My Street Fighter-Themed Custom XBox Joystick

I made a joystick in my free time over the last few weeks. Using one of the SFAC pads as the “hackee”. Full build details after the jump.

SFAC pads are from NubyTech…
(Or… )

They are nice to hack for a number of reasons. First being that they have copper pads that are positioned outside of the “strike zone” for the rubber button. No scraping, just drill a hole in the center of the exposed large copper trace, wire through the board, solder. Solid connection, no chance of breakage, etc. They even have an unused pre-drilled hole for one of the ground connections. (Buttons and d-pad use separate grounds.) They also feature digital-only controls. I’ve read a bunch of issues with using the Microsoft controllers, apparently they are sensitive to electrical noise (?). I figured I’d avoid the whole issue and use this one. OOOOH! And it was only $9.99 at EBGames/GameStop. I think they are on clearance, as I don’t see them on the EB website. Good deal, and made for a pleasant install.

And I have no need for analog controls, so that wasn’t a part of my install plans. Thing is, 98% of what I’m playing (and 100% of what I’m using this joystick for) are emulators. The analog functionality just wasn’t a big deal for me.

This is the fourth control panel I’ve built. Third that I’ve built “from scratch”. (I modified a Pelican RealArcade once upon a time.) I’ll post pictures of the others sometime. It came out OK, sorta dissatisfied with the edges of the MDF.

I’m already planning my next one, as I rushed a bit on this one because I was excited to play. Believe it or not, the XBox is a fairly new acquisition, was purchased specifically to run MAME, and has replaced my HTPC as my primary Mame box in the living room, so naturally it was important to have a stick for it!!

On to the pictures, and some more info for anyone who wants it.

First, here’s the completed project:
Click for full size.

First thing I did was create the template using some Visio templates I found on This worked great, as I could print them out over and over again as I made changes. This helped determine spacing, comfort, etc. The upshot is once the template was printed, it became the ACTUAL template to drill the holes, etc. The final design was 9″ x 16″, this is the key set of dimensions to start the project.

I’m a BIG fan of PacMan series games, so I *NEEDED* a Reunion Stick worked into the layout, so that explains the extra stick (and the need for a “custom” layout). I also wanted a nod towards the original NeoGeo control panel, but with 8 buttons. I settled on a curved 8 button layout, which I’ve seen referenced as a Japanese-Style layout elsewhere. The layout and spacing is my own, and was designed for my comfort. Your mileage may vary.

Click HERE for a PDF of the template, split on to 3 pages. It will print at exact size!

Once I had this template squared away, I decided to design my enclosure. Google’s SketchUp (FREE!) product was phenomenal for this. Using the dimensions acquired from my experimentation with Visio, I set up a 9″ x 16″ encolsure using SketchUp. Note, SketchUp has a Woodworking dimensions mode that makes this sort of thing MUCH EASIER. Look for that setting in the options, otherwise the dimensions it uses won’t really make much sense.

Here’s what I came up with:

The top was shown as ~6.7 degrees in SketchUp, I decided to cut my losses and make things easier by using 6.5 degrees. It made basically no difference in the build, just made the angles easier to set on my saw.

Here’s the initial photo edit to get the three scanned pages together. There was a minor piece that didn’t overlap right in the initial scans that I had, so I had to do some creative editing to get it all together. Again, this wasn’t some of my best photoshop-style work, as I was just trying to get it done.

Click HERE for full size (~400kb)

I used Microsoft publisher so I could see how it was all going to lay out on the printed page. I took a screen print of Visio, pasted and cropped it in Microsoft Publisher. I set the white background of the template as transparent. This allowed me to hover the template over the artwork at true size so I could see how the buttons and sticks were going to flow with the artwork. I know there are a million ways to do this stuff, this worked for me without much hassle. I was using the free GIMP product for the photo editing, and it starts to chug when the images are higher resolution, otherwise I could have done the full layout within GIMP. The up-shot was the Publisher allows you to print in “banner mode” with overlaps between pages, so that allowed me to print the final graphic/artwork on standard-sized sheets of paper (it was going to be under Lexan anyway) and then stitch it together. In hind-sight, I could have squeezed the artwork on to one 11″ x 17″ page (printed at Kinko’s or Staples), maybe next time.

I soon realized that the button layout conflicted badly with the artwork I had chosen. I wound up doing some more work on the image, and decided to mirror flip it, and correct the logo. This made the buttons lay out a bit better over top of the image.

Here’s the modified version:
Click HERE for full size (~400kb)

The artwork still isn’t perfect for the stick, but I like the graphic anyway. I’ll do it better on the next stick. Smiley

All-in-all, I think it came out good. I have a few complaints that I will address in the next build.

I sanded, coated all edges with a thin layer of wood filler, sanded again, then painted with 2 coats of primer, light sanding, then two coats of Dark Grey Rustoleum Hammered Finish. Unfortunately, the wood filler didn’t quite do the job, the edges still look rough.

I think I’m going to go with 45 degree angles on the main corners/edges of the next one, so they hide by default. No messing with fillers, etc.  I also would like to pick up a finer-toothed saw blade to make the cuts even smoother.
I also noticed that the plan I had for cutting the artwork created some rough edges on the paper. The next one I build will have the artwork “inlayed” into the top, similar to how Byrdo and the other pro’s do it.

The bottom is made of 1/4″ luan plywood, and is a total disaster. You can even see the unpainted edges. I’m going to redo the bottom very shortly for this one, and something I will improve in the next version.

I have just acquired a router, so look out world, my next one will be even better!

More Pictures (Click for Full Sizes):

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