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, this page has everything else you may need.
Also, if it’s easier, just check out my Amazon shop, where I link to almost everything on this page: https://www.amazon.com/shop/retrorgb
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
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:
Wire Strippers: https://amzn.to/2QN8bCc
Soldering Iron / Station
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.
Honestly though, I’ve personally been using this soldering station and was shocked at how much easier it was to use than every other station or iron I’ve ever worked with, even using just the tip the main kit shipped with! If you plan on doing more than one or two mods, definitely look into this. Also, Voultar recently reviewed this station and gives it his approval:
Keeping your iron’s tip clean is equally as important as the iron itself. Here’s the two tip cleaners I use:
My favorite: https://amzn.to/2AkSgVr
Still good, but doesn’t last as long: https://amzn.to/2UtkLHk
Solder / Flux
Solder and flux are equally as 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:
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://amzn.to/2n7I4pf
Wire / Ribbon Wire
Using stranded, ribbon wire is recommended for most mods, as they’re well insulated and will result in a cleaner installation: https://amzn.to/2LZtPRa
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”:
A cheap multi-meter would be very helpful as well. Once again, you don’t need anything fancy, just a basic one:
Desoldering can be extremely tricky without the right tools! The Hakko guns (below) are known as some of the best you can buy, but I’ve found this knockoff to work pretty good as well. Only purchase if it’s between $105 and $150…sometimes they go up in price:
https://ebay.to/2U5Djfg / https://amzn.to/2TwoKk6
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: https://amzn.to/2IDmAx4
This one should be exactly the same:
A hot air rework station is necessary for some mods. Here’s the one I’ve been using: https://amzn.to/3iGIq3k
A good set of calipers can be handy. I’ve bought a few $15 ones over the years and they all had accuracy issues and died after a few months (actually died, not just drained the battery).
Here’s a set I just bought that works pretty well for casual users: https://amzn.to/2HNJbVP
Any “pro users” out there might want to spend the money on the same ones Greg uses when making his 3D printed designs: https://amzn.to/2Lng5ic
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