Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Project: One Possible Future (WORK IN PROGRESS 1-14-14)
Abstract: Customize an NES in the style of a Sazabi model kit, make it play all region games.

A few months ago, I posted a photoshop of a project I started planning. The idea was to customize a NES in red comet red and put a bunch of decals on it. Pretty simple. I soon found my plans to be too expensive, readjusted, and then I fried an NES board. This will serve as a basic write-up on the project. Unfortunately, this is the one project I didn't take too many photos for, so I'll do my best to summarize the process.

Kickstarting the Future
The initial idea was to build this NES for my friend Jay (who I built the Protoman helmet for and is essentially why I started this blog) for Christmas/his birthday (which are about a week apart). Jay likes games, and Gundam, so I wanted to combine those things. I also knew at the time Jay didn't have an NES of his own. Additionally, this project require a 60-72 pin FAMICOM-NES game converter. These are difficult to find, but can be had on eBay. Essentially, the Famicom and the NES are the same machine, but the US version adds 12 more pins. We need a converter to convert the Famicom cartridges up to 72 pins so they can be played in a NES.

This one.

I had a few Nintendos left over from a lot buy on eBay, and one of them was painted. Since I wanted to do a full paint job and a few mods, this was the perfect candidate. Unfortunately, it also had electrical issues, but more on that later. I disassembled her and got her ready for surgery.

I photoshopped a basic idea for what I wanted. Jay really digs Char Aznable, so I figured making a NES in a Sazabi color scheme would be a cool idea. I won't be offended if you have to google 'Sazabi'. I also wanted to incorporate details from Gunpla, Gundam model kits, such as the white decals and black panel lines.

Originally, I wanted to make custom decals that said NES-002 in the same fonts as the Sazabi ones, with custom warnings and technical info on the NES. I priced them out, and it turns out they could cost up to $80.00 USD and would take 3-6 weeks to deliver. My track record with water slide decals is really, really poor, and I was too afraid I'd destroy them while applying them. I changed my plan to reproduction Sazabi 1/100 decals, and altered the paint idea slightly to eliminate the bright red/dark red/black idea I originally had to just be all red up top, gray/black/yellow accents. This cut down on hours of paint/prep time, and also price.

The original design idea. The front had technical info, like CPU speed and RAM capacity, as well as warnings for how to properly insert the game cartridge.
Getting Started on Electronics
When I started I had to do was swap out a I/O power/video box (the metal box) because it was bad, and then pulled pin #4 on the lockout chip. I did this because it wasn't working correctly, and I had planned on using mod carts or Japanese carts and that's just a hassle. This is what causes the 'blinking light' error, which is caused by the Nintendo thinking your game is not an officially licensed game. Unfortunately, even after a new pin connector, this NES thought every game was a knockoff, so the lockout chip had to be disabled.
Disabling the lockout chip. Use a de-soldering tool and a jumper puller or tweezers for best results. Be very careful to not break the pins or force them in any way, you could completely destroy this chip. They're easy to crack.
I also did the old 'pro sound' two-pot audio-out mod. This gives the Nintendo an 'unmixed stereo' audio. Because it's unmixed, it sometimes results in sound being louder on one side than the other, but it almost totally removes the weird signal noise you'll usually hear with the NES. I'm not going to get into the technical aspects of it, but I prefer the way it sounds to the regular NES audio. It sounds 'cleaner' to me. How-to below.

Here is how you add 'stereo' audio. I meant ONE capacitor each, two capacitors total. I dumbed. The positive leg of the capacitors go toward the audio outs, negative toward the R4/R3. I used 50v caps, you can use bigger ones if you like.
Next I took the body parts, cleaned them out, and bonded a few cracks using JB Weld and/or model glue. Then I drilled two ¼ inch holes in the rear for the new audio pots. I later took the case parts into dad's shop and sanded them down with a air powered disc sander until mostly flat. I did this to both halves. I used various grits of sandpaper, but nothing too rough. After that, they were cleaned thoroughly, dried, and sprayed with PPG Plastic Bond adhesion promoter for ABS plastics. Alternatively, you could use something like the Krylon that's meant to bond to plastic.

I sprayed the bottom half matte clear, then set that aside. I originally painted the top half red, red-orange, and black. Black on the insides and vents, red on the left-hand side and door, and orange red on the upper right-hand side. Shortly after This I repainted the orange the same red color on the other side due to it looking stupid. I don't have any pictures of this because I'm a communist.

At this point, the top was red, the bottom was flat gray, and the accents were flat black. It was looking good, so I needed the decals. I found the largest sheet of decals I could on eBay. They were for a 1/100 scale Sazabi model kit, and cost about $8.00. They featured lots of 'caution' decals and 'MSN04' decals, which is what I was looking for. Those came from Hong Kong, so they took about 3 weeks to arrive. 

Problems, Bro
During this time, I decided to mod the board for the NES. Here's where the project was halted and essentially why I don't have any pictures (I thought it'd never get done). I swapped the power LED for a green one, the color of Sazabi's mono-eye, and wired up two red LEDs that pointed upward through the top vents on the NES. I was testing the LEDs, I had not sealed up the solder welds with tape yet, and I dropped a hot wire on the picture processing unit on the main board. It fried the whole goddamn motherboard. I don't have a replacement. The project was abandoned 4 days before Christmas.

Here is how I wired the LEDs...
I found the 17805 power regulator on the I/O box, found output, and tapped that for power. I then just wired two white LEDs in series, then wrapped them in colored tape. That's a good, cheap way to save on LEDs if they aren't going to be seen.
Be sure you DO NOT tap the leftmost pin for power, that's input power. Input power on a NES is actually AC power. Anything taking input power on an NES is bad news for wiring extra shit, it's the same reason you should never use a AC adapter for a NES in something like a Sega Genesis.
At this point after a bunch of trouble shooting the busted NES board, fixing it, modding it, breaking it, then troubleshooting it again, I got really angry and broke it in half. 

Because fuck you, I'm a child.

Resuming the Project
When the decals came in, I decided to go ahead and resume the project. I still don't have the electronics working, but I knew the exterior work was almost done, so I figured I should just make due with what I had. All I had to do was apply the decals, detail the unit, clear coat it, and find new innards.

To start, I wet-sanded the exterior using 1200 grit sandpaper. This evened most of paint out. I highly suggest you do this in between coats of paint, especially if you're going more than a day between coats. It evens everything out and gives the new coat of paint or clear more to stick to. It also makes it easier to stick the water slide decals on.
After sanding, I placed the decals onto the painted case then clear coated them using regular Krylon crystal clear gloss. I've never been good at dry-rub or water slide decals, but these turned out OK. If you've never done it, all you do is dip them in water, wait a few seconds, then slide them off using a moist Q-tip, then smooth out using a dry one. You will need to seal them with clear coat, as they are very brittle. After that, I painted the bottom vents on the case yellow to match the vents on the Sazabi. This wasn't in the original plan, but it makes for a nice little detail.

This is currently where I have left off. I actually did take a few nice pictures of my results so far, and I apologize for how text-filled this article is.

The tape is covering the vents, which are painted flat black/layered with truck bed coating. I didn't peel it away for these pictures because I'm still working on the paint.

What's next?

The NES needs a whole new board, and I've been thinking about a big, white Neo Zeon logo up top.
After that, it needs lightly scuffed with an abrasive pad and then clear coated one more time.

I've applied a few decals to matching controllers, and I'm considering painting them red like I have in the original photoshop. I'm a little worried about the smell, stickiness, and wear that would result on a surface you touch all the time, though.

I will update when I've finished it, hopefully with more pictures.

Materials list (so far)
1 can of bright red enamel spraypaint (Rustoleum Safety Red)
1 can of matte Krylon clear coat
1 can of gloss Krylon clear coat
1 can Rustoleum truck bed liner (used as a top coat on black)
1 can of Krylon matte black
1 can of Krylon gloss yellow
1 can of plastic adhesion promoter (borrowed)
2 white LEDs
2 standard audio connectors female
1 tube of model glue or some JB weld (only needed if your NES has cracks!)
1 sheet reproduction Sazabi Gundam model kit Decals
2 1uF 50v Electrolytic capacitors (to protect audio from surges)
Shielded wire
Electrical tape
Lots of goddamn tape

Sanding block
Power drill
Power sander
Bowl of water
Soldering tool
De-soldering tool
Tweezers or jumper pullers
Screwdrivers (long Philips head)

Thanks for reading!


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