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The Beginners Guide to Making a Top Tier Arcade Stick: Solderfree Edition

Posted by controlcommerce, 18 December 2008 · 3899 views

Posted Image
This is not a stick made by me. This is a stick made by a person who has the same wood crafting and soldering skills as you, yes you.

Hello Everyone, I wanted to make this guide after my realization of just how easy making an arcade stick has become. I'm not taking about the mediocre Hori sticks you see at Gamestop, but Japanese arcade cabinet quality. And by easy, I mean no soldering or woodwork. It's basically a matter of ordering parts and plugging them in. This is by no means a cheap project. You get what you pay for. This guide is for hardcore fighting gamers or Mamers who always wanted to make a custom stick but where too intimidated by the woodwork, controller hacking, soldering and other skills needed.

To sum things up, I'll tell you where to buy parts premade. I know it's a cutting corners in the biggest way. But you will still need the time, dedication and patients to complete this project. In the end, you'll throw enough of yourself into it that you'll feel like you've completed something special. I've seen a lot of sticks made this way, by first time builders, that look better than mine that I've build from scratch. I too will follow this guide for making my main stick in the near future. It's just too easy and results look too good.

Let's start with crafting a wood box. I'm throwing this part out the window. This is simply the most important part to a stick and the main reason why people are intimidated away from making customs. The amount of work, time, money and dedication that goes into this part is great. Don't get me wrong, I loved doing this and other craftsmen out there do too. But this guide isn't for them.

I throw this part out because of an amazing new company that started last month, Norris Arcade Sticks (http://www.norrisarcadesticks.com/). I was a bit skeptical of this place a few weeks ago. Mainly because I am "build from scratch" person. But after reading their story, customer reviews, customer service, and looking at pics of their product, I've come to the conclusion that this is the biggest bargain out there. This isn't some random guy selling empty boxes out of a forum. This is a professional company, selling boxes with the highest standers of quality. Here are some pics:



Quite frankly, I'm a little jealous. Their boxes are better than anything I could ever make (at the moment ;)). For the price, you get a lot. A gorgeous highly detailed Japanese style box ready to go, plexiglass on the top and bottom (so people can look at the great wiring job your about to do), rubber stoppers, screws already set in. They also give a kit with sand paper, screws for setting the joystick, a protective mask and a how-to on painting. They've sent 5 months on the box design and planning out their company and it shows. What you're paying for is truly a bargain.
(Update: Norris boxes are always sold out at this time. They are very popular. But do they inform everyone when they restock. Join their mailing list and read notices on their front page receive restock dates.)

Now once they get some boxes in stock and you've bought one, the next step is painting. This part is cheap and super fun. Their is a how-to guides on Norris' site, please follow it. All you need to buy is the right color primer (depends on paint color), you choice in paint color (get creative), clear protective top coating spray and wax. Each can is about $5. Hell, Norris even sells prepainted boxes if you really want to cut corners and skip this step. Theirs a lot of trial and error with painting, just follow the step-by-step (http://www.norrisarc...tegory_s/25.htm and http://forums.shoryu...hlight=painting) and ask a lot of questions.

The next step is the guts. By that I mean the buttons, joystick and PCB. Lets start with the PCB; which normally a stick builder would pick an easy to work controller (like a Madcatz PS3 or X360) crack it open, then solder wires to the board then to the corresponding buttons. But this is the mega easy guide, remember? So lets throw that out the window and talk about the Cthulhu board and why it's important. This PCB is made Toodles from the shoryuken.com forums and it's a quality way to make a PS3/PC stick solderlessly. Here is a few pics of the board:



Cthulhu can be bought with it's parts (kit, USB jack, screw-down terminal) already installed at http://www.lizardlickamusements.com/ for $40. Thus making this a totally solder-free project. If you want to save a few bucks you can buy it uninstalled, break out the soldering gun and follow the tutorial. It's easy enough, but I would just pay the extra money. Lizardlick.com is where you'll be buying your top tier buttons and joystick. You want to pick up a Sanwa joystick and either Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons. The choice between buttons are your opinion on which looks the coolest. Just pick up six 30mm and three 24mm buttons. Also don't forget to buy solderless quick connects (.10 each from the site) and a crimping tool, wire and wire strippers from a hardware store if you don't already have them.

A quick note, right now the Cthulhu board is only PS3/PC. But Tooldes has in the works a dual PS3/X360. I'm very excited and this PCB inside a Norris box will be my main stick once it's available.
(Update: I was mistaken about Tooldes making a PS3/X360 Cthulhu. He is instead working on a multi-console PCB that will support PSX, Xbox, GC, PS3 and PC. Sorry X360 users. I promise to make another blog teaching how to solder a Madcatz PCB. It's easy a pie.)

Now after you receive the parts, it's a matter of putting it together. This is a cake walk. Just use your crimping tool to connect the quick connects to the wire. Put them into the right places on the PCB and buttons (the first Cthulhu picture I have up is a guide showing what wire should go to which button). Now make or ask a nice person to make some custom artwork. This is going to be the most creative part of your stick. Most art is naked anime chicks, lol. Nothing wrong with that but switching it up once and a while is good too. Printing the art on a home printer with quality paper is just fine. But if your printer is no good, travel to a print shop. If you have more questions about this subject, Norris' site has a nice Q&A on making, printing and installing custom art work.

And there you have it. With little needed knowledge you can make yourself a fantastic looking and preforming arcade stick. Make one for Mame or the upcoming Street Fighter 4 or Tekken 6. If you feel I was too brief with one of the subjects, please tell me and I'll update. I leave you with a few pictures of finished sticks from other builders using this exact method:






Posted Image
This is not a stick made by me. This is a stick made by a person who has the same wood crafting and soldering skills as you, yes you.

Hello Everyone, I wanted to make this guide after my realization of just how easy making an arcade stick has become. I'm not taking about the mediocre Hori sticks you see at Gamestop, but Japanese arcade cabinet quality. And by easy, I mean no soldering or woodwork. It's basically a matter of ordering parts and plugging them in. This is by no means a cheap project. You get what you pay for. This guide is for hardcore fighting gamers or Mamers who always wanted to make a custom stick but where too intimidated by the woodwork, controller hacking, soldering and other skills needed.

To sum things up, I'll tell you where to buy parts premade. I know it's a cutting corners in the biggest way. But you will still need the time, dedication and patients to complete this project. In the end, you'll throw enough of yourself into it that you'll feel like you've completed something special. I've seen a lot of sticks made this way, by first time builders, that look better than mine that I've build from scratch. I too will follow this guide for making my main stick in the near future. It's just too easy and results look too good.

Let's start with crafting a wood box. I'm throwing this part out the window. This is simply the most important part to a stick and the main reason why people are intimidated away from making customs. The amount of work, time, money and dedication that goes into this part is great. Don't get me wrong, I loved doing this and other craftsmen out there do too. But this guide isn't for them.

I throw this part out because of an amazing new company that started last month, Norris Arcade Sticks (http://www.norrisarcadesticks.com/). I was a bit skeptical of this place a few weeks ago. Mainly because I am "build from scratch" person. But after reading their story, customer reviews, customer service, and looking at pics of their product, I've come to the conclusion that this is the biggest bargain out there. This isn't some random guy selling empty boxes out of a forum. This is a professional company, selling boxes with the highest standers of quality. Here are some pics:



Quite frankly, I'm a little jealous. Their boxes are better than anything I could ever make (at the moment ;)). For the price, you get a lot. A gorgeous highly detailed Japanese style box ready to go, plexiglass on the top and bottom (so people can look at the great wiring job your about to do), rubber stoppers, screws already set in. They also give a kit with sand paper, screws for setting the joystick, a protective mask and a how-to on painting. They've sent 5 months on the box design and planning out their company and it shows. What you're paying for is truly a bargain.
(Update: Norris boxes are always sold out at this time. They are very popular. But do they inform everyone when they restock. Join their mailing list and read notices on their front page receive restock dates.)

Now once they get some boxes in stock and you've bought one, the next step is painting. This part is cheap and super fun. Their is a how-to guides on Norris' site, please follow it. All you need to buy is the right color primer (depends on paint color), you choice in paint color (get creative), clear protective top coating spray and wax. Each can is about $5. Hell, Norris even sells prepainted boxes if you really want to cut corners and skip this step. Theirs a lot of trial and error with painting, just follow the step-by-step (http://www.norrisarc...tegory_s/25.htm and http://forums.shoryu...hlight=painting) and ask a lot of questions.

The next step is the guts. By that I mean the buttons, joystick and PCB. Lets start with the PCB; which normally a stick builder would pick an easy to work controller (like a Madcatz PS3 or X360) crack it open, then solder wires to the board then to the corresponding buttons. But this is the mega easy guide, remember? So lets throw that out the window and talk about the Cthulhu board and why it's important. This PCB is made Toodles from the shoryuken.com forums and it's a quality way to make a PS3/PC stick solderlessly. Here is a few pics of the board:



Cthulhu can be bought with it's parts (kit, USB jack, screw-down terminal) already installed at http://www.lizardlickamusements.com/ for $40. Thus making this a totally solder-free project. If you want to save a few bucks you can buy it uninstalled, break out the soldering gun and follow the tutorial. It's easy enough, but I would just pay the extra money. Lizardlick.com is where you'll be buying your top tier buttons and joystick. You want to pick up a Sanwa joystick and either Sanwa or Seimitsu buttons. The choice between buttons are your opinion on which looks the coolest. Just pick up six 30mm and three 24mm buttons. Also don't forget to buy solderless quick connects (.10 each from the site) and a crimping tool, wire and wire strippers from a hardware store if you don't already have them.

A quick note, right now the Cthulhu board is only PS3/PC. But Tooldes has in the works a dual PS3/X360. I'm very excited and this PCB inside a Norris box will be my main stick once it's available.
(Update: I was mistaken about Tooldes making a PS3/X360 Cthulhu. He is instead working on a multi-console PCB that will support PSX, Xbox, GC, PS3 and PC. Sorry X360 users. I promise to make another blog teaching how to solder a Madcatz PCB. It's easy a pie.)

Now after you receive the parts, it's a matter of putting it together. This is a cake walk. Just use your crimping tool to connect the quick connects to the wire. Put them into the right places on the PCB and buttons (the first Cthulhu picture I have up is a guide showing what wire should go to which button). Now make or ask a nice person to make some custom artwork. This is going to be the most creative part of your stick. Most art is naked anime chicks, lol. Nothing wrong with that but switching it up once and a while is good too. Printing the art on a home printer with quality paper is just fine. But if your printer is no good, travel to a print shop. If you have more questions about this subject, Norris' site has a nice Q&A on making, printing and installing custom art work.

And there you have it. With little needed knowledge you can make yourself a fantastic looking and preforming arcade stick. Make one for Mame or the upcoming Street Fighter 4 or Tekken 6. If you feel I was too brief with one of the subjects, please tell me and I'll update. I leave you with a few pictures of finished sticks from other builders using this exact method:

Bookmarked for when I get my cthulu. : )
Hell, I was about to buy one of those tourney SF4 sticks when they came out. Looks like I could build one much cheaper myself doing this.

Shame the cthulu doesn't work with 360 yet though. Hopefully they'll get it figured out before the release of Street Fighter 4 lol

Excellent guide by the way, bookmarked for a little later :)
making a stick is hella hard... when the ENVIRONMENT decides to funk you up!!

it's dark when I get home, it's raining on the weekends, and whenever I get the opportunity I discover my tools are wrong and need new ones

:cry:

by the time I'm done with my stick, Street Fighter 4 part 2 will be announced O_o
Dude, what a top notch blog post. My favourite design is the very top one.
Also, what size would you need the artwork to be?
Would do a Chun-Li stick if I were to do this :D
Thanks for the words guys.

On the size of the artwork, here's a quote from Norris' site:

"For the best results, we recommend having your art printed professionally at your local printer or office supply store. Ask them to laser print the art on non-glossy/matte 11x17 paper. This should cost less than $3. Tell them you want the image to be approximately 8x11 on the 11x17 paper. Measure the acrylic top to make sure 8x11 is just a little bigger than the acrylic so you can trim the art to fit."
I haven't read this yet, but I will in a bit. I wanna learn and I see this is a good way to start.
Great post, very interesting; tempting for a destroy-it yourselfer.
I really thought about doing this. I always played fighters with a PlayStation controller and sucked at the arcades. It would be nice to use a new controller for a change.
Thanks again for this guide controlcommerce!
I have RelentlessRolento working on some art for my stick now lol
Can't wait till they get the boxes back in stock
Hopefully they'll get cthulu for 360 soon, though I'll just go with a 360 madcatz controller if they don't have one after I order my box :(

Also, which parts are better, Sanwa or Seimitisu?
I've heard good things about Sanwa parts :)
Nice job, see you on the front page!
Congrats on making it to the front page controlcommerce :D
The Blanka and Chun-Li sticks are fucking hot! I want a Blanka stick!
Oh great - I'm not even a serious fighter nut yet the ease of building one is tempting me at the prospects of building one. The Cthulhu board is a God send for those of whom don't want to mess with soldering.

Thanks for the guide!
It's top TIER not TEIR. Fix it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It looks interesting, maybe later will try it myself, excellent blog!
I'm going to try this. I bought the 360 DOA stick and broke it in about a month. This should help plus I'll be able to place my own desing/artwork. It'll be nice to personalize it. Thanks for the guide.
Title is fixed, lol. Proof read 3 times and things still get through.

Thanks for the front page, Cheapy! I'm officially baller for a day. A Few more notes, Norris is hot shit and people know it. Since they've open (last month) the "basic" boxes have been in stock only twice. So you have to keep any eye out. Join their mailing list or talk to the owner directly in their SRK post. It is the holiday time, I hope their stock pops up in January.

@GunCrazy- Sanwa and Seimitisu are equal in my eyes. Most people prefer a Sanwa joystick and Seimitisu buttons. I'll always get Seimitisu buttons because their are more color options.

Also important issue I forgot. If you do this project, you also need to buy a "SS" mounting plate for the joystick. You need it to fit into the Norris box. I'll update the blog later.

Edit: I take back what I said about the mounting plate. If you buy a Sanwa joystick, the flat plate it comes with will work just fine for the box. But if you buy a Seimitisu stick, you do need a "SS" mounting plate.
Good stuff man. I was considering doing something along these lines, but I already have a SFIV stick on preorder. So maybe later in the year!