Modding Tools

This site often talks about doing things that require special tools.  I wanted to create a page that will show you in detail exactly what you may need for pretty much every project on this site.  I also wanted to point out that you often don’t need fancy or expensive tools:  All of my original mods were done with cheap, old tools, but they still got the job done just fine.  Other than items specific to each mod, here’s everything else you may need:

Game Tools:
The first thing I always suggest is getting the “Game Tools” that open the screws found in cartridge-based games, as well as console’s from Nintendo.  All three of these tools will cost under $20 (including shipping) and are totally worth it:

- 3.8MM Game Tool - For NES and SNES games, plus random others.

- 4.5MM Game Tool - For SNES and some Genesis games, as well as opening SNES and N64 systems.

- Tri-wing screwdrver - For handheld systems and opening the Wii


Basic Tools:
A set of basic tools will come in handy and will be used often: 
- A normal-sized philips head screwdriver is used in pretty much every mod. 
- Large pliers aren’t necessary, but come in handy now and then.
- Wire strippers are great, but you could always use cutters instead.
- I bought a cheap set of dental tools from my local pharmacy.  They’re great for working in tight spaces.
- Mini cutters and pliers came in handy for pretty much every mod.

You’ll also want to look for an “eyeglass repair kit” or “mini toolkit”.  Someone gave me mine years ago and I use it for pretty much every project I work on.  It’s got bits of every kind and you’d be surprised how often you find yourself using the weird ones:

 

Soldering Iron / Solder / Wire / Flux
The next thing you’ll need is a soldering iron and solder.  If you plan on multiple mods, I strongly recommend using a "soldering station" with adjustable temperature control.  If you're only doing one or two mods, any cheap low wattage soldering iron should be fine.  I recommend 15-20w and make sure to get one with a few tips:

Solder and flux are much more important:  First, if you're starting out, I'd suggest adding flux to EVERYTHING.  Later on, you'll start to see what you need it on and what you don't, but there's no harm in using it. 
Also, the flux and solder should always match.  Here's some examples with two sizes of solder listed, which should take care of most projects:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004X4KOWS/
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004X4KSZQ/ (Kester part # 24-6337-8806)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004X4KTSM/ (Kester part # 24-6337-8813)

You can get away with cheap, hobby-store solder like the one shown above for 1-off installs, but I'd still recommend using flux!: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00RYTD0D4

Also, please keep in mind that you don't need to clean off this flux and in fact, the second page of the datasheet says it won't work anyway:  http://www.kester.com/DesktopModules/Bring2mind/DMX/Download.aspx?Command=Core_Download&EntryId=958&language=en-US&PortalId=0&TabId=96


If you're a beginner at soldering, I suggest watching this video, as it has great tips and shows you everything you could possibly need:

Using stranded, ribbon wire is recommended for most mods, as they're well insulated and will result in a cleaner installation:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007R9SQQM/

People have also used kynar wire in mods, which works well, but has a few drawbacks:  It's very brittle, only has a single connection inside and not much shielding.  Some installation will require think wire like this though, so it's good to have some on-hand. 

You can find both ribbon wire and thin kynar wire at hobby stores; The latter is sometimes referred to as "wrapping wire":

 

Multi-meter
A cheap multi-meter would be very helpful as well.  Once again, you don't need anything fancy, just a basic one:

 

Compressed Air:
Compressed air is always helpful any time you're working on electronics.  The best tool would be an actual air compressor, but they're expensive and loud.  If you only plan on working on one or two projects, cans of compressed air are fine...but if you work on a lot of electronic projects, I found a tool you should look into:  The EasyGo EGP-COM-011.  It's expensive, but if you use a lot of compressed air cans, it'll pay for itself within a few months and works just as well.  See links to the right -->

 

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