In this project, we're going to make a functional retro game controller out of polymer clay and parts scavenged from an old keyboard. Let's get to it!
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Step 1: Watch the Video!
Here is a 7 minute video with closed captioning that demonstrates all the steps below from start to finish!
Step 2: What You'll Need
- Polymer Clay
- Keyboard (either USB or serial will work)
- A plastic card
- Tracing paper
- Aluminium foil
- Krazy glue or epoxy glue
- Soldering tools and wires
Step 3: Take Apart the Keyboard
We want to scavenge the micro-controller (piece in green), and 12 rubber silicone pieces (for 12 buttons).
Step 4: Make a Paper Template
Cut out a paper template the size of the micro-controller.
Step 5: Cut Out the Faceplates
Roll out some polymer clay onto a ceramic plate, then cut two pieces to the size of the paper template - one for the front faceplate and the other for the back faceplate.
Afterwards, take the metal end of a pencil to score 12 holes on the front faceplate where the buttons will be located. Using the same tool to cut the holes, cut out 12 buttons with different colored clay.
Put the faceplates and buttons into a toaster oven, and bake for 30 minutes at 230°F (110°C).
Step 6: Mark the Buttons
Cut a plastic card to the size of the paper template. Place the front faceplate on top of the card and mark down the location of the buttons.
Step 7: Sand the Buttons
Once the clay is done baking, sand down the buttons and button holes to make sure there is no friction between them.
Step 8: Attach Silicon Pieces
Using a bit of Krazy glue or Epoxy glue, attach a piece of silicon (scavenged from keyboard) to the bottom of each button.
Step 9: Find the Right Keys
Plug in the micro-controller into your computer and launch a text editor. Using an alligator clip, attach one end to any pin of the controller. Sweep all the other pins with the other end until you find a key pressed. Mark down which two pins creates the keystroke.
The goal is to find 12 keystrokes, one for each of the 12 buttons which we will wire up later.
Step 10: Plan the Circuit
Using tracing paper, plan out how the buttons will map to the micro-controller pins.
Step 11: Cut Out the Circuit
Using double sided tape, attach a piece of aluminium foil to the back of the tracing paper.
Cut out each line of the circuit and attach it to the plastic card in the corresponding places using double sided tape.
Step 12: Add Foil to Buttons
Attach a piece of aluminium foil to the bottom of each of the 12 buttons (under the silicon hood).
I did this by sewing a string through the silicon piece, then attaching the aluminium foil piece to the thread with tape.
Step 13: Wire Up the Circuit
Wire up the terminals of the circuit board to the appropriate pins of the micro-controller. I used threaded electrical tape to attach the wires to the the terminals of the plastic card, while soldering the other end of the wire to the micro-controller.
Step 14: Glue Faceplates
Hot glue the back faceplate to the back of the micro-controller.
Afterwards, place the buttons into position, and using either baked scrap polymer clay or plastic card pieces to create separators that will raise the front faceplate.
Hot glue both the separators and the front faceplate into place.
Step 15: Cut Out the Enclosing Sides
Roll out some more polymer clay, and using the sides of the nearly finished game controller, trace out the 4 sides to create the enclosing pieces.
Remember to score a hole into the side where the wire will feed through.
Bake the side pieces for 30 minutes at 230°F (110°C).
Step 16: Attach the Side Pieces
After the side pieces are done baking, attach them to the appropriate sides using Krazy glue or Epoxy glue.