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Thread: TROUBLESHOOTING -- General Theory of Operation

  1. #1
    Council Member Novastar's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    San Jose / San Francisco, CA

    Default TROUBLESHOOTING -- General Theory of Operation

    Ok. In general, over the years, I have been seeing TONS of questions regarding wiring issues that could be solved by using some basic reasoning (in our case, basic theory of operation).

    This is NOT to say that people don't end up with genuine "issues", leaving many of us in quandaries... until we all work it out together as a community of helpers. Quite the contrary... it's GREAT when "tough questions" come up and it takes 3 to 10 of us to lock it down and flesh out the problem.

    But anyhow. Let's just think about a few basic concepts when you are just beginning on wiring. These will help you AVOID FUTURE PROBLEMS:

    1. START SIMPLE. Sounds easy enough, but no. It's easy to jack this up. You have CF (for example). You're excited. You want to hook up everything TCSS has to offer and a flux capacitor too. However... you should start with the VERY BASICS. In this case--a speaker and batteries is the right beginning. You don't even need to solder in the cells yet--just touch the + and - leads from the cells to the appropriate CF battery leads and see if you have a boot sound. You should NOT change the SD card configurations yet! LEAVE IT ALONE.

    2. KEEP STAYING SIMPLE. Add one part into the circuit at a time.

    This is a good time to add the LED & heatsink. So you can observe if this is wired right. But, Novastar! How would I check the LED? My switch is [momentary/latching]. It wouldn't matter: if you use some pliers or a wire with two ends bent into a "U" shape, you can touch the main "on/off" switch pad with "GND" (negative). The LED should light up--whether for a moment or not, you should hear the poweron sound. You may need to touch the leads again to shut it off. Or just cut the power--we're just testing.

    3. Make certain your solders are strong and add another part into the circuit. Test/observe.

    4. Repeat step 3 until you're satisfied that everything is working together as planned. If a part/wiring task fails, try to solve the issue before going on to other parts if you can avoid it.

    Now for you advanced users, sure, you might decide to wire ALL four indicator LEDs in all at once. Fine. Only problem is... what if you messed up your wiring? You'll have to go back later on and track it all down, questioning the board... questioning all sorts of things.

    Now hopefully you all can see where this will be going, since of course the point of this thread is THEORY OF OPERATION. It's all about... what do you do when you encounter an unexpected problem during wiring??

    * TEST. Whatever the part is that is in question... meter/test it. If it's a set of cells--meter for voltage. A Luxeon-style LED? Give it some direct voltage/current briefly to confirm if it works "alone". Same with a vibration motor or "indicator LED", speakers would be metering for ohms, and so forth. This requires a multi-meter. That's pretty obvious.

    * REPLACE. Whatever the part is that is in question... try replacing the part with another "known good" (meaning tested or at least brand new) part. Of course this doesn't usually mean the board, because if the board is jacked up... you're at the proverbially "end" of troubleshooting, and it's the last thing to try, really.

    Right then and there--you can usually solve your problem. Now... if you didn't follow my numbered advice above... you may already be replacing things that AREN'T the problem... and having a bunch of "possibilities" on your hands. That isn't ideal--it's a bit more chaotic. Try to avoid that!!

    * "EXTREME" REPLACE. In rare conditions, you might want to replace the part not with a "replica" of the same part... but a completely different thing altogether. Just to be sure. Like a "completely different model" of a momentary switch or whatever. Just to be certain.

    NOTE: A long time ago, I used to repair laserjet printers. One day I had to do a simple repair. A common/basic one. I replaced a "fuser assembly" on a machine. It still didn't work. I was pretty surprised, since I knew for 100% certainty that it was indeed the problem. I fiddled around for a bit, but finally grabbed another... ... *ahem* ... "known good" fuser assembly... ... ... ... and popped it it. It still didn't work.

    Guess what? BOTH of the "new" parts I had ended up being TWO defective BRAND NEW fuser assemblies. How did I determine that (other than the fact that they didn't work in the machine)? I tested them individually. They failed. LOL. Even the CUSTOMERS was working, it just wasn't working correctly. The "new" ones I had were just plain dead, lmao. I didn't have a 3rd to give the customer, so I went back to the shop and got ANOTHER fuser and returned the same day or next (don't recall). But... it worked.

    ~~~~ Ok, I tried all that. UH-OH. IT STILL DOESN'T WORK.

    * TEST OTHER PARTS. Ok, let's say you thought the LED was bad (it didn't light up). You swapped it with a different one you just tested and you KNOW the new LED works. Still nothing though--newly swapped in part doesn't work. Swap out the batteries. Nothing? TEST those cells--be sure of things. Be methodical.

    * ISOLATE ELECTRONICS. Take the electronics out of the hilt (if applicable). Your LED/circuits may have been grounding out on the hilt. It's happened to me in the most STRANGEST ways several times before, so don't underestimate its sneakiness.

    * RE-RE-CHECK YOUR WIRING. I didn't list this above, because it's a no-brainer on the first time around. If you have a component wired BACKWARDS... well... don't come post about it!!! You should catch that early on. No, no--HERE, I am talking about looking for connections that LOOK good... but somehow aren't. Hidden connections that you used to be able to "see"--but are covered now by... whatever. A cradle/chassis. Other wires. Heat shrink. Whatever.

    At this point, if you're STILL in an enigma of a quandary within a labyrinth... ****NOW**** is the time to start posting questions about what the heck is going on and seeing what help others can offer.

    Maybe there should be some code, like "I've done the Standard Sabersmith Troubleshooting... so here I am asking about X and Y and Z", lol.

    Anyhow. I personally believe that the above will solve 80% of most wiring issues for people building sabers. Besides... if you're building UBER complex sabers... you'll have no such need of my rudimentary basics.

    Hope it helps, and... hope n00bz end up having to read this as a sticky or something. Or... whatever, other smiths can add their suggestions and improve upon things.
    ~~ GREYTALE NOVASTAR (Writer, Director, Choreographer, Sound Designer, Actor, Saber Designer, Vocal Artist)
    ~~ Balance of Power, EP I: "Into The Lion's Den"
    ~~ Balance of Power, EP II: "Ashes of The Phoenix"
    ~~ The Crystal Focus Sound CD Compendiums... are HERE! ~~
    ~~ Nova & Caine's Staged Combat System... comin' SOON!
    ~~ Crystal Focus Wiring Guide

  2. #2


    This should be stickied!

    Having only one saber under my belt and this being the first time ever soldering ANYTHING! this advice is truly and amazingly helpful. Simple knowledge that most (in a panic because they have worked for hours and suddenly their saber wont work) overlook or simply do not know.

    Novastar....thank you *bows*
    Every time Tim ships an order... an angel gets its wings

    "Just get one and go nuts, that's how this hobby works. Get stuff. Go nuts. Period." ~FenderBender~

  3. #3


    You will know, when are at peace passive.

    Definitely don't try to hook up a flux capacitor 1.21 jigawatts would fry the board!

  4. #4
    Council Member
    Jedi Council Member
    Rhyen Skytracker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Covington, GA


    I agree, this should definitely be stickied. Great job Novastar. What is common for the more experienced saber smiths is not common to those who are just starting out. I wish I had something like this when I first started out, it would have saved me a lot of headache. The biggest thing to remember is to TAKE YOUR TIME. Don't rush things or you can make big mistakes that could fry your board.

    Live long and...I mean May the force be with you.

  5. #5
    Council Member
    Sith Lord
    Lord Maul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Seattle area, Washington


    It already is, Wade

    Nova, I can't find anything to add to this thread. Great job! I will index it right now
    Aluke123 on every other forum - Old grumpy moderator here

    Thread Index, The Saber Building Dictionary, and The Basic Saber-Build Tutorial - Read Them!

  6. #6


    Hey Everyone!!
    So I built my own saber with the prizm 4.0 sound board, colors change fine and all that, it's AWESOME!!! My friend is trying to build one and I was wiring it up for him. He bought a CF V8, my problem is I was trying to get the whole RGB thing going with his saber on the CF, just like my Prizm. First off can that be done without the color xtender? I wired it up and the red works great! But the green and blue don't work at all. when you hit it against something it just flashes on and off with the red. I have a diagram of how I wired it but I also tested the LEDs after that with some wire and the battery and the only one that was working was the red. I tested them all before I started putting it together and they all worked fine! Could it be a faulty LED? Here is how I wired it...

    crystal focus diagram.jpg

    Hope that's not too confusing, LOL!

  7. #7


    You have a specific problem. It would be best if you started your own thread, rather than adding to a 7 year old how-to/instruction post that was sticky'd for its general coverage for everyone's benefit.


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