Introduction: Comprehensive Xbox 360 RROD Guide

I decided to create this instructable due to the many misconceptions out there regarding the Red Ring Of Death in the XBOX 360, why the towel trick works (and is bad), and what *may* be required if the "x-clamp" fix doesn't work for you. I have spent hours researching this topic in preparation of buying a RROD Xbox and attempting to revive it. Still working on it (actually waiting on power cords to be delivered so I can test), but as I had to scour the net for this info, wanted to pass along what I've learned. I take absolutely no responsibility for any of the steps outlined or mentioned in this instructable if you break your machine or worse. This is for education purposes only.

Step 1: What Causes the RROD?

After much research, I believe I have figured this one out. The root cause of the RROD is the BGA processors and the lead free solder used to attach them to the motherboards. A BGA chip does not have copper or metal pins like older chips used to. Due to difficulties arising from ever increasing numbers of pins, companies are now replacing the pins with tiny balls of solder, which when melted in an oven, create contact with the mother board and do the job the pins used to do, with less work and more precision and less chance of screw up. Due to environmental concerns, companies are switching away from lead-based solder to lead free solder. The problem with this is lead was originally added to solder to prevent 'whiskers' and 'cold solder joints', which describe a crystallization of solder (whiskers) that can produce shorts, or these solder joints actually coming loose from the board or component (cold solder joint) with frequent thermal expansion/retraction (like playing your game, turning it off).

Step 2: Why the Towel Fix Works, But Is Bad

So, given what we understand about the problems with the solder cracking/seperating/shorting, we can deduce that if the expanding and shriking of the board caused the cracks/voids in contact, that an easy way to patch this problem would be reduce these voids/cracks so they don't exist. Blocking the vents of the Xbox with a towel and allowing it to essentially overheat will cause thermal expansion in the components of the board and processors, often enough that it seems to 'fix' the problem. All it's really accomplished is a short term fix that will be undone as the board and components cool and shrink back. This overheating will contribute to warping of the board, potentially causing further and further cracking of solder joints or frying of other components. Don't do this, no matter how tempting.

Step 3: So, How to Fix It?

If your box is malfunctioning due to simple overheating or poor heat transfer between the processor and heat sink, following instructions such as the X-clamp fix, or the instructable at https://www.instructables.com/id/Fix-the-Red-Ring-of-Deathwithout-towels/ would be a good first place to start. As mentioned in that instructable, if your Xbox is covered under warranty, why on earth are you trying to fix it yourself? MICROSOFT WILL FIX IT FOR FREE IF SEAL IS INTACT AND REGISTERED TO YOU!!! Do NOT drill the case unless you want to buy a new metal shield (like I had to) to ship it off...more details in step 9. The steps in that and this instructable should only be undertaken on a machine that has no seal, is registered to someone else, and there is absolutely no way you can get Microsoft to do it for you under their warranty. If this doesn't fix it, we've got a bigger problem...

Step 4: Still Fouling Up?

In tackling these problems in order of difficulty/cost effectiveness, the next logical step is to try the changing/modding heatsinks. The new 'Falcon' XBox 360's include a branch off heat sink for the Southbridge chip, which causes some RROD issues. I cannot find any information (ok, I haven't looked that hard...) to determine if the new heat sink will fit an old board, but I did come across this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJtR66zp4Ys where an industrious fellow purchased stick-on heat sinks for his Southbridge chip and Ram (I think that's Ram anyway, could be a Northbridge chip?). If anyone wants to comment on success of replacing heatsink with new one, I'd be interested in knowing. It seems a great (and cheap) way to help dissapate heat, and in the electronic world, heat=Dark Sith Lord to electical components.

Step 5: Reflow...

Didn't fix it? Well, if the problem is not overheating, it could indeed be caused by cold solder joints, cracking, voids, etc. A potentially simple (with proper equipment!) way to fix it is called reflowing the processor/board. This process entails heating the board from underneath, while applying hot air or infrared heat from a 'rework station' to the processor until it reaches/exceeds the melting temp of the lead free solder, approx 213 degrees celsius. Upon reaching the melting point where the solder should 're-flow' back into it's proper shape and position, the temp is dropped and the unit is allowed to cool undisturbed so as to allow the solder to re-set properly. I have seen videos of individual attempting this by removing the fan and air shroud and letting the box overheat (I suspect they are simply reproducing the effects of the towel trick), or others that place a metal container on the offending chip and actually burn material in it, so that the heat is transferred through the metal, to the chip, and hopefully to the solder. Others try to duplicate the effect with an air gun. The main problem with all these methods are you have no way of effectively controlling the temp unless you use a rework station (see video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndeq6cAA8MY to get visual on what I am talking about, pretty sure the electric griddle is not a professional aspect, but saves on the cost of an actual board oven). I've found auctions on Ebay for a guy that will do this properly for $40 ($30 to repair, $10 to ship your Xbox back to you). You have to ship it to him in first place, so count on about $50 for this total.

Step 6: Still Broken?!?!?!

So, you've tightened down the heat sinks, installed good thermal paste and replaced clamps with bolts to prevent warping and expedite heat transfer away from processor, tried out the new heatsink for the southbridge chip/Ram, and even went as far as having your board reflow-ed (the rework machines average $100-$200, so I assume you sent it off or paid someone local to do it), and you're still having problems? Well, aside from something being broken beyond any reasonable repair, there is a last step, and at this point we need to evaluate costs to date. You did the xclamp fix (prob bought some tools, about $10), you bolted/regreased the cpu/gpu (prob $10 for grease, $10 for bolts/washers), you bought heatsinks (say $4 apiece from a computer store or online?), and paid $50 or so for the reflow. We're up to about $90, and this last step will double your investment. If it doesn't work, you still have a broken Xbox, but $200 less in the bank account. Evaluate how badly you want to fix this yourself over going to Craigslist or Ebay and buying a working or refurbed console for $100 +/-. If you wish to venture on...

Step 7: REBALL

Ok, this is the last step I know of to repair an Xbox with RROD. It's also the most difficult and costly. Be aware of this before you begin!

Recall back to the beginning of this tuturiol when I described how chips now are using little balls of solder in place of contact pins (BGA afterall stands for Ball Grid Array). If you've ever soldered, you know that generally, there is a limit to how often and how much heat you can put solder through before it gets 'gunky' and doesn't flow, and no longer has that beautiful silver glint, but rather a pale, greyish coating. In these events, you generally replace the bad solder with new/good solder. Reballing is exactly that.

The process, in a nutshell, involves actually removing the chip from the board (gotta get it back up to 220+ degrees celsius again, and this time pull the chip off while solder is liquid). Once removed, you can use a combination of flux (to distribute heat more effectively), solder braid (absorbs melted solder in a ribbon of braided copper wires), and your soldering iron/pen to completely clean both surfaces (processor and board). Once clean, you apply a stencil with a bunch of holes to the chip (usually with bracket or rig of some sort), and then you can scoop almost microscopic beads of solder (might I suggest going with the LEADED solder this time, since the problems are most likely fault of lead-free solder?) into the holes in the stencil, heat the solder back to melting temp (around 220 again), and once set, remove the stencil leaving the balls melted in correct position to the processor. THEN you have to replace the chip on the board, and YET AGAIN bring it up to temp to melt the new solder to board (like reflow, this would just be a 'flow' I guess lol). Oh, yeah, you usually do this to the gpu AND cpu to cover your bases at minimum. You might do the ram too. Count on the reball kit running about $150 (includes stencils, balled solder, flux, and other tools). With this purchase, you could probably reball multiple processors (and that's about the only way to make this worth your while cost wise!). Video showing process is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97nxZwHG5bA guy does it from start to finish (chip only) in about 10 min, but an amateur will probably take much longer.

Step 8: Working or Pissed?

Well, by now, you have either brought your Xbox back from the dead and earned nearly a PHD in electronics while you were at it (I hope you fixed it without going through all these steps), or you've dumped $250 into trying to fix it, which would just about buy a new Xbox, and are cursing your machine (if you haven't destroyed it yet). There are other, cheaper, less precise ways to reball a chip by the way, outlined here http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showtopic=579364&st=75 . I cannot imagine applying each ball, one at a time, by hand, but this guy confirmed it is possible, with low tech tools, to reball successfully (though they did have a rework station for applying the newly reballed chip to the board).

Like one guy says on that page about reballing, "There is no simple and cheap solutions for noobs!!!". I found a picture of the bottom of an Xbox GPU, counted the points, and there are exaclty 1,157 individual solder balls required to reball JUST THE GPU! The CPU appears to have more!

I hope you found this educational, or possibly helpful. There is literally probably over a dozen hours of reading forums, watching videos, scouring ebay, google, and other sites for components and processes to remove the mystery from the dreaded RROD. I hope this enables the brave souls out there to try their hand at reviving these great consoles!

Step 9: ***Update***

Since creating this instructable, I've delved into the world of Xbox 360 repair/resells myself, with the following results:

First unit I bought had seal broken, but was not registered with Microsoft. Expected delivery tomorrow, will see if they accept unit with an Ebay purchased seal replacing factory. While technically 'wrong' to do this, my justification is had Microsoft not produced an inferior product to begin with with almost 60% return rate, this wouldn't be an issue.

Second unit had seal broken and was registered. I baked in oven using instructions found at http://forums.llamma.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=27431 and was successful! Instead of all the garbage they used though, I simply used baby blankets that were destined for the trash/rag pile anyway. I wanted to be sure to use only natural fibers (don't want rayon/polyester melting to my board!), and masking tape to hold in place. The adhesive from the tape will be absorbed in the outer layers into the blankets, and my next attempt tonight will be done without the tape at all..

Third unit bought from Craigslist from a great kid going to college. Seal was never broken, and though it was registered to him, he helped by providing info so that Microsoft would transfer the unit to my account for submission. Unit was there 1 day before reported being shipped back, delivers tomorrow.

Fourth unit had no seal, powers up but with 3 flashing lights (?), looks like a beaver tried to chew its way into the case around holes in back. But, again, not registered! So, another seal purchased on Ebay, awaiting delivery of seal so I can ship it out (pending success of unit #1 that had to wait on seal as well).

Fifth unit just came today, haven't even opened, so going to tackle that now! Will take pics of my 'wrap job' and post here too!

Comments

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ArchieH1 (author)2015-09-18

Thanks for posting these steps! These will help when i have a red ring of death (i will probably try leaving it for a day before using these steps)

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jbyer1 (author)2014-03-21

The falcon GPU heat sink with the heat pipe extension fits perfectly on older motherboards. I've made the switch many times and had no problems. The only issue one could run into is possibly having to move a capacitor located on the bottom left hand side of the CPU, but I only had to do this once. It was on a motherboard revision only available from Microsoft through RROD repairs of the original arcade model. Thanks for the tutorial, I'm always looking for ways to expand my knowlege!

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conundrum2142 (author)2011-01-16

a little tip, if you can find a cracked plasma tv (all over ebay, scavenging yards etc), salvage it and remove the panel. Underneath you will find lots of nice thermal pad material!
One broken JVC TV yielded two square metres of the stuff in nice 2" wide strips.

useful if you need lots of it for some reason, and it can be stacked up for making custom cooling jigs etc.

regards,

author
whyexactly (author)2010-12-09

its worth noting that if you have a sealed console that is reg'd to someone else, you can call up support and ask them to transfer the console to you, just give them the serial number (don't mention that it's broken already though). They should swap it over for you.

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ludionis (author)whyexactly2010-12-10

I did that one time. Not sure if things have changed, but I had to provide the original persons information. I had bought the unit off a kid on craigslist, and her was willing to give me his live account id, name, etc.

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m571 (author)2010-07-25

Need help with my xbox 360 arcade!!!! I've done penny trick, aplied new thermal paste to cpu, gpu and chipset, re-hot the memory, cpu, gpu and chipset. Before when I plugged in the xbox I would get the 3 rrod right away, now that I've done all of these things it starts, it tries to boot and then I get 3 rrod!!!!???? I don't have the original video cable, adapter and controller, I'm using the ones from my elite xbox, could this be the problem???? I've uploaded a video on youtube, hope will get some feedback, thank you. http://m.youtube.com/index?desktop_uri=%2F&gl=US#/watch?xl=xl_blazer&v=b3hHrhvvJp4

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bigmossy22 (author)2009-12-07

WOW!! you took ALOT OF TIME in this matter!! Very nice and hope it helps some people out there

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Dirtie Hippie (author)2009-10-11

oh yah. And with your 0102 error. Did you re-heat? That worked? Did you use the the reheat station or "bake" the machine?

Sorry to comment so much. It's just the is the first place I have gotten such worth while information. :)

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ludionis (author)Dirtie Hippie2009-10-11

I used the oven method, outlined here: http://forums.llamma.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=27431url  I am glad that my 5 weeks recovering from hernia surgery and browsing/collecting these tidbits are benefiting someone other than myself lol.  The thought started out as, "Hey, I could get a game system for next to nothing!", then became, "I could use these as gifts!", later morphing into "People will buy these and I'm making a profit!" and sadly has now evolved into "Wow, it's harder to move these things than I thought it would be and almost not worth the hassle".  For all intents and purposes, I've called it quits, never investing the money in a reflow station or reball kit (either costing around $150).  My first unit was in pristine condition, had never been opened, and Microsoft fixed with no issue.  My last looked like a beaver tried to chew it's way into the back, and even after replacing the board that had missing parts, the x clamps that were gone and the security sticker, Microsoft still didn't fix it, so I'm stopping while I'm ahead.

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Dirtie Hippie (author)ludionis2009-10-12

Wow, I didn't think you literally baked it in an oven. Wow. I have fixed the E74 on two seperate machines with a less scary method. I simply disconnectd the fan and turned it on for about half an hour. I know you suggest not doing that, but it worked. Then just after I shut the power off I pressed firmly down on the scalar chip, I believe that's what it is, the chip by the GPU under the heat shroud, and affixed a home made heatsink of pennies wrapped in electrical tape. I have tried baking it without pressing down on the chip and it works, but only for a short while. And with the heatsink it seems to keep the E74 from happening again. Right now I am scavenging old PCs for heatsinks. With some modifications I think they will make more professional looking and working heatsinks then the pennies. Oh, and I also forgot that I also secured the motherboards to the case with longer screws and washers under the motherboard, to ensure that the motherboard doesn't change shape again.

I have a third machine that has the vram overheating. Thank you for the codes, that's how I know for sure it is the vram chips overheating. The motherboard is secured to the case in the same method. But that wasn't enough. It overheats immediately. The vram chips in front of the GPU have these nifty heatsinks on them, the machine was bought refurbished so I assume that's something the seller did, but it's not enough. So I put thermal paste on the vram chips that fit under the Gpu heatsink and placed washers on them, then more thermal paste so they have a connection with the heatsink. Now the machine starts all green lights, but overheats like thirty seconds later, So I think I'm on the right track. This machine has the old heatsink that's just aluminum without a heat pipe. I am under the impression that the newer heatsink with the heatpipe and the smaller exchanger by the Cpu heatsink, I think its called the falcon heatsink, would exchange enough heat that the washer trick will work.

I have to agree with you that the reball and reheat stations are probably a bit too pricey to be worth it. It would seem that there are reasonable work arounds.

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ludionis (author)Dirtie Hippie2009-10-11

Oh yeah, 1 more thing about that reflow in the oven...in addition to the blue button warning I posted elsewhere, I would say that all the materials they use are *not* necessary.  I used a combination of old baby blankets, tea towels and other all cotton cloths (I didn't want any plastic melting, so no rayon/polyester etc).  Also, if you use ONLY masking tape, it might discolor some (and leave adhesive residue on cloth) but won't burn/smoke/stink.  I never filled my house with the smells and smoke they discuss.  I'm not sure how important the aluminum foil is to the process, as most ovens don't have IR heat to worry about, but I used it regardless.  Let me know if it works!

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Dirtie Hippie (author)2009-10-09

Are you sure about the lead free solder temps? I know in normal soldering the lead free solder is better. The lead free stuff has more silver instead of lead, so it has a higher melting temp then the leaded version. And the melting temps are in the 400 to 600 degree range. 200 isn't going to do much.

Of course that is with soldering boards with an iron. I have to admit I don't know much about the ball version.

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ludionis (author)Dirtie Hippie2009-10-09

Yes, please note that the temp is in Celcius (all my resources are apparantly from overseas lol), and this correlates to approx 450 degrees Farenheight, which is important to note if you are going to try the oven trick.

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Dirtie Hippie (author)ludionis2009-10-10

My mistake I see that now.

What kind of success have people had with this process? I have tried everything short of the re-heat and reball. If this process is a sure thing?If so, I might look into it. I know enough people with broken machines that getting my money back on investment is not out of the question.

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ludionis (author)Dirtie Hippie2009-10-10

From most of my research, the likelihood of success is directly related to the secondary error code the board gives.  Once the red lights start flashing, hold the white Sync Button, and press the eject button.  1, 2, 3, or 4 lights will begin rapidly flashing (4 lights = 0 for this code).  Note the number, and press eject again, lights may change, note the number, do this 4 times, then go to http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showtopic=484726 to find possible cause for that code.  The one I fixed had a secondary code of 0102, which is apparantly pretty common.  There was a guy on Ebay who would fix your box for $40 ($10 of that was shipping), but wanted to know the secondary error code first to know if he could repair it.  He wouldn't share his list with me.  LOL.  But I know he used a hot air reflow work station, and some of his pics showed STACKS of 360s, so must have been doing well for himself.

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Dirtie Hippie (author)ludionis2009-10-11

Those codes are an invaluable resource. This really is a comprehensive guide.

The diagnostic process should be one of the steps in your instructable.

Amazing job gathering this information. Thumbs up.

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ludionis (author)2009-10-09

Update on the oven trick:  If your motherboard has blue plastic buttons instead of grey/black plastic for the DVD eject and Sync, I would recommend you de-solder the switches before trying the oven trick.  The plastic in the blue press buttons WILL MELT, regardless of how carefully you wrap the board.  The grey plastic ones come out fine, and must be made of sterner stuff is all I can guess.  I will also say that, prior to sending any unit to Microsoft, I recommend you carefully open the unit and inspect everything.  They sent 1 back to me unrepaired, and when I opened it, found an xclamp replacement still in place and 1/2 the DVD drive missing....DOH!

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Dirtie Hippie (author)2009-10-07

Very informative.

Disheartening. As I bought a refurbed machine that worked great for a good while, then died, and I have tried re-applying arctic silver 5 and it didn't work.

All the same, I feel far more educated on the matter thanks to your instructable.

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IBeHoey (author)2009-08-21

I bought one of those BGA reball stations that you mention above and I can tell you first hand that it requires a lot of time and patience, and I mean A LOT. It also requires peace of mind in knowing that you're going to brick a few boards in the process before you get it right (I'm on my third). Currently, I'm able to perfectly reball the GPU about 50% of the time, which I find acceptable considering the level of difficulty and precision involved. However, the process of reattaching the chip is a whole other story and I'm 0 for 4 on that one. When I feel that I have a better grasp on things, and have further refined the technique, I plan on writing up an instructable of the process. Not sure when that will be though as I can already tell the reattachment process is going to take a long time to perfect. But, if anyone is interested in just the reball process, let me know as I might consider writing up a tutorial just for that. BTW, nice write up. I sure wish this instructable was around back when I first got into 360 repairs.

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ludionis (author)IBeHoey2009-08-21

I would deffinately be interested in more info on the reball process. How are you removing the chips from the board, and what trouble are you encountering on trying to reattach? Is it ruining the board when you reattach?

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IBeHoey (author)ludionis2009-08-22

For removal, I'm basiclly doing the same as if I were going to reflow the GPU. I start by applying liquid flux underneath the GPU, then mount the motherboard onto a griddle (hot plate) and use a hot air rework station to remove the chip. Here are a few issues I'm having during reattachment: First, I need to find a way to securely hold the GPU in place while I add heat. I'm thinking that maybe a vacuum suction pen could be used but I dont know if the tip of the pen can with stand the heat for a given amount of time. The next issue im encountering is being able to heat the GPU evenly. Since the profile of the chip is thicker in some parts, getting all of the solder balls to melt evenly, and at the same time, is crucial. While the chip is sitting on top of the board, you dont want to have half of the chip molten while the other half hasnt. This is more, or less, a temperature setting issue and will be resolved with a bit more practice. So far the only risk I can see of actually damaging the motherboard (aside from the risk of damaging other components on the board from heat.) during reattachment would be having some of the pads lift as a result of to much heat from your iron. I had this happen to me on a board, and GPU, while I was cleaning the pads with my solder wick. The pads had already been subjected to heat a million times though. The last obstacle you'll encounter, and the most frustrating, is having something happen to the balls while reattaching. There is no room for error, so should one of those balls fall off, or melt into its neighbor, its game over. Time to whip out the flux and solder braid, and start all over. All together its about a 2 hour process to clean and reball the GPU, so having to start all over really sucks and will crush any moral that you may have. lol, still interested? If so, It'll be nice having someone else to compare notes with as there isnt much information about this stuff out there. The first pic is what the GPU looks like after being reballed, and the 2nd pic is of the station I'm using.

BGA_1.jpgBGA_Station.jpg
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ludionis (author)IBeHoey2009-08-24

I'll tell you, if you can make it cost efficient to reball these, you'll have a gold mine on your hands. Searching the web, I only found a youtube video of some guy in South America doing reballs, seems no one offers the service domestically. I have watched a few reball vids, though, and it appears that they aren't holding the gpu in place, simply resting it on board where it goes and applying heat until it 'sinks in' for lack of better description. I've had marginal success by cooking a motherboard in an oven with a prescribed pattern and temp settings, getting it up to 450degrees F, or the 230 celcius or so where leadfree solder melts. I got lucky, and of the 5 RROD models I bought, so far 3 have not been registered, so I'm letting Microsoft fix those for free :D Having a more difficult time unloading them than I anticipated, didn't realize how flooded the market is with used 360s at the time I got interested in this. I will say, in some of the vids I have watched, it appears chip removal and replacement is done with an Infrared heater...wonder if that would more evenly distribute the heat than hot air, maybe that's the real way to go? Keep me updated, I love this stuff!

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ludionis (author)ludionis2009-08-24

Allow me to clarify, I have not reballed a GPU! My oven cooking is the 'homebrew' version of reflow for those of us that can't justify a $150 professional reflow work station.

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k_man93 (author)2009-08-08

its the gpu that you are thinking of

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admin (author)2009-08-04

Hey, this is a great instructable and is very informative. Just one thing is missing... pictures! It really helps a lot when trying to follow directions so you should consider taking some photographs. Once you do that and leave me a message when you have so that we can publish your work. Thanks! Thanks for the cool instructable and we hope to publish this soon!