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Thread: Djmehs' "Ascension" First Build

  1. #1

    Default Djmehs' "Ascension" First Build

    Hi guys,

    I just finished getting some pictures of my completed first saber this morning and finally feel pleased enough with it to go ahead and post the build log on here. I started a WIP build log a month or two ago, but I'm pretty sure I didn't post it in the right area and it was somewhat underdeveloped so I figured I'd post a new one altogether. I learned a ton from this build, not only because it was the first time I'd touched a soldering station, but also because I feel like I went with a more complicated build than my comfort level would normally prefer. I can't say that my first build turned out EXACTLY how I pictured it in my head, but I'm proud of myself for building something completely new to me.

    That being said, now that it's done, there are definitely some things I'll be doing differently for my next build that become immediately clear in hindsight. This thread will serve as a reflection on my first build, my journey into this hobby, and the things I will do differently for my next build.

    My original inspiration for the design was my favorite toy lightsaber as a kid. I always played as "Ace Windu" who was Mace Windu's son. Yes, I realize that there are a slew of reasons that back story makes zero sense, but I was 7 years old. Bear with me here. This is also where the name of the lightsaber, "Ascension" comes from. (ACE-ension) The toy was an absurdly thick prequel OWK hilt with a purple blade. Sometimes I'd duel wield two of them.

    Here's the toy lightsaber in question:

    Here's what I came up with:

    I planned for a chassis reveal hilt that allowed the bottom to be removed, exposing the chassis, charge port, and SD card and a Tri-Cree RGrB LED with a NBv4 for color mixing. I knew I wasn't going to be content with just purple and would want to be able to change colors as I got tired of one, so the RGB was an important feature for me.

    Later I discovered that TCSS no longer offers selective machining. So to get the black bands on the ridges and the blade holder, I'd have to do it myself with equipment I didn't have and wouldn't have anywhere to put even if I had the money for it. The parts were going to be all black or all metal.

    I also realized that I'd have to somehow integrate the additional Male to Male adapter into the hilt design as it would throw off any groove patterns if I didn't. I went to Tim with a new mockup and he helped me to fine-tune it, assisting me with putting equally spaced grooves up the entire hilt to hide the Male to Male adapter in the middle of the hilt holding the chassis to the top piece. We came up with this:

    With the hilt design finalized, I turned to gathering components.

    Summary (In case you saw the above wall of text and said "Forget it.")
    Just finished my first build. Wanna share it with you guys. Brand new to soldering electronics and proud of what I was able to build, even if it's not exactly what I pictured. Wanted a hilt loosly inspired by a Prequel OWK, with a chassis reveal and charge port. Wanted the hilt to have black accents on the grooves originally but TCSS doesn't do multi-colored powder coated parts anymore. Had to redesign and came up with a design with ridges up the entire hilt, hiding the Male to Male adapter holding the chassis in the middle.

    I'll continue in a separate comment to break up the thread and hopefully make it easier to digest...I know I write a lot. Hopefully I haven't lost anyone.
    Last edited by djmehs; 08-27-2018 at 08:53 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Part 2 - The Build:

    For the chassis, I wanted something really clean that allowed me to hide the wires if I didn't want them to be seen. It also needed to support 4-40 threaded rods so I could attach the chassis to the hilt with an MHS Disk 5. It needed to have a place for a charge port and speaker built in. I decided on a 3D printed chassis. For the one I picked, I liked the cover and the fact it had the little board holders and kill key included. It was practically made for a build like mine. I ordered a white one along with the rest of the parts that go with it.

    The NBv4 was an obvious choice in my mind for my first build. It had solid sound, was tiny enough that I knew I could fit it as well as a PowerXtender into the chassis, had RGB, and only needed one switch to operate it.

    For the LED and battery I went with a Tri-Cree RGrB and a standard 3400mAh Panasonic 18650. For the switch I wanted an AV with no LED ring so I went with the 16mm one available at TCSS. For the recharge port I just went with the standard Switchcraft 2.1 since that's what fits the chassis I purchased.

    This is where I began to hit some snags. First of all, I think I bit off a little more than could chew going with the chassis I ordered. That's not to say that there was anything wrong at all with the chassis design itself. That being said, I do feel it might have been designed with more seasoned sabersmiths in mind. An MHS chassis probably would have allowed me a little more wiggle room in regards to wire routing.

    I had a really hard time coming up with a way to solder my battery wires to my charge port, while still having them routed up through the chassis. Typically, you'd pre-wire the charge port, place it through the charge port hole, then just screw on the nut, however the chassis is designed to hide the nut and allow you to instead screw in the charge port itself. This is not possible when the battery wires have been soldered to the port already. I ended up soldering a separate set of wires to the charge port, threading it in, then feeding those wires up through the chassis, and soldering those wires to the battery wires, but it created more joints in my wires that I would have liked.

    I also ran into some issues with figuring out the placement of the little board clips and ended up having to super glue a few of them to the board to get them to hold. I was also struggling with the placement of the where the board actually goes into the chassis. I was trying to find mounting holes for the clips up near the front of the chassis, where I had pictured the NBv4 being placed but was reminded by a certain well-respected sabersmith who designed the chassis I purchased of how "obvious" it was that the clips should be mounted towards the back of the saber. If I'm being honest, my whole experience when I reached out to this individual asking for some guidance on things that weren't in the instructions on their Facebook page really left a bad taste in my mouth and made me regret not going with an MHS chassis. I felt like I was met with a hostile attitude and condescending tone from the very start. Nothing like what I've experienced from the saber community before now.

    Beyond those issues, the rest of the process of wiring everything up went about as smoothly as it does in the tutorials that Madcow and Shameem did. Of course, not quite as expertly as they do it though of course.

    Summary (In case you saw the above wall of text and said "Forget it.")
    I got a 3D printed MHS chassis, NBv4, 3.7v battery, Tri-Cree RGrB LED, and momentary switch. Started wiring them up. Ran into issues wiring the charge port and mounting the board in the chassis, but other than that, it went pretty smoothly.

    The next reply will be hopefully my final one for this build. I'm going to go over a few of the things I'd change for next time to make my life easier and things I've come to realize upon reflection now that I've finally finished a lightsaber and done all the steps rather than just reading about them. Oh yeah! I almost forgot the most important part of the whole thing! Pictures!
    Last edited by djmehs; 08-27-2018 at 08:52 AM. Reason: Title

  3. #3

    Default Part 3 - Pics:

    Here's a picture of the completed hilt:

    Ignited with a Purple blade:

    Ignited with a Cyan blade (Turns out I like it even more than my original plan for purple):

    Ignited with a Red/Orange blade (didn't wanna go full red since I never really like to picture myself as completely dark side. Even when I'm a "bad guy"):

    Here's the bottom piece removed, showing the charge port/rotary kill key:

    Here's the bottom removed, showing the other side (where the sound board and chassis cover are)

    Here's the sound board cover removed. Showing the NBv4. The PowerXtender is tucked under those wires:

    Male to Male removed, releasing the chassis and un-hiding a somewhat controlled-chaos of wires:

    The cleaner side:

  4. #4

    Default Part 4 - Lessons Learned

    Finally, Part 4 will consist of reflection on my build and the things I'd do differently in hind-sight or will do with my next build. Please know that these are simply my own opinions and findings and I don't claim these to be the "best" ways to do things in any way.

    General technique and materials:

    - As a beginner like myself, I should have stayed away from lead-free solder. In theory, it's nice cause it's better for you or whatever and made my wife happy. However it doesn't flow nearly as easily and the melting temperature is much higher. This made soldering the LED (which even without the legit heat sink still has a copper one built in) extremely difficult. When I made a mistake and was trying to un-solder the LED, the heat sink was cooling the solder to the point that getting it melted for removal was very difficult. When I switched to the larger diameter leaded Alpha Fry I accidently bought on Amazon when I was buying soldering stuff, I found soldering the LED to be MUCH easier. With the small amount of soldering I do, I hardly think using a little lead-free solder is too big a deal. I bought some small diameter 60/40 to use for the rest of the project after that.

    - When looking for a soldering station, look for one with a silicone cord such as one of the X-Tronic ones on Amazon. The cord isn't all stiff and if you bump it with the iron it the sheathing won't melt. It costs a little more than the Aoyue 469 I started with, but the digital temperature readout and the quality were worth it.

    - Go with a brass coil tip cleaner rather than a wet sponge. It's easier to use and better for your iron. Something like the Hakko 599B. The X-Tronic station I ended up getting came with some cleaning flux I could dip my iron tip in if I wanted to legit clean some gunk off.

    - If you can afford it, grab a practice soldering kit to try/learn if you've never soldered a thing in your life. It really helped me a ton.

    - Careful around that battery with the heat gun while you're heat shrinking. If it gets too hot, you can melt the protective plastic the battery is wrapped in.

    - Madcow mentioned it in one of his videos, but the technique was invaluable to me and I feel like it's underrated a bit. Warm wires are cooperative wires. If you are finding them to be a little stiff or hard to work with and need to "train" them to do something, apply some heat with a heat gun and get them to do what you want. When they cool, they will remember what you "trained" them to do

    - When soldering two wires together, after tinning them, grab them with the helping hands maybe 1/4 and inch away from where the wire is exposed, and orient the two wires so that the tip of the longest exposed portion (rarely were they ever identically sized) butts up against the front edge of the jacket the other wire. It helps keep everything in place even when your helping hands want to move a tiny bit.

    - Speaking of soldering wires together....DONT FORGET TO PUT THE HEAT SHRINK ON FIRST. I did this probably 3 or 4 times and every time resulted in a "F***!", the loss of wire length, and having to start all over on the joint. It's extremely frustrating and you start running out of wriggle room on the length of that wire really fast. Go slow and cross the T's and dot the I's. It will pay off in the end.

    - Superglue works flawlessly on 3D printed stuff. I like the Loctite with the like squeezable grip things on the side.

    Hilt Design:

    - First and foremost, the chassis reveal design is pretty cool, even somewhat practical for charging. If I'm being honest though...In the end, I found myself jumping through hoops to make it happen and I'm not positive it was worth the trouble. It's cool I don't have to remove the chassis to charge it, but I'm not positive that the level of complexity it added to the hilt design was worth it for a NBv4 build. I think it would lend itself better to a build utilizing RICE, where you might need to plug up your saber to the RICE cable, make a couple tweaks, then swing it around a bit to test everything. With a NBv4, the power usage is minimal enough that I'm not even charging the saber that regularly since I only use it maybe 5-10 minutes at a time.

    - Because of the reveal design, there's also two additional points of potential issues with the hilt. Sometimes when I go to unscrew the bottom piece, if I tightened it down more than just barely enough, it will grab the Male to Male Adapter in the middle and begin to unscrew it as well, which causes the chassis to be released. Even with the correct pieces lubricated. Now, I'll also mention that the pieces sat for a bit while my flooded basement was being rennovated (a story for another day). They stayed upstairs, but they were moved around a lot in the process and I think the threads on the male to male actually took some damage. There's a perfectly good chance this is the source of the issue. Anyway, whenever it does this, I have to stop what I'm doing, separate the small stuck adapter from the bottom piece and screw it back onto the upper piece to lock the chassis back in place. It's embarassing when I go to show the lightsaber to someone and it happens. It also makes me a little nervous about dueling with it in the future. I should have taken Tim's advice and gone with a one-piece, MAYBE two piece build rather than locking down so hard on my need to have a chassis reveal.

    - I should have pivoted and considered a different design when I found out that I wouldn't be able to have the black ridges to accent the hilt rather than just saying "Meh, it will be fine un-painted". The fact the entire lightsaber is one single color of shiny metal looks pretty....bland. After going back and looking at the sabers I see that I think "Whoa! That's so cool!" they all have some sort of greeblies or accents or different colors somewhere on them. Mine just feels sort of blah. Granted, the best sabers I've seen are heavily customized in ways I won't have the capacity do do at my small desk using shrouds and the like.

    - I was heavily considering something with a leather wrap and a choke originally, but scrapped the idea because I couldn't do my chassis reveal with it. I wish I had taken that route and made it a single piece hilt with a leather wrap all the way up to the choke. The leather wrap would have been an comfortable to hold accent to the shiny silver and the choke would have made spinning the saber MUCH more comfortable. I could have used the covertec knob screw as a retaining screw for an internal chassis or gone with a pomel-locked chassis available at TCSS.

    - Next time I think I'll definitely take the route I mentioned above. Something with some accents. Hopefully I'll come up with something from TCSS that doesn't need all 3 pieces to be customized and then add some of my own flair to them. Definitely will not make another chassis reveal for a long time. I think a simple chassis, perhaps with a connector so it can be removed from the hilt completely, then held in place with a retaining screw would be perfect.


    - Should've gone with a NECree RGB V2. It was pretty much the same price point and the single positive and pre-resistored red LED would have saved me a TON of space in the 3 inch top section of my hilt. The resistors, despite being "small" really seemed to make my wiring feel very bulky and less clean and the three LED positives added some unnecessary bulk to the twist of LED wires coming from the LED assembly. I stuck with the Tri-Cree because I really wanted to give Tim the business and figured the resistors and extra wires really wouldn't be that big of a deal. Hopefully by the time I do my next build, TCSS will be offering NECree RGB V2 LEDs. That would be really, really nice.

    - I'm very pleased with the NBv4 and I think it was perfect for my first build. It saved me from having to install another switch and didn't take up a ton of space. 3 sound fonts is pretty solid for me. However, I found myself wishing it had the Stab and Spin detection a bit. RICE would have been really nice too. Tweaking the RGB values was a little annoying to have to keep sticking the SD card in my computer to get them just right. For my next build I'm almost certainly going with a Prizm

    All in all, like I said at the beginning of this, I'm proud of what I've made, mistakes and all. I also feel like the fact that my first build was a little more difficult than I imagined makes a more simple build with less guess-work sound like a cake-walk difficulty wise. Maybe I'll go with a kit next time or something, who knows?

    Anyway, thank you guys for taking the time to read this. I know it's a lot, but it means a lot to me to be able to share this with the community that gave me the guidance to start in this hobby and build this thing I'm so proud of! Constructive critisizm is welcome as well if anyone has any advice or suggestions for future builds.
    Last edited by djmehs; 08-27-2018 at 08:49 AM.

  5. #5


    Very nice build. Congrats on your success.

  6. #6


    Shiny!!! I always love shiny sabers. Good job!

  7. #7


    Is that a Shtok chassis? I like it. Good pointers and learning points. I use lead free solder on non-saber big stuff. I can work with lead free solder, but the joints are shiny, and that makes me paranoid. When they cool they look like "cold joints". I like the shiny finish for saber work. Lets me know the joint is good.

    You can kind of make your own NeCree esque star from the TCSS bought Tri-Cree stars by bridging positives on the star to save some space. The NeCree is pretty awesome though. I like your hilt. Welcome to the rabbit hole.


    "Let the past die."

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Seth Skywalker View Post
    Shiny!!! I always love shiny sabers. Good job!
    Thanks Seth!

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by Greenie View Post
    Very nice build. Congrats on your success.

    Thanks Greenie, it feels good to have finally finished the project I've been planning and working on for almost a year now. The satisfaction is akin to building my first PC!

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Tilmon View Post
    Is that a Shtok chassis? I like it. Good pointers and learning points. I use lead free solder on non-saber big stuff. I can work with lead free solder, but the joints are shiny, and that makes me paranoid. When they cool they look like "cold joints". I like the shiny finish for saber work. Lets me know the joint is good.

    You can kind of make your own NeCree esque star from the TCSS bought Tri-Cree stars by bridging positives on the star to save some space. The NeCree is pretty awesome though. I like your hilt. Welcome to the rabbit hole.

    It is, indeed, a Shtok chassis I mentioned it in my original post of some of the other forums, but because the TCSS forums are attached to a store, I know that there are some protocols on whether or not to provide specifics on components for which TCSS sells a version of (such as the MHS Chassis system) so I modified the post to not mention the specific chassis, figuring if someone asked (such as yourself), I could expand on it a little more. I was also somewhat hesitant to mention the specifics unless asked due to the fact I also mentioned frustration with the chassis and the support I received in regards to it.

    In regards to the ability to "make" a NeCree, that is definitely something I'd be interested in. What do you use to bridge the pads? Just a small length of wire? I think I recall Madcow actually going over that in one of the tutorials, but I think I realized the context was that of a GGW or something and for my first build, I was hoping for a tutorial going over the wiring up of a RGrB instead and ended up not finishing the video. Maybe I'll go back and spend some more time on there.

    Finally, in regards to the lead-free solder, my findings were that it seems that someone experienced, such as yourself, would definitely be able to use it efficiently. I noticed it actually seemed to work pretty well for wire to wire joints. I definitely don't think I'd ever try to use it on an LED again though. That was a nightmare. I honestly thought I was going to lose my LED in the process of all the soldering, melting, soldering melting, trying to get the old stuff off the pads so I could start fresh. In your experience, do you think that's consistent with first-time soldering on LEDs in general? Or likely due to the combination of the lead-free solder and the built in copper heat sink?


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