DIY USB Rudder Pedals

Written by robert allen
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DIY USB Rudder Pedals
An old joystick can serve as the starting point for a rudder pedal system. (a joystick image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)

In a real aircraft, pilots control yaw --- side-to-side movement of the plane --- by way of rudder pedals that turn the control surfaces of the plane's tail. Unlike the pedals in a car, rudder pedals aren't independently controlled; they're linked so that when one moves forward, the other moves back. By accurately replicating those of a genuine aircraft, a set of rudder pedals can deepen your sense of immersion in flight simulations, making it easier to perform coordinated turns and precise manoeuvres.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • USB joystick with a twisting handle
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire cutters
  • Electrical tape
  • 3 feet of 3/4-inch PVC pipe
  • Tape measure
  • Permanent marker
  • Hole saw or spade bit with the same diameter as the joystick shaft
  • Power drill
  • Hot glue gun

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Test an old USB joystick with a twisting handle in the Windows "Game Controllers" properties window, located in your computer's Control Panel. Twist the joystick back and forth to confirm that the "Z-rotation" axis still works; the red axis meter will go all the way between completely white and completely red as you twist the stick. When satisfied that the twist function of the stick works, unplug the joystick's USB cable from your computer.

  2. 2

    Unscrew all of the screws securing the two halves of the joystick itself using a screwdriver. Separate the two halves of the stick to reveal the shaft that connects it to the base.

  3. 3

    Snip all the wires that come from the shaft using wire cutters, allowing you to remove the circuit board from the inside of the joystick. Cap any exposed wires with electrical tape so they don't accidentally come into contact with each other.

  4. 4

    Remove any springs or rubber boots from around the shaft of the joystick.

  5. 5

    Measure a point halfway along a 3-foot section of 3/4-inch PVC pipe using a tape measure -- a point 18 inches from both ends. Mark this point with a permanent marker.

  6. 6

    Lock a hole saw or spade bit into your power drill. The bit should have the same diameter as the shaft of the joystick, or slightly smaller if possible.

  7. 7

    Drill a hole through both sides of the PVC pipe at the point you marked.

  8. 8

    Press the PVC pipe firmly onto the exposed shaft of the joystick until you have brought it flush with the joystick's base. It should twist back and forth but not rock from side to side.

  9. 9

    Plug in a hot glue gun, and allow it to warm up. Pull the trigger steadily to apply a thin, regular layer of hot glue all the way around the exposed shaft where it protrudes through the PVC pipe. Glue the wires from the shaft to the PVC pipe as well to prevent them from coming free.

  10. 10

    Turn the joystick around so the USB cable points toward you, then plug the cable into your computer.

  11. 11

    Start the flight simulator you wish to use. To use your rudder pedals in game, assign the "Yaw" or "Rudder" axis to the "Z-rotation" axis of the controller.

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