Yet another DIY Flash Diffuser for Macro Photograghy

I have recently picked up the interest in macro photography. It is always amazing to find out the details you can uncover from the small little subjects vis-a-vis what you see with your naked eyes.


Tiger beetle “wearing a pair of spectacles”

My main issue right now (other than focusing) is lighting. I got a ring flash but it creates undesirable light artifacts like the one above. The two white ring reflection on the tiger beetle’s eyes make them look like a pair of spectacles! So I figure that if I intend to further pursue macro photograghy, I need to fix the lighting issue. DIY flash diffuser came to my mind, and I went google for ideas.

I started with aluminium disposable containers (as the diffuser hood) but realise later its a bad idea, since they are filmsy and would not be friendly to my camera lens body, especially if I were to rest it on the lens. I decide to build a diffuser using cardboard. So I take a piece of paper, start drawing out the dimension of the diffuser hood and the angle it should be tilting downward.


The end product of my DIY diffuser

The drawing is straight forward, it is really the piecing all the puzzles together that took me some time. Here’s a quick summary of my DIY steps for anybody who’s interested to follow;


Step 1. Draw out your diffuser dimension on a piece of paper. Take note of the length of your lens that you will be using, and the position of your flashgun. You don’t want your diffuser to point at your lens instead of your photography subject, do you?


Step 2. Map the drawing onto the cardboard. In this step, I am only designing the top and side of the diffuser hood.


Step 3. Cut out the cardboard with your pen knife.


Step 4. Use an adhesive tape to secure the edges of the cut cardboard as illustrated. Would suggest that you tap the top and under side for more secure holding.


Step 5. Tape the top side of the holder as explained earlier.


Step 6. The underside of the diffuser hood will need to be shiny for better light transfer from the flashgun to the subject. To do that, I first apply an even patch of craft glue over the cardboard.


Step 7. Overlay a sheet of aluminium foil (those you use for barbecue or oven cooking) on the cardboard. Lightly press the foil on the cardboard so that it sticks on it permanently. Be careful not to press too hard as the thin foil may break. Trim off the residue sheet.


Step 8. Once you trim off the aluminium foil, the top diffuser section will look like this. Now it’s time to make the bottom section of the diffuser to complete the work.


Step 9. Cut out the shape of the bottom section and pply the aluminium foil over it like you have done in previous step. Stick it to the top diffuser hood with the help of adhesive tape again.


Step 10. Before you do a black tape over the diffuser, try out your DIY hood on your flashgun to make sure it can fit properly.


Step 11. Put the black duct tape around the diffuser so that it’s all covered up. This is purely cosmetic so you can skip this step if you just want a functional diffuser.

The last two steps is to put a diffuser screen on  it. I plan to cut out the milk bottle (which is translucent  and colour-less casting) but found out that the one I have is too small to be fitted on this diffuser. So I am using a temporary one (using a file folder inserted with two sheet of papers I use kitchen paper towel instead). Will post the result of the DIY diffuser once I have taken some test shots indoor and outdoor.

Update: There’s no insect for me to experiment, so I use the 福禄寿 as my model to try out my DIY diffuser. Top one with the DIY diffuser, and bottom without.

Result of the experimenting with DIY diffuser

Cover the Squeak up

Ever since I got Touch HD, I have a few griefs.

Modified Squeak-less Battery Cover

Modified "Squeak-less" Battery Cover

One of them is performance. After flashing my HD with Dutty’s V3.9 XT Turbo ROM, I felt as if I have gotten a new toy. But the moment I hold up the phone, the squeak on the battery cover put a big dent on the otherwise wonderful HD experience. As I depress on either side of the battery cover, the squeaks just remind me on the squeak and rattles I experienced in my old Volkswagen Bora.

I decided that I have  to do something about it (and give me one less excuse to change my phone!)

Upon inspecting the area where the squeak happens, I identified spots where the plastic on the battery cover is pressing against the phone housing.

All it took for me is a pair of scissor, masking tape, and a small screw driver (or any tool such as tweezers that can be used to position and press the tape on the squeaking area, or just your fingers if you do not have fat thumbs like I do). Stick the tape at the offending area, and you are done literally within a minute!

DIY Tools to mask the squeak

The left hand side of the battery cover

The left hand side of the battery cover

Right hand side of the battery cover; NB: The area above the tape needs to be masked as well

Right hand side of the battery cover; NB: The area above the tape needs to be masked as well

Finally, my HD feels like a gadget with a solid built quality. Maybe it was, but the squeay cover certainly suggests otherwise.

So it looks like I have to wait longer (for an excuse) to ditch my HD. Maybe a HTC Hero might be the one.

Finale of the Trilogy – Shift boot replacement

Click here for larger image You can say that it's possibly one of my most-planned modification process, given the stages I planned and went through before ending so far. On the other than, it can be perceived as my typical Singapore kia-see-ism (n – state of afraiding to die) in act, wanting to make sure that everything is in order or validated before making the next move.

To be honest, I started just wanting to replace my peeling stock shift knob with a new one, and I accomplish that desire by replacing it with a Momo's automatic shift knob. Very soon, I realised it need not end there, as I can replace the entire chrome shift cover with something refreshing. But the process, through some IM (Instant messenging) correspondence with vwvortex's FEEL, seems complicated, and I want to be absolutely sure about my ability to execute it before embarking on the modification itself. Obviously, I am 'kia-see' as I don't wish my investment (of buying a replacement shift boot) to waste. But most importantly, I want to make sure I can do it myself, although I know that I can easily pay some shop and had it done professionally.

Hence, my assessment on the complexity of removing the shift console, prior to placing an order with hillsideimports for an Volkswagen OEM Sports edition shift boot (p/n: 1 J0 711 113 CD NEZ).

Before placing an order for the shift boot, one may be interested to know there exists a few variants of VW OEM shift boot that he can choose from. It's a matter of individual style preference, not so much of fitment choice :-

  • The 20th Anniversary shift boot has a brushed aluminium shift frame (or commonly known as ring ) and red-stitched black leather boot;
  • The R32 shift boot also has a brushed aluminium ring, and a white stiched black leather boot. (I believe you can opt for black-stitched one as well)
  • The Original Sports edition shift boot, has a chrome ring, with black-stitched black leather boot.

I chose the chrome variant one, not exactly because I love chrome trimming, but because the brushed aluminium style will be a mis-match to my current interior trimming.


1. Remove the gasket if you have not done. Follow the link for a reference of step-by-step on gasket removal how-to

Click here for larger image 2. If you have just removed your gasket, and have not put back the shift console, take the opportunity to remove the shift guider as indicated by the red arrow. If you manage to remove the guider, then you may skip step 6.

Next, focus on the shift boot.

Click here for larger image 3. Flip the boot, so that you see the bottom of the shift knob, with the ring bracket that holds the leather to the knob. Slip out the metal ring fastener.

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Removing the knob from the shift boot

4. With the help of a plier and exerting abit of force, pull out the ring bracket. The shift knob is now freed from the leather boot, and I can then proceed with putting my aftermarket knob to this leather boot.

Note Step 4 is unnecessary, if you prefer to cut off the leather boot around the edge of the shift knob. That is definitely the quickest and easiest way to remove the knob away from the boot, but I prefer to remove with minimal damage.

Click here for larger image 5. Slip the shift knob chrome ring and Momo's bottom chrome cap back into the boot, as shown. I used some adhesive tape to secure the ring to the boot, and as the chrome cap is “dropped” into the ring, I also used a strong adhesive tape to ensure it doesn't slip off from the ring easily.

Now, the next step is necessary if you choose not to remove the shift guide, just as I have not. If you have done, as per step 1, then skip step 6, and go straight to step 7.

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The underside of the shift frame, the left side is one with the tabs cut-off, the right is with the tabs intact

The diagram shows the bottom of the shift boot frame. There are clips on each side of the frame, in order to clip onto the shift console firmly. Notice that at the rear side of the shift boot, there are 3 tabs, at the position indicated by the red arrows. These tabs are meant to secure the shift boot to the frame. These tabs interfere with the shift guide, and prevents the frame from inserted completely into the shift console properly.

Click here for larger image 6. Use a cutter, and cut off these tabs. The picture on the left shows the trimed shift frame without the tabs. The cutting is pretty easy since the tabs are made of plastic[/i]). Cutting of the tabs does not compromise the fitment of the shift boot to the console. Neither does it result in loose leather boot on the frame. So cut it with a piece of mind!

If you have not cut the tabs as per described in step 6, and you have not removed the shift guider, you will find that your shift boot pops out alittle at the rear.

With the shift knob removed,

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Inserting the frame into the console

7. Slot the shift boot over the shift shaft, and slide in the shift frame forward, and under the shift console. Insert the frame completely by pushing it down into the console.

You may find difficulty in securing the frame properly into the console, as the frame might be still popping out alittle. Here's some tricks and tips for your reference.

  • Push the two sides (left & right) of the frame inwards so that that clips go underneath the console.
  • Push the rear side of the frame inwards so that the clips go underneath the console, and then pull it outwards so that the frame shifts back, allowing the bottom of the frame to have clearance off from the shift guide.

Click here for larger image 8. Put back the shift knob, tighten the allen nuts, and pull up the shift boot so that the chrome cap can be secured with the shift knob, as shown.

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Other resources

1. Part supplier – Hillsideimports
2. Information Source – Vwvortex

How to – Removing shift console

Click here for larger image Following my successful attempt to remove the shift knob and the shift gate, I was so determined to go ahead and replace my chromy shift cover to a leather boot that's commonly found in the manual version of Bora and Golf. So I did more research, and have several correspondences with a fellow vwvortex's member, FEELER, who had attempted this mod awhile back. One of the important task is to remove the gasket that's secured beneath the shift console, so that any MK4 OEM shift boot can be fitted on the shift console perfectly without any further modification. To do so, I have to remove the shift console, and before placing an order from hillsideimportsp, I decided to try taking out the gasket first.

How-to step by step

the prerequisite of this how-to is to remove the shift knob, and optionally the shift gate. If you have not done so, just refer to the shift knob removal and shift gate removal articles.

Click here for larger image 1. First of all, using a torx screw #15 driver, remove the 2 torx screws, which are located at the front end of the shift console, just under the dash console, as shown.

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2. Next remove the cover as shown in the above picture on the left, and unscrew the torx screw. There are 2 torx screws on each front side of the shift console, which secured the shift console firmly to the ebrake console.

Click here for larger image 3. Remove the ash-tray component from the shift console. First slide open the ash-tray lid, and remove the ash-tray casing, and it will expose a torx screw at the bottom of the ash-try, as shown on the left. Unscrew the screw, and slowly slide the ash tray out by pushing the ash tray forward alittle before pulling up and away from the shift console.

If you have problem trying to move the ash tray, chances are the plastic tab at the bottom of the ash tray is clipping on the metal piece, as shown in the picture on the left (the two tabs are located on each side of the centre torx screw). Pry the tabs slightly so that the metal piece is off the tabs' hook, before sliding up the ash tray. In my case, it's very easy to take out the ash tray without even prying on the tabs.

Click here for larger image 4. When the ash tray is taken out, unplug the harness from the ash tray lighter, as shown in the diagram on the left

Click here for larger image 5. With the ash tray removed completely, you will be able to see a metal bracket as shown in the photo on the left. Pull out the left side of the bracket.

Click here for larger image 6. With all the screws and ash tray removed, you may start wiggle the shift console, pulling it up and backward.

First of all, pull up the shift console away from the bracket at the front, where you previously unscrew the 2 front torx screws. This free the front console, and then you can start to pull back the shift console.

Click here for larger image When you pull back the console, wiggle alittle so that the 2 finger-like plastic pegs on the shift console are out from the main console's bracket completely. When these plastic pegs are not cleared from the bracket, you will find it difficulting pulling out the shift console at all. Once the pegs are cleared, the console should be freed from any clips or brackets, and you can slowly pull it out, leaving the shifter as shown in the diagram on the left.

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7. Remove the shift guide & optic cover from the shifter, by unclipping the 2 tabs at each side of the cover, as shown above. Apparently, this is required for the OEM shift boot to be inserted into the shift console perfectly without any obstruction. Once my shift boot arrives, I will confirm if this step is required or not.

Click here for larger image 8. With the shift console taken out finally, the next step is where the real intent of removing the console is about. Flipping the shift console, you will see the gasket attached to the underneath of the console with 4 philip screws, as shown on the left photo.

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When the gasket is detached away from the shift console, you see that the rubber trimming around the chrome cover is also removed. The rubber trim is actually fitted onto the gasket, before tightening all 4 screws on the gasket to the console. With the gasket and hence the rubber trimming removed, it creates some gap around the shifter, presumeably for the OEM manual shift boot to be fitted on properly.

More information will be shared once I get hold of the shift boot and figure out how the shift boot will be attached to the shift console.

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In the meantime, I have ordered a shift boot from Hillsideimports, just couldn't wait for it to come. To be continue in 10 days time, hopefully!

How to – Removing the shift gate

Click here for larger imageFollowing the removal of my auto shift knob and replacing the stock shift knob with MOMO auto knob, I have been exploring options to “perfect” the look, hiding away the bare metal shaft like the picture on the left. One of the option is to remove the shift gate (from the layman point of view, the chrome cover seen in the photo on the left) and replace it with a manual shift boot. To do that, the first thing to do obviously is to figure out how the shift gate is secured on the console, and hence how to be removed without damaging the parts.

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1. First of all, remove the shift knob, regardless of whether it is a stock knob or aftermarket one. This will facilitate the removal of the shift gate, as you will see later on.

Click here for larger image2. Next, push the shift gate (the chrome cover) to the right with alittle force, you will be able to see some gap, like that on the right. The shift gate should be firmly secured at this point of time, so alittle force is required to open up the gap.

3. With the interior pryer tool, I try to fiddle with the shift gate edge and pry out. Becareful of prying to hard, otherwise, you may unknowingly broken the notch at the edge of the shift gate. With abit of trying and patience, I manage to have the notch out of internal slot, and when you do that, you will notice that the shift gate is starting to loosen on the left side as shown in the diagram below.

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When the left side of the shift gate's notch is out of the securing slot

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4. With the left side of the shift gate loosened, pull up the gate slightly and wiggle the shift gate to the left, so that the right side of the gate can be loosened as well. Becareful again not to wiggle or pull out the gate too hard, otherwise, the notch at the right edge of the gate may well give way and break.

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5. With sufficient patience and wiggling, I manage to loose the right side of the shift gate as well, and just carefully feel the touchpoints between the shift gate and the shift console so that you can free the shift gate completely from the console.

Click here for larger image6. Once the shift gate is loosened completely, just lift up the gate and away from the shift shaft. What remains is the whole shift guide in bare, with the optics that indicates the gear position.

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Done: when the shift gate is removed completely, this is what you will see

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The underside of the shift gate, to show you the structure of the gate that allows the latter to be mounted to the shift console.

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A closeup look of the 2 notches at one side of the shift gate. This is the part where the shift gate is most fragile at

what's next … ? A search for a nice OEM looking shift boot to replace the shift gate! and the search continues

Removing of shifter knob for 4-speed automatic transmission

Changing of automatic shift knob, to certain people in Vwvortex community, is a taboo, or in a certain VW modification cult group, is socially unacceptable. Well, I must emphasized that such mentality only prevails in a small group of vwvortex'ers, fortunately.

Perhaps, the strong feeling against the act, is based on the assumption that anybody who attempt the modification is trying to be manual-stick wannabe. That to drive an automatic-transmission vehicle is a joke of century, at least to this unique group of interesting earth inhabitants. In the true spirit of Veedub modification culture, I am sure this is a fallible thinking.

Anyhow, not withstanding such a dark force, I decided to go ahead with the modification, although I am still in search for a well-styled aftermarket automatic shift knob.

1. Turn on the engine, and shift the gear to Neutral. In many versions of How-to guide, the instruction said D or gear 3 or 2. For 4-speed automatic transmission vehicle, it has
been verified that either of the modes mentioned is okay. This might not be the case if your vehicle is tiptronic transmission, and should stick to gear 3 as most has suggested.

2. Pull down the chrome sleeve that covers the shift shaft as shown on the left. This will unlock the gear, and the knob button will be loose.

3. Then press the knob button and pull out the knob with some amount of force.

If you inspect the shift rod closely, you notice that the only movable mechanism is the plastic rod that's contained within the shift rod. When you press the shift knob button (with the stock knob intact), it actually depresses the plastic rod, and mechanically unlock the gear during "P" and "N" position. Hence, one can conclude that for 4-speed automatic transmission vehicle, one can replace its stock shift knob with any universal aftermarket shift knob, since it does not have any tiptronic plate or overdrive mechanism.

Upon looking at the internal of the knob, you notice that there isn't any complicated mechanism in the knob button. The knob button basically will keep in contact with the tip of plastic rod when the knob is plug on the shift rod. The plastic cylindrical clip within the knob is designed to held and clamp on the shift rod tightly.

Tips: I realised that if the car is parked under scorch hot sun for a few hours, it will be easier to take out the shift knob. This is possibly because that the plastic clip inside the knob has expanded due to the heat, and hence make it easier to plug out the shift knob.

With the stock knob removed, I begin to hunt for a nice aftermarket automatic shift knob to replace, as my stock knob surface is starting to peel. I wanted to make sure that the DIY removal of stock knob is possible before I commit myself with a new aftermarket shift knob.

The hunt for the new shift knob is not easy. There's little market for automatic shift knob, and alot of nice shift knobs made by Rapid, Momo and Sparco are mostly for manual shift stick. I bump across OEM automatic shift knobs like those for Audi and Porsche, but they cost an arm (more than US$150). My choice was thus limited to the Momo automatic shift knob, as shown below.

4. Insert in the chrome cover bottom as shown in the picture.

5. Screw 2 allen nuts to the Momo shift knob such that they are flushed to the inner wall of the knob. The Momo shift knob comes with allen key and nuts, and the knob itself has 3 holes at the edge of the thread (as shown on the left photo) for one to screw the allen nut so that the knob can be firmly secured on the shifter shaft rod.

6. With the allen nuts in the knob, slot the knob into the shifter rod as shown on the left. Do not over-screw the allen nuts, otherwise the knob can not be inserted down the shifter rod.

7. With the knob sits nicely on the plastic shift unlock rod, turn the knob so that wording "MOMO" is aligned, and depress the knob slightly (not all the way round), and begin to screw the 2 allen nuts tightly. The reason of depressing the knob before screwing the nuts, is to have the knob as low as possible.

Knob is secured by 2 nuts, the 3rd allen nut is not required as it'll prevent the bottom chrome cover not able to cover the knob.

8. Screw in the chrome cover bottom, as shown.

and voila, a new aftermarket shift knob for my automatic gear transmission BORA.

Completing the OEM feature, in a DIY fashion

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Most of VW cars in Singapore come with euroswitch, which controls lighting systems, such as headlight, taillight , foglight to rear foglight.

If you are observant enough, you realised that the euroswitch has LED indicators to indicate the operation status of the all the lights, except the rear fog lights. Any layman will have this pass, thinking that it's designed to be that way. But if you bother to dig on this matter further, you realise that all it takes is a new LED bulb that cost no more than $1 SGD, to enable the rear foglight indicator feature.

So why doesn't VW AG include this item when they ship to their customer? Tax savings? Well, I guess only the product marketing director of VW AG knows it best!

But thanks to the knowledgebase from VwVortex, there exists a simple option to upgrade your euroswitch to have this missing feature, literally at minimal cost! Here's the how-to instructions, for your reference.

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1. Before the mod, see the fog light icon (at the bottom left), and compare it to the finished result, if you don't understand what this mod is about…

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2. This is what you need. The ampere of the LED should be no more than 6mA. Otherwise, you need to put in some resistors to bring down the amps.

3. Take out the euroswitch from the dashboard. To do so, just turn the switch knob until the knob is vertically straight (just after the 2nd stage), and pull out with a small jerk. You will find the switch is now loose, and you can now pull it out.

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4. When you have taken out the switch, do observe the switch from all angles. You will find some tabs as shown in the picture above, highlighted in red circle. There are tabs on both side of the switch. Dismantle the switch by prying the tabs on both sides.

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5. Once you have dismantled the top and bottom half of the euroswitch, you can further slowly dismantle the circuit board and springs as shown above. Observe and analyse the circuit board as shown in the 2nd and 3rd diagram

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6. You notice that there are LED bulbs already on the circuit board. These LED bulbs are litted up when the switch turn on appropiate lighting devices. You will need to analyse the spot where you add new LED bulb. The pictures above show the location of the new bulb, from the front and back of circuit board perspective.

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7. Setup the wiring linkages as shown in the first diagram above. Proceed to solder the points, and you have the bulb setup correctly.

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Picture of the circuit board with the new LED bulb setup successfully

Operation of 'Enhanced' Euroswitch in stages

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a. Finished result: Before turning on the rear fog
b. Stage 1: When the euroswitch is turned on ..
c. Stage 2: When the euroswitch is turned to switch on headlight
d. Final Stage: When the euroswitch is turned to switch on rear fog light

Color-coding the Volkswagen rear emblem

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Color coding the base of rear VW emblem, by removing the emblem from the boot, and spray-paint in a DIY fashion!

After two attempts of color-coding the rear VW emblem without removing the assembly, I decided to take a bold step in stripping the lock assembly so as to have the access of the VW emblem independently. Actually, because of the ugly result of the previous attempt, I have no choice but to take it out to rectify the situation.

At the end of the whole DIY process, I must admit the result is very satisfying and I should have gone straight into this when the idea of color-coding first come about.

First of all, we need some torx screw drivers (torx-20), philips screw driver, and flat head screw driver.

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We also need some painting tools, which I bought them mostly from a hobbyist shop. That includes the primer, the silver and clear-coat paint in spray-can form, as well as some alcohol for some preparation works.

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Once we have the tools, here we begin!

Step 1. Removing the boot linen cover

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Step 1a. Unscrews 13 screws off from the linen cover . The screws are cross-philip type.

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Step 2. Remove the emergency hazard triangle plate as shown

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Step 2a. Detaching the triangle holder by unscrewing the torx screw on the holder as shown below.

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Step 2b.. The boot linen cover when the 13 screws and triangle holder full detached.

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L: Boot cover out of action
C: Internal view of trunk lid in its bare form
R: A closeup view of the integrated lock assembly in the trunk

Step 3. Uninstall the lock assembly

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Step 3a. Unplug the power harness from the lock assembly socket

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Step 3b. Unclip the lock connector as shown

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Step 4. Detach the lock assembly & emblem from the boot by unscrewing the 3 torx screws.

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Boot with the lock assembly removed

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A close up look of the lock assembly

Step 5. Dismantle the emblem and lock assembly

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Step 5a. Remove the rubber base, and the emblem from the lock assembly by pulling them apart

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Step 5b. Unclip the chrome looking VW badge from the black plastic base. Note that the black plastic shown in the picture already has the shape of VW paint on it, because of my earlier attempt to paint on it with the emblem on.

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Disintegrated emblem/lock assembly

Step 6. Prepare for painting …

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In the meantime, ensure your boot is safe from rain and theft!

Step 7. Spray paint the plastic base

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Step 7a. Allow it to dry and repeat two more times

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Step 8. Clear coat the fella! To be safe, I have 3 layer of clear coat in between the drying process.

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Step 9. Finally when it's done, clip the VW chrome emblem on the silver-painted base plastic as shown.

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Step 10. Put back the assembly in the reverse manner from Step 6 to 1…

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Step 11. Test to ensure everything is alright

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When it's done and mounted back

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Close up of the finished result

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