Yet another stick building journal

Started building my warestick this past weekend. This log might be of interest to those who don’t have access to a power saw. I have a cordless drill and an orbital sander for my power tools and had to work around the sawing as best I could.

To keep things simple, I’ll post updates to this first post.

Saturday: Did some mockup sketches and went to Home Depot. The Home Depot where I live has a “cutting dept” where they will do “basic” cuts.

My design was for the following:

4" x 9" side pieces (2)
7.75" x 13" top and bottom pieces (2)
4" x 13" rear panel (1)
3.75 x 13" front panel (1)

The home depot guy wouldn’t do these and I sort of anticipated that. Because of that, I kept my design basic and I bought my internal parts from lizardlick in advance so there would no surprises with the dimensions of the internal parts.

I also considered a backup plan of buying some sort of project box from a place like Michaels Arts and Crafts. Michaels had some good shadow boxes for 15 - 20 bucks that would probably work for a jap stick. They had a depth of 2.5". Might try one of those next time if I make a jap stick.

I looked over my design at Home Depot and then settled on three basic cuts. Even for that, the guy kind of looked at me funny. So I pulled the happ joystick out of my coat pocket and said, “It’s for a good cause. Street Fighter 4 is coming out.” After that, he was cool.

From a 2’ x 4’ 0.5" MDF board he cut me:

1 long 4" x 4’ strip
1 long 3.75" x 4’ strip
1 long 7.75" x 4’ strip

Then he sort of followed me around the store and kept asking if I needed anything. It was kind of funny.

Got all the parts back to the crib and it was around 8pm. Off to the homey’s for some HDRemix till 3AM.


Woke up around noon and it took another hour or so and coffee to get my ass in gear.

I live in an apartment without a good work area for noise and saws, so I took this stuff to my parents’ backyard (they live pretty close to me). The rest I figured I could do with my hacksaw. I used bricks and other heavy backyard stuff to brace the pieces.

I carefully measured my cuts and then hacked hacked hacked away. I’m glad I went with 0.5" MDF instead of 0.75"!

Likewise, printed out a template for the holes. I used a 1.25" hole saw because they didn’t have a 1.125". Actually, they did, but it required buying an additional drill attachment. It was either pay $21 for all that, or around $6 for the 1.25" I got. I decided to take my chances.

This turned out to be a mistake. Given the lack of stability with a hand drill, the 1.25 ended up making holes slightly larger. A 1.0" would have been better. Slotting one of the buttons revealed the holes were too big. Not a problem for the control panel because I planned to put plexi on top and could compensate there.

The rear panel for the menu buttons was a different story. There would be no plexi there so the holes had to be right. There was nothing to do but go back to home depot.

This time, I got a boring-type drill bit, which they had in 1.125". Not only was this the correct size but it cut about five times faster, was cheaper and was much cleaner overall. Live and learn, as they say. But that’s part of what these projects are about, right?

After 2 hours of some measuring, careful sawing, drilling (had to re-charge the drill after 5 holes), and sanding the edges to get them back on their lines and smooth things out, I had my basic parts.

That was enough for Sunday. So I cleaned up my parents backyard and brought all the pieces back to the crib. Then I had homey duties so we went for gigantic salads at Intermezzo in Berkeley (when you get older, you have to mix salads into your diet or you get fat) and some more HDRemix action. I was pretty beat from the work and playing like shit. Plus, I had to be up early the next day to go to the new aquarium in San Fran, so I called it a night.

Monday (Holiday - thanks Dr. Martin Luther King):

I got back from the aquarium, which was awesome but crowded. Next I had to start gluing the pieces all together. I didn’t have wood clamps so I had to use good old gravity. I used generous amounts of glue and used the other wood parts to apply pressure on my craft desk back at the apartment.

Here are the glue WIP pics:

The front panel wasn’t cut quite perfectly by the home depot guy and so wasn’t flush with the top control panel. So I had to do some sanding. That, and after gluing, things weren’t perfect, so I sanded those edges, too.

Back to work so now I can only work on the warestick in the evenings.

Next step is to fill any errant gaps and coat the cut edges with drywall compound. I got this idea from this guy, and I hope it’s right:

I slathered it on with my finger and pushed it into the cracks. Not a necessary step if you want a quick and dirty build, but this will hopefully mask the edges where the wood comes together and show no gaps come painting time. Drywall compound and MDF? I wonder about the durability, but…

**Wednesday:(Raining :arazz:) **

After an incredibly beautiful weekend in the bay area with temps in the mid-60s, we got a little rain today. That’s okay because my car is really dirty. So I had to limit my activities to sanding and vac’ing.

I used 150 grit on the drywall compound for the first “round” of sanding. Then I used 220 for the finish sanding to keep everything smooth. In addition to sanding the drywall comp with 150, I also sanded the square edges of the box to soften them. Nothing dramatic - just enough so you don’t feel like you’re getting stabbed when you touch an edge or corner.

Next step is priming and painting!! Before that, I need to cut a hole for the USB cable, make holes for the joystick bolts and make more holes for the plexi-to-control-panel.

The plexi holes will require a bit of thought. It may not be obvious from the pics, but my design has the top and front panel slightly recessed. Ideally, I can get a single piece of plexi which will run over the top and to the front in a nice, clean way. But if that’s possible, my screw holes would go two in the front panel and two in the top panel. Otherwise, if I go two pieces, it’s four in the top and four in the front. I suppose I could cut four in both pieces since once the plexi is in and art installed, the excess holes will be covered up anyway. However, I might also want to keep the plexi with no art underneath and then they would show.

Maybe a call to TAP plastics is in order to see if they can make the single panel for me. Also, I might want to use plexi (clear) screws for that for a nice look. And I don’t know the optios as far as sizes.

Thursday (still raining):

Still can’t prime or paint because of the rain.

Measured the location and drilled the holes for the joystick. Then I counter-sunk the screw holes for a nice clean fit below the plexi. I had the counter-sink drill bit from a previous project making picture frames. The bit is shown in the pictures.

Called up Tap plastics and they will make a plexi cover with a 90 degree bend for around $13. Not bad, and should look a lot nicer than two seperate pieces.

On a sidenote, tap plastics has a “throw aways” bin and you can buy plastics for around $2/pound. This might be a cheap plexi alternative for those with the tools to work it. Here’s a couple previous projects I did with those:


Went to TAP plastics and had them make my plexi cover. Also found a 1.5" spade pit and a brace at work. That got me thinking… I could countersink my system buttons like all the young people do these days. So I braced to a spare piece and got to work. That didn’t go so well. Got my countersinks but they’re off to varying degrees. I’ll say they give the case… uh… character…


Yikes, this project is getting downright EPIC! Sunday the weather finally eased for a few hours so I took my creation up the roof of my building and primed. As you can see, my sanding isn’t the greatest. I ended up re-sanding the whole thing. That helped, but it wasn’t perfect. Oh well. Have to accept some mistakes the first time around, and the limitations of using a crude hack saw.

I also took the plexi up there and measured and cut the holes with the spade bit. The plexi is 0.2 inches. I started the cut on one side, then flipped it over to complete the cut. That worked very well and I didn’t have any problems with cracks.

Lastly I took an old poster and did some basic artwork on the back (white, glossy side). It’s quite… different from the artwork you normally see on sticks. And I don’t know if the white paper is a good match. But I always do my own thing, so let it stand! Let it stand! Can always change the artwork later. Given my design, the next time I would probably design it to accomodate 11" x 17" artwork (with margins). Mine is a little too wide and long for that size paper.

The last pic I am testing the fit of the plexi to the primed case. The plexi holes aren’t perfect, but close enough.

**Monday: **: Since I knew it would be dark when I got home, I took the piece into our work warehouse and did the painting. Ugh. I’m not sure if I like the color now that it’s on the box. Might repaint it at some point, but for now, I want to complete the project. Endurance failing. Must complete project! Also, this project feels downright ostentatious given what’s going on in the economy. Just watched a Dateline (or was it 60 minutes) show of a bunch of people losing their jobs in Delaware.

Stopped off at the hardware store and picked up some quick disconnect crimps. With luck, I can move on to the wiring tomorrow.

Tuesday: Well, for better or worse, the painting is done. Looking at the initial finish, I headed back to home depot and picked up some 320 grit sand paper and some gloss clear coat. Unfortunately, my sanding still left some things to be desired and the final finish isn’t fantastic, just okay. Will save the pics for the finished product.

Could have started the wiring tonight but basically I had to make an appearance at my ceramics class or not take it this semester. I debated, since I really wanted to work on the stick, but then came to my senses. Here’s one of my ceramics creations, my nacho bowl:

I am the king of nachos. Might bring some to my bro’s superbowl party. Might bring the stick, too, if it’s ready, for some after superbowl entertainment.

Hmm… a control panel made of porcelin… hmm… now THAT is something no one has ever done. Would be tough, thoug, since clay shrinks during firing and tends to lose it’s flatness. Would take several test rounds. Plus, I can just imagine the reaction in my ceramics studio when I show up with my drill for the holes. LOL.

Packed it all up and brought everything back to the domicile.


Started on the wiring. Used some old CAT3, which is 24 AWG and solid core. I hope that’s okay. Looked up some reference builds on joystick vault and copied those. Also checked the info on and it mentioned the pluses and minuses of both types.

Slagcoin, btw, is without a doubt the greatest and most complete joystick building site, not only in the age of the internet, but ever. That guy should reformat his info into a book, I think. If you’re interested, I can talk to my aunt, who worked in the writing/publishing industry and maybe get you some info.

At a minimum, slagcoin person, I think some good use of title pages and meta tags would be in order. When you search for “how to build your own joystick” I can’t even find your site. I only found out about it by reading this forum. Other than that minor complaint, it’s an awesome, awesome site.

As always with a first wiring, it was slow going. By the end I was getting the feel. It wasn’t 100% foreign to me since I make CAT5e/CAT6 cables all the time, so I have a bit of familiarity with stripping and crimping.

Stripping the wires was a lot of trial and error at first but I eventually worked out a little system with the scissors that worked fairly consistently and didn’t rip apart or otherwise destroy the cable ends. Also, crimping the QDs wasn’t going well on the non-ground wires. Had to “blunt crimp” to get the wires to hold, as opposed to using the sized holes.

Forgot to install my system buttons in the back when I finished my ground route. So I did a second one for that. Luckily the Chthulu board has a couple grounds.

Then, since I’ve “picked up and set down” my parts so many times, I couldn’t find one of the button nuts or the joystick!! Finally found them, and of course, they were staring me right in the face on top of a book shelf.

Then I noticed an unfortunate thing. Lizardlick sent me a regular happ button by mistake. So I used that “odd” button as my middle system button so it looks the least out of the ordinary. Might switch it out later.

The unintended side effect, though, is being able to see the difference between the two. I would definately say go with COMPS. There is much less distance between the button actuator and the switch (a good half mm). Not an issue with system buttons, but definitely a performance distance on your playing buttons. Having never played on them, it should be a real treat! Could probably also use a variation of the jap joystick mod with the sticky notes to even further reduce the play on the happ comps. That’s for another day, though.

Saturday: The finished product:

Lessons learned so far:

  • Costs: Way more than I thought. I bought the internals from lizard lick for around $75, not including wiring stuff. I’m up to $130 so far on the rest. Looks to be about $150 when I’m done.

  • If you want to build your own stick, it’s a multi-day(week) event and takes quite a bit of work.

  • A power saw would have made a big difference and gives you a ton more options.

  • If you’re not the “patient, measuring” type, I don’t recommend this. I built a lot of models growing up, so that experience helped.

  • If you ever bought a good quality custom stick with good parts for less than $200, you got a great deal!

  • Planning and research are about 50% of the time, maybe more. I spent a good ten hours reading up on the chthulu board, buttons, etc., wood types, reference designs, looking at pre-built cases, designing my own case, etc. Part of the fun in building a stick is the process. You learn a lot and put in a great deal of effort. But there’s something about building something with your own two hands that is just really fun and satisfying. You take some things that are really basic and make them into something more. In the end, that is something no pre-built or bought-custom stick can offer.

  • Once you start building the stick and putting the time in, you get addicted to the project and it becomes a money pit! Although at first it seems you’re building a basic “box with holes and paint”, in reality, you’re building something that requires a fair amount of precision. That precision requires precision tools and they get costly fast.

good so far, im also builing my first stick right now? so far the only power tool i have is a jigsaw, so im gunna need to get a drill for my holes. good luck man

Good stuff, keep us posted!

Nice journal man!

I have used that drywall compound on MDF before and had to use a LOT of coats to cover the bigger gaps, because it gets thinner when dry… At least that happened to me. Also, I had some troubles when painting, but that was just with the primer, at the moment of the actual paint you can’t tell whats MDF and what has been patched.

Keep us updated!

Nice, keep it up!

never thought of using drywall mud for that, thats actually pretty kool, cant wait to see finished product

Thanks for the tip! I gooped it on pretty good, but I’ll throw on another coat tomorrow if it looks suspect.

I think I know what you’re referring to with the primer. I’ve done several painting projects (rooms, stairs, etc) and the Spackle often shows through the primer but not through the actual paint.

EDIT: just checked it and it needed another application! Damn sneaky goop. It dries pretty fast!

What’s better for the MDF edges, drywall or wood putty? Also what’s more cost efficient? Wood putty cost around $2 a jar (can be homemade too) but you’ll need multiples for many coats. What’s the cost of drywall compound?

One more question, are you going happs or Jap parts? The holes look a bit smaller, so I’m guessing happs.

I don’t know what’s better, sorry. This is my first stick. I went off the tips in the article I linked.

The drywall putty was about $3.75 for a quart, pre-mixed. They didn’t have anything smaller but they did have powder. Also, it was in the building materials section at Home Depot and not the painting section with the spakle.

In my particular application, my gaps were pretty small - I would say half a mm at most. I put two coats because it shrank into the gaps a little as it dried, but if I had to do it again and applied it a bit thicker, it would have taken one coat. It dries pretty fast. I would say about an hour or so. It’s pretty thick and applies easily with your finger. It doesn’t run all over.

As for the stick, yeah, I’m going Happ this time since that’s what I grew up on. Next time I’m pretty sure I’ll try out a jap stick though. Even if it turns out I don’t like it for fighting games I think I will like it for general MAME stuff.

I actually like using the hole saw instead of the spade bit. I guess the spade bit works better with MDF but it rips up wood something awful. I actually use Forstner bits most of the time now. They are the best imo when it comes to boring through wood. Good job on the build journal. Can’t wait to see the wiring portion.

“spade bit” so that’s what it’s called. Yeah, the spade bit cuts through the mdf very clean and easy. On my hole saw holes, I had some blow out, just a little. I could have avoided that by drilling the holes around 75% and then flipping it over and finishing in the opposite direction. But that’s the lesson learned this time around.

Home Depot had some hole saws that were clearly better quality, but you had to buy a sort of base attachment which the hole saw screws into. That alone cost $13.

Have you used either one on plexi? I’ve heard people use the hole saw with the drill direction reversed so instead of sawing the plexi, the friction melts it.

As for the wiring, I have to give it a little thought. I have a ton of CAT3 that I could use. But is solid core or stranded better? Obviously, I’m not going to cheap out at this stage of the game. Also, I have a bad rep when it comes to wiring stuff cleanly (as an IT guy, anyway). Maybe I’ll put some extra effort in this time. I kind of like the messy, complicated look. Makes girls go “wow, how do you keep track of all that”. You should see my computer. It’s a friggin mess.

In other news, my boss gave me a $25 gift certificate to amazon for christmas. I put that toward a Dremel 300. That should provide some fun. I’ve wanted a dremel for a long time.

Anyone have any thoughts on clear coats? I’ve been thinking about it but I’m $130 into this already. Thanks.

I’m curious about some of your avenues of research. I may or may not decide to undertake the same sort of thing if I decide I want that type of hobby. What type of wood are you using? I’d think a heavy wood would be optional to give the board a nice weight.

On a side note I didn’t know that custom sticks were so “reasonably” priced. I figured buttons and stuff would be fairly cheap and you could do a project like this for around $100 or less.

No - not cheap. Parts from Lizardlick were around $72 with shipping for happ parts. Tack on another $25 or so if you want jap parts. So figure that as a base cost. The pcb is $40 alone.

From there it all depends on what tools and raw materials you already have and what your expectations are for the final outcome in terms of fit and finish. If you have wire and quick disconnects, no need to buy those. If you have hole saws, no need to buy those, etc.

For example, my paint color is ivory and after all this work I figured I’d like a matching USB cord, so I ordered a 15’ in white. But that’s another $8 after shipping. But if I didn’t care, I could probably look hard and find a 6’ black in one of my boxes of crap in the closet. But not only would that look “off”, it would probably suck to play with because of its length. Maybe I have a usb extension cord somewhere, but now we’re talking extra ugly.

I would say if you just want a sturdy case and don’t care at all about how it looks you could do it for $100. Definitely. In fact, now that I’ve bought a few items I can re-use, I could do the whole project like that for around $85.

As for wood - using MDF. 0.5" on this project. I got a 2’ x 4’ piece at home depot. That’s enough for 2 cases, or one big case. Around $7.

I’ve used the hole saw with the rotation being clockwise and it works fine. You have to remove the plastic shavings (which easily come off) but other than that they work fine. I bought a hole saw kit at harbor freight tools for about $3 on special they work great. I like using the forstner bits for the wood now though the hole saws work fine.

I use solid core though stranded is easier to solder. Solid core is hypothetically supposed to give you a better transfer rate but it shouldn’t matter for this application.

So what do you plan on dremeling? I think one of the best investments I made was an orbital sander. You can make some nice rounded edges with one.

Not sure yet with the dremel, but there are so many cool attachments. They have a little saw attachment that cuts up to .25 inches. A mini .25 inch saw might be the perfect little wood saw for an apartment guy like me. I also want it for some ceramics applications.

Depending on how well it works that might allow for some really creative case designs or other projects. It might work for edge details, sanding button counter-sink holes, creating tactile/3D designs in the wood, or creating channels (something I don’t see much on joystick cases).

I have an orbital sander that I bought when I painted my parents stairs a couple years ago and I agree completely - totally worth it, though, I only did modest sanding this time around to clean up my hacksaw work.

That’s a great looking attachment. I think you should look into getting a table saw. You can probably pick one up at a pawn shop on the cheap. If you plan on building more arcade sticks a table saw and some forstner bits can be invaluable.

I’d really like to get a table saw. And lots of other stuff. But since I live in an apartment I just don’t have room.

Overall, that’s been a MAJOR handicap in this project. I did some stuff at my parents’ place, but doing work in the apartment, I can’t paint, the drill makes too much noise, etc.

So I would go up the roof, but the weather has been crappy the last few days. I did priming on sunday, but then it got too windy to paint. I ended up taking it to work and painting it in our warehouse during my lunch hour.

Updated the first post with latest pics.

Does anyone have any advice on buffing the paint? Also, waxing? I have a can of Meguir’s car wax (carnuba). Is it okay to use?

I searched the forums but couldn’t find anything. I’d like to buff it nice and smooth and then put a coat of wax on for a nice finish.

Save the wax for your dining table. lol. As far as the paint goes if you want your box white and glossy you should get some 220 or higher grit paper and some polyurethane.

lightly sand the white paint and then give it a coat of polyurethane, lightly sand that and give it another coat and so forth until it comes out nice and smooth. It will take a few days to do this unless you bake it. I like to bake the poly coat at 180 degrees Farenheit. It keeps you from having to wait too long before you can work on it again.