Technology

Everyday Carry’s Bernard Capulong, What’s In Your Toolbox?

This is What’s In Your Toolbox?, an occasional post series where we showcase tools and tips from our favorite fixers. Today we’re featuring Bernard Capulong, co-founder/EIC of EverydayCarry.com and Game Boy modder.

First off, explain to our community who you are and what you do!

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Hi, I’m Bernard Capulong (pronouns are he/him). I’m the co-founder and editor-in-chief of EverydayCarry.com, a men’s gear website for all things pocketable and practical, like knives, multi-tools, and flashlights. When I’m not working on Everyday Carry, I bring broken Game Boys back to life and sell them to raise funds for charities I think are important.

I started with personal Game Boy mods for my own collection back in 2018, but I kicked it into overdrive as my latest
quarantine passion project. I’ve found it very fulfilling to take abandoned consoles and mod them as an expression of
my design sensibilities and technical skill, then get them in the hands of nostalgic gamers to relive their childhood
while giving back to communities who need help and awareness.

With several dozen restorations under my belt, I’ve also started a YouTube channel where I occasionally upload Game
Boy modding tutorials and educational content to help others learn to repair these iconic retro consoles.

How did you get started fixing and modding things?

I grew up as a Nintendo kid, and my Game Boy Color was probably one of the first items I had in my “everyday carry.”

As a lifelong gamer and a bit of a nostalgic, I started collecting retro game hardware a few years ago. Living in a small
New York City apartment at the time, I tried to keep my collection small. Handheld consoles like Game Boys were a perfect crossover of retro gaming and everyday carry. But when I got my first pre-built modded Game Boy, I was dissatisfied with the craftsmanship to the point I wanted to learn to do it myself in late 2018.

What’s in your toolbox (or workshop)?

Since I’m working with space constraints (my bedroom also serves as my home office, modding workshop, and game room) I try to keep my toolset fairly consolidated, with a quality-over-quantity approach. Modding Game Boys is mostly soldering and electrical work, with the occasional plastic-cutting or processing for certain parts. To cover my bases, I rely on…

iFixit Pro Tech Toolkit. The screwdriver is the best I’ve used, and the kit actually includes the correct sized bits for Game Boys. It’s essential to use the correct bit to avoid stripping screws, which can make or break a project.

Nintendo uses Japanese Industry Standard (JIS) instead of Philips head screws on most of their consoles, as well as various tri-point bits. Opening up game cartridges also requires a specific game bit, and that’s covered in the Tool Kit. I also use the angled tweezers in the kit for holding small, delicate parts or wires. The plastic spudgers are great for handling delicate parts on the motherboard or manipulating plastic parts like buttons or shells without damaging them. Lastly, the suction cup is a must-have for ensuring a smooth lens install.

TS80 soldering iron, along with a tip cleaner, stand, flux, and so on. The TS-80 is ultra-compact, plenty powerful
enough for Game Boy soldering projects, runs off a USB-C cable for convenience, and has easy and precise
temperature control. While not all mods require soldering, many of them do, and for more complex repairs it’s
essential and worth investing in a proper one.

Leatherman FREE P2 Multi-tool. This is part of my everyday carry, but it provides enough general utility to earn a
spot at my modding station too. The file is useful for shaving plastic parts for the perfect fit, the pliers can snap
scored plastic when modifying shells or twist off failed capacitors in a pinch, scissors are useful for cutting
insulating tape or other adhesives, and it even has a wire stripper built in.

OLFA 300 utility blade. This is my go-to for making fine cuts, scoring plastic, and shimmying under power switch
assemblies for repair.

Toothbrushes, Q-tips, and isopropyl alcohol. Between oxidation, corrosion, flux, and decades-old gamer gunk, all
Game Boys deserve a good cleaning!

How do you organize your tools?

Color-modded Game Boy Advance models.

I manage to fit most of my tools in a single plastic container with separate compartments from IKEA that’s intended for adding some internal organization to a desk drawer. I keep my core, most-used tools in that one box. I have more of the same container and use them as parts bins that I’ve separated by generation of Game Boy (i.e. Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color parts in one box, stacked on top of a box of Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP parts, etc).

All of my tools and parts that I can fit are just hidden in fabric bins at the bottom of my game console display/media
center. For better or worse, my stockpile of parts are out of sight and out of mind!

What are some of your most-used tools?

It would definitely be the iFixit aluminum driver, as I need it to access Game Boy consoles and game cartridges alike.
Next would be my TS80 soldering iron and the iFixit ESD-safe angled tweezers for soldering work. Lastly would be the spudger for carefully manipulating wires, ribbon cables, button membranes, adhesive screen gaskets with gentle
precision during assembly.

What’s your most-coveted, yet least-used tool?

I recently splurged on an Engineer SS-02 solder sucker. I haven’t had the chance to put it through its paces yet because de-soldering something large enough to use a solder sucker instead of solder wick isn’t that common in Game Boy mods. But it’s just a beautiful piece of Japanese industrial design and I’m proud to have it in my arsenal.

Is there a certain tool or material you use often, but seems unorthodox for game modding/electronics work?

To reach a level of attention to detail I pride myself on in my builds, I use a couple of tools that are less commonly
used because they’re mainly for aesthetic details. Following advice from fellow modder @8bitdreams on Instagram, I
use UV-activated resin to neatly route wires and improve the responsiveness of directional pads. It’s basically like a clear glue that sets and hardens when exposed to UV light, which lets you very discreetly keep wires tidy with visually
satisfying right angles.

The other would be a paint pen that I use to paint the inner edge of the viewing window to match the color of the
lens. It makes a big difference on brightly colored shells that usually feature a black screen or lens. Instead of that
bright plastic peeking through when looking at the screen from an angle, you see a seamless black transition from glass to screen.

Inner circuit board of a Game Boy Advance

Every fixer/DIYer has a gruesome tool injury story. What’s yours? (Alternately: a gruesome failure/short-circuit story).

In modding I like to say there are no losses, only lessons. But I’ve definitely learned a couple of lessons the painful and
costly way. The first and most traumatic was stripping a motherboard screw because I was using the low-quality,
incorrectly sized screwdrivers that come with aftermarket Game Boy housings. What made this especially gruesome was that I was modding on a Twitch livestream to an audience, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the project, despite having been streaming for close to 8 hours at that point. I eventually got it out using a rubber band and elbow grease, but that experience was one that totally justified a proper screwdriver and bit set for future builds.

The other was my first attempt at a USB-C charging mod for a Game Boy Advance SP. I lifted some pads while trying to desolder the original charge port, but that error led me to learn how to better read schematics, jump wires, trace repairs, and so on. It was important in my modding journey to challenge myself with things at the edge of my skill level and push myself to fix new problems, even if I’ve created them for myself.

Game Boy Advance, modded in Castlevania colors

What’s your advice for people who want to start fixing things, modding things, or tinkering?

Whether it’s for modding Game Boys or building out your everyday carry, I cannot stress the importance of having the right tool for the job. With Game Boys there usually are no shortcuts, despite what whatever random YouTube tutorial or Reddit post might lead you to believe. It’s worth taking the time and investing in the right tools to do a mod properly the first time. And even then, mistakes happen, but we can reappraise them as opportunities to learn and up-level our craft.

Bernard Capulong holding a Game Boy Advance circuit board up as a phone.

It takes practice, which means hours with an iron in your hand and money invested in donor [units] and parts. If you want to make modding a serious hobby of yours, your most valuable resource is a community you can learn from and and pass along your learnings to better cement your mastery and knowledge. (I can safely say I’m standing on the shoulders of giants from the Game Boy discord server and owe much of my modding skill and expertise to the fine folks there.)

It’s a truly rewarding feeling to finish a mod, flip on the power switch, and see your Game Boy back in business. It’s the challenge that makes it so rewarding, but also be prepared for that challenge to sometimes lead to frustration. It’s
really important to remember to have fun with all of this and take it easy on yourself if you can’t complete a repair.

With an open mind and playful curiosity, you’ll go far in your fixing.

Anything else you want our community of fixers to know? Feel free to pitch any new projects or content you’re working on or recently published!

If you’re the type of fixer who appreciates tools and gear, you might dig the world of everyday carry. Feel free to check it out at EverydayCarry.com. You can see the Game Boys I’ve sold and listed for sale on my personal Instagram at @bernard.c and on Twitter at @bernardcapulong. Lastly, if you want to learn how to mod a Game Boy for yourself, I have some tutorials to get you started at my YouTube channel, youtube.com/berndog.

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