Okay, so ive been building for over two years, seriously for one year, and I wanted to share some things I have learned that may not be so obvious to everyone. I know most of them were not obvious to me when I started, and they caused mistakes to occur that could have been prevented.
#1: Do not try to solder a pad that is smaller than your iron tip. Yes, this means do not try to use the corner of your chisel tip.
#2: Do not solder with an SD card in the board (if applicable)
#3: Do not just close up the saber, cross your fingers, and pull the killkey. You should review your wiring multiple times prior to closing up the saber.
addon from Jango- Use a benchtop power supply to test all wiring setups.
#4: Do not try to "just shove it in there." It doesn't work. Trust me.
#5: Do not make the wires long enough to solder everything in place outside of the hilt and then slide it in. This is called spaghetti wiring and is a big no-no. There are exceptions to this rule, but if it can be avoided, you shouldn't do it.
#6: Do not plan your first saber to be some fancy pants, full bargraph, FoC™, 18650 pack, rumble motor, 2W speaker, crystal chamber, pommel leds, and everything else in the same saber. It will not work. Sure, when you have a few sabers under your belt you can do it, but do not plan it for your first one.
#7: Do not ever take the easy way out. If a connection that you can reach with your solering iron without disassembling the whole hilt comes lose, you better take the whole saber apart instead of trying to reach it with your iron. If you don't, you will touch something you shouldn't have and break it.
#8: Always use heatshrink. Everywhere there is an exposed lead, you need heatshrink on it. This excludes connections that are directly on the board. this means recharge ports, AV switches, bargraphs, accent leds, everything.
#9: If you break a part that you can't get anywhere local, do not try to replace it with something you can get locally. Order the part you need and wait for it.
#10: When wiring up high end soundboards, don't go to radioshack and buy wire and heatshrink. They have wire that is much too fat and heatshrink that is awful. Buy from tcss or plecterlabs (best bet for plecterlabs boards, erv's wire is awesome).
#11: If you get frustrated at any point in time during the build, get up and go for a walk. Don't keep going, as you will be much more likely to break something.
#12: Don't assume because you have soldered before or have experience with little things like this, that you will have no problem and no matter what you do, the saber will turn out right.
#13: Do spend hours and hours planning your designs before you even think about ordering parts. I mean calculate resistors, figure out battery size, recharge port placement, belt clip, everything.
#14: Do not work on sabers if you are feeling
These things make you more prone to making mistakes.
#15: When you do have to ask for help, be sure you don't take the first opinion you hear as law. Wait until a few people respond and you hear what they all have to say.
#16: If you listen to nothing else I have said, DO NOT try to make your own Crystal Focus saber as your first build. I know it can seem like a waste to make a bunch of other sabers that you will never use just to learn the skills necessary to make a CF saber, but trust me, you will wish you did if you don't.
#17: Always post pictures of your soldering on the forum. I don't care if you are embarassed, if you don't post the pics of your soldering, then don't come crying when you have issues.
#18: Never have more than 1/8" of wire exposed when soldering to a soundboard. An Led might need a bit more, but not much.
#19: Always have some way that your electronics can be held firmly into the hilt, and yet insulated from the metal wall at the same time. if you just wire it up and put it in the tube freely, you are bound to have problems.
#20. Thou shalt not rush a saber installation thinking thou shall finish within a few hours, or by midnight, or whatever. -FJK Roll Eyes
#21. Thou shall heed the worldly advise of the Saber smiths and elder saber builders of the community... save your sanity it shall. -FJK Cheesy
On a slightly related subject...
#22. Thou shalt not issue advice to others (no matter how well intentioned) unless you for sure knoweth of the subject of which you are speaking on. Wink -FJK
$23: Invest in good tools. A good soldering station, and using the right solder, wire, etc. will make a huge difference in the quality of your build, especially if you plan to make more than one saber! Wink -FJK
#24. Read tutorials on here and TCSS. Then read some more. Dave316
#25. When posting a video of your saber build on youtube, if your crotch comes into view it's time to reshoot the video. (even though this is clearly a shot at me, I'll post it. I actually agree with this, and never noticed it on my videos until someone said something). -Jango
#26; Never Never NEVER settle for a less than perfect solder joint of connection. Our soldering will never be as good as a machine, but if you are in any way not satisfied with your joint, or see it could be stronger... Resolder it. You will have to sooner or later. Better on your bench then rather than having to take all the guts out again. -Sollus Vir
#27; A Clean iron is key to easy wiring. Take care of your iron and it will take care of you. -Sollus Vir
#28 If Erv' tells you to use a resistor : Use a resistor -Erv'
#29 Many answers are based on It depends™ and you should accept it -Erv'
#30 - If you don't have a PSU as mentioned in #3 - go get one STAT! -Skottsaber
#31 - If you are testing a circuit/LED/whatever and it seems to magically fade out and turn off in a number of seconds, make sure you charged those batteries, and review the addition to #3. -Skottsaber
#32 - Don't be afraid to post pictures of your wiring fearing retribution. It helps MAJORLY in diagnosis of problems. -Skottsaber
#33 - Learn to take constructive criticism if necessary. Learn from it and... -Skottsaber
#34 - If you learned something in your experience building, pass on your knowledge. -Skottsaber
#35: Always have copper desoldering braid (not from radioshack) on hand
#36: Always insulate your Led from your heatsink
#36: Make sure if you are using quick connectors, you label them properly so you don't get them mixed up. I have heard of several cases of this in the past.
#37: Always have tweezers with tips that are smaller than your smallest solder joint available.
#38: When working with high end soundboards (Crystal Focus™, Petit Crouton™, Igniter™. etc.) read the manual 5 times cover to cover. No, really, 5 times word for word. You should basically know the config files by heart by the time you even start pre-tinning the board.
#39: Be sure you have good wire strippers. They are essential, and if you can't find small enough wire strippers for your 28 gauge wire that you bought (because you read this list), they make automatic wire stippers that work with any size that we would ever work with.
#40: Have a place you can go to work on these sabers. If necessary, go buy a work surface to put on the kitchen table when working on sabers. I am banished to the garage (with a nice workbench that I modified with powerstrip, overhead light, and benchtop vice) and it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. If you are outside in the heat, be sure you have a rag to wipe the sweat off of your face when you work.
#41: If you have to stop in mid-build, write down what you were doing and turn off your hot glue gun and soldering iron. Even if there is no possible way they could damage anything or start a fire, sometimes when you walk away, you don't come back. Then you will wake up the next morning to find the soldering iron still turned on.
#42: use really small solder (.015 is what I use). Also use silver-bearing solder if possible. Its the best solder I have found. -MH
#43: to add to the non Radioshack solder wick...Chem-WiK (rosin sd) is a really good wick to use. -MH
#44: DO NOT turn your iron too hot. -MH
#45: Always use a ESD safe Iron -MH
#46. Use a mechanical solution vs a glue solution when ever possible. Using SOME glue is unavoidable in most builds. BUT from a saber maintenance POV, and sabers need maintenance, try to keep it to a minimum. Double sided auto trim tape is much more versatile and cleaner in appearance. -Jango
#47: When building sabers, you are going to screw up at some point. It is inevitable. When you do screw up, turn off your iron, glue gun, and put down the saber and walk away. You aren't going to help anything by trying to keep going. There will be another day, and you will have plenty of time to finish your saber after you take a day to cool off.
When soldering ledengins, you must have lots of patience. personally, it takes me no less than 45 seconds to do 1 joint on an ledengin from room temperature. Most people would say that number is pretty high, but I don't turn my iron up that much. The key is to heat the underside of the pcb star with your iron for a bit (I've heard 10 seconds thrown around, but that's never enough for me) before you start to solder the pads. If your iron sticks to the solder on the ledengin, you didn't heat up the bottom of the pcb star enough.
Don't ever, ever, ever try to solder an ledengin while it is on the heatsink. This is true with any led, but especially with the ledengins. you will not get a proper solder joint that way period.
#50: If you're testing an LED, don't test it OFF the heatsink if you're using its full forward voltage. Quick way to burn out the LED (So many have done this before).- phoenixjedi
51: Use a proper heatsink (generally made out of a block of aluminum or copper) to radiate the heat away from the LED.
52: Fasten the heatsink to the LED properly using thermal goop (the same type usable on computers), or thermal tape. Hot Glue is NOT proper, and will cause problems. The accepted methods for fastening down the LED are a screw-in device and nylon screws.
53: Use a focusing device made for the LEDs (IE Lens and Lens Holder.), not a reflector that needs to be glued down to the LED
54: Use a proper material for the LED assembly. A piece of blade for an LED Holder will not allow heat to conduct to the outer part of the hilt, and will cause early failure.
55: Do not use an underwattage resistor just to save costs. You are asking for failure.
56: Screw in your switches!
57: If you have a battery pack that is too thin for the hilt, wrap it in bubble wrap so that it doesn't rattle and shatter.
58: TOO MUCH extra wiring slack is bad. You want just enough to pull the battery pack out, and possibly the soundboard for SD Changes or anything on a quick connector.
59: Don't underestimate the power of a dying battery pack. You can get some pretty weird behavior when the CF doesn't have enough power to run everything attached to it. This goes double for a pack made of protected cells.
60: Do yourself a favor, and test every bit of your wiring at every point in the build. This goes double for builds that have very complex setups (crystal chambers with 1138 blinkies, a bargraph, color mixing, rice port, etc.). Once each part is assembled, test everything again. When you slide your chassis in place, test it. When you put your switches in, test them. When you put your led in, test it. etc. Nothing is worse than completely closing up a saber and finding that something was wrong at the very beginning of the build. This also goes back to the necessity of a benchtop psu. Without one, it's very annoying to have to test your wiring at every step, and I'd even argue dangerous. Your battery pack is always live, but your benchtop psu only turns on when you tell it to. Even a pack that has a charge port and killkey still has charged cells, and it only takes a loose wire to touch an exposed part on that charge port for .1138 seconds to fry a board.
61: Don't attempt to braid your wiring if you have a super complex build and your board won't be wired in its final resting place. I just finished a blaster where I braided all 25 wires and found it was very difficult to seat the board back into the gun. The wires looked neat outside of the gun, but they had no give after they were all braided tightly in place.
62: If you are really serious about buying machines to do your own work, you need to read up on machining tools for a month or two before deciding if you want to do it. Then, don't just buy the smallest machine you find because it seems to suit your needs. I have a 7x14" lathe and a mini mill from little machine shop. The mill is perfect for saber building, but the lathe is just way too flimsy. If you plan on making any full custom parts, you might as well get the 8.5" x 16.5" lathe from little machine shop. Sure, it's 3 times as much money, but you'll make up for that in the speed at which you can machine things alone.
63: If you do decide to buy a lathe and a mill, you had better have some way of cutting your stock (a little 9" bandsaw from lowes with a metal cutting blade will not suffice), and you had better plan on spending at least as much on tooling as you spent on each machine.
64: This ties in with probably another one or two, but don't ever come home from a bad day at school or work and immediately start working on sabers while you're still in a bad mood. Additionally, especially when working on a more stressful part of a build, listen to some music while you build. It helps keep you calm when you're trying to thread that recharge port inside of a 1.1" ID hilt, or when trying to route 8 wires through a tube that fits exactly 8.
Hopefully things get added to this list as people comment on the thread. I will add them as they are posted. If there had been something like this when I first started, I would have had way fewer headaches. Just trying to pass on what I have learned to the newbies. I'm not trying to say that I do it perfectly (far from it), or that all of these things have even happened to me (again, far from it) but I do know all of the things I have posted are things that could wind up screwing up your saber in one way or another. If you have something to add, post it so I can add it to the list.
Thanks for reading