If the process of making the stick is TLDR for you, you can just skip to the end for the finished product.
Over the last 5 months I have been playing quite alot of SFIV and having never played on an arcade stick before I thought it would be fun to get one to play with. At first I considered buying one from the store but after hearing about problems with the basic madcatz stick and the price of the TE stick in the UK (£150!!) I was put of getting a stick altogether, about a month later whilst browsing the internet I came across a gallery of some of the custom sticks that people have made and I was inspired to create something like that myself.
The only downside to this however was the cost, most of the custom sticks that are created cost upwards of £100 and I simply didn't want to spend that much on the project, so when planning I decided to try and cut as many corners as possible to save cost. Having limited experience with woodworking/electronics e.t.c. and no knowledge whatsoever of how to make a stick and what parts to get. I didn't really know what I was getting into...
Firstly I got the most essential parts, the stick and buttons, I spent the most on this part as the overall quality of the stick is of course dependant of the joystick/buttons themselves. After a bit of research I discovered there are 3 main manufacturers of arcade parts in the world:
Happ/IL : American company that produces more durable but less repsonsive sticks and buttons, the quality of sticks from them has declined in recent years.
Siemitsu : Japanese company that makes sticks and buttons in alot of colours and variations, comes standard in alot of japanese arcade games. Generally considered superior for shumps, but versatile enough to be used in fighters as well.
Sanwa : Another Japanese company, makes the most precise buttons, evenmore so than siemitsu, SFIV comes standard with sanwa buttons and joysticks, also found on the TE madcatz stick.
In the end I decided to go for the Siemitsu ls-32 stick and see-through siemitsu buttons, I am not a hardcore fighting game player at all (infact I pretty much suck at all fighting games except for DOA4) and decided that the nice looks and versatility of the siemitsu parts would be better for me than the authentic SFIV sanwa parts.
All the parts where ordered through akihibarashop.jp which ships worldwide for a reasonable cost.
Making the controller box
So now I ordered the parts it was time for the creating of the box, firstly I needed tools. After researchin I realised I didn't have enough to spend on expensive powertools I decided to go for the harder route and use primarily handtools except for a crappy 15 quid electric handheld drill I found in a cupboard in the garage.
I took the bus to wickes (a DIY superstore chain in the UK) and picked up a wickes brand mitre box, a cheapo tenon saw, some clamps, glue and some sandpaper. I also got some mdf, perspex and some wood. Luckily on the way to wickes I spotted some wood I could use for the project in a rubbish dump so I only had to buy minimal wood in the end.
After many (many) hours working at it, I managed to create the controller box. The process was literally as ghetto as it could get with me using any means necessary to get the box right. For instance, due to the lack of a chisel/router to create a cutout hole of a square in the mdf, I resorted to drills many holes in the shape of a square then hacking at it with knives, small files and a broken replacement saw bit until I had a hole that was the right size. I am still suprised everything worked out to the millimeter with the unorthodox methods I used.
After making sure it was all correct I painted the box, sanding between coats (7 coats of paints in total with 2 days drying time between them) and finally sanding alot with finer sandpaper for the final coat.
Probably the most infuriating part of the project as my soldering iron was probably the worst soldering iron ever (it cost less than £1) and I was using unsuitable wiring (from a broken pair of airplane headphones). I used a joytech neo se controller that I bought of a freind for cheap. The controller was a godsend as it was common ground meaning that I had to solder half the amount I would have if I was using basically any other controller on the UK market. This is one part I don't want to repeat again.
Putting it all together
Voila! it all fitted together nicely in the end, I used screws to hold he perspex and artwork in place so the artwork can be changed, the bottom is also clear perspex so I you can see the wiring underneath. The parts, wiring is also easily accesible with a screwdriver incase anything goes wrong in the future (hopefully not!).
siemitsu bubble ball top custom artwork shiny :)
Artwork was put together in Photoshop CS4.
In conclusion it was a fun and rewarding project done on the cheap (well as cheap as you can get creating a quality arcade stick). The stick works great on all fighting/shooting games on the 360 and also on mame on the PC, however it hasn't really increased my skill in fighting games, I still suck horribly :P