ups or blaster deflects.

Accent LEDs - These are low powered cousins of the LED we use for the actual saber. Generally speaking, these are usually seen as illuminated switches or used to illuminate saber crystals in higher end “Reveal” lightsabers. These can also be used as accents on lightsaber bodies.  
“Greeblies” “Greebles” “Nurnies” -
These are elements added for fine detail to a larger item, for instance, adding a thumb screw for your retention screw would be adding a greeblie.

Last edited by Askai Katani on Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:03 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: A Padawans Guilde to Assembling and maintaining your Lightsaber Electronics   Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:44 pm

awesome tutorial! thanks for posting this!
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PostSubject: Re: A Padawans Guilde to Assembling and maintaining your Lightsaber Electronics   Tue Feb 23, 2016 9:02 am

This is a really well explained and detailed tutorial.    I am also wondering if you have any video suggestions?   thank you
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PostSubject: Re: A Padawans Guilde to Assembling and maintaining your Lightsaber Electronics   Mon Jan 30, 2017 12:02 pm

Hi..thanks for sharing such a helpful tutorial here.The solder used today is obviously not the same as what was used in the early years of electric guitars. I think the solder used back then contained between 40%-60% lead. Does anyone think that this can effect tone in anyway? Say for instance god forbid something happens to your vintage LP and it needed a fix, would you use what's available now or seek out some vintage solder? Kind of a stupid question but I'm interested in hearing anyone's opinion.
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Askai Katani
Official Member

Posts : 17
Join date : 2012-09-12
Age : 44
Location : Nar Shaddaa Temple

PostSubject: Re: A Padawans Guilde to Assembling and maintaining your Lightsaber Electronics   Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:59 am

Morning all! Im going to answer Myst first. ther are a whole LOT of soldering vids out there! but for OUR intents? ill be posting some basic soldering techniques soon its been a little while since iv gotten farther on this because life... 

As For Jase, Soldering is welding at a low heat. to my knowledge, no you would not have any difference with tonality on a guitar, you are simply hooking up your connections not adding any sort of impedance to the guitar itself, tonality is handled by the Amp you plug into - subsequently how the amp processes the signal (this is why most purists prefer solid state amps with tubes instead of ICs - there is a warmth with a tube amp you seem to miss with a digital processor), and your pickups, NOT what metals  are being mixed to make a solder join, some may argue that you may lose something, but you'd have to REALLY pack the solder on there, and the voltages you're talking about are so nominal you'd not really hear a difference, its placebo. Just a friendly reminder to please keep questions pertinent to the threads topics - lightsabers, thanks!

Also adding to the tutorial later today batteries Voltage and Mah- what are they?
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