The goal of this project is to make an affordable high quality arcade stick (or fightstick) in the easiest way possible. I recently discovered Retropie and got excited about playing some classic arcade games. I really wanted to play games like Street Fighter, Samurai Showdown and King of Fighters, so I decided to make a fightstick.
There are lots of resources on DIY fightsticks and most of them involve lots of wood working skills, equipment and time. Instead of building a wooden fightstick case from scratch, it would be faster and easier to use a pre-built storage case purchased online or just laying around your house.
Parts and Materials
Here are the materials you’ll need:
Joystick and Buttons
For joystick and buttons I went with high quality Sanwa and Seimitsu joystick and buttons. Tested has a great article on selecting joystick and buttons.
I chose screw type buttons, since they don’t require precision drilled holes and can be installed on thicker panels. You will need two 24 mm buttons for menu actions such as Start and Select. If you use Mode, Turbo, Auto and Clear, obtain six 24 mm menu buttons instead.
At the heart of the fightstick is the USB encoder that takes signals from the joystick and buttons and acts as an USB controller. Make sure you purchase one that has the right cabling for your joystick and buttons. For Sanwa, purchase an encoder that has a 5 pin cable.
Instead of spending lots of time building a case from scratch, purchase an wooden storage box online. This makes the fightstick build much faster and easier. Just make sure you pick a box big enough to rest your wrists and install the joystick and buttons. My recommended size would be 12″ width x 8.5″ length x 3″ height. A common problem with these boxes is that the top/bottom panel (bottom will be the control panel) are usually too thin. So we will glue the reinforcement board to strengthen the control panel, decrease the joystick height from 33 mm to a standard 23-24 mm and provide enough thickness to drill and tap joystick mount holes. Since my box’s thickness is 4mm I got a wood board that is 5mm thick.
We will flip the box over and use the bottom as the control panel for the fightstick. This allows us to install the components all in one half of the box so wires do not have to cross between the two halves.
Tips for drilling
– Mark hole centers with center punch or nail.
– Drill a small diameter pilot hole to guide the larger drills.
– Use a two block jig to help you drill a perpendicular hole.
– Try clamping a backing board to the inside of the box to help prevent blowout.
– Practice drilling holes on a scrap piece of wood before you start.
Step 1: Glue Reinforcement Board
Glue the wooden reinforcement board to the inside of the control panel side of the box. Allow for 24 hours to dry.
Step 2: Layout Controls
Tape layout print out to the control panel. Make sure you:
1. Have enough room to rest your wrists.
2. Have clearance for the joystick mount on the inside of the box.
3. Have enough clearance to drill the joystick mounting holes. Test using your drill and drill bit.
4. Have clearance for the 30 mm botton collars on the inside of the box.
Step 3: Mark Menu Buttons and USB Feedthrough
Mark location for menu buttons and USB Feedthrough.
1. Have clearance to use the drill and forstner drill bit at the back side of each 24mm button holes (inside the box).
Step 4: Drill Top Panel
– Mark center of each hole with nail
– Remove layout printout
– Drill pilot holes
– Drill 24mm hole for the joystick.
– Drill 30mm hole for each of the control buttons.
Step 5: Drill USB Feedthrough Holes
Drill holes for USB feedthrough.
– Drill 24 mm hole at the center.
– Place USB feedthrough into hole and mark location of mounting holes.
– Drill mounting holes
Step 6: Drill 24mm Menu Button Holes
– Drill pilot holes
– Use forstner bit from the inside of the box to decrease the thickness of the side panel to a thickness that your buttons can support.
– Drill 24 mm holes from the outside of the side panel.
We use the forstner drill first so that there it can use the pilot hole as a guide. Drilling the 24mm hole first, will completely remove the pilot hole.
Step 7: Drill Mounting Holes
– Drill mount holes for joystick.
– Tap threads for joystick mounts
– Drill mount holes for USB encoder
– Tap threads for USB encoder
Before drilling the mounting holes, place the joystick and USB encoder at their desired locations and mark the hole locations first. Also remember not to drill to deep or you will break the top panel. You can help control your drill depth by applying a piece of tape on your drill to help you know when to stop.
Step 8: Install Components
– Mount joystick with M4 screws and washers.
– Mount USB Encoder board.
– Mount USB feedthrough.
– Install in 30 mm buttons.
– Install 24 mm buttons.
Step 9: Wire USB Encoder
– Connect joystick cable.
– Connect button cables.
The joystick cable should connect VDD terminal on the USB Encoder to the first pin on the Sanwa joystick. Polarity for the button wires does not matter. Just hook up the buttons in a consistent order to make trouble shooting and configuration easier.
Congratulations! Now you are ready to test your controller and FIGHT!