Making my rudder pedals
Ok the main idea is to have two pedals sliding back and forth and a pivoting bar between them that connects them.
First I bought four sliding bearings (don't know the name in english, the things you sometimes have in closets with sliding doors). Here's how they look like:
They are 33cm long (about 13")
Then I found a wooden board about 40x40cm (16"x16"). You should find your own size of it, it depends on how wide you'd like to keep your legs apart.
Afterwards I bought a couple of straight and 90 degrees bent metal plates and assembled a makeshift mockup of the full thing. It looked like this:
You can notice that it's just a setup, nothing's screwed together yet. I also have hinge in the middle.
That will be the general layout. Two sliding pedals, a bar between, two springs on both sides to center it, a sliding potentiometer (here it's just a long piece of felt, below the bar, opposite to the springs)
I proceeded to create the pedals. They had to be tilted, not flat. The easiest way to do it was to use a hinge (btw, that also allows me to incorporate toe-breakes later). You can see that in the third picture below.
Other ways of tilting the pedal boards consist of bending some metal and I didn't have the tools to do that.
Making the pedal boards was quite easy, there was no drilling or cutting involved, the pieces fit and it only took a bunch of screws to hold them together.
After making one, I created the second, which was a mirror of the first.
Then I decided to mount the bar. It was U shaped, looked like this:
There would be a small pole sticking out of the pedals' base that would go inside the bar. You can see it here if you look closely:
some more pics
I attached two springs on both sides:
They were way to soft. I tried with having two on either side and it still wasn't enough. You really need a strong spring, I'll come back to this later.
Anwyay, it was time to attach the potentiometer - the most important part of any game controller. It was the device's axis.
Here it still just lies on the board.
About that time a few things happened. First, I ordered better springs.
I'm a drummer and I suddenly got the idea to use springs from a drum pedal. They're rather short, thick and hard. They were perfect.
Those are Gibraltar drum pedal springs, cost me 12 PLN (about 4 bucks) for a pair.
Second, I attached the potentiometer to the board by a pair of tin blades. I took that piece from the back of a PC case that hides unused PCI ports. You know, the one you brake off when you mount an extension card. I cut it in half to get two of them. There are three wires hanging loose, I had yet to solder them to some electronics.
And third, I put leather-like material on the pedals so they weren't just bare metal. I figured they could get quite cold during winter and I play in socks only.
here are the pics:
here's how the potentionmeter is connected with the bar:
sorry for the crappy pic. You can notice the potentiometer's "knob" is inside the U-shaped bar. It's similar to how the pedals are connected, only they use a much stronger pole:
It's a rod with a anti-torque washer, lot of nuts and another plastic washer on the top. It had to be reinforced that way because those little parts take the whole strength of the springs on themselves. A single nut had a tendency to unscrew itself after a while.
There are also movement limiters screwed down to the board already. Here's the travel demonstrated:
And the future toe-brake capability:
The whole thing under my desk:
Now about the electronics.
I've had an old gameport/usb joystick (with an adapter) and when I bought a new one, I took it apart. I've taken out the PCB. Now on the last picture you can see a throttle on the left of the monitor. This is also my little project. Inside of it there's the PCB from that old joy (Logic3 Phantom 2). The potentiometer (pot) of the throttle is wired to the pcb in place of the joystick's throttle and I wired my rudder to the joystick's X axis. If you look closely on the mentioned picture, you can see some wires coming out of the throttle (visible in front of the left speaker). Those are connected to the Y axis (with the origninal pot from the Phantom 2 lying around).
How to wire your device's potentiometer to "an axis of the game controller"? Simple - when you disassemble an old stick, look closely on the PCB inside and note what cables go where. This is how that Phantom looked like inside:
On the right side you see the green PCB. The blue circles show sliding potentiometers (most joysticks use rotary pots, this one's different). Don't mind the red circles. You can notice wires going from the pots to the PCB. Red, yellow and green from the X axis and blue, grey and white from the Y axis. Note where they are attached to the PCB, this will be the connections you have to repeat using your own pots.
A whole bunch of cables comes out from the handle. Those are the buttons and the hat. If you only want to build rudder pedals without buttons, you can just take scissors and cut that off altogether. The buttons will be detected by windows in the "not pushed" sate, nothing bad can happen.
If you wire the pot in a wrong way, also nothing bad will happen. It can either work the opposite way (inveted axis), not work at all or behave strange. I've been through all those possibilities :) There's almost no way you can damage the joy's electronics or your PC by screwing up the connections. Try to remember where the wires went. I've made myself a colored diagram so I wouldn't get lost (I've been wiring each button and the hat on the throttle, not only rudder pedals).
Windows recognizes the throttle and rudder as a single "USB Game Controller"
The original potentiometers from that joystick had a value of about 100kO (kilo Ohms) so I used pots of the same value in both my throttle and the rudder. They must have linear charactereistics (as opposed to logarythmic). If you want to make such a device by yourself, you must remember two things about pots you will buy - they should have the same (or similar) value to the original (measure the original ones) and have linear characteristic. It doesn't matter if they're rotating or sliding, the electronics don't see the difference.
Then there's a possibility to create your own USB device instead of disassembling an old joystick. Check here:
MJoy allows for 64 buttons, 8 axes, 16 switches, 4 encoders and one 8-way hat. You can create a complete hotas, even with trimming wheels or whatever your imagination calls for, with just one device :) It's not very difficult at all, you only need to know how to use the soldering iron, get the right parts (a list is on the site) and have a PCB made at your local electric shop.