Hey guys, David Here. Classic Joysticks is a hobby for me. I am a retro gamer and arcade collector. You won’t find me on Xbox Live, but you will find me hanging out in retro game forums and on Twitter as UberArcade. I have been collecting arcade games many years and keep between 30-40 machines.
I still play old game consoles on my trusty Sony Trinitron CRT, but I find some of those classic systems just have bad controllers. I have arcade parts everywhere so I figured I would try to make some top of the line joysticks for these classic game systems.
My Game Room
What goes into making a joystick?
A lot of people make custom joysticks these days so you will find all manner of designs, quality, and price.
Arcade parts can be cheap or very expensive. You can get a joystick for around $10 or you can pay close to $80 and every where in between. You have the same thing with pushbuttons. You can buy cheap ones for $2 or some nice leaf-switch ones for around $12. You can spend a lot or very little on the case you put the joystick in. You can use plastic, wood, metal, or some old Radica plug in play system that has been gutted.
I decided to use the best parts I could find which means they aren’t very cheap. I decided on the Sanwa JLF after trying out the majority of the joysticks you can buy new, and even then I had to modify the JLF to get it just right. The joystick is smooth, precise, and quiet. We also use real leaf-switch buttons. These buttons are expensive since they are mostly old arcade stock, but they really can’t be beat. We also use a heavy duty new aluminum case with black power coating. You can hit it with a hammer, stand on it, etc. I don’t know if you can drive your car over it but you get the idea. The 7800 ProSystem Joystick has over $100 in parts alone. I encourage you to look up the prices of the parts online (plus shipping) if you are interested in what all goes into making your own joysticks.
There is also a difference when it comes to how things are assembled. These are built by hand. The cases are drilled on a drill press. The wiring harness uses 22 gauge wire soldered to the 9 pin adapter and has crimp connectors on all the switches. The joystick bolts are counter sunk so you have a smooth surface. The overlays also have to be trimmed with an x-acto knife. Several hours of labor go into each one. So the price reflects all of that.
The price means these joysticks may not be for everybody. There is nothing wrong with making your own joystick or using cheaper parts. A $10 joystick mounted in a cigar box is probably still better than some of the stock controllers from back in the day.
So why make them?
Well first of all I wanted them for myself so I can enjoy playing some old Atari with good controls, but many people on the forums were looking for the same thing. So I decided to do some small batches of them. I have gotten really great feedback on the joysticks and I enjoy making them so here we are.