The ultimate N64 joystick refurb? SS + teflon

LinusHofmann
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LinusHofmann
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Joined: 6:54 AM - Jan 20, 2013

11:46 PM - Feb 17, 2016 #1

Update: 2/12/16

Lots has happened recently, including launch of a website and getting the first batch of sticks out to "Early Adopters"!

For the latest state of the project please check out www.Steelsticks64.com
I endeavour to update the dev-blog section regularly to keep everyone up to speed.









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Update: 31/03/16

For the latest info follow @SteelSticks64 on twitter, I'll keep updating this thread with new stuff and more detailed feedback from testing but twitter is where I'll be posting the newest stuff first! :)

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So here's something I've been working on for a while and thought it was time to share.

I was getting pretty frustrated with worn thumbsticks and the lackluster aftermarket options out there, either the feel and precision wasn't there or it was close and they suffered from the same old wear and wobbliness. In either case nothing comes close to a tight original stick and I really don't like to compromise!

Here's my solution...
Let's ditch all that silly plastic and get some serious materials involved in the action :)



As we know the primary culprit for wobbliness (and the source of the white dust) is the wearing down of plastic cup surface which results in the stick dropping down into the controller. This means the sphere on the stick loses it's tight tolerance fit to the shell bearing and pretty quickly the input range and feel suffers. The dust then goes on to destroy the rest of the controller interfaces etc...

In my controller this plastic "achilles-cup" is replaced with a polished steel unit and the contact point on the end of the stick is a small molded teflon insert. The interface between these two materials is basically friction free and wear is a non-issue.



The stick itself is machined out of stainless steel and polished to a mirror finish, again to minimized friction with the plastic components. Of course I also apply silicone grease to all contact surfaces during assembly.


Unfinished stick modules


Showing the more complete sticks with unfinished teflon inserts on the bottom

Finally for where the stick makes contact with the gate I added a tapered teflon sleeve to the shaft. This gives the stick movement a nice smooth feel against the gate and allows me to tweak the overall range of the stick to essentially calibrate it against a known new N64 original. The low friction properties of teflon may actually be a slight detriment here so I'm testing other materials to see if something else can get even closer to the genuine feeling without introducing a bunch more friction. Maybe delrin?

Anyway, to "Cap" it off I've been playing around with three variants/options.





Bog Standard : Ooh Shiny! : Super Grippy!

-The first is just a genuine plastic stick cap, refurbed and reworked to mount on the new stick. It's lighter than the other options (only really noticeable when the stick is let spring back to center) and closest in feel to the genuine controller. Of course that also means it isn't particularly grippy.

-The all aluminium I find really eye catching and has a knurled edge for extra grip. This is still work in progress as I'm not completely happy with the knurling or how much grip it offers in general. Maybe more style over function here?

-Finally and my personal favorite in terms of playability is a rubber covered aluminium that's super grippy. No more wiping sweaty thumbs on t-shirts during tense gaming sessions. Can't go back! :P
Unsure how durable the rubber will be after months/years of sweaty skin contact (if even Sony can't get it right with the PS4, then who knows ;) ) but then the rubber strip is easy to replace anyway.

==

For all the other parts I reuse/refurbish heavily worn out genuine donor modules. So the shell, case, encoders, axis arms gears etc are all genuine parts and contribute to giving a truly genuine response in games. Again, a genuine feel and 1:1 performance to a genuine stick is not something I can compromise on, (I still play a lot of GE and PD and those are true torture tests for joystick precision and feel I find). I tested and would have used aftermarket parts where possible but nothing held up.

Here's a typical completed module being checked for performance and mapping against a reference model (red line is the range of a brand new Nintendo thumbstick).


Edit: 07/03/16 Updated with new calibration interface.


And an idea of the amount of typical deadzone wiggle that I find acceptable on a completed module.



Edit: 12/06/16
I can get it tighter than that, now aiming for <0.5mm deadzone on all modules. Which is barely perceptible. Some will have no play at all.
-

Because of the inherent design of the thumbstick, some small amount of deadzone wiggle is unavoidable with most modules. Especially in the Horizontal axis because of the shorter lever action (that's also the case on most new modules I've seen). It's always a tradeoff between binding and free movement.
To combat this as effectively as possible I make and bin stick parts with a relatively large tolerance range for the sphere section. I then bin them accordingly and match them to the amount of wear on a typical case to ensure I get a tight and smooth feeling stick no matter how much wear is present on the salvaged case.

So I think that's about it for now. I only just got through doing a first proper batch to verify my workflow and see if the overall refurb process would actually bear fruit...



...and it turned out better than expected.
I'm now flooded in loads of perfectly tight joystick modules, even the "rejects" have found a permanent home in all my slightly worn but formerly "good" controllers. I'm quite delighted because I'm very picky about this stuff...:P



That said I would love to get some feedback from others in the know and intend to get some samples out to prominent N64 speedrunners who really tax their equipment. Hopefully I can also interest a community member from here for a round of torture testing. For example I originally referenced forum member Sanni's excellent aftermarket tests so if he has time and would be interested in doing a test I'd be happy to send a module out.

I'd also love to hear some feedback/thoughts from people who may have tried something similar.

I quite enjoy building these so if anyone is interested in having one let me know, no solid plans yet on how, when, or how much (they're labour intensive so they won't be cheap!) but if you're interested let me know and I'll compile a list. Might also be up for doing a kickstarter or something along those lines if there is enough interest but I'm probably getting ahead of myself for now.

Anyway, looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Cheers
Linus
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bluedogrulez
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Joined: 9:20 PM - Mar 08, 2010

12:55 AM - Feb 18, 2016 #2

Well it seems you've made the dreams of several of us here come true! They are gorgeous and the rubber and teflon are a genius touch.

Because you are a new member, you might consider letting a few of our members demo your sticks for feedback. They do look great, but performance and durability are paramount. You can check our Take the Stage !!! and Beats Em All threads to see some folks giving their thumbsticks a workout.

If the feeback is good, then once you have 50 posts, you will likely have some eager buyers here.

Thanks for sharing your creation. Very exciting indeed!
Switch Friend Code: SW-0786-9287-1202 (bluedogBDR)
MK8Deluxe Tourney: N64Forever.com 2332-7277-8283
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LinusHofmann
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LinusHofmann
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Joined: 6:54 AM - Jan 20, 2013

2:45 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #3

bluedogrulez wrote:Well it seems you've made the dreams of several of us here come true! They are gorgeous and the rubber and teflon are a genius touch.

Because you are a new member, you might consider letting a few of our members demo your sticks for feedback. They do look great, but performance and durability are paramount. You can check our Take the Stage !!! and Beats Em All threads to see some folks giving their thumbsticks a workout.

If the feeback is good, then once you have 50 posts, you will likely have some eager buyers here.

Thanks for sharing your creation. Very exciting indeed!
I'm glad you like them! :dance:

I'm all for providing samples and am just as curious to see how they hold up under extended and varied use.

I've put about 15 hours into replaying OOT with one of the early prototypes (I like quickspin attacks to give joysicks a bit of a hard time, and aiming bows and such tests precision quite nicely), also a fair bit of PD/GE but that's not particularly taxing in terms of wear. That's about all the testing I've been able to do so far.

I've got 3-4 already marked down for specific speedrunners but I'd be happy to put another couple out into this community to get some informed feedback. I'd prefer EU members if possible to keep shipping costs low.

Most "normal" people I try to explain this stuff to give me a very blank stare! ;)

Cheers

--

I've also been toying with the idea of making an axis swapped Goldeneye/FPS special that uses the better inherent deadzone and throw of the vertical axis gear chain for the horizontal axis. Thus transferring the heavier demand/wear that's seen in playing shooters (or any game where there's lots of left right movement, little up and down) to the more durable and precise gear arm. Lots of stuff still to try :)

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Pimpin Mainer
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Joined: 5:26 PM - Aug 08, 2010

3:40 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #4

This is a dream come true. I would love to buy/test one of these. While I don't do many speed runs I play super smash bros and Mario kart very hard. Lots of quick aggressive moves which is what you seem to want to test. Again great product and I would love to get my thumb on one of these. I will even pay for shipping to the US.
Nintendo Collection

NES - 93 SNES - 45 N64 - 153 Game Cube - 5 Wii - 45 Switch - 17

Nintendo Code: SW-8019-6333-1909

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zoki64
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zoki64
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Joined: 11:44 AM - Nov 20, 2010

4:24 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #5

Incredible! I always hoped someone would make actual metal replacement parts for the control stick. They also look like super high quality.
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TofuJunky87
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TofuJunky87
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Joined: 4:58 AM - Feb 17, 2016

5:58 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #6

Unfortunately I don't have a copy but somebody needs to play Mario Party with these sticks. That game is notorious for killing sticks. If it stands up to a Mario Party mini game torture test for an extended period.... sign me up.


Because of the frequency I play my 64 (god bless it), my controllers take a hit and it kills my thumb. I was going to invest in a Hori mini but if this is a better solution I may do this. Plus that aluminum on atomic purple is a special kind of awesome!
Current 64 Collection: Grey, Jungle, Fire, Ice, Smoke, Watermelon, Grape, Gold, JP Blue/Clear, Daiei Hawks
Current Game Count: 324
Current Controller Count: 32

:n64: 4ever

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Milage007
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Joined: 7:56 PM - Mar 16, 2014

7:15 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #7

#1000

Awesome LinusHofmann. Where abouts are you from? I would love to try one as well. Use it for a speed run through Goldeneye or something.

Very good review / improvisation. Tight is right. Hoping to see more of you around!




Follow my N64 Instagram - milage007_n64

Tupac Shakur - 'You know it?s funny, when it rains it pours they got money for wars but can?t feed the poor?
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sanni
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sanni
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Joined: 1:47 PM - Feb 21, 2012

7:49 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #8

Wow, I think I need a change of pants now.


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bluedogrulez
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Joined: 9:20 PM - Mar 08, 2010

7:57 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #9

So Linus, for the "gates" (what we here sometimes refer to as the x-axis and the y-axis), you utilized used parts? In your inventive process, I am sure you've seen some "well-rounded" gates . . . . Any thought of using newly minted Kitsch-Bent pieces? I know they are not perfect, but MIGHT cut down on dead zone wiggle. I have a an extra set or two if you are interested.
Switch Friend Code: SW-0786-9287-1202 (bluedogBDR)
MK8Deluxe Tourney: N64Forever.com 2332-7277-8283
Nintendo Network ID: BDR2010 / Twitter: @bluedogrulez


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sanni
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sanni
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Joined: 1:47 PM - Feb 21, 2012

8:17 PM - Feb 18, 2016 #10

Oh and if it's any use to you I could send you this :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amOAOTS9nOA

Btw. I'm from Germany so I'll probably dream about this analog stick tonight if I can even sleep. X_D


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