My Luke Lightsaber PCBs (and some others')

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Darth Lars

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
For a long time I have been wanting an accurate PCB edge for my Luke ROTJ "Hero" lightsaber. Eventually I tired of not finding a suitable real part so I threw together a layout and sent an order to DirtyPCBs.com. This was my first PCB since etching in acid baths in early High school (equiv.), so I had to learn how to use a PCB design program. I used the freely program KiCad and this is my first layout made in it.
DirtyPCBs, as its name implies, does not ensure that the boards are of very high quality, and you get only circa ten PCBs in the same order, but they are very cheap.
Their simplest option is double-sided, so I threw on a ESB design on the other side.

ROTJ
I wasn't sure of the surface metal on the ROTJ Hero board so I ordered ENIG-plated (Electro-NIckel Gold). Well, now I'm pretty sure that the correct finish should be copper.
I had not specified a solder mask (plastic film on the PCB covering the traces), but I got one anyway between the lugs. I had selected blue colour (because the ROTJ Hero PCB is blue), so I got dark blue solder mask. The PCB substrate is white-green though.

I stripped the solder mask by boiling in sodium hydroxide (drain cleaner), and sanded away the gold layer and then a tin layer to get to the raw copper. Then I dyed it blue with Rit Royal Blue, but I only got back the same colour as the solder mask. :facepalm


Left: As it got it, middle: trimmed, right: the final PCB.

This is how the result looks on my Anakin Starkiller saber:

The L-brackets are painted brass... until I can find or bend some real copper.

The traces are a tiny bit too wide, and the board is too thick. I think I'll revise this and send in another order. I also want a PCB for the internals ...

ESB
I had to strip the solder mask off a card to use as an ESB card. However, the gold form DirtyPCBs is much too bright. Not vibrant enough.
The gold-plating from DirtyPCBs is also really thin, and scuffed easily. There is a thick layer of tin underneath it that shows instead of copper.
I masked off the thick traces with masking tape and added solder to the thin ones.

After I had got mine and was disappointed with the gold finish, I also ordered a ESB PCB from slothfurnace, and a new gold-plated PCB from WannaWanga (roygilsing).
That was a month ago, and Roy's still has not arrived so it must have been lost in the mail.
I have his old version that is only copper-plated and where the PCB colour is a bit too yellow, but I'll show it also for comparison because people have asked for it.


From left to right: mine, slothfurnace's, Roy's old version.
Mine looks like crap..


slothfurnace's is wider and has shorter gold traces.
The wider PCB was too wide to fit in my real Graflex clamp but fit OK in my Roman's.


Roy's old in a Graflex clamp.


slothfurnace's after I had sanded the edge with the text, to make it fit.

I think that slothfurnace's clamp card has the perfect colour and metal finish. The gold is warm.
I have heard that Roy's new card version 2 is supposed to be just as accurate in terms of finish but as it got lost in the mail, I really can't say for sure.
The other differences between slothfurnace's and roy's ESB cards are the length of the gold traces and the width and position of the silver traces.

Unfortunately there aren't too many reference pictures available of the real prop.
Personally, I think that slothfurnace's gold lines are too short and that Roy's are too long - that the accurate length would be somewhere in-between ...

Slothfurnace's silver traces are wider and a bit offset from the middle. It is very hard to tell from the few available reference pictures (even of the Ranch saber) whether the silver lines should be offset, and how. I would prefer to have them in the middle until better reference pictures surface (if ever).

And, BTW:

Not all gold-plating is equal. Left: slothfurnace's card, middle: DirtyPCBs and right: a piece from a Commodore 64's logic board.

There are cut-outs in the Commodore 64's edge connectors and that there is the longest continuous piece. So, do lay the idea of using one to rest. ;)
 
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Sym-Cha

Master Member
The most 'accurate' vintage ROTJ like board I came across on ebay was this on blue PCB :



Alas at $250 it was just a bit rich for me to purchase and take a risk on the accurate size for the gold fingers not to mention heavy shipping costs and additional 21% VAT on customs :wacko

Chaim
 

Darth Lars

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
The most 'accurate' vintage ROTJ like board I came across on ebay was this on blue PCB :
I have seen you post it before, and I think I know what it is from. It does not look as if the fingers are long enough. That is really the big difficulty - not finding PCBs that are blue. The colour can be dyed, as I did: I just used the wrong dye ... I have heard that marker pens would be just as effective as Rit Dye, but I had the dye available.

Besides, I have friends who collect and restore vintage computers, and I know they would be quite angry at me if I snatched on of those just to destroy it.
I have seen some wire-wrap and prototyping boards that have been quite promising, though.
 
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