Finishing Your Portable Super NintendoBenjamin Heckendorn
Welcome to our series on hacking video game systems. So far, at ExtremeTech, we showed you how to Build a Portable Super Nintendo, Hack A Casio Pocket Screen, and Hack a PSOne Screen for your portable gaming system. In this installment, we finish the job, showing you how to fit the system into a custom case.
These installments are chapters excerpted from the ExtremeTech book Hacking Video Game Consoles.
Finishing Your Portable Super Nintendo
Behold Figure 10-1, the Portable Super Nintendo you can build by
In this chapter we'll build the case for this portable by hand, and then
install a PSOne screen and custom controls into it. We'll then install the
mini-SNES you hacked in Chapter 9, and wire everything together to run
off six rechargeable AA batteries. There's a lot of work involved with this
project, but in the end you'll have a portable to be proud of (and of course
play SNES games on).
Clear off a space on your workbench, get some fresh, sharp X-Acto knives,
and let's begin! Continued...
In order to build this portable SNES, you're going to need to go around collecting (and buying)
materials. The first things you'll need for this project are the major ones listed below:
A mini-SNES with all the parts removed, as described in Chapter 9.
A 5" PSOne screen, modified with white LEDs, as described in Chapter 4.
A standard SNES controller. Since we'll only be using the buttons and directional pad
(not the electronic guts), a nonworking one is fine.
Two standard NES controllers, either actual Nintendo models or third-party controllers,
such as the Quickshot joystick. Desolder the 16-pin 4021 ICs from both controllers as
described in Chapter 9.
The rest of the parts fall into three basic categories: electronics, case-building parts, and decals.
There are also some miscellaneous things to pick up as well, such as glue and sandpaper. Continued...
Table 10-1 shows a list of the electronic parts you'll need for this project. The most convenient
place to get most of this stuff is from Radio Shack. Using a common source such as Radio
Shack allows us to standardize parts and layouts so that what you see in this book will match
what you build yourself. (This especially applies to things such as the PC boards.) Most components
at Radio Shack come in packages of more than one, so the list indicates how many
packages you'll need, rather than an exact number of components.
Table 10-1 Electronic Parts List
Part or catalog #
10K ohm; 1/4-watt resistor
Grid-style PC board (2-3/4” or 3-11/16”)
1/8" panel-mount jack
1/8" phone plug
Battery holder; holds four AA batteries
270-391 or 270-383
AA size Ni-MH rechargeable
2-pack: 23-525; 4-pack: 23-528
Ni-MH/Ni-Cd battery charger
DPDT submini slide switch
Battery holder; holds four AA batteries
Tact switch; 6 mm
The tact switches can be obtained from Digi-Key, which has a handy Web site at
www.digikey.com. There's a minimum order of $25, so it's not a bad idea to get your white LEDs at the same time.
The battery holders listed above will be used for their spring battery terminals. You can also get
these from other devices such as hacked pocket TVs and old electronic devices. This will be
discussed at more length in the Attaching the battery terminals section; you may wish to check
Now let's move on to the materials you'll need for the actual construction of this portable's
case. I'll list each item, what quantity to get, and where to find it.
1/16"-thick engraving plastic, 12" x 12" piece. This can be found at trophy/awards
shops. (See Chapter 5 for more information.) I'd suggest a light gray SNES-style color.
1/16"-thick engraving plastic, 6" x 10" piece. Dark gray or black color. This will be used
for the battery covers and other assorted small pieces. 6" x 10" is the minimum size
needed, but it's not a bad idea to get a little extra (or ask for some scrap) in order to allow
for mistakes ... or, as I like to call it, practice.
3/8"-thick balsa wood, 3" x 5". You can find this at hobby and model shops. It may
come in a piece larger than 3" x 5", but will still be pretty cheap, and you'll have a few
extra chances to cut the balsa parts correctly, which can be a little tricky.
Aluminum strip, 3/4" wide, 1/16" thick, and 25" long. They have these in hardware
stores near the screw aisle. Though you only need 25" of it, the stuff will likely come in a
4' or 6' length.
Two aluminum strips, 1/2" wide, 1/16" thick, and 12" long. Depending on the store,
these may come in the needed 12" lengths, though it's not a bad idea to pick up an extra
one or two in case you need to rebend them. If you can find shiny steel strips, they'll look
really cool and futuristic on your portable.
Screws, nuts, and spacers
Don't leave the hardware store yet, because you'll also need the parts listed in Table 10-2.
Locate the section of the store that has a variety of screws and similar parts in a series of drawers.
There's usually an entire aisle devoted to this.
Table 10-2 Screws, Nuts, and Spacers Required
Phillips; pan (round head)
Phillips; pan (round head)
Phillips; pan (round head)
Phillips; pan (round head)
Size-4 nylon washer
Nylon; 1/4" outer diameter
Size-4 nylon washer
Nylon; 1/4" outer diameter
Nylon hole plugs
Fits 3/16" hole; black
In addition, you'll also need six computer case screws. These are short, 1/4"-long size-6 screws
that are typically used to hold PCI cards and the motherboard in desktop computers. The reason
I suggest these is because they're cheap and because 1/4"-long size-6 screws are sometimes
hard to find at hardware stores.
Preparing the nylon spacers
We're going to be attaching size-4 nylon spacers to the front plate so that we can put size-6
screws into them. If this doesn't sound right, well—you're right. But if we thread the smaller
size-4 spacer beforehand, it will accept a threaded size-6 screw. Here's how to thread them:
1. Grip each nylon spacer with a large pair of pliers, squeeze tight, and use a drill to drive a
size-6 screw through it and back out again. This creates the threads.
2. Sand both ends of the spacer, so that glue will stick to it. Make a mark on the end that
the screw entered from. This end should be up when you place these things. Continued...
The way to make your portable unit really shine is to put some snazzy graphics on it. This also
helps identify things like the brightness/volume controls and power jacks. In this section we'll
discuss the two different ways of making graphics for your portable and how/when to apply them.
All the files are available on the companion Web site at www.wiley.com/go/extremetech, in a file
Using your own printer. You can get some sticky-back adhesive printer paper and use it
to make your decals. Print one of the following files: "SNES by hand Decals.ai," "SNES
by hand Decals.pdf," "SNES by hand Decals.wmf," or "SNES by hand Decals.jpg."
Make sure the printer is set to Actual Size, 100%, or No Scaling (the exact name varies
by program). This ensures the decals print at the intended size and will fit your portable.
To check, measure the big circle—it should be 5-3/4" wide.
A thin dark line has been placed in the joypad and screen decals. Use your X-Acto knife
to cut out these shapes. Try to cut just on the outside of the dark line so it won't be visible
on the remaining decal.
If you're not using vinyl, you'll need something to cover the sides of your portable. You
can use model paint, electrical tape, or any type of adhesive-backed colored material. (I'd
highly suggest vinyl, however.)
Sign shops/vehicle lettering shops. Most of these places have thermal vinyl printers
these days. This is a machine that embeds color directly into sticky-backed vinyl, which
can then be cut by another machine and used as decals. An advantage of decals made
this way is that they are more durable and look better than ones you might print yourself.
Here are the files to use:
The file "SNES by hand Decals.plt" will work for most shops that use the common
Gerber equipment. It's all set and ready to go. I'd recommend printing it on a
dark silver vinyl.
If they have a different system, you can provide them with one of the AI or PDF
files, and they should be able to import that as an alternative. If you'd like to
change some of the colors, the graphic artist on duty should be able to help you.
While you're at the sign shop, have them make you some 3/4" x 25" vinyl stripes. You'll
need at least one, but they'll probably cut ten or so at a time, because it uses the same
amount of vinyl. Think of the extras as "error compensators." Pick a vinyl color that
complements the engraving plastic you choose (for my portable, I used light gray). You
can use these stripes to cover the sides of the unit later on, which is why the size is the
same as that of the aluminum strips.
The graphics will be applied to various parts of the portable at different times during the construction procedure, so you should have them all made and ready before you begin. Continued...
Below are some other items you'll need for this project that don't neatly fit into the categories
Several glue sticks.
Superglue: The gel stuff doesn't spill but dries slower, whereas the liquid can spill but
dries faster. Use whichever you're more comfortable with.
One tube of two-part epoxy. Any two-part mix epoxy will work, even J-B Weld. "Quick"
5-minute epoxy is handy because it won't make you wait 24 hours to cure every time you
Extra package of X-Acto knife blades: There's a lot of cutting in this chapter, so be sure
you're stocked up on blades. If the tip of the blade gets dull or breaks off, your cuts won't
be as accurate, which can impair your project.
Electric tape: This is for covering connections so that they won't short each other out. It
can also be used to cover the outer walls of the case if you're not using vinyl stripes.
An electric drill and the following bit sizes: 1/10" (or the closest you can find to it), 1/8",
3/16", and 15/64".
A package of Velcro: The thin, elongated type works fine; you can cut it to size as
A 6" x 6" piece of screen-door mesh. Hardware stores usually have a roll they can cut you
a piece from. The dark-colored plastic kind works best for this project.
A piece of 1/10"-thick (or so) hobby foam, dark-colored. Check hobby stores or the
crafts section of a megamart. Any sort of flexible, easy-to-cut foam-type material will
work as long as it's close to 1/10" thick. It's going to be used for the shoulder buttons, so
pick a color you'd like for that. Continued...
The front of the case is only 3/4" thick, but it will contain almost all of the guts of the portable,
minus the batteries. It has the big opening for the screen, as well as all of the game controls
except for the shoulder buttons. The front of the case is the foundation of the entire portable.
In this section we'll cut the front plate to form the shape of the case, then bend and attach the
side walls out of 1/16"-thick aluminum to give it depth, so that it can enclose the guts.
Making the front plate
The front plate is a 1/16"-thick piece of engraving plastic that forms the main shape of the
case. We'll cut it using a printed template, then cut and drill the holes in it for the various controls
All of the following files are available from this book's companion Web site at www.wiley.com/
go/extremetech, in a file called "SNES by hand."
1. Download and print out the file "SNES by hand Front Plate.wmf " or "SNES by hand
Front Plate.pdf," depending on which file your computer can open. Make sure that it
prints at actual size, with no scaling. You may need to turn off borders and margins.
Measure the width of the graphic after it prints—it should be 8-1/4" wide.
2. Cut the outside main shape of the paper pattern, and tape it down to your piece of
engraving plastic as shown in Figure 10-2. Make a few extra slits as shown, so that you
have additional places to hold down the paper with tape.
3. Use your X-Acto knife to make grooves along all the inside shapes, then along the outer
shapes. Don't press too hard, or the knife may slip and cut too much plastic (or you).
4. Once you've made the first groove on all shapes, remove the paper pattern. Use your
knife to go back over all of the cuts and make them a little deeper. Since the existing
groove is guiding the knife, you can press a little harder this time. A few deep cuts over
everything is fine, but the deeper you make the grooves, the easier the next steps will be.
5. Now, with all the shapes grooved at least twice (if not more), you can snap the main
shape out of the plastic. Do this by bending the plastic backward, away from the colored
front, along the grooved edges, with the groove on the outside of the bend. Pretend it's a
sheet of paper you're trying to fold in half along the groove. Once it "folds" a certain
amount, the weakened grooved portion will break.
6. Now you can remove the screen portion. Do this the same way that you removed the
main shape, but only bend the edges of the screen backward until you can see a slight
line appear on the back of the plastic. This line shows where the edge is. Make a few
grooves along the line on the back of the plastic, and then bend the edge again. It should
snap open in the middle. Repeat for each of the other four sides of the screen hole.
Bend the screen out slowly and make a lot of grooves along the edges to help it. Overbending,
or bending too fast, will cause the plastic to split open past the edges of the screen. The splits can
be glued back in place, but should be avoided.
7. Once all four sides of the screen hole have splits in the seams, you can slowly work
toward the corners, bending the plastic open as you go. Once you reach a corner, press it
with your thumb to pop it out of the plastic. Do this for both corners on one side, and
you should then be able to swing the plastic open like a door and pop loose the corners
on the other side.
8. With the screen plastic removed, use a 3/16" drill bit to make a hole inside each of the
remaining shapes on the front plate, except for the four small holes under the screen, for
which you should use a 1/8" bit. For the directional pad, it's best to drill one hole inside
each of the four arms.
9. With the pilot holes drilled, you can use them to remove the shapes. There are two
methods to use, depending on the size and type of the shape.
Smaller shapes: Use an X-Acto knife to carve away from the pilot hole along the
sides of the shape. If you have a thin enough pair of needle-nose pliers, the following
method will work as well.
Larger shapes: Using your cutters or needle-nose pliers, grab onto the shape from
below through the pilot hole. Then rotate the tool to bend the grooves open. (See
10. When removing the plastic for the two large speaker holes on the lower left and right of
the front plate, use needle-nose pliers to hold the lower portion as you pull the inner
plastic out. This will keep the plastic from breaking on the thin edges.
You should now have a total of fourteen openings cut into the front plate. These include the
holes for the directional pad, screen, brightness controls (two), volume controls (two), the four
action buttons (X, Y, B, and A), the select and start buttons, and the two speaker holes.
If the engraving plastic does crack beyond the buttons or shapes, put a little superglue inside the
crack and snap it back into place. An advantage to using textured engraving plastic is that it
ensures these cracks are very hard to see if you've glued them nicely.
Applying the first set of decals
Now that the front plate is cut out, it's time to apply some decals! It's easier to do this now,
because there are no buttons in our way yet, and we won't have to worry about messing up the
LCD glass on the screen. Place the decals as follows:
The "X/Y/B/A" decal fits between the four button holes. (X is the top button, and B, the
The "Select/Start" decal goes just below this, between the tilted curved slits, with "Start"
on the right and "Select" on the left.
The decal with the "+" shape goes around the directional pad hole.
Finally, the main screen decal centers over the screen, and the brightness/volume holes
line up with the four holes near the bottom of the front plate.
If you're using graphics from a sign shop, put some water in a dish and add a drop of dish
detergent. This creates a slightly soapy mixture that you can coat the sticky side of the graphics
with to aid in the application.
Note: If the engraving plastic has a texture, you shouldn't use water to apply the vinyl, or it won't stick
as well. Continued...
With the front plate cut and decaled, we can now attach screw posts to the back (inside) of it.
These allow us to connect components to the front plates, and screw posts of different heights
allow the components to be placed at different depths depending on how thick they are. To
apply the screw posts, do the following:
1. Download and print the file SNES by hand "Front Screw Posts.pdf " or "SNES by hand
Front Screw Posts.wmf." You'll see a bunch of circles with a smaller circle inside and a
number next to them. Use your X-Acto knife to cut out the outer hole of each circle.
The resulting holes should be 1/4" wide. You should also cut the outside main shape of
the case and a few of the button holes to help you position it correctly.
2. Sand the back of the front plate and wipe off the resulting dust. This will allow the glue
to stick better. Tape the front screw post pattern to the back of the front plate as shown
in Figure 10-4. If you make a few extra slits near the sides of the pattern, you'll have
more areas to tape down. Finally, use superglue to attach the correct length spacer into
each hole. Be sure the end that you drilled into is facing upward. (See the materials list
under Preparing the nylon spacers.)
3. There are also a total of six size-4 nuts glued onto the back of the front plate, four of
them on the sides of the screen hole. Before gluing them in position, sand one side of
them. (Sanding nuts may sound ridiculous and, well, it is. But it helps glue stick to
them.) Place the nut so that the flat edge is parallel to the flat edge of the screen.
4. Remove the paper pattern from the front plate—you may need to cut some portions
loose with your X-Acto knife.
5. Attach a size-4 nut to the top of the two lower 1/4" nylon spacers, as shown in Figure
10-5. Center it by threading a size-4 screw through and placing it in the nylon spacer
below—just be sure not to glue the screw down with the nut! Continued...
Now, with all the screw posts attached to the front plate, it's time to bend the front walls and
glue them down. This will be done in sections using your 1/16"-thick, 3/4"-wide piece of
1. Sand the edge of the aluminum that will be touching the front plate, and make sure the
edges of the back of the front plate are sanded as well—this helps the glue stick better
to both surfaces.
2. Start by making a 90-degree bend around a standard pencil with 2-1/2" of aluminum
remaining after the bend, as shown in Figure 10-6.
3. The bend should match the corner of the front plate near the joypad. Pencil in a 3/8"-
high by 5/8"-wide rectangle on the metal, as shown in the Figure 10-6. This will be
where the power switch goes. Cut down the two vertical slits with a hacksaw, and then
grab the resulting tab with large pliers, and bend it out. Check that the power switch fits
the hole; we'll be installing it later on.
4. To glue down the first bend, start by placing drops of superglue along the edge of the
front plate. Then press the aluminum bend down and hold it for about 15 seconds. The
superglue should now be holding, but take care not to let the long extending portion of
aluminum hang down, or it will snap it loose. The best way is to keep everything on top
of a somewhat large table. (So don't do this around dinnertime.) Continued...
5. After the superglue is set, mix up a small amount of quick 5-minute epoxy. By "a small
amount," I mean that when both parts are mixed together it's a blob about the size of a
quarter—any more than that will be wasted. Use toothpicks to apply it to the inside
seam of the first aluminum bend. This will further secure the wall.Wait 5 minutes. (This
is exactly as long as Bruce Springsteen's "The River," so use that song as reference if
you're a fan of The Boss.)
6. You can now make the second bend, which is along the top circular curve. Grasp the last
glued portion of the aluminum with your pliers—this creates a bend point and keeps the
glue from snapping loose. (See Spot 1 in Figure 10-7.)
7. Bend the aluminum away from the case to make the top of the circle, then back down to
make the other side (Spot 2).
8. Finally, use the pliers to make a bend on the other side of the circle to match the straight
portion (Spot 3).
When bending shapes such as the half-circle, it's important to bend the aluminum farther than
you need. This is because when you let go, it'll spring back because it has a kind of memory. The
idea is that if you bend it farther, it'll end up in the place you actually want it to go when it
springs back. If you have to hold the aluminum in place when you glue it, then chances are it still
wants to spring back, and it may break the glue bond after you let go.
9. Glue this second bend down as described above. The glue should go from point 1 to 3
(as shown in Figure 10-7) but no farther. After the glue cures, it's time for bend #3! Start
by gluing down the straight portion—Spot 1 in Figure 10-8. Put epoxy on the base of
the 3/4" screw post to strengthen it, but only on the inside, so that it won't get in the way
of the aluminum wall.
10. Let this portion set for about half and hour so that the epoxy can harden further—
there's going to be a lot of strain when we make this next bend. Clamp onto the screw
post and aluminum with your big pliers, and then bend the aluminum around the case, as
seen in Figure 10-8.
11. Continue to bend the aluminum around the case in this fashion until it reaches where it
began. Don't glue the rest of it down yet; simply check that the aluminum lines up with
the edges of the engraving plastic. Make a mark where the aluminum meets the beginning,
and use your hacksaw to cut it off at this point.
12. You can now glue the rest of the aluminum to the engraving plastic. First use superglue,
then epoxy, as you did with the first bend.
13. While the epoxy is curing, place a flat object over the walls (such as a big book) and a
heavy object on top of that (such as more books or a bowling ball) to press down on it all.
This keeps the walls as straight as possible. Even if you're using quick epoxy, it's best to
leave the case to sit like this for at least a few hours so that the epoxy can cure as much as
14. Take a look at the lower right-hand corner of the front half of the case, viewed from the
rear, as seen in Figure 10-9. Make a mark 1/4" from the screw post, and 3/8" up from
edge of aluminum. This will be where the power jack goes.
15. Use a 15/64" bit to drill out a hole on this mark. Continued...
Now that the front half of the case is built, we'll add a few final details to it before moving on
to the rear half of the case. These are mostly cosmetic, but essential nevertheless.
1. Cut small pieces of screen mesh and superglue them on the inside of the speaker holes.
For best results, put two layers of mesh over each hole, one with the holes going left to
right, the next with the holes going along a diagonal. This ensures a dense-looking mesh.
2. Take your 26" x 3/4" stripe of gray vinyl, and place it around the front of the case. Cut
out the holes in the gray vinyl where the power switch and power jack holes are.
3. Place the on/off decal just below the power switch hole, with "ON" on the side closest to
the center of the unit. Place the "Charge" decal over the power jack hole with the ends of
the long decal going left and right along the wall.
Start and end the vinyl stripe at the power switch—this way the seam is mostly covered by the
The front half of the case is now ready to have electronics and parts installed into it. Continued...
We can now make the rear portion of the SNES's case. It will consist of a rear plate with a battery
compartment on the back. The rear plate does not have a side wall as the front did. (Go
ahead, breathe a sigh of relief.)
1. Print the file "SNES by hand Rear Plate.wmf " or "SNES by hand Rear Plate.pdf." Tape
it down on some engraving plastic, as you did with the front plate pattern.
2. First, drill the holes. They are 1/10" and 1/8" in size on the rear plate. It's useful to have a
decent variable-speed drill for this—the kind where the harder you squeeze the trigger,
the faster the drill spins. Cheap drills have only a couple of speeds. Center the bit over
the circle, and drill slowly at first for greater accuracy. Once you see plastic being chipped
away, you can increase the speed and finish the hole. If you go full-speed right away, the
bit may slip off the mark and put the hole in the wrong place.
3. Once you've drilled all the holes, you can make grooves along all the shapes and edges, as
shown in Figure 10-10.
4. With all the lines sliced, remove the paper pattern. You can now drill out and remove the
five inner plastic shapes, as you did with the button holes in the front plate. These shapes
are the two battery holes, the cartridge slot, and the holes for the left and right shoulder
5. Print out the file "SNES by hand Rear Screw Posts.pdf " or "SNES by hand Rear Screw
Posts.wmf." Cut out the outer shape, the four screw holes, and a few of the inside shapes
for reference. Tape this pattern to the inside of the rear plate. Glue four 1/4"-long nylon
spacers into the indicated places.
The rear plate itself is now ready to have the battery compartment attached to it. Continued...
Now, with the rear plate cut, we can make the two battery compartments. Each holds three AA
batteries, for a total of six batteries in this unit. We'll use the balsa wood to give the compartments
depth, and then cover the wood with metal and engraving plastic, so that you'll only see
it when the compartments are open.
Cutting the balsa wood battery risers
The first step is cutting the balsa wood battery risers. Balsa wood is fairly easy to cut with an
X-Acto knife, allowing us to make compartments to hold the batteries in place. To cut the risers,
follow the following procedure:
1. Print out the file "SNES by hand Battery Risers.pdf " or "SNES by hand Battery
Risers.wmf." Cut out the two main shapes on the paper and tape them, one at a time, to
your 3/8"-thick piece of balsa wood, as shown in Figure 10-11.
2. Start by drilling the three screw holes with a 1/10" drill bit. Then use your X-Acto knife
to cut along the inside lines. Drag the knife in a smooth motion along the lines—don't
"saw" with it. Every time you make a cut, the knife will go deeper. About three cuts
should be enough to go completely though the material. Remove the center portion first,
and then cut the outer shape. The side of the balsa wood with the pattern is the front,
and you may want to make a small mark to indicate this.
3. Repeat these steps for the other battery riser.
Keep the knife as straight up and down as possible—this will ensure that the edges of your
balsa wood part are straight too, and allow for better gluing when you attach the walls.
The walls are thin in some portions of these parts. However, if the wood breaks, you can easily
reconnect it with superglue. Slosh a lot of glue on the thin portions even if they don't break—it
will create a kind of protective "shell."
You should now have two balsa parts cut. One of them has the notch for the cartridge, and
we'll refer to this one as the notched battery riser from here on out. Continued...
Now that the balsa battery risers are cut, you can apply the metal siding to them. This covers
the imperfections of the wood, and also looks cool. The method for doing this is somewhat
similar to that for making the side walls for the front of the case, but the metal is glued on the
sides of the balsa wood rather than the edges. We'll start by putting metal on the notched battery
1. Get out your 1/2"-wide x 12"-long thin metal strips. Sand one side of the strips with
fine-grit sandpaper. If there's a plastic coating on one side, leave it on there for now and
sand the other side—the plastic coating will protect the surface of the metal while you
work with it. If no side comes covered with plastic, sand the side that looks the worst.
2. Make a center mark on the sanded side of each piece. The pieces that I got were 12"
long, so the mark was, well, 6", of course. Place several drops of superglue on the center
spot and press the notched battery riser against it, as seen in Figure 10-12. The back of
the riser should be flush with the edge of the metal, and the front (the side that had the
paper pattern on it) should have a 1/8" gap above it.
3. Let this cure for a few minutes, holding the balsa firmly against the metal. If the sides of
the balsa aren't perfectly straight (which is probably the case, since it was cut by a
human) be sure that whatever wood is touching the metal has glue on it and the metal
itself looks straight. This is why the balsa is on the inside—the metal will make it look
straight when everything is done.
4. After the center point is cured and well attached, bend the metal sides up and make a
mark on the aluminum where the sharp corner is, near the screw hole. Then make a mark
1/2" up from that. Cut the metal off at this second mark using tin snips or heavy scissors.
Pre-bending the metal strips can make this process easier, but it may have the side effect of not
looking as even and smooth in the end.
5. Bend the metal over the wood at the sharp bend spot. There are a couple of ways you can
do this, and naturally each has its own pros and cons:
By hand: Least damaging, but the corner may not be as tight.
Using big pliers: Gets a tighter bend, but might scratch the metal (although if
you're covering the metal with vinyl, this isn't a problem, of course). For aesthetic
protection, put some paper between the plier teeth and the metal and then bend it,
even if there's a plastic coating on the metal.
Pre-bending the corner using a vise: As with the pliers, this can mar the metal, so
use paper or cloth to protect it. However, using a vise can result in a nice tight bend.
6. Once you've made the bend, glue down the last portions of the metal. Finally, cut a
3-3/4"-long portion of metal, and glue it inside the notch for consistency. The finished
notched battery compartment should look as shown in Figure 10-13.
7. Repeat the procedure for the other unnotched battery riser. If you're using a standard 12"
piece of metal, you'll notice that the ends don't quite meet after being bent around the
wood. Glue a small portion of metal in there to bridge the gap.
You've now built the battery compartments. In the next few sections we'll make covers for
them and attach them to the rear plate.
If you're concerned about how well you can manually cut these last portions of metal, keep in
mind that they'll be mostly hidden when a cartridge is installed. (Shhh! Trade secret.) Continued...
Okay, let's make the battery compartment covers. These will use Velcro stuck to the balsa wood
riser to hold the batteries in place. There is no file for cutting them, so instead we'll trace the
shapes by hand. The reason? The covers must fit over the battery compartments, and since
those were made of balsa wood and bent metal, there's a very slim chance that a computerdesigned
pattern will match a human-built half-circle. Not to rip on humans (being one
myself ), but it's true.
1. Place the battery compartment down on the front of the engraving plastic and trace
around it with a pencil. If you want to use a dark color for the battery doors, you should
trace the battery compartment shapes onto a piece of paper, and then tape that to the
front of the engraving stock for cutting. You could mark and cut the black engraving
stock from the back, but it doesn't always make as clean of a break as doing it from the
2. Make grooves along the lines and snap the shape out of the engraving plastic, as you did
with the plates. We'll put Velcro on the doors and battery compartments a little later on.
The shape you make by tracing will be a little bigger than the actual piece was. Because of this,
cut slightly inside the line to create the correct shape in the engraving plastic. It may take a couple
of tries to get it perfect but that's why I suggested getting extra engraving plastic back in the
materials section. Continued...
With the battery compartments and their covers ready, we can now start attaching things to
the rear plate. Don't worry—we're in the final stretch of building the case, and we'll start the
actual wiring of electronic guts very soon. With that pep talk out of the way, here's how to
attach the battery compartments.
1. Place the battery risers against the rear plate of the unit. The notched battery compartment
should be on the left. On the right side of the battery compartment, place the
SNES "brag" label decal just to the side of the unnotched battery compartment. (There's
a curve on the decal for reference.)
2. Insert 1/2"-long size-4 screws into the two side screw holes in each compartment and
the two lower ones to secure the compartments to the rear plate. (We'll put screws in the
top two holes later.)
Now it's time for the morale-boosting break—we've done quite a bit and you may feel weary.
Go ahead and hold the rear plate against the front half of the unit. Presto! It's almost like it's
actually done, isn't it? Feel the depth, the smooth lines, the sleekness of it all. Pretend you're
playing your favorite SNES game . . . on a beach . . . at sunset . . . Feel better yet?
Back to reality! I had to give you a breather since this next part is a little tricky—making the
battery backers! This sounds like an organization that collects donations door-to-door, but it's
actually two parts cut out of engraving plastic that hold the battery terminals. To make them,
do the following:
1. Print out the file "SNES by hand Battery Backers.pdf " or "SNES by hand Battery
Backers.wmf." Cut the outside shape, and then tape the pattern down to some scrap
engraving plastic. (The reason they're stuck together like two Tetris blocks that should
get a room is so that you'll only have to make one cut down the middle, instead of two
2. Use a 1/10" bit (or similar size, such as 5/64") to drill the holes, and then make grooves
with your knife along the lines, just like when you cut the front and rear plates. Remove
the paper, recut the grooves, and snap the pieces free.
3. Superglue the battery backers to the inside of the rear plate as shown in Figure 10-14
(where the four screw posts are). The long edge of each battery backer should line up
with the hole, and the rest of it will overlap the hole so that the glue has someplace to
stick. On the inside of the battery compartments, all the holes should be showing, at
least a little. As long as you can get one wire down each, you'll be okay. Continued...
With the battery backers in place, it's time to install the battery terminals. You can tear apart an
old device to get these (such as a junk Walkman, flashlight, or pocket TV from one of the other
projects in this book), or cut apart a battery holder from Radio Shack. A few that will work for
disassembly are catalog #270-391 or catalog #270-383. (A photo of these battery holders can
be seen in Chapter 11.) Snip the plastic apart on the battery holders with your cutters to get
the terminals out. However you get your terminals, you'll need four of the springy negative
ones and four disc-shaped positive ones. To install them on the battery backers, use the following
1. Bend the lead coming off each terminal as shown in Figure 10-15. You may notice some
metal flared out on the back of the disc-shaped positive terminals—use your big pliers
to squash it flat so that the disc stays on the wire.
2. Place the terminals and decals inside the battery compartments as shown in Figure
10-16, snaking the leads down the holes.
The best way to get the terminals in good position is to actually put batteries in, so that they will
press the terminals into the proper positions. This is especially true of the positive disc-shaped
terminals—they should be centered on the battery as well as possible.
3. Once the terminals are in place, you can then place a bit of superglue on the leads on the
other side of the plate. Once the superglue dries, you can remove the batteries and use
epoxy to secure the leads permanently. Just be sure that some bare metal is showing on
the inside so you can still connect wires! You may also want to use small bits of engraving
plastic to put behind the terminals to support them, as seen in the figure. It mostly
depends on how well the balsa part ended up being cut.
4. Hey, remember your soldering iron? I know we haven't used one yet in this chapter, but
now's the chance! Attach wires to the back of the rear plate as shown in Figure 10-17.
Melt the solder strand directly on the terminal wires for best results—this allows the
rosin core of the solder to adhere to the metal of the terminal.
Use 10" wires for the positive 7.2 volts and ground wires. These will be the positive and negative
battery wires. Color them red for positive and black for negative so that you can tell them apart
after the SNES board is installed. As you can see, the battery terminals have drops of epoxy on
them, and there's also a little epoxy in each drill hole.
Putting Velcro on the battery compartments and covers
The easiest way to attach the battery compartment covers is with Velcro. Here's how:
1. Cut up pieces of Velcro, and put them on the balsa as seen in Figure 10-18. Cut identical
pieces for the doors themselves and place them Velcro-side down on the balsa pieces.
2. Peel the backing off, then press down the door—all the Velcro will be automatically in
the right place! Continued...
At this point both the front and rear of the case are finished. Now we can start the actual
wiring! This will involve installing the PSOne screen, making the PC boards that contain the
buttons for the controls, installing the SNES board, and then wiring all of these things
together so that the SNES can run.
Installing and wiring the PSOne screen
The PSOne screen will install to the inside of the front plate between the four size-6 nuts.
Before it's secured in place, the new brightness and volume buttons will need to be made, since
they fit between the screen and the plate.
1. Cut two pieces of 1" x 1/4" engraving plastic, and hot-glue them to the back of the front
plate over the volume and brightness holes, as seen in Figure 10-19. You can then accurately
superglue the nylon hole plugs to the engraving plastic pieces from the front. Once
they're attached, remove the glue to pull the buttons free.
2. Superglue a size-4 nut between the black caps—this will provide the proper depth when
they are placed in the case.
3. We can now move onto the screen and speakers. Desolder the wires off both speakers
and extend the plugs by about 2", as shown in Figure 10-20.
4. Place the volume and brightness buttons into the holes on the front of the unit.
Disconnect the two white plugs from the bottom of the PSOne screen. Plug the
extended speaker wires into their original jacks on the screen, near the volume and
5. Carefully set the screen into the front of the case as seen in Figure 10-21. Then use four
3/8"-long size-4 screws to secure it to the four nuts around the screen hole.
6. Place the speakers over the mesh and hot-glue them in place. Continued...
The hand-built SNES will have two PC boards inside it. These will be custom cut from a single
PC board, catalog #276-158b from Radio Shack. Figure 10-22 shows where to slice apart
Use your X-Acto to make grooves along the indicated lines. Most of them go along a series of
holes, but please notice that a line on the left board goes between two rows of holes. Once
you've made your first pass of cutting grooves, go over them a few more times with the knife.
You should now be able to snap the excess portions of PC board off and have two separate
pieces for use in this project.
To make nice clean breaks, hold each side of the groove with pliers and use them to break it
apart. This prevents overbreakage.
Now that the boards are cut out, it's time to add components and wire them.
Left PC board
The first board we'll wire up is the left PC board, which is the one that goes under the
up/down/left/right control pad. It also contains the two ICs that run the SNES controller, as
discussed in Chapter 9. Do the following:
1. Place components on the front (non-copper side) of the board, as shown in Figure
10-23. Solder every lead on the tact switches and ICs to the copper pads on the back of
2. Use a 10K-ohm resistor for all the gray tube-like shapes. It's best to use 1/4"-watt resistors,
as they're physically smaller than the 1/2-watt versions.
3. The white lines are resistor leads. There's quite a bit of extra lead on a resistor, so you can
use it to make almost all of the connections required. Put the resistor leads through the
holes that they're shown to end at in the drawing. Solder them to the copper on the
other side, but don't snip the excess off yet, as it may be handy when wiring the back.
4. The holes on the drawing will match those on your PC board. Place the resistor leads in
the holes specified, and solder them in place on the other side—you can snip off the
excess lead later. The actual connections from the resistor leads to the switches and ICs
will occur on the back of the board.
5. The spots where the white lines "meld" into each other indicate that you should solder
the resistor's leads to each other at that point.
6. Be sure that the ICs are placed correctly, with the dents on the right-hand side (as they
appear in the drawing).
Now that the components have been placed on the front of the board, it's time to make connections
on the back of the board. Using wires or bits of extra lead taken off the resistors, make
the connections shown in Figure 10-24.
1) IC from NES controller
2) 10k ohm watt resistors
3) 6mm tact switches
4) Drill 1/8" holes
1. Use wires or bits of extra lead for the thick black lines. The circles at the ends of them
indicate where they should be soldered to leads.
2. On the lower IC, you can see several short connections from the resistors to the IC.
These can be accomplished by simply blobbing solder between the two copper pads.
3. In order to keep them from criss-crossing on the drawing, some wires are shown longer
than necessary. (This excludes the connections with a labeled length of wire.)
4. The connections to the IC leads labeled 1–5 should be made to a 10"-long five-strand of
ribbon cable. On the unattached end, make a mark on the #1 wire for later reference.
This five-strand of cable will go to the SNES board and connect to the controller.
5. Connections A–H should be made to an 11"-long eight-strand of ribbon cable. On the
unattached end, make a mark on the "A" wire for reference. This cable will connect to the
buttons on the right PC board.
6. Drill 1/8" holes at the spots marked "X."
7. The two resistor connections in the upper left of this drawing will go to the left and
right shoulder buttons later on.
Okay, that wraps up the left board. The front and back of it should look like what's shown in
Figure 10-25. Please note, the 1–5 and A–H ribbon cable connections are not shown so as not
to obstruct the rest of the board. These connections will appear in later photos, however. Continued...
Next we'll wire up the right PC board, which is the one that goes under the X/Y/B/A, select,
and reset buttons. Start by placing components on it as shown in Figure 10-26.
1) 6mm tact switches
2) 10k ohm resistors
3) Drill 1/8" hole
4) Drill 1/8" holes
1. Use 10K-ohm, 1/4-watt resistors for all the gray tube-like shapes. Solder their leads to
the board as described in the previous section.
2. Place 6-mm tact switches in the spots marked "1." Solder all four of their leads to the copper
pads on the back of the board. (Note how the tact switches have their leads pointed in
different directions. Be sure to place all the tact switches to match this drawing.)
3. Drill 1/8" holes in the spots marked "3."
Now, with the components placed on the front of the right PC board, you can make the connections
on the back of it, as shown in Figure 10-27.
1. Use wires or bits of extra resistor lead to make the connections indicated by black lines.
The circular ends show the points at which to solder the wires/leads.
2. Spots A–H should be connected to the ribbon cable coming from the spots on the left
PC board with the same labels. This interconnects the boards. The ribbon length I suggested
in the previous section may seem a bit long considering how close these boards
will be in the case, but this length will allow us to position the cable better later on.
Figure 10-28 shows the completed right PC board (sans connections A–H). Continued...
Before screwing down the PC boards, you'll need to place the buttons first. The rubber
select/start button will need to be modified for this. As-is, it's just too thick, and would stick
above the case like a sore thumb.
1. Slice off the bottom of the select/reset buttons to leave about 3/16" of length from the
tops. The actual length depends on how far you want the buttons to stick above the surface
of the case. If the sliced buttons are 1/8" thick, they'll stick 1/16" above the case, and
if they're 1/4" they'll be 3/16" above. A size of 1/8" is the minimum.
2. Lay the front of the case down on a flat surface, then set the select/reset buttons in their
holes as shown in Figure 10-29, with the cut ends up (inside the case).
3. Next, cut a 1/4" x 1" piece of thin plastic. By "thin," I mean thin like the stuff from a
soda bottle or a plastic tub-o'-margarine lid—engraving plastic is too thick for this.
4. Place a dab of superglue on each button and press the plastic piece onto them. As the
cuts may not be perfect, you should keep pressure on the plastic so that as much surface
contacts the buttons as possible. Hold it for a minute or two, then release. Your custom
select/reset button is made!
5. Place the B/A/X/Y buttons and control pad disc in their holes.
6. Use four computer case screws to attach the PC boards to the screw posts on the front
plate. If one of the PC boards doesn't quite fit around the PSOne screen's motherboard,
you can do one of two things:
Since the PC board ends up being lower (it and the PSOne board won't be level to
each other), try to get it past the PSOne screen, and then secure it.
Use an X-Acto knife or cutters to shave off a little more of the edges of the PC
board that are blocked by the PSOne screen.
7. Tuck the ribbon cable(s) between the two boards, up toward the top of the PSOne
board, or even under it if that works better. (This is why I suggested overly long cables.)
This gets the cables out of the way of the SNES board when it's installed. Continued...
The left and right shoulder buttons are the only buttons we're building from scratch for this
unit—the original right and left shoulder buttons from a controller are too curvy to work. The
new shoulder buttons need to be about 1/4" thick and have a back plate on them so that they
don't fall out of the case. For easy cutting, I choose a 1/10"-thick piece of black hobby foam,
available in the crafts section of your local supermart or hobby store. Here's how to make the
1. Cut and stack the foam to make a piece three layers deep. Place it under the shoulder
button hole in the rear of the case, and carve out the shape with an X-Acto knife. Be
sure you cut through all three layers.
2. This will create three loose pieces of foam. Superglue them together to make one solid
piece. You can then trim down the sides to make it look smoother.
3. Cut a thin piece of plastic slightly larger than the foam piece, as seen in Figure 10-30.
(Use the same kind of plastic that you used for the select/start button mod.)
4. Sand one side of the plastic and superglue the foam to it in order to complete the button.
Repeat Steps 1–4 to make the other button. Continued...
Now that the shoulder buttons are built, we're almost ready to attach the SNES board to the
rear of the case. Desolder the 7805 regulator from the SNES if you haven't already done so
(this is covered in Chapter 9). As we install the SNES board, we'll also add tact switches to it,
and the rear plate to be used with the shoulder buttons we just built.
1. Take a look at Figure 10-31—it shows the corner of the SNES board where the power
switch used to be. Put a couple layers of electric tape on the board as shown, then hotglue
a tact switch in place. Bend the leads out so that the switch can sit flat.
2. Use your cutters to snip the corner of the board away, also shown in Figure 10-31. This
allows the SNES board to fit in the curvy-edged case.
3. Connect a 10" wire to the tact switch as shown, and connect the opposite lead on the
switch directly to ground (the metal edge) on the SNES board using a bit of lead or wire.
Hold the SNES board against the rear plate and line up the screw holes. You can then make sure
the tact switch will be in the center of the shoulder button.
4. Before we can screw down the SNES board, we also need to connect two 10" wires to get
left and right audio. Look back in Chapter 9, in the Reconnecting the video and audio lines
section. It contains a photo of where to get both audio signals off an IC. Use this photo
as reference for your connection here. Make a mark on the free end of one of the wires so
that you can tell which is which later on.
5. You can now use four computer case screws to attach the SNES board to the rear plate,
as shown in Figure 10-32. Make sure you get all the loose wires out from under it,
including the battery wires. There are lots of holes in the SNES board, so if you want
you can snake the wires through some of them. The capacitors that you rewired in
Chapter 9 should all go to one side, as shown.
Use hot glue or electric tape to get the capacitors out of the way, as shown in Figure 10-32 previously.
6. Look at the right side of the SNES board in the previous photo. Note how a 1/4" x 1/4"
square has been removed from the upper right corner, as well as a 1/4" x 1/4" 45-degree
triangle from the lower right corner. Use your cutters to remove these same areas on your
SNES board. This allows screw posts to fit past the SNES board. (As you assemble the
unit, you may need to remove additional material from these spots for things to fit.)
7. Let's install the switch for the other shoulder button. Cut a piece of engraving plastic
1-5/8" wide by 1/2" high. Superglue a 1/4" nylon spacer in each corner, and hot-glue a
tact switch in the middle, as shown in Figure 10-33. Solder a 2" wire to one terminal and
a 10" wire to the other.
8. You can then superglue this in place over the left shoulder button, as shown. Be sure it's
well glued, so that it won't pop loose during an intense Street Fighter II battle. Connect
the short 2" wire to ground on the SNES. Ground is any of the metal striping on the
sides of the board. The SNES board and the left and right shoulder buttons are now
installed onto the rear plate. Continued...
With the rear of the unit prepared, we can now go back to make some more connections in the
front of the case, beginning with the battery charging jack.
1. Take the 1/8" panel-mount jack (Radio Shack catalog #274-251) and attach two 4" wires
to it, as shown in Figure 10-34. One wire connects to the center ring; this is ground. The
other wire connects to the large bending tab; this is positive.
2. Once the jack is wired, insert it into the hole in the wall of the unit. You can then secure
it with the nut on the outside. Check that the leads coming off the jack aren't touching
any bare metal. You should also insert the 1/8" phono plug into the jack and make sure
that the ground wire isn't touching the tip (positive) of the plug.
By installing the jack, you've made the entire aluminum wall of the unit ground, kind of like in a
car. Be sure that no positive-voltage wires and no connections other than ground connections
touch the outer wall. There shouldn't be any, but be aware of this in order to avoid short circuits.
3. Take your Radio Shack catalog #275-407 DPDT switch and insert it into its slot as
shown in Figure 10-35. Drill two small holes in the aluminum to insert the screws. Wire
the switch as described in the following steps.
4. Connect the positive and negative (ground) wires from the charge jack as shown.
5. Use a 5" wire for the +7.2 volts to screen wire. This will be connected to the PSOne screen
6. Use a short 1" wire to make the to ground on PC board connection.
7. Connect a 2-1/2" wire to the ground on the PC board. This will be ground to screen, and
will be connected to the PSOne screen soon.
Reference Figure 10-35 when instructed to connect positive and negative from the battery to
the on/off switch. If you insert the wires through the eyelet holes on the switch's leads, make
sure the top and bottom ones don't touch each other. That would be bad—short-circuit city!
The charging method this unit uses is quite simple. The battery power will connect to the two
center terminals. When the unit is switched on (switch goes toward the center of unit) the battery
terminals are connected to the screen and SNES. When the unit is off, the battery terminals
are connected to the charge jack. If there's no charger attached, then the unit is simply off.
If the charger is plugged in, it sends its charge directly into the batteries.
How a DPDT switch works is explained in more detail in Chapter 3.
Just below and to the left of the power switch, you'll see a small 7805A regulator on the PSOne
screen board, as shown in Figure 10-36.
1. Connect a 5" wire to the spot marked +5 volts to SNES.
2. To connect the ground to screen wire that comes from the left PC board, use your X-Acto
knife to scrape away the green on the PSOne screen's board in the spot shown. Once you
have a small area of bare copper showing you can solder the ground to screen wire to it.
Tug it with your tweezers to make sure it's well attached.
There are actually two 7805A regulators on the PSOne screen—this is the upper one. We used
the lower one to get +5 volts to the LEDs in Chapter 4. Continued...
All the remaining connections involve wiring the two halves of the unit together. Yes, that's
right—we're close to finishing it! To arrange the halves on your work space for the final
wiring, place them as follows:
1. Lay the front half facedown and rotated 90 degrees on your work surface. The top of it
should be going right, the bottom going left, and the power switch/left PC board going
down/toward you. (These directions refer to your work space.)
2. Lay the rear of the case to the left of the front of the case. The bottoms of each of the
halves should be touching so that you can "fold" the unit together, like closing a book.
The blue capacitors should be going down/toward you.
You'll notice most of the wires you attach in this section will be too long. Cut them down as you
make the connections so that they're only as long as they need to be. It's better to have them
too long than too short!
With that positioning out of the way, let's get the wiring done, shall we?
1. We'll start by attaching the left and right shoulder button wires that are coming from the
rear of the unit, under the SNES board. They connect to the left PC board just under
the on/off switch, as shown in Figure 10-37.
2. With the shoulder button wires attached, you can then connect the positive and negative
battery wires to the on/off switch, also shown in Figure 10-35. If you've forgotten which
wire is which (or forgot to mark them), battery positive comes out near the blue capacitors,
and negative emerges from under the center of the SNES board.
3. Now let's make the power and video connections to the SNES. At the lower right-hand
corner of the SNES board, you'll see the area shown in Figure 10-38. Connect the +5
volts to SNES wire coming from the PSOne screen to the spot shown. Connect a 4" wire
to the spot marked Video OUT.
Let's go to the PSOne screen now. Near the bottom of the main board, near where the
cables were plugged in, you should see the following, as shown in Figure 10-39.
4. The left and right audio and the video wires all come from the SNES board. Solder
them to the PSOne board as shown.
5. The+7.2 volts to screen wire comes from the on/off switch. Connect it as shown.
6. You'll see three spots on the PSOne board, marked HPxR, HPS, and HPxL. Solder all
three of these together to enable the PSOne speakers to work.
There's not much solder spot on the board to connect wires to, so be sure that they are firmly
attached. Before closing up the unit, you may want to lay a bead of hot glue over these connections
to protect them. Continued...
There should now be only five unconnected wires: the ones coming from the left PC board.
These were labeled 1–5 when we attached them to the PC board, and wire #1 should have a
black mark on it for reference. Connect them to the Player 1 control spots on the SNES as
shown in Figure 10-40.
The SNES portable is now completely wired! You can insert six AA rechargeable batteries, flip
the on switch, and see what happens. We'll take a step-by-step troubleshooting walk-through
in the next section to address any problems you may find.
Modifying the battery charger
The 7.2/9.6-volt battery charger will need a new plug so that it can connect to the SNES
1. Cut off the existing white plug and connect the wires to the 1/8" phono plug (Radio
Shack catalog #274-287), as shown in Figure 10-41.
2. The wire with the white stripe goes to the longer outer lead (negative), and the plain
black wire goes to the shorter inner lead (positive).
You can now plug it into your SNES to charge up the batteries. An indicator should light up
on the charger to show that it's, well, charging. Be sure it's switched to the kind of batteries you
have (Ni-Cd or Ni-MH). Continued...
Chances are you're doing one of two things right now: Gleefully playing SNES games, or holding
your head in despair, gazing at an unfunctional portable.
If you're in the latter category, then this is the section for you! We'll start with the biggest problems
and solutions, and then go on to the minor ones. The solutions in this section for the
most part tell you what to check, so be prepared to look back through the book.
1. Insert six fully rechargeable AA batteries, and switch the unit to off/charge. Plug the
charger into the charge jack on the unit—it should light up indicating charging activity.
If not, do the following:
Check the wiring of the charge plug.
Double-check how you wired the power on/off switch. If even one wire is wrong,
the unit won't run or charge correctly.
Check how you wired the battery terminals. If it doesn't match the photo earlier in
this chapter, the batteries may not be in the correct series, thus breaking the circuit.
Once the charger indicates it's charging, you can move on.
2. Insert a game cartridge and switch the unit on. If nothing happens (i.e., there is no
screen light or sound), do the following:
Make sure the batteries have been charged. Even charging them for a moment
"refreshes" them and gives them enough power for a short test.
Check that the wires going between the battery terminals are placed correctly.
Check the polarity of the wires coming off the battery to see if they're reversed.
Use your multimeter to check the power going into the main switch from the battery.
If it reads a negative voltage, then it's reversed, and you need to switch the
power wires around.
3. If the screen turns on, but the SNES doesn't, do the following:
Press the brightness and volume buttons to see if the indicators for them appear on
the screen. This lets you know whether the screen is working properly. If you don't
see the indicators on-screen:
Check that the LCD ribbon cable is fully reinserted into its jack. (See Chapter 4.)
Check that +5 volts is going to the SNES at the spot where the SNES's regulator
used to be.
Check that the SNES's power switch has been "jumped" with a bit of wire, switching
it to be "always on." (See Chapter 9.)
Check the five wires that connect the built-in controller to the SNES. The SNES
gets its ground from these, so that if they are wired incorrectly, the whole SNES
won't work, not just the controller.
4. If the screen and SNES turn on, but there's no sound, do the following:
In the section Wiring the two halves together, the audio and video were connected to
some small spots near the bottom of the PSOne board. Make sure these haven't
In that same area there were three spots on the PSOne board that were to be soldered
together: HPxR, HPS, and HPxL. Check that they are; if not, no sound will
come out of the speakers.
Check the left and right audio connections to the small surface-mount IC on the
SNES board; they may have come loose.
Once you have picture and sound going, press Start, and try playing the game
using the built-in controllers.
5. If the built-in controller doesn't work correctly, or at all, do the following:
The five wires going from the left PC board to the SNES board may not be in the
correct order—double-check them.
Make sure that the two 16-pin ICs are positioned correctly. There's a small dent on
the end of them; check that it matches the orientation of the ICs in the photos. If
not, you've got some desoldering to do!
Check that every tact switch has these three things going to it: Ground connection,
10K-ohm resistor, Connection to IC (on same pin as 10K-ohm resistor).
Each 10K-ohm resistor should have +5 volts going into it. Use your multimeter to
check for this. If you find one that doesn't, find +5 volts on the PC board and connect
it to the resistor.
Space can get tight on those PC boards, especially the left one. Make sure no connections
are shorting each other out. If the controller works, but acts flaky, this is
probably the reason.
Once the picture, sound, and controls are all working correctly, your SNES portable is officially
completely wired, and ready for final assembly! Continued...
Now that the SNES is working, we can do the final assembly. This involves adding a couple
more screw posts (believe it or not!), arranging the wires inside the SNES so they'll all fit, and
screwing both halves together. You're probably pretty anxious to get this thing done, so let's get
1. Take two 1/4"-high nylon spacers (make sure they've been threaded well), and glue them
into the corners near each speaker as shown in Figure 10-42. Be sure to use epoxy on
them as well, so that they don't snap loose when screwed into.
2. Flip the rear half of the case over onto the front plate to check how well the spacers line
up to the screw holes, and adjust (before the epoxy dries) if necessary. Even if you use
quick epoxy, I'd strongly suggest letting these cure overnight to allow maximum strength.
Whenever I design a portable, my main thought is, "It must be thin!" The hand-built SNES
portable is no exception, and because of this, the insides are very tight and cramped for space!
True, you can mash the halves together and get it to fit but you may also short out connections
by doing that. It's best to prevent this by placing electric tape over the following areas:
1. A double-layer of tape over both rows of the SNES's cartridge connector leads.
2. A small piece over the two screws holding down the SNES board near the cartridge
3. A small piece over the +5 volt into SNES spot (where the 7805 regulator was).
4. A small piece over the 7805A regulator on the PSOne screen that powers the white LEDs.
5. A small piece over the 7805A regulator on the PSOne screen that powers the SNES.
6. A big piece to cover the exposed leads of the power on/off switch. Continued...
Once you've placed electric tape in the indicated positions, you can press the two halves
together. As you do, you'll find what wires and ribbon cables are getting in the way—press
them aside or flatten them until both halves of the unit can meet. The shifting around and
tucking away of various ribbon cables is vital to closing up the unit.
Remember the extra-long ribbon cable between the left and right PC boards? You can tuck
that under the top of the PSOne screen's board (if you haven't already) so that it stays out of
the way of the SNES board. Since it's the biggest cable (eight strands), this really saves space.
With the ribbon cables in place you can now screw the halves together as follows:
1. Insert the final screws through the back of the rear plate to secure the unit, as shown in
2. Fold the two halves together, like closing a book or making a sandwich. Then drive the
screws from the rear half into the front to close it all up.
A few things may keep the sides from connecting properly, depending on how precisely the
unit was built. Since it was done by hand, errors such as these can appear or not appear at random,
and it's mostly a matter of luck.
The top two 1-1/4" screws that go through the balsa in the battery compartments may
not line up to the top two nuts on the front plate. To work around this problem, use
your soldering iron to widen the two holes on the inside of the rear plate, as shown in
Figure 10-44. Stick the iron into the holes and tilt it left and right. This melts the plastic
and makes a groove, so that when you insert a screw, you can tilt it left and right and
have a better aim when connecting it to the nuts on the front plate.
The right-hand speaker may bump against the SNES board, keeping the case from
closing completely. You can solve this problem by sanding down the front and back of
the speaker. This will require you to remove the speaker from the case. Simply desolder
the wires on the speaker itself, and pull it free of the glue. Fine-grit sandpaper will work,
but a coarser grit will make it go faster.
1.Lay the sandpaper on something flat and scrape the speaker across it. A good
minute of sanding on each side should get the speaker thinned enough to fit. You
can remove some from the front of the speaker and a lot from the back.
2.Once the front is level with the center cone and all the text that was on the back is
scraped away, you should be ready. You're actually sanding away some of the magnet,
so particles of it will stick back onto it.To remove them, take the speaker outside
and blow on it; they'll fly right off.
Don't sand the magnet anywhere near your portable. The magnet shards can short out circuits if
they get into the case.
Note that when placing the speaker back down, you should keep it slightly away
from the sides of the case. There's epoxy along that seam, and if you put the
speaker on it, it may not lay as flat as possible.
The SNES board hits the ON/OFF switch. Again, this depends on where you placed
the switch. Regardless, only a small portion of one corner of the SNES board will hit the
switch, so you can just snip that corner of the board off with your cutters. The sides of
the board are just ground, and you can go up to 3/8" in from the sides with the cutting
and still be safe.
Once you've made these corrections, you should be able to connect the two halves together.
Congratulations, your hand-built portable Super Nintendo Entertainment System is finished!
Enjoy your portable Final Fantasies and Chrono Triggering! Continued...
This chapter has been a long journey, with many complex and time-consuming steps along the
way. Let's look back at the highlight reel, shall we?
You used engraving plastic to hand-cut parts to build the SNES portable's case, much
like an ancient caveman would have (except for the whole electronics thing).
Using aluminum strips, you made walls for the unit and attached them to the plates to
form the case itself.
You made complex (yet cool-looking) battery holders for the back of the unit.
The PSOne screen, custom controls, and SNES board were all put into the case and
In a moment of triumph, you folded the halves together, screwed them tight, and finished
your SNES portable.
What a trip! I feel winded just reading this recap! If you'd like to try making a somewhat easier
portable SNES, the next chapter tells you how to use a CNC machine to do just that.
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in ExtremeTech.