As any gamer knows, gamepad thumbsticks can end up becoming pretty slippy, even a short way into a gaming session. Sure, they're rubberized, textured, and a some have a dip in the top, but none of that really helps, unless you're also putting a fair bit of pressure onto the surface too, which of course ends up with you pushing down on the stick a little too hard, and clicking L3 or R3 when you don't want to.
After a few too many occurences of 'Why am I not sprinting any more?' you end up pushing against the sides of the stick to move it, moving your thumb from one side to the other to swap directions, and the bottom edge of your thumbstick eventually wears out from all the time you spend moving forward.
Having recently purchased a PS4 after decades of being a staunch PC only gamer, pampered with the choice of controllers available to me, I decided this just would not do, and remembered another kind of controller in my possession, a radio controlled aircraft transmitter, which did not have the thumbstick slip problem.
Step 1: Sourcing Parts
I set out to discover if anyone had come to the same conclusion, and provided a ready made solution. Unfortunately while eBay did have no end of replacement thumbsticks for gamepads, none of them were similar to the replacements for RC transmitters. So I bought both, choosing the kind of sticks that have a short upper part, so I wouldn't have to cut them down, and set myself the task of combining them into the kind of thumbstick I desired.
Step 2: Drilling Part 1
Peeling the rubber tops off the gamepad sticks revealed a misshapen top to the sticks underneath (a result of injection moulding both plastic and rubber into the same mould at the same time). After grinding this back with a dremel, until close to the shaft of the stick, it was time to drill the socket that the RC stick would fit into.
The top of the gamepad stick still being rather uneven, and being unsure that I'd be able to drill into the center of this, while the diameter of the RC stick was so close to that of the outside of the gamepad stick's shaft, I first drilled a pilot hole through from the bottom of the gamepad stick, centered in the socket there.
With a pilot hole now showing on the top of the stick I could use a drill bit the same diameter as the RC stick, and make the socket for it, remembering to leave enough depth to the socket in the gamepad stick that fits over the shaft to the joystick assembly on the gamepad, that it wouldn't eventually come loose.
I used a dremel to flatten out the bottom of the hole, so that most of the RC stick fit into the gamepad stick.
Step 3: Drilling Part 2
With my socket deep enough to fit the RC stick, the shaft of the joystick assembly protruded into the bottom of the socket, preventing the RC stick from fitting when assembled, so I had to drill into the base of the RC stick roughly half way, so that it would fit.
Step 4: The Pressing Matter
While I've now solved the problem of my stick tops being slippery, these new sticks are actually painful to push down on, because they are so spiky.
I decide to make some grub screws by cutting the right size of bolt into short lengths, and making a slot in one end, using a grinding disk on a dremel, so I can use a screwdriver to set them to the correct depth.
A drop of superglue in the bottom of the sticks stops the grub screws from working loose.
Step 5: Tidying Up
After reassembling everything I decided to cover the rough cut plastic with sugru, to make it look tidy. After first applying it I spun the sticks around in their recesses to mark where the sticks rub against them, peeling away everything below the mark, and then rolled the edge of a watchmaker's screwdriver against the sugru to shape it up towards the tops of the sticks, pressing it into the groove just below the tops of the RC sticks, and removing any excess. Finally I smoothed the surface with the handle of a metal teaspoon.
Looking back, heat-srink tubing of the correct diameter could have been used instead, and might have looked tidier.
I've found using the new sticks to be a lot more precise, probably because there are more nerves in the tips of the thumbs than in the sides, so I get better feedback as to how hard I'm pushing on the sticks. This is particularly noticable when using the right stick to aim.
If you notice in the above image the left stick is slightly longer than the one on the right. Rather than fix this, once the sugru has cured I'm going to swap the sticks over. Having the extra length on the right stick will mean the end of it has more distance to travel from one extreme to another, which should make aiming even more precise.