DIY Mods

 

Assembling your own box mod from components can be rewarding and fun. You probably wonít be able to assemble it cheaper than you can buy one pre-made, although you can select better components. At the very least it takes fine wire soldering skills if you buy a box that is already cut for your specific electronic regulation board. But assembling one using a blank electronics box will also require skills with hand tools. But best looking results are achieved with drill presses and mills or boxes precut for your specific regulator board. With that said I have made them with simple hand tools and I donít think they look horrible but certainly would have been better with a mill. Note that training these skills are beyond the scope of this book. But if you have them already, you probably are used to DIY activities and understand the rewards. There are lots of tutorial videos and information on line as well.
Let us look at making mods using the DNA-40 as the electronic regulation board shown below with optional USB charger board.

All of the DIY mods you will see presented here, I made with simple hand tools. A cordless drill, drill bit set, a flat file, hammer, socket set, diagonal pliers, soldering station, pocket knife, dremel, taps and screwdrivers. If you have never used these items, then chances are a DIY box mod is not for you. If these are old hat to you, then you will find this incredibly easy. I believe anyone can learn to make a box mod. But you may want to develop soldering and hand tool skills on something else first.

With that said, some are easier than others and require less tools. We will approach them from easiest using the least tools with little finesse to the hardest using the most tools and requiring not only a modicum of finesse but generous patience as well.

All of them require good soldering skills as the wires are quite small and the boards can be quite delicate. I use a 40W soldering station with adjustable temperature and a 1mm tip. A magnifying helping hands is a must for me. All the solder points on the board require the knowledge and technique of flowing solder through the wire and the board via. If you donít know what I just said, then I recommend not attempting a DIY box mod until you learn.
First up will be the typical box mod kit.

This is the easiest mod to make. All the hard work is done. All you will need is good soldering skills. There are a few upgrades you can make that will require knowledge of drilling and tapping. The box comes precut to fit a DNA-30. But as the DNA-30 is the same size as the DNA-40 with original, small screen, the DNA-40 will fit. The kit comes with an 18650 battery holder preinstalled and all the parts you will need. However, the first thing you may want to replace is the 510 connector. The kit comes with a small, non-spring loaded 510 connector that is press fit into the box as shown below. Better 510 connectors that have a spring loaded center post and are threaded with securing nut are available also shown below.

Note the wall thickness of the kit box is much thicker where the 510 is located than a typical electronics project box and the chamber inside is smallish. It is best to drill and tap the hole in the kit box to fit these. Therefore the securing nut and tab washer is not needed. Many online stores carry the spring loaded center pin connectors with and without the solder tab washer and in various sizes. I like Varitube and Fatdaddy vapes connectors though there are many others online as well. The large circular impression in the top of the kit box accommodates a 22mm diameter ring. There are also 510 connectors with adjustable center pins. These are better for sub-ohming and Ni200. With that said, I use the spring loaded ones with Ni200 and the DNA-40 with little issue. The main issue is keeping them clean. I use q-tips, ever clear and baking soda. Clean all the e-Liquid off with q-tips and alcohol then chuck up a q-tip in a cordless drill and dip in ever clear then baking soda. This polishes 510s very well and when the alcohol dires, the left over baking soda is easy to remove by blowing.

After you choose which one you want, ask the vendor what the thread size is so you can drill and tap the hole in the box accordingly. I debated using thread sealant as the 510 is SS and the box is aluminum but I didnít. I may regret that someday. For those that donít know, the worry isnít that the 510 will come loose, the worry is about dissimilar metals and corrosion.

The next component you may think about replacing are the switches. The kit comes with three dome tactile switches and the box is predrilled to fit them. Note they are secured in place with epoxy. But you may want different switches, especially for the fire button. As it was the holidays when I built this, I decided to use 8mm green and red ones from ebay as shown below.

You want switches that are normally open, momentary close, single pole single throw, isolated from the case (ground). Sealed is a plus in case of leaks. The ones I used were not tactile (no click when you press them). I did have to drill out the existing holes slightly to fit them and used the securing nut on the inside of the box as the wall is thinner there. For the +/- buttons, I would not use switches that were any larger than 8mm as the clearance between the existing holes barely fit these green 8mmís. If you do go larger, you will have to off center drill the holes to get more clearance - i.e. center punch and drill press.

To make fitting the DNA-40 board in the box a snap, you may want to consider a cradle from shapeways.com as shown below.

Otherwise, secure the display and regulator board in place with RTV. The USB board can also be secured in place with RTV. I always try to use RTV in lieu of hot glue or epoxy. RTV is more forgiving if you need to make a change. I use the GE clear.

I definitely recommend replacing the kit wire for the battery and 510 with what Evolv recommends for the DNA-40 which is 18 gauge with high temperature insulation. The other kit wires can be used for the USB board and switches no problem. But Evolv does recommend 24 gauge with high temperature insulation for those as well. All specs and recommendations for the DNA-40 can be found on its datasheet available online at www.evolvapor.com. Below is an example of the Silicone high temperature wire I used.

This wire has many fine strands and is tinned. This makes it easier to bend than fewer thick stranded PVC jacketed wire and a lot easier to get into the holes on the DNA-40 board and solder. While the color of the insulation isnít important if you can keep what wire goes to what clear in your head, there is a color code convention. White jacket is for the 510 center pin to DNA-40 out. Red is for positive. Black is for ground/negative. Note that there is an 18 gauge hole in the DNA-40 board at the top for ground and another for battery negative on the bottom. They both do not have to be used. Ground is battery negative on the board. I used the top hole on the same end as the power out, ran the wire to the ground connector on the box near the 510 and then over to the battery negative.

The board pin-outs are on the DNA-40 datasheet. Assembling order is important. First solder all the wires to the DNA-40 leaving 3-4 inches for all but the ground wire at 4-6 inches. Drill/tap all holes and install the 510 connector and switches. Place the included thin clear plastic window in the box and use RTV to secure it in place. I used a toothpick and made an RTV seal all the way around the window in case of leaky attys. Then place the DNA-40 in the cradle and set in the box aligning the display with the window and fit check the +/- switches and USB charging wires. Then cut, strip and solder the +/- and USB board wires. RTV the usb charger in place. Fit, cut, strip and solder the fire switch wires and then the power out wire to the center pin of the 510 connector. Be sure to have the nut, o-ring seal and spring on the wire before you solder the pin on. Solder in the middle of the pin and donít leave a glob or ball. Then install the pin in the 510 connector, slide the spring and o-ring seal up and tighten the nut. Fit, cut, strip and solder the positive battery wire to the positive battery post on the battery holder. Fit, cut, strip and solder the ground wire to the ground lug and to the battery negative post on the battery holder. Then secure the ground lug. Now install an 18650 battery and press the fire button. Make last little alignment to the cradle so the display is centered in the window and RTV the cradle in place. The kit has a plastic shield for the electronics side of the box, I left mine off. Then screw the back plate on and you are done. Attach your favorite atty and vape away.

Next up is a Hammond box mod. Hammond makes lots of boxes in metal and plastic. There are other electronic box manufacturers as well. I like the Hammond 1590B if I plan on using 18650 and the Hammond 1590TRPB for 26650. But there are many others that will work as well. What is important is to allow room for the battery and battery clip(s) inside the box.

If you use a Hammond electronics box as the basis for your mod, then select your window, buttons and 510 connector locations then drill the necessary holes. Since the wall thickness is nominal, the 510 connector can be secured with the nut. I also like to use the 510 washer with a solder tab on Hammond boxes. To cut the window hole it is best to use a mill or drill press with x-y axis. If not then it can be done by hand by drilling several small holes very close and next to each other, knocking out the grid and using a hand file to square the window hole. The same goes for the 510 charger board slot. Then cut and file a piece of 1/8Ē polycarbonate for a window and RTV in place. Depending on the box you pick, it will fit either one or two 18650 or 26650 batteries. Use a fuse between the batteries when using two batteries in parallel. This is in case one battery is accidently installed upside down. You do not need a fuse between the battery(s) and DNA-40 as the DNA-40 is reverse battery protected. Be aware that fuses will blow after a time or quicker at a current that is higher than they are rated. So a 15 amp fuse should work fine for batteries that can deliver 20 amp or more. Use an 8 amp fuse for 10 amp batteries. Remember, this is battery protection not DNA-40 protection.

While you can find 18650 battery holders, 26650 are tough to find. I use metal spring C-cell battery clips from Digikey or Mouser for 26650 mods and either epoxy them in place or drill, tap and screw them in place (preferred). I use 2mm screws from Mcmaster Carr. After that it is wiring up just like above for the kit box.

Next up is a tube based DIY DNA-40 pictured below. For this, I used a Seven-30 whose Yihi SX300 chip had burned out.

The first step is to get the old board out. Take the top cap cover off and remove the o-ring. Then hold the mod upside down in one hand and a flat blade screwdriver in the other hand with the tip in the groove where the o-ring was at an angle. Put some force on the screw driver while somebody else taps on the end of the screwdriver with a hammer. Make a few taps you will see a gap between the top collar and the body start. Then rotate 180 around to the other side and repeat. Keep rotating and repeating until the top cap breaks free. Then remove the delrin spacer and pull the board out. Use a soldering iron to remove some of the SMD components on the end of the board where the battery center post is soldered. Then use diagonal cutters to snip off the end of the SX300 board that has the battery center post as seen in the middle of the picture above soldered to the red wire that is soldered to the DNA-40. When you snip the SX300 board, leave the ears and about 5mm of board as shown above. This will be epoxied into the board cradle.

The board cradle itself is made from a piece of ĹĒ PVC pipe. Slide the pipe in the end of the tube and mark it to fit with the end delrin spacer reinstalled and the cap pressed back in place. Cut the PVC to length and mark it to length of the DNA-40 board from one end and cut away a half clam shell plus thickness of DNA-40 board leaving a band at one end as shown. Next we need to cut a slot in the cradle for the switch bodies to fit through by drilling several holes close together and squaring off the sides.

Now it is time to select your switch and display layout. I chose to keep the display on the same side as the original to minimize work. On the flat side opposite the window I drilled three holes to accommodate the fire and +/- button. Then I used a dremel cut-off wheel to remove a small section between the original display window down to the original fire button as shown below.
 

The original window was replaced with 1/16th polycarbonate cut to fit the new opening and the edges blacked out with a sharpie as shown. The window was RTVd in place using a toothpick to spread RTV all around the perimeter for a seal in case of juice leak.

Next was to measure to fit, cut, strip and solder all the wires. Note there is only one ground and that is soldered from the top cap to the ground of the DNA-40. A short piece is used for the power output to center pin of the top cap. Note I pulled the top cap center pin out for soldering using needle nose plyers and reinserted using a little super glue. The piece of old SX300 board with battery center pin is soldered to the battery positive of the DNA-40 with a short piece of wire and fit into the cradle end with the band. Note a little trimming of the sides of the ears may be needed. The DNA 40 is placed in the cradle with switches down through the cradle slot and the piece of old SX300 board with battery center pin is epoxied into place. Note that lots of fit checking including pushing the switches into their holes is needed before final trimming and epoxying. Now we put epoxy on the faces of all the switches and slide the entire assembly down in the tube and push the switches into place. Getting the switches into place for fit checking and final epoxying is the hardest part of this build. There is enough room in the end between the DNA-40 board and the cradle to carefully insert a small flat tip screwdriver and pushing on the back of the switch housings to seat the switches in their holes. Start at the switch farthest down, then the center then the one at the top. I wired it so the switches were Ė Fire + from bottom to top.

On final assembly, put the delrin spacer in place and press the top cap in. You did remember to put the delrin spacer on before you soldered the top cap wires right? Yeah neither did I! No worries, snip it and spread it a part a little for the wires to pass through. Using a socket and hammer to tap the top cap back in helps. Then install the top cap rubber o-ring and top cap cover, add battery and atty and vape away!

So we showed how to make three different mods from least to most difficult using the DNA-40. Other regulator boards can be used as well. For example I used the Yihi SX350 in a Hammond box mod and another burned up Seven-30. The later actually being a little easier than the DNA-40 version shown above as I did not have to drill holes for switches or cut the body for the display. The SX350 window is the same length from top of board to top of window as the SX300 and the fire button is the same distance from the top but the SX350 is longer overall. So to accommodate that, the battery top plate that is spot welded inside the tube had to be knocked out using a socket, extension and hammer then epoxied back in place and the bottom adjustable battery disk had to be flipped over.

Hopefully these examples and ideas will be inspirational to you. It really is rewarding to make your own mod and you get to select your components to suit your taste and styles. You can use plastic enclosures, there are several designs on shapeways. You can also use wood. I have even seen repurposed Nintendo controllers used. And some use LiPo packs used in Radio Control toys for greater capacity run time and/or current/power delivery. Let your imagination be your guide.

Next up is a DNA200 box mod. It uses an Alpinetech, AEworks 1590B or Hammond 1550B box. I like the AEworks because they come with the magnets. I dislike the Hammond because the box is tapered so it sits tilted. The other two don't have that pronlem. All available on ebay. You can also get a sled from shapeways or ebay for the DNA200 and display. All you have to do is drill holes for the buttons, USB port and display. Though an xy axis vise on a drill press with end mill or a milling machine makes cutting the display window and USB port a lot easier, it can be done by drilling successive holes and squaring the sides with a flat file. Finding buttons vice switches can be a bit of a pain but look for ati DNA200 buttons on ebay. Varitube also carries some from time to time. You will also need a LiPo battery pack and XT connector pigtail to match. Amazon and hobbyking carries those. And of course a 510 connector which you can get from fattdaddys, varitube, Amazon and ebay. Solder the pigtail on the DNA board, the USB port to the DNA board and wires to the 510 connector.

You can mount the DNA200 with screws but I do not recommend it. There have been issues doing this causing failure of the DNA200 board. Best to use a plastic sled and epoxy the sled in place. Use 14 or 12 gauge wire for the output to the 510 connector. Above I used some plastic buttons that I fashioned from plastic welding rivets and an XT70 connector pigtail as that is what came on the battery.

It's definitely a beast but easily lasts a day with high power attys. 2200mah battery versus the more typical 900mah battery. And you can drill holes in the bottom for venting in case of a battery event.

The best 510 connector for mods right now I think is the Evolv one that protovapor stocks. It uses wave springs instead of a coil spring.

   

 

 

All the information contained in these pages are only the opinions of the author and the author is not an expert at anything.