Noob Standard Modding Kit

There’s been a lot of questions lately about modding sticks and hardware in general, so I thought it’d be a good idea if there was a thread to outline some of the basic tools of the trade.

This is not a comprehensive list. This is also not the ultimate authority guide. I’m going to point out some examples of what I’m actually using or have used in the past. You can probably find different ones for different prices - there’s no reason to turn this into a bargain hunters thread, because it’ll never end. I’m just linking to places I know will be in stock. If you wanna compare features and price match on your own, go for it.

Here we go:
Noob Standard Toolset #1 (Taking shit apart).**

  1. A large, large screwdriver variety set.
    This might seem a little basic, but, I’m not talking about having a Phillips and a Flathead and calling it a day. If you actually have the proper, or very close, fit to the screw you’ll find it coming out and going back in much easier. Furthermore, strip a recessed screw and it’s always fun to try and get it out.

This is a very inexpensive and somewhat durable kit from Harbor Freight (which is essentially a chinatown in a strip mall). It has all manner of bits, including tri-star and some other harder to find bits that you’ll need to open some game hardware.

You’ll find gamestores that sell kits like these for over $20 with less bits and worse quality (I know first hand).

It’s not a chromium plated craftsman set that will see you till the end of times, but, you’ll get a lot of milage out of it.

  1. A decent screwdriver.
    Now if you decide to go electric, a few things to think about would be power source and motor type. Battery powered screwdrivers are handy, but you gotta make sure the batteries are charged. Also, rechargeable batteries tend to lose life the longer you have them. Unfortunately, they stopped making my favorite screwdriver. It’s a Black and Decker alkaline screw driver. It’s shaped like a small drill with a quick release chuck. It takes double A batteries, so I never have to worry about battery memory and has sufficient power to chew through plastic and wood (I also use it with smaller drillbits and step drillbits).

This one is in the same range as the one I found. Now, don’t chince too much on powertools. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, first thing you should do is hit up the Goodwill and charity shops. It’s where I found mine for $2 (it was selling for $30 at the time).

There’s nothing wrong with a good ratching hand powered one either. Just saves time.

Noob Standard Toolset #2 (Ripping shit up).**

1)Step Drill Bit.
If you feel like adding a button or custom building a stick, a step drill bit can be your bestest friend. You’ll get the smoothest and cleanest large bore holes with a minimum of effort. They can be pricey, but they usually replace 4-10 bits by themselves. For modding Japanese style parts, it’s best to stick with metric.

Make sure you hit the 30mm and 24mm for your start buttons. There are other options for large hole sizes, but I prefer step drill bits to hole saws and the like.

2)Rotary Tool.
Ah. The much loved Dremel. I have a dirty secret about the dremel, for all it’s uses it’s like my 4th favorite tool. I find it does a lot of things well and does no one thing exceptionally. Which is not a knock against it. It’s just life.

This is a tool where you get what you pay for. The $10 one will be good for a little while, but one day it’ll break. It’s just not built to last.

3)Wire Strippers.
Good automatic wirestrippers will save you so much time it’s not even funny.
Feed in the wire, squeeze the handle and you’re done!

One of the few things reasonably priced at Radioshack.

Hardcore Mode)Crimp Tool.
If you wanna add your own quick disconnects for beauty and easy of changing parts, then a good crimp tool is the way to go.

I do love Bob Roberts. He’s definitely a god in the arcade hardware world. Check out his HT-1921 crimpers as well as his tutorial on how to use them. Only negative with Bob is… no paypal!!!
Noob Standard Toolset #3 (Putting shit together).
1)Decent Soldering Iron.
A good temperature controlled soldering iron will make your life so much easier! It’s not even funny. If you have a limited budget, I’d much rather you skimp on that rotary tool than on an iron. The soldering irons you find for $1 that look like wood burners, basically suck. I could probably solder with one now, having the experience that I do, but it makes learning a bitch.

I have the top two irons. Both are good, I obviously use the digital one more because it’s more precise.

2)Flux and Solder.
Rosin core solder. Thin is usually better. You use flux to clean the parts you’re going to solder. Simple. Find this wherever you can, sometimes a dollar store… Radioshak if you get desperate.

  1. Multimeter.
    Modding controllers usually deals in low voltages with reasonably safe conditions. That said, it can be a pain in the ass trying to figure out why stuff doesn’t work. A multimeter can help you out. It’s a fairly reasonable piece of kit that you can use to check voltage as well as the all important continuity (making sure two things are connected). Button not working? Test the button first. Then test the trace. Then test the connector. It’s an electrical detective.

I own the first one and one very similar to the second one (which I got a Walmart of all places). Auto ranging, digital multimeter. That’s what you want. Personally, I don’t care for ones that don’t have an audible continuity tester since my head is often inside of things with the probes. Cheap ones almost never have this feature.

  1. Helping Hands.
    So helpful! Basically a couple of alligator clips and some screws. But, what it does do is help hold parts in place while you solder. Let’s say you wanna solder a wire to a button. Okay, you use your dominant hand to hold the soldering iron, your other hand to hold the solder and… well what do you use to hold the wire?

That’s easy. The helping hands.

Buy two and make it Goro style. Buy 3 and go crazy!

  1. Zipties.
    Keep shit straight. Also dollar store fodder.

Hardcore Mode) Heatshrink and Heat Gun.
You want the sexiest, most professional mods? Heatshrink tubing is your friend. Also available in some Walmarts and dollarstores. This plastic tubing, when applied to heat will contract 2 to 4 times it’s beginning size. It adds strength and insulation to connections.

Buying in bulk is cheaper in the long run. Personally I just buy it in small batches.

Heatshrink tubing can be melted with any sufficient heatsource. Small areas can be done with pocket butane torches. Large projects will need a heatgun

A good adjustable heatgun isn’t cheap though, but… it is pretty awesome. It might be my second favorite tool. Removing paint and stickers and tile… toasting pizza. It’s just awesome.


Now do you need all of these things? Of course not. However I do a lot of controller work and I’ll usually use 80% of these things on any give mod. You don’t need everything and it’s not everything you need. One thing I didn’t put in but I do use fairly often is a good glue gun. It’s good for adding mechanical strength to a solder or to insulate a connection.

It’s not important that you have all the things, but it IS important that you know about them. So when you find yourself wondering how to test an electrical connection, or put a button sized hole in some plastic… you’ll know what you need.

Wow I have all of that stuff but I never thought about heat shrink tubing… good call, sir!