How to create your own Custom Arcade Stick

Article

posted 2/3/2010 by Jeremy Duff
other articles by Jeremy Duff
One Page Platforms: Multiple
Part 4: Solder the connections on the PCB
This part requires some soldering experience, though it can be done with minimal experience as I had.  If you are not comfortable using the soldering gun, do not be afraid to practice ahead of time in order to ensure a steady hand and quality connections.  It is also very easy to completely ruin your PCB by melting something that you should not, so get comfortable before doing the actual work.  The connections on the PCB are usually pretty obvious in their layout as they look exactly like the controller itself.  There will be two wires per button which will be your ground and your actual connection.  Take your time and make sure to make good, solid connections and avoid bridging two or more separate connections.  Solder will conduct a signal, so you do not want it "leaking" towards other contact points.  
 
Decide if you want to do straight, solid connections between the PCB and the controller, or if you want to wire the control board and buttons separately and then connect them at a later time. I went with the second option since it gave me more room to work with in the long run. When I move to the final casing though, I intend on using one straight connection just for the sake of creating a higher quality connection. Just make sure that you give yourself some length if you are going to use one wire as it will help eliminate the stress of pulling on your soldering points. 
 
For the purposes of this project, I found it best to simply heavily “tin” your wires ahead of time. What this means is that you will melt and place a heavy coating of solder on the connecting tip of your wire before you even go near the board. After this is done, it will be very easy to simply make your connection on the board and add a little heat, melting the existing solder on your wire and allowing it to connect to the board. 
 
Once you have all of your wires tinned, you can proceed to actually soldering them to the actual PCB board. As I stated previously, each button will have to wires connected to it; it doesn’t matter which one will be used for the ground, do not worry about that, just ensure that you have clean, solid connections and that you use the same wire for the ground on the other end.  After you have soldered the connections, you can test them by plugging the controller into your system or into your PC, and then touching the other end of the wires together for a particular button. If you have done it correctly, closing the bridge between the two wires should trigger the button and the system should recognize and register the button press.
 
You will do this for each of the following connections on your PCB board:
A, B, X, Y, Back, Guide, Start, L, R, LB, RB, d-pad UP, d-pad DOWN, d-pad LEFT, and d-pad RIGHT.
 
In the end, there will be a lot of wires. You may want to consider using small stickers, or perhaps using different colored wires to keep things organized in the long run. I did not do this originally and it turned into a nightmare in the end.  Eventually I just grabbed some sticky notes and labeled them for the time being which worked out well.  Once you have them all soldered and tested, it is time to put some hot glue over the connection points.  Hot glue does not conduct a signal and it keeps your connections secure.  Failing to do so will result in you pulling a connection free at some point in time, so it is better the handle it now than later.
 
Part 5: Wire your buttons
 Now, this will be the same whether you are using a different set of wires which you will connect to the corresponding wires that run from the PCB board or you will be running the wires directly from the board to your buttons. Connecting the buttons is actually rather simple. The Happ’s brand controllers use a series of what are called “Cherry Switches”.  These are simple, little relays that will be the functioning part of your buttons that actually make the connection to signal the actions.  Each button has its own Cherry Switch and the joystick uses four, one for each direction.
 
Each Cherry Switch has three connection points, one on the bottom which is the Common Terminal, also known as your ground, and two coming out of the side which are labeled as NC (normally closed) and NO (normally open). They should be labeled though it may be hard to see and / or read; the connection closest to the ground is the NO terminal.  For our purposes, we will only be using the Common (ground) and NO terminals. 
 
As I stated earlier, it does not matter which wire goes where, just as long as you are using the same two wires for a particular button. If not, you will drive yourself nuts troubleshooting the issue and retracing your wires. This is another reason that I went with the two wires which I would connect together in the end route; it made it easier to ensure that I was using the correct connections. Once the Cherry Switches are connected to the PCB board, you can test them before you seat them into the button casings.  As long as the testing worked following the soldering, this should be a no-brainer process.
 
Now, it is very important to note which Cherry Switch is which when you wire the joystick. Take a second and look at how the joystick actually works. When you press the joystick in the down direction, it actually triggers the Cherry Switch that is in the up position, and the same for left and right; pressing left triggers the right one and vice versa.  I found it beneficial to take a small Sharpie and label the joystick Cherry Switches accordingly.  I pressed Left on the actually joystick and then wrote an L on the Cherry Switch that it triggered… and then did the same with each direction. Once I did that, it was as simple as connecting the wires from d-pad LEFT to the Cherry Switch labeled accordingly.
 
 
Part 6: Secure your case
 Hopefully, assuming that everything went smoothly for you, that should really be all that you have to do. Once you have everything connects and shored up, simply secure everything in position in your case, plug it in, and have a ball.
 
 
Part 7: Enjoy
There you go, your own arcade joystick that now function on your home console.  Please feel free to contact me with questions.  I will be more than happy to help and or point you in the direction of resources to help you create your own stick.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





Page 3 of 3