Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dammit, Jinn, I'm a GM, Not An Electrical Engineer

Changing it up this week to talk about the other intended subject for this blog; costuming.  More specifically, costume prop-making.  I'm fascinated by the construction of props and do-dads that help round out a perfect costume.  This time around, I wanted to build something unique and personal; my own lightsaber.

I may have a problem...I need more Blues.
I own a lot of lightsabers.  Well, okay, maybe not a lot by some standards of folks in this hobby, but certainly more than your average Star Wars Nerd.  Eight of them sit on a rack behind my head, one on a stand on the shelf, and a few more tucked in a corner of my office.  About half are FX Sabers from Master Replicas.  Every year for several years my folks would get me another 'saber for Christmas.  The rest are mostly from Ultrasabers, one of the more public saber-building company out there.

All these are nice and all, and are really cool, but ever since I found the Custom Saber Shop, I've wanted to get parts and build my own saber.  They have hundreds of parts that can go together in millions of combinations.  Kinda like Legos, but in T-6 aircraft aluminum.

Over on the Custom Saber Shop (or TCSS), they have a system of parts called the "Modular Hilt System"; a series of main bodies, pommels, blade holders, and accent parts.  You can even get some parts powder-coated.  Lit blade activation switches.   Sound boards.  Lithium ion power supplies.  Battery status LEDs.

You know, bells and whistles.

So you build a saber with a MHS Builder program the site has, add the parts to your wish list. Ever since I bought my house, I've been selling off a lot of my old hobbies on ebay.  Mostly old WizKids Mechwarrior miniatures and old LEGO sets I really don't need.  Every now and then I'll buy another part from the list.  Recently, I finally picked up the last part I needed to construct my saber.

At least, I thought I did.


You see, before this year, I'd never soldered anything.  I've done some practice on other sabers I have, replacing simple activator switches with ones that light when the saber is on.  These were on "stunt sabers" tho; sabers that had no sound, and just lit up.  This is my first foray into the joys of soundboards.  Tiny, tiny soundboards...

I'm having a bit of bad luck trying to get the electronics working.  Soldering is still new to me, so trying to melt solder onto the tiny little holes on the sound board is proving to be highly difficult.  I can't get the solder to do anything but bead up, and connections are not being made.  I'm having difficulty getting the momentary LED switch to work; it's constantly on instead of only turning on when it's pressed.  The blade LED is doing the same thing when I have power running through the board, on those rare times I can angle the board and the pins to connect.

So I'm in a bit of a slump.  I can't get my electrics to work.  I'm worried I killed a $70 sound board.  I'm pretty sure I killed a $8 2w speaker.  Who knows, maybe I didn't kill it because I can't tell without knowing if the sound board works.

I've received a few more tips, and a few more words of encouragement.  I'm probably about a week away from contacting a local sabersmith and dropping the parts in his lap asking to help fix it.

Either way, I think I need to get a few more LEGO sets and Mechwarrior minis up on eBay...

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