I'm not just a gamer, I'm a gaming enthusiast. I was born on the same year as Pong, I review games on Game Vortex and PlayStation Illustrated and I even created and taught an Intro to Video Game Development course at L.S.U. while I was an undergrad. So, as you can probably imagine, when the remote-controlled garage door openers in my new home stopped working and I discovered that there were screw terminals on the side of the door opener unit that could be shorted together to give the door the command to open or close, I immediately decided to put in a pair of arcade push-button (mash-button?) switches to control them. But which ones?
I looked at a variety of possible arcade buttons on Amazon, even looking for custom buttons I could have labeled with a garage door or something, until I stumbled upon what had to be the perfect pair of buttons: Player 1 and Player 2. That was as perfect as it gets. The only thing that could make it better is if my garage had a couple of sweet videogame-esque cars in it and I could get a picture of the control panel and both cars at the same time. Maybe a police car and an exotic sports car, a la Need for Speed? ...Because sometimes you feel like Player 1 and sometimes you feel like Player 2...
Once I had gotten the idea, I had no choice. This had to be a thing. Moving on...
Step 1: Note of Warning...
Be Careful with Electricity!
Arcade switches such as the ones I'm using in this project are NOT suitable for using as light switches. They are not designed to handle AC voltage. They are intended to be used with small voltage (up to 12v) DC systems. The current in my garage door is just that - a small signal voltage. This is not a setup where voltage for the motor goes through the switch; only a small voltage goes through this circuit and tells the garage door to begin operation. I only need to tap the button and it starts the motor, which continues until it's opened (or closed) the door. If the current for the motor was actually going through the circuit, I would have to hold the button down for the door to continue operating.
Furthermore, the arcade buttons are "momentary" buttons, which pop back when you let go, only completing the circuit when you are holding the button down. Switches that are intended to keep a circuit "turned on" (or closed) are either latching (toggle) buttons, which you press once to turn on and then again to turn off (think of clicking a ball point pen), or level toggle switches, such as standard light switches. Flip it one direction, it's turned on, flip it the other way and it turns off. Different purposes, different ways to operate.
The biggest reason not to try this with a standard light switch, however, is that running AC through the thin wire and switches being used here would be a shock hazard, as well as a fire hazard. If you don't know what you're doing, talk to a professional.
If you want an arcade-themed light switch for a room (actual AC power circuit), this Instructable isn't going to get you there. I would suggest checking out something like the Power Up Arcade Light Switch Plate made by ThinkGeek.
Step 2: Plan First
Research Your Particular Garage Opener Unit:
As I said, mine turned out to have two screw terminals mounted on the side that could be shorted together to give the signal to open or close the garage door. While this may (or may not) be on many garage openers, it was an absolutely integral element of this project. This feature is the cornerstone. If there wasn't a way to do this on the unit, itself, I would have had to replace the batteries and re-sync my remote door opener and then modify it and put it inside of the box, itself. I could have possibly ended up with similar results, but not the same thing - and I would have still been dependent on batteries for opening my garage door from inside my house, which was more than a minor annoyance to me.
Test the Concept:
After researching and discovering the ability to open the door in this manner, the next several times I opened the door were accomplished by shorting the two screws with a screwdriver. This proved to me that the method was a sound one and also made me familiar with the timing required. I found that the length of contact wasn't very crucial; anything longer than a very fast tap was enough to engage the unit and holding the connection for a while didn't have an adverse effect. This made me confident that simply using a pushbutton would provide the correct input to operate the door.
There were two primary considerations for placement. The first consideration was that it be put in a location that was easily accessible in my garage. Bear in mind that the contents of any garage can vary from month to month - mine, perhaps, more than average. At any given time, my garage bays may house moving boxes, aquarium equipment, towers of canned goods, tools and work surfaces for a project in progress, gardening tools or even... wait for it... a car or two. (Crazy, I know.) I needed a place that is accessible no matter what's going on in the garage.
I originally was thinking about mounting it on a glass (and wood) divider wall I had built between the two bays. However, I sort of sat on the idea for a few weeks and, by the time I started looking to install the switches, I could barely get to that wall because of things that had been stacked in front of it. It's good that I didn't install it too quickly.
After some consideration, I decided to mount it on the corner of that wall, where it meets the other glass and wood wall I had constructed. Specifically, it's right next to a door into a glass exercise room (that can still be used as a garage bay in a pinch). This doorway will be kept accessible, so the corner of the wall just to the right of the door seemed like the perfect place for the switch.
The other consideration for placement is the required length of wire and how difficult the install will be. If you're going for a very finished look, with a box in the wall and the switch plate flush with the finished wall surface, you'll want to fish the wire behind wallboard and work the wire through the ceiling to the garage door opener. This would take more work than I went to and, depending on your walls and cable routing options, could increase the cost of materials, between the wire, tools to run the wire and materials need to install the box and possibly patch any damage done.
Luckily, my garage is only roughed-in (not taped, floated, painted and such), so I wasn't overly worried with keeping a finished appearance. Also lucky for me, I had intended to go with sort of an "industrial" look, of sorts in the garage, anyway (and my wife gave me her blessings for that choice), so an exposed switch box mounted to the wooden wall was fine and managing my wires by using nail-in wire management hooks (like cable companies use) was okay, too.
There are several ways that the installation could be done. In my example, I'm doing a mostly surface mount install, with the wires tacked in place, but you could do a smooth, in-wall install, if you like. Or, you could go crazy and have a switch behind a painting... You could even do a Batman-esque tilt-head bust with a momentary switch hidden until the head is hinged back to expose it. I wanted to go with an arcade theme, but if you decide to try something similar, roll it around in your mind and see if you can find that perfect switch for what you have in mind.
Step 3: Material Selection
Selecting Your Buttons:
I realize that different people have different tastes in style. That's a good thing. So, if you're considering options other than the Player 1 and Player 2 buttons that I'm using, by all means, look around. There are larger buttons, smaller buttons, buttons that are square, rectangular, triangular... even a huge domed button (like you might find on a Crane game). For any button you consider, however, you'll want to double check your dimensions to make sure that it will fit inside the box. Also, if using multiple buttons, as I am here, make sure that they will fit next to each other. As an example, the rectangular buttons I've shown as an alternative here won't fit next to each other if turned horizontally (at least with the holes I drilled for this project).
Selecting a Project Box:
To build this project, you'll need a box to serve as a housing. That box needs to include a side that you can mount the switches on, as well as enough depth to allow the arcade buttons to fit with their switches mounted. I found that an electrical box more than served my purpose, was relatively inexpensive, and provided a mounting method that worked for my particular install.
If you go the electrical box route, as I did, be aware that there are different types of boxes, each with their own pros and cons. Some are plastic, some are metal, there are some that require a lot of room to be able to get the needed tools in place to mount them to a stud, and others that are designed to hold themselves in place using only the drywall, with minimal damage to the existing wall to remove the need to even touch up the paint on the wall.
I was installing to a wall that has exposed studs, so the box I found, which requires being able to hammer these two nails in, was fine for my purposes. It was also inexpensive. Yay.
Selecting the Switch Plate:
This is an important bit, here. The switch plate I have purchased for this project is not technically a switch plate. It is a blank electrical box cover. The screw holes that can be seen in the picture above are the same locations that would be used to secure the actual switches to the box. In this project, we are not mounting AC switches in this box, so we need a plate that can mount to the box using these mounting holes. The mounting holes that would be used for an actual switch plate mount the plate to the front of the switches, themselves. The placement would be all wrong.
I should share that these blank covers can be difficult to find. The cover I used, made of unbreakable plastic, was not overly difficult to pick up in a hardware store, but I also attempted to use a metal one. Finding that one was quite difficult. I found one in a Home Depot, but neither I nor the employee who helped me ever saw where it was supposed to be on the shelf. In short, these aren't popular parts, so there's not going to be a big display of them and you might have to search a bit.
Also, when selecting a switch plate, look at the back for any reinforcement ribs. If they are there, you don't want to damage them by drilling through them, as this will weaken the strength of the plate. The Decora-style plates feature large rectangular areas that fit the Decora switches. These rectangles have enough room to install these arcade buttons without damaging these ribs.
The Tools at Hand:
Before purchasing your materials, you'll want to think ahead to how you're going to install the box and drill your mounting holes for the arcade buttons. Unless you're farming out the work or you have a fully equipped shop at your disposal, you need to think about how you will drill through the switch plate. I was hoping to use the metal switch plate in the final install (and may, eventually upgrade to that), but I couldn't get my drill press to cut through the steel plate. I'm sure I needed different bits, needed to run my drill at a different speed, and needed to using a cutting oil, but that can be for leveling up later. I put the metal plate aside, for the time being, and foraged forth with the unbreakable plastic cover plate. The result? Easy to drill, easy to sand... and I like the look of the end result. When I get around to actually addressing the decor of my garage/workshop/lair and add some metal accents, I can upgrade this to match.
I keep mentioning "unbreakable plastic". I should shine some light on that. Unbreakable plastic switch plates are made of nylon, which gives them a lot of flexibility and, quite frankly, more forgiveness than typical plastic. In addition to surviving rougher handling than plastic and being less likely to chip if dropped, unbreakable plastic won't fracture and shatter if you drill it. Do that with normal plastic switch plates and you will reduce the structural integrity. It could break when you are cutting through it or just not last as long before it breaks when you're using it.
In short: Metal is hard to work with, normal plastic is too brittle. I suggest using "unbreakable plastic" faceplates.
Step 4: Prepare the Box
Run the Wires:
Test again with the wires at the full length to make sure it's going to work. The best time to realize that something won't work with your plan is before you've modified the wall and permanently altered any of the products you've purchased. If you get this far and realize that you can't do the project, you can turn around and return all of the products you've purchased and walk away without being out of pocket.
If you're able to open and close your garage doors by touching the wires to each other, then the switch should work when it's connected to them. Go ahead and run your wires and pull them into the box. Tape them in place or something to prevent them from backing out of the box; you won't want to have to fish them back through into the box once the box is in place - especially if you're installing into a finished wall.
Install the Box:
Making sure not to get the ends of the wires trapped, Mount the box so that it's sturdy. How you mount the box will depend heavily on the type of box you're using and the type of install you're doing. Mine was fairly straightforward. I had to cut away one wooden trim piece enough to fit the box in place, then hold it in place and nail in the two included framing nails that were already held in place by the box.
Finish the Wire Ends:
The microswitches that attach to the backs of the arcade buttons have little flanges that the wires need to connect to. Simply insert the wire into a blade connector and crimp it with pliers. Verify that it is held snugly in place. Do the same for the other connectors. Next, verify that they are connected to the wire by touching the two connectors from the same garage door opener together to open or close your garage door. If it works, your box is ready.
Now it's ready to mount to your arcade switch...
Step 5: Add Holes to the Switch Plate
Laser Cutter Short-Cut...
Add a Strip of Masking Tape:
We're going to need to mark on the surface to have an indication of where the center is, but we're not going to cut out the center, so we don't want to accidentally make a permanent mark on the switch plate. If we put a strip of masking tape across the center of the plate, we can make our marks on that, then simply remove the tape when we're done.
Geometry It Up:
Using either the corners of the plate or the screw holes, we want to sketch the line that connects the opposite corners, at least in the area around the center. On the tape, use a straight edge to mark a section of the line that would connect the top left corner with the bottom right corner. Then, rotate the straight edge and mark a section of the line that would connect the top right corner with the bottom left corner. The "X" where these two lines overlap is the center of the plate. If you can't easily get lined up with the corners of the switchplate, you can use the screw holes, instead. Again, use a line between the top left and the bottom right and a line between the top right and the bottom left. The angle of the lines will be different, but the point will still be the same place: dead center.
Centering Your Mounting Holes:
If you were installing a single button, you would already have your center point to mount it. However, we're mounting two holes. We know that this center point is the correct height for the buttons, but we want to mount the buttons so that they fall in line with the screws (vertically), like a normal lightswitch would.
Our switch hole centers need to be on the same vertical line as the center point, so we want to go ahead and draw that line. Simply use a right angle, with one side firmly against the side of the switch plate and a straight edge lined up with the center hole. Now, we can extend this center line across the area in between the screws, where we want to have our buttons.
Finally, all we have to do is draw a line between the top and bottom screw holes. The point where this line crosses the centerline is where we want to install our buttons.
Draw the Holes:
Now that we know where we want the holes, we need to draw circles to indicate the material that needs to be removed. My Player 1 and 2 buttons mount in 1 1/8" holes, which is a standard, but you'll want to make sure of the size hole you need before making your hole. If you cut the hole too small, no big deal; you can make it larger. If you make the hole too large, however, you will need to start over with a new switch plate.
If you have an appropriately-sized hole saw, you can use that, but I didn't have a 1 1/8" hole saw and they were cost prohibitive. A spade bit would work too, but 1 1/8" was larger than I had in my collection, so I used what I had available.
As far as I know, anything else you're going to cut a hole with (other than the methods mentioned above) will require that you first draw the circle you want to cut out, so you can use that circle to guide your cut.
So, if you have circle template, you could use that. You could also use a compass, with the center stuck into the center of the hole and the radius set to 9/16" (which is half of the 1 1/8" diameter). Personally, I just used a tape measure to mark several places 9/16" away from the center, then drew a circular curve to connect those points until I had my circle template.
Cut the Holes:
If you have a scroll saw available, that would probably work well. I have a jigsaw, but it wasn't in my shop when I was working on this, so that was out. That left me with either trying to use a utility knife or Xacto knife (which would probably have been possible with the unbreakable plastic, but would take a while and would probably have been a bit dangerous) or using my drill press. Using a handheld drill would not have been much different than using the drill press here; the material is thin, so the angle isn't overly crucial. You want to drill straight into the material, but "straight-ish" should do fine.
In order to remove a large circle of material with a smaller drill bit, drill a series of smaller holes just inside of the circle outline. Don't overlap the holes, but get them close to each other. If you overlap the holes, the drill bit can catch the switch plate and try to move it. If you have it clamped well, this probably won't be a problem, but if you hold it still with your hands (as I did and I don't advise it), it can get pulled out of your hands, which can be a bit scary.
Once you have a circle of smaller circles, use a knife to cut the thin pieces of plastic between the small circles. Then, you can remove the plug of material from the center. Now, most of your circle is gone, but you have points of plastic that need to be removed. You can now fit a tool into the center to remove these. You could use an Xacto knife or a file, but I used a Dremel tool with a sanding head to quickly sand away the points.
A Touch of Forgiveness...
As a note, arcade buttons have a lip that sits on top of the surface when they're mounted. This lip isn't overly wide, but it can hide a little bit of imperfection, in case the hole is a little rough. I wouldn't make a hole with that in mind, but if you make a small mistake, don't assume your switch plate is destroyed until you've test-fit your button in the hole.
Step 6: Install the Buttons Into the Switch Plate
There are two parts to an arcade button. The "button," which is actually just a mechanical housing with a pretty button, a spring assembly, and channels designed to force the movement of the button to be straight in and out, and an actuator which will push the little pushable part of a micro switch once it's properly mounted to the button housing.
The second part of the button is the micro switch, itself. This micro switch has to be mounted a certain way to be able to work properly. Further, when I purchased my arcade buttons, the micro switches were in a separate bag, requiring me to mount them to the button assembly before use. This is fine, as you probably won't have the clearance to insert the button assembly into the mounting hole with the micro switch mounted.
If your micro switches are already mounted, remove them, but pay attention to how they are removed, to make it easier to reinstall them later. I will show how to install them on the next step, but hands-on observation is always the best teacher.
Once you have an arcade button assembly with no micro switch attached, there are two (or three) parts to be mindful of: the body of the button, which looks a bit like a bolt-like shaft on the outside, and a large plastic nut that screws onto this "bolt" from behind the surface you're mounting it to. There may additionally be a spacer ring, which looks (and acts) much like a washer. This ring can be placed on the outside of the mounting surface to raise the button a bit, if desired. This is an optional part.
To Install the Button:
- Insert the arcade button assembly into the holes in your switch plate
- Thread the large plastic "nut" onto the back of the arcade button and tighten it until almost tight.
- Rotate the button, if needed, to position any surface image on the button in the desired position.
- Carefully finish tightening the button assembly so that it's snug with the button surface positioned correctly.
Now you're ready to install the microswitches...
Step 7: How to Mount Micro Switches to Your Arcade Buttons
Mounting the micro switches to the buttons can be confusing and a bit tricky - especially if you don't have any instructions. (I didn't when I had to figure it out.)
Luckily for you, I will give you a visual step-by-step here. (You're welcome.)
Mounting a Micro Switch:
- Hold the switch by the tab connectors on the side, with the other connector on the top (away from the button) and the shorter mounting peg on the left side as you face the button.
- Orient the micro switch so that the tabs are pointed toward the button, so that you can insert the short peg into micro switch mounting hole while staying clear of the two short retaining arms that will help hold the micro switch in place from the other side.
- Pivot the micro switch to the right, toward the taller retaining peg.
- Pull the taller (and, hence, more flexible) peg back a bit to allow the corner of the micro switch to pass.
- Insert the taller peg into the second other mounting hole on the micro switch.
Now, when the button is pressed, it should press the switch on the micro switch in, making a satisfying "clicking" sound.
Step 8: Connect the Wires the The Switches
This part isn't "tricky," per se, but you do need to pay attention to what you're doing and there's one kink I ran into that I had to work through.
The side of your micro switch will most likely have at least three flat, tab-like terminals for attaching wires. If the switch is a lighted switch, there will be two tabs for the light, itself. I'm not addressing lighting in this tutorial, since my Player switches don't have any lighting and I'm not providing power for that. I will address powering lights on arcade buttons in an upcoming Instructable on building a simulator for playing games. Check back for that if you want to light up your buttons. The main tabs you're looking for will be the Common (COM) tab and the Normally Open (NO) tab. On my switches, the Common was clearly marked as "COM," but the other two tabs are marked as "NC2" and "NC3." The tab that was my Normally Open contact was the one marked "NC3" and was the one positioned closest to the Common tab. Basically, a circuit that connects to the COM tab will continue through the NC2 path until the button is pushed and then will, instead, go through the NC3 path until the button is released. Since I'm not attaching anything to NC2, power doesn't flow through the circuit until I push the button, at which point it will connect the circuit through NC3 until I let go. By connecting the pair of wires that go to the same garage door opener to the COM and NC3 tabs, this button will now complete the circuit, just like I did with the screwdriver, but in a much more convenient fashion and in a much more convenient location.
NOTE: You WILL be using the Common connection, but if you're not sure which of the other two tabs to connect the other wire to, do this: Connect your Common wire completely, then just tap the other wire to the tab you think is the correct tab for a second. If you tap it to the correct tab, but the button isn't pushed, nothing will happen. If, however, you touch it to the wrong tab, you won't have to push the button - the garage door will try to activate immediately. If this happens, connect the second wire to the other terminal, leaving the Common in place.
TEST: Once you have the wires hooked up, nothing should happen until you press the button. When you press the button, the garage door should do its thing.
Step 9: Screw the Switch Plate Onto the Box
This is so simple, you'd think it wouldn't be its own step... BUT...
Be careful when you go to install the switch plate onto the box. At this point, you have two arcade buttons mounted to it, so they will insert deep into the box. You'll want to go slow and make sure that you move any extra wire out of their way, as well as verifying that you didn't measure incorrectly or misjudge your required depth. The buttons should fit inside the box, but take your time to line things up.
Another thing to watch for is any extra wire slipping outside the box and laying there between the switch plate and the box lip. Make sure everything is in place and lined up, then you can simply put the screws in the holes and screw them in and you'll be done.
Personally, I found that one of the wires connecting to the button on the right (the Player 1 button) stuck out a bit too far, causing it to bump against the box on the right. To remedy, I very carefully bent the connector into a right angle and then put it back in place. By having the wire turn sharply immediately past the blade connector, it no longer bumps into the right hand side of the box.
Step 10: Game Over! a Winner Is You!
That's it. Game Over. Just step back and enjoy your handiwork.
Or, perhaps the game is just beginning. Select which player you want to be today and jump on into the game.
Do you feel like Player 1 today? Or Player 2...