Introduction: Unique Joystick

I was sitting around as usual these days when the idea to build this nifty little thing came to me. This was supposed to be the solution to a problem I had a while ago when I was trying to devise a substitute for a ball-and-socket joint, and the only thing I could come up with involved copious amounts of CPVC pipe hinges—horrible.

This gadget tries to mimic a ball-and-socket joint; only without the ball, this is more like a point-and-socket joint. The 'point' is held in the 'socket' by a loop of string. This loop is not tied to any fixed point and can move freely through 4 anchors in the base. As the joystick moves, the spring keeps the string taut.

The result is better than I had hoped, and while this joint cannot be used in any heavy-duty work, it makes a handy joystick. Without the electronics of course, but those were an afterthought while I built this.

In short, this project is supposed to take up an afternoon of the casual hobbyist on something interesting.

Hope you like this and see you at the bottom!

Step 1: Ingredients

To brew this potion you will need...

  • Tools:
    1. Pliers
    2. Scissors
    3. Something to cut acrylic with (I used a hot knife and nails)
    4. Strong glue
    5. File, and a
    6. Scale
  • Materials:
    1. Acrylic sheet
    2. Thinnish wire
    3. A pen with a spring in its step
    4. Nuts (scroll down to see how big ones), and a
    5. String

Step 2: A Good Base

Disclaimer: All dimensions mentioned in this project can take quite a bit of leeway. Eyeballing them should also work.

Cut out a 7cm x 7cm piece of acrylic.

Put a point in its center and draw the square's diagonals. If the lines can't be true diagonals, they should pass through your point.

Draw two points on each half-line, one 2cm and the other 3cm away from the center. 8 points in total.

Disassemble your pen. We need the refill and spring for this project.

Now we need to make holes on each point. Use hot nails of different diameters to make each hole. The 4 outer holes need to be at least 5mm elongated inwards as you can see. The middle holes should allow your wire to pass through.

You have to be careful while making the central hole: it should allow only the extreme tip of your refill to go through, you may have to 'bevel' the top side of your hole to allow this. Start with a small hole and slowly enlarge until you are there.

File out all excess plastic.

Step 3: A Better Base

Cut out a 15mm x 15mm piece of acrylic. File down the edges.

Glue it to the bottom of the base on top of the central hole.

The top side should have a bevel on the central hole and make sure that no glue blocks it. Right now, if you put your refill into the hole, you should be able to twirl it around without resistance. Essentially, your point-and-socket joint is complete.

Step 4: Wiring the First

I used wire to anchor the string to the base.

Take a 40cm long wire and make a u-turn on it 15 cm from one end. The 'U' should be 5mm thick as it is supposed to go into the outer holes on your base.

Bend the 15cm lane 90° 7mm from the tip of the 'U'. The wire should fit into the base as you can see. The 'U' provides an anchor for the string.

Thread the 15cm part into the next hole.

Step 5: Wiring the Second

Thread the wire into the next hole and bring it up through the corresponding outer hole. Bring it down through the same hole to complete the second anchor.

Now for the other end of the wire.

Bring that end outwards, then loop across the acrylic edge to the other side.

Step 6: Wiring the Third

Making the third anchor point is easier than the second.

Bend the wire downwards and make the whole 'u-turn' business again as shown. The 'U' should be positioned perfectly to go into its hole when the wire is bent.

Now you should be at the same place you were when you made the first anchor, only at the other end of acrylic and the other end of wire. Make the fourth anchor point.

Now it should be apparent (though it isn't from the text) how you have to bend the two ends and twist them together to finish the circuit.

Be careful to not hurt the wire or acrylic during this, starting over sucks.

Step 7: The Perfect Base

Find a nut that is a comfy fit for your spring and glue it over the central hole on the top.

Make sure to carefully center it.

The heavy-duty work is now done.

Step 8: Stringing 'im Up

Make sure that your string isn't too flimsy.

Find a nut that is a very loose fit around your refill, the one you used before should be the right size. The string will pass through this nut and the four wire anchors.

The order for the string to pass through is difficult to describe and you should rely on the pictures, but here is a description anyway:

Call the four anchor points 1, 2, 3, 4 anti-clockwise starting from bottom right. The order is :

1—nut—3—4—nut—2—leave the ends loose.

You should look at the pictures for the parity of the string around the anchors, otherwise you will get weird twists around them.

Step 9: Springing 'em Up

You will need two nuts/washers just big enough to slip on the refill but not enough to slip on the spring as well. I used a nut and a washer :P

Put a nut through the pointy side of your refill. It should stop by the little nub most refills have. If yours doesn't, then you don't need this nut.

Slip the refill through the stringed-up nut (pointy side again, and always).

Put the second nut on and then the spring. Now comes the tricky bit:

Hold both string ends in one hand and put the refill in the central hole on the base. The nut you glued earlier will hold the spring in place.

Now you have to press down on the top nut with one hand while pulling on the strings with the other. Compress the spring about ~5mm from its full length.

In an ideal world, now you would tie the two string ends together and that would be that, but you probably aren't Flash. So, twist the ends between your fingers to create a 'twist knot', then put a drop of glue on it to clinch the deal

Make sure the spring is still compressed. Your new joystick is essentially complete!!!

Step 10: Final Touches

Some of you might have noticed that your uppermost nut/washer is now useless. Let's take it out.

Simply pull the refill up from the base and it will come out. Remove the needless creature and reassemble. It will be much easier this time.

Now pull the refill up just a little bit (~5mm) so that it leaves the carefully made central-hole-in-the-base and leaves the spring alone in contact with it.

Step 11: Parting Words

Those of you who are concerned about the refill in the previous step coming out easily, don't worry, if you chose good nut sizes, it will be pretty tight. Otherwise put the nut you took out through the blunt end of the refill and find a way to join it with the stringed nut, that will keep the refill fixed. I didn't want to do this as my refill still has ink in it and I want to use it up first :)

Another concern is the tilt of nuts since the thread enters from down and exits from up (first pic), so far I think it may be only a cosmetic issue, but for those may want to correct it, here are my 2c:

  1. Use three anchor points and pass the string through the nut three times. Symmetry will balance the nut.
  2. Take the stringed nut out as well and pass the string over the small nut and around the refill. It may be a bit unstable, but it will hold level.

Overall, I had great fun with this and I think that anyone can (re)fill a slow day making this. And I would love to see someone make a cool actually-usable joystick with this concept!