Low budget, Minimum tools


So I’m thinking of trying to do something silly and build a custom stick for minimum cost with minimum tools.

The outline:

Cost -

I don’t want to spend much beyond what the initial parts are going to cost. A pad to hack (360), buttons (8, excluding start/select), a stick (likely seimitsu or sanwa) and a box to mount it all in (possibly something like http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aromatic-Cedar-Wood-Trinket-box/dp/B001EOS4FY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen&qid=1250291716&sr=8-1 ). I could probably spare some money for some flat (paddle) drill bits if I find I don’t/can’t borrow them.

Tools -

Amusing thing is I’m actually unsure of what tools I have access to. I know I have access to a drill, screwdrivers and soldering irons at the very least. I might be able to get access to other tools especially if I ask my neighbour for a favour (he builds huge model boats). What I’d really like is access to a CNC wood router as that would make this real easy.

I’m probably setting out for the impossible but I figure it’s worth putting this out so I can figure out what my options are. For reference I’m UK based.


Abs min? Hand saw, hand drill.


I’d add a dremel to Canto’s list if you are modding an existing stick.

You can get forstner bits at woodcraft.com


If you’re doing only wood, spade bits can sub for forstner and if you’re using a hand saw I’d suggest a (Japanese) pull saw rather than a push saw – I find them easier to control for making straight cuts.

Wood files are also useful if you can’t find a 30mm bit.

And then you need whatever you need to finish the wood. Paint is probably cheapest.


Is plexiglass difficult to work with a drill/handsaw? It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with it so I’m a little foggy on the tools I used with it. I can get a small sheet quite cheaply though and wouldn’t mind using it to put some art underneath.

Also how difficult is the joystick slot to cut? The button holes look like they’d be straight forward drilling but the square joystick bracket looks trickier. Sorry if these questions are sort of n00bish, I’m just wondering if this is possible without having access to a ton of tools.

At any rate I’ll question my Dad about what tools we have stored away and see what I’ve got. I wish I’d thought of doing this while I was still in high school, the DT department has everything I could want for doing something like this.


I actually just finished building a custom using bare minimum tools. It really wasn’t that hard, just a little time consuming, which is to be expected. If you’re buying a finished box, you won’t even need the saw, just a drill to make holes and stuff.

For cutting plexiglass down to size, I highly recommend using a special plexiglass cutter. Most stores that sell plexiglass (or any kind of acryllic glass) will also sell cutters for it. I recommend Home Depot, I got a pretty big sheet (big enough for two sticks) for $3, and a cutter for another $3.

Cutting the joystick slot actually isn’t even necessary. If you use a very thin board for the top panel (2-3 mm) you can just mount the stick under the board and use screws to keep it in place.

For button holes, I highly recommend using hole saws. They work great on both wood and plexiglass, and they’re pretty cheap. They can vary a lot in price (can range anywhere from 2-20 dollars), but if you’re lucky you can probably get away with some really cheap ones. I got two hole saws at Ace Hardware for $3 each (Ace Hardware brand, carbon material). Due to the price, I was expecting them to break after a few minutes of use, but they actually worked extremely well. Lucky me. :wgrin:

Assuming you’re using Japanese parts, you’ll want 24mm and 30mm sizes. 24mm for the joystick shaft and start/select/back/home/guide buttons, and 30mm for the action buttons. If you can’t find the exact same sizes, just go with the closest size you can find. If you find that your holes are just a little too small, you can grind them to the right size with a grinding stone bit. I got one at Ace for $3 (seems like everything I buy is $3 :looney:)

Assuming you want to paint the stick, you’ll need some of that too. Chances are you already have some paint in your house, but just in case you need to buy some, go with spray paint. For the best looking finish, you’ll want a can of primer, a can of paint, and a can of clear coat. I recommend Rustoleum brand, very high quality and very cheap. Got all three at Home Depot for around $3 each :rofl:
If you want a REALLY nice finish you can also use a rubbing compound and wax, but it’s not necessary.

Here are two great guides for painting:

You’ll also want sandpaper, of course. Money shouldn’t really be an issue here. Assuming you don’t have any sandpaper in your house, you can buy sheets for less than a dollar. Don’t bother buying a sanding block, you can make one yourself by taping/gluing a sheet of sandpaper to a scrap piece of wood.

To sum things up, here’s a list of tools you’ll likely need:
Saw (hand saw works fine)
Drill & various bits (no need for a Dremel, your drill can handle everything just fine)
Wood glue
Screws and nuts
Hole saws (spade and forstner bits also work, but hole saws are recommended)
Grinding stone
Plexiglass cutter
Sanding block (homemade)
Soldering Iron
Desoldering braid (just in case you mess up)
Paint (and brush if you’re not using spray)
Clear coat

This is pretty much everything I remember using. As you can see, nothing really expensive or fancy (minus the drill I guess, but you already have that)

For everything you need to know about building sticks, slagcoin is your best friend.

Good luck! :wgrin:

edit: my bad, didn’t notice that you’re UK based. In that case, ignore everything I said about Home Depot :sweat:


make sure that the box you get is large enough, the example you posted looks tiny.

edit: that box is 20cm, you would be hard pressed to fit 8 30mm buttons and a stick on it.


For the box, you should probably head over to the trading outlet. There are lots of good quality boxes for 20~25 USD which is cheaper than the box you posted there. I’m not sure how much shipping will be though. Of course this is only if you don’t plan to make the box yourself.


Yeah I know it’s too small for what I want, would probably work just about for a 6 button layout but not for 8. From what I’ve looked at I think I need something 9-10" wide, 5-6" high and 4-5" deep. I’m iffy on the depth though, not sure how much space the PCB, buttons and joystick need on the inside.


Just went to ROSS dept store and saw a box for $10 looks like a book but its a perfect size to house all of the components. All you would need is a drill, bits and the hole saws. I have though made my own case for about $3 (got lucky at the flee market found old Casino chip carrier with 1/4 thick plexi) Soon as my buttons and joystick get here from Akihabara I will post My HOW TO on making a cheap joystick housing for about 20 bucks