Oh Joy-stick. Designing the button grip

On top of the slightly basic handle I’m putting a ‘button block’. I have no other word for it yet but it sounds like a nice working title. The concept is that during this 1st prototype I am designing stuff one step at a time. Like little LEGO bricks I stick’em together until I’ve worked out a better solution.

So here are the bits that I’ve got working and finished:

  • Throttle level mechanics
  • Yoke mechanics (X/Y)
  • Yoke spring centering mechanism
  • Mounting plate
  • Throttle centering latch
  • Wiring board A (inside the yoke)
  • Wiring board B (just a breakout board to connect all the wires to a detachable connector)

So today it’s down to the button mayhem. Even though I’ve written earlier about using motorcycle parts, i’m decided to drop that thought. After playing in SketchUp for like maybe 12 hours the solution struck me, and I may have come up with the most challenging SketchUp component of my entire life:

Flightstick YokeFlightstick Yoke Rear

On the pictures you see the SketchUp design of the mounting head and the front plate for a thumb joystick sourced from an XBox360 controller. I chose a mounting head that allows me to try/attach different front/back plates. This allows me to use the same design for left and right but with different button layouts (probably just mirrored). On the rear side there is room to put trigger buttons or other index/middle finger functionality. There’s plenty of room and it looks pretty nice.

printing the button head button head 1st print

Yes, I need to do more sanding.

Joystick update: left hand buttons

Project Joystick: China mail arrived. Next to the 3d-printed handle bar you see a thing with 8 buttons for the left hand controller. I could change the decals but they are pretty basic already. Horn, left turn, right turn, rotation lock, lights off, lights low, lights high, and some button with a spark on it. Since I don’t drive a bike I have no idea what they are supposed to do, but I absolutely don’t care.

The left/right button comes with some sort of locking thing where you have to tick ‘right’ to reset the ‘left’ thing. I imagine this works similar to the indicator stalk of a car, I may need to disable that annoying bit.

(Technically there are only 5 buttons, but it comes down to 8 on/off states, and that is how joysticks work).

IMG_1731 IMG_1737

The day progressed and I was able to tear the whole thing apart without losing and springs or tiny bearings.

I modified the switches and housing to my liking. By replacing a few springs and replacing all the wires with thinner gauge the entire weight has been more than halved. Also the switches operate much lighter to the touch. I also removed the locking mechanism of the left/right indicator which now behaves like a simple rocker switch with auto center.

IMG_1739 IMG_1741 IMG_1745

Together with the work done on the throttle assembly i’m now 90% done with the left hand. I need to find a way to attach the button block to the left grip and clean it up!

Good progress today!


Building my own joystick, update


Because I found my current HOTAS controller inadequate I decided to design and build my own custom HOTAS. I have access to a 3D-printer at home, soldering skills and Arduino programming skills so it should be an easy project. One week into the project, I have never found such an amazing and interesting project! I hope you enjoy reading about my progress.

Today I refactored all the sizes for mounting holes and connections. These are the current dimensions (for reference)

  • Mounting to panels, interconnections, etc: M3, ø3mm (1.5 radius)
  • Handle mount ø14mm
  • Centering disc inner diameter ø14.4mm (radius 7.2mm)
  • Gimbal rotating connections are M4 mounts are obviously ø4mm, but holes that should allow movement are ø4.2mm
  • The Potmeter side of the rotating connections are ø7.2mm for the fixed potmeter part (fixed with washer and screw), and ø6.2mm for the rotating shaft. Since the shaft is a very tight fit not further screws or fasteners are required.
  • The Mounting bracket hole has a slanted hole, top size is ø38mm, lower hole is ø36mm. I advise a mounting plate of 3mm thickness with a ø40mm cutout to allow maximum range.

Notice that all the TIGHT connection that are screwed in are exactly the size of the bolt (m3 = ø3mm), while all holes that allow movement need another 0.2mm room (added 0.1mm towards the radius).

The controller bits are to be mounted on the back side of a panel, instead of on top of some sort of housing. This makes it possible to mount the controls on a flat surface. In this first picture you see the gimbal design and the centering disc which is used to have the controller return to the neutral position. The stiffness of the joystick is done by tightening the horizontal bolts (not shown), while the calibration can be done by slightly rotating the potmeters.


This second photo shows the throttle assembly with a center latch that will be held back by a simple spring to give at least some sort of feedback towards the neutral position.


With this basis design done I am free to design the actual controls without having to rely on some commercial system. I am very excited. I’ll planning on assembling this tomorrow and get my first basic flight within the game! 


  • Firmware based on a Teensy, including auto-calibration on the extremes. This works about detecting the maximum deflection, and automatically calculate the minimum and maximum values of the potentiometers.
  • Gimbal and throttle mechanics design
  • Parts ordered for mounting plates and electronics

Loads to do:

  • print parts
  • assemble the mechanical items
  • design laser-cut 3mm mounting plates for left and righthand controller.
  • design and print thumb controls like weapon fire, up/down/left/right thrusters, etc. I got everything in my mind already.

Developing your own Joystick

Hi guys,

last couple of days I’ve been working on building my own HOTAS joystick and throttle setup. I haven’t got much to show but this is one super exciting project. Instead of being tied to all those super-expensive fighter yet Hotas’es around, i’m completely free to make up my own design.

I’m now working on the joystick gimbal mechanism. Here’s a little screenshot of the design:


The software was dead easy. I have a teensy 2.0 and that has a built-in ability to present itself as a HID joystick and mouse. Basically you need to upload a sketch and connect a few potentiometers and switches to the analog (and digital) inputs. So mucking about with resistors and such. This can also be done with the Arduino Leonardo and even the newer Pro Micro. These boards are based on the AtMega32U series that have their on-board USB capability, which is what makes this all so freaking easy.

More later!