How-To: Craft an analog control stick for your Sony PSP (part 2)

Benjamin Heckendorn
B. Heckendorn|10.24.06

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Benjamin Heckendorn
October 24, 2006 6:49 PM
How-To: Craft an analog control stick for your Sony PSP (part 2)
Every so often, that console-modding Benjamin Heckendorn wanders away from his lair at to share some interesting projects with Engadget.
A couple weeks ago we showed you, the teeming PSP loving masses, how to attach a standard analog stick to the embattled portable. Now join us for part 2 where we construct a case for the analog stick and create a convienent way to clip it onto a PSP. With a little luck you'll be able to look as cool as the loser shown above! So get your hot glue guns fired up and let's do this thing!

Intially I struggled to come up with an easy way of doing this project. You know, the typical tossing and turning at night, running up to the apex of hills and screaming "WHY?????" Standard stuff. Even wandering around Hobby Lobby for an hour didn't really spark any ideas. Eventually I did hit upon an ideal object to make an analog stick attachment case out of -- behold!

Parts List
  • A can of Jerky Stuff. This is a type of shredded beef jekry that's been around for a while. Any product with this sort of plastic container will work, but the health hazards may vary. Your call. Anyway, this plastic container is almost exactly the same height as a PSP and an analog stick fits inside perfectly. Plus it's round so it fits the style of the PSP.
You can find this stuff at most grocery stores, gas stations, or anywhere else that sells beef jerky. And at 99 cents, it's a cheaper building material than anything from Hobby Lobby.

The next thing you'll need is a small 4 pin socket of some type to connect between the attachment and the PSP. Mini USB (such as the type used with the PSP's data connection) or an IC socket will work. It's up to you which type to use (I used an IC socket and headers for mine), but here's some pros and cons to remember for each:

Mini USB pros:
  • Easier to wire up.
  • More solid insertion and strength.
Mini USB cons:
  • Larger and thus more difficult to fit in both the PSP internally and the attachment case.
  • Must be ordered from an online store unless you have an old digital camera or other device you can remove the plugs from.
IC Socket pros:
  • Cheap and can be found at most any Radio Shack. (Even the mall ones that have basically become iPod and cellphone stores.)
  • Smaller (length-wise) than a USB jack and thus easier to fit inside the PSP.
IC Socket cons:
  • Harder to create a solid insertion (vs USB).
  • You'll need to find headers or other pin-based connections to insert into the IC slot. Plugging an IC socket intro another IC socket won't grab well enough. Part numbers for headers are supplied, or you can pull some off an old computer motherboard. They're the kind of pins that you plug your power switch and hard drive LEDs into.
Part numbers for both methods:
  • IC Socket from Radio Shack: 276-1995. These are 8 pin DIP sockets that we'll be slicing in half.
  • 4 pin header - Digi-Key: WM17437-ND Mouser: 538-22-10-2041
  • Mini USB plug - Digi-Key: H2958-ND Or use an old digital camera cable.
  • Mini USB jack - Digi-Key: H2960CT-ND Mouser: 538-56579-0519
If you have another type of small plug in mind, and it'll fit, by all means use it. These items are shown as general suggestions using common materials. For terminology during this how-to, keep in mind that a plug is the outside thing, usually on a cable or in this case the analog stick attachment portion, while a jack is the receptacle on the unit that the plug, um, plugs into.

Other stuff you'll need:
  • Soldering iron and of course, solder.
  • Desoldering iron if you're pulling plugs from junk motherboards.
  • A Dremel cutting tool. Again, you can probably cut the plastic in other ways, say with sharp X-Acto knives, by burning holes with the soldering iron etc, but a Dremel cutting wheel is the best.
  • X-Acto knife.
  • Hot glue gun or other such gluing device.
  • Super glue (I prefer the liquid kind).
  • Goo-Gone glue remover, or similar type product.
  • A 1/2-inch long size 6-inch screw.
Alright this parts list has taken entirely too long - let's get started with the project!

Step 1 - Prepare the Jerky Stuff can
    1. Open the can using your fingernail or other such item.
    2. Eat the Jerky Stuff, or feed it to ravenous squirrels. (As long as you're ok with salt in general, it's not too bad tasting.)
    3. Soak the empty plastic container pieces in water - this will make their labels mushier than a Nora Ephron film. I threw some rubbing alcohol in with mine for good measure, which they clearly should have tried with Bewitched. Let it soak while you do the next few steps...
      Step 2 - Install the jack inside your PSP

      OK now let's get the jack installed into the PSP. If you're using the Radio Shack IC you'll need to cut it in half first. Place an X-Acto knife in the center of the bottom and press down firmly, as shown below. You may need to shave off a bit more after the main slice to get a nice straight inside edge, but the materal is easy enough to cut so it shouldn't be too difficult.

      Now let's continue with the installation...
        1. Open your PSP as described in Part 1.
        2. Using an X-Acto knife, scratch out a "target groove" on the side of your PSP in the upper black portion of the case. This should be above the flange, and as high and wide as the jack you're using. Shown below is the IC socket and target groove for reference.
          Note: The lower inner flange portion slides behind the silver trim on the base of the unit, thus any hole you make needs to be above it. Otherwise you'll need to cut into the silver portions as well, which are much more difficult to work with. Plus making a hole in the silver trim itself would require taking the unit apart further, and it's much harder to find free space in that area, so we're sticking with the upper portion of the case. Convinced? I know I am.
            1. Carve out the hole shape you've etched with a Dremel cutting wheel or by making multiple deep cuts with the X-Acto knife and then bending the piece out with needle nose pliers.
            2. Place the jack inside the hole and see how it fits with the other components, as shown below:
                1. As you can see, a bit of the D-pad contact rubber has been sliced off to make room for the jack. As long as you don't cut into one of the domes you'll be alright.
                2. It's best to place the jack in the center of the unit or slightly higher, as the lower portion is fairly well filled with the LED plastic and Wi-Fi switch.
                3. Next, attach 4 thin wires to your jack. For best results attach them flat against the jack to conserve as much room as possible. As mentioned in Part 1, these 4 wires will be the A, B, C and D connections for the analog stick.
                  Now we need to go to the main portion of the PSP and cut an opening in the plastic D-pad base on the , as shown below. This hole will vary in size depending on what type jack you use and where you place it, but as long as you don't cut into the main traces going to the Up/Down/Left/Right positions you should be OK.

                    To line up the D-pad plastic to the hole we've made in the top portion of the case, simply lay the pieces together as if you were putting it back together. You can then make reference marks in the D-pad base using the top hole as a guide.
                        Making a hole in the D-pad plastic:
                          1. Remove the single silver screw to allow the D-pad plastic to be lifted up.
                          2. Cut a hole in the D-pad plastic using a Dremel cutting wheel or by making several deep grooves with an X-Acto knife and then bending out the piece.
                          3. The resulting hole should look like the following:
                              1. Place the jack in the top portion hole and see if the lid can go back on the unit. You may have to adjust a few things to get it fitting correctly.
                              2. Once you're confident the jack will fit inside the closed unit, glue it into the final position. For mine I used a bit of Super Glue under the jack and some hot glue behind and beside it to absorb force. Never be ashamed to implement hot glue -- I use it all the time and I've been on TV and stuff.
                              3. Connect the 4 wires from the jack to the analog nub circuit board as described in Part 1. Make sure you bend the wires around the center of the circuit board, as shown, to allow space for components on the other half of the PSP. I wired my unit with "A" on top of the jack, "D" on the bottom.

                                When viewed from the side, the jack installation should look as seen below. The jack and all wires are low and flush, and not in the way of the D-pad or the center of the analog nub circuit board.

                                With the jack installed and wired you can screw the PSP back together - it's time to build the external attachment!

                                Step 3 - Building the analog attachment case

                                OK with that internal nonsense taken care of we can build the attachment itself. About time, eh?
                                  1. By now the labels on the plastic Jerky Stuff can should be pretty well water-logged. Scrap them off using your fingernail or the edge of a hard piece of plastic, such as a credit card. Stubborn bits of glue can be killed with that Goo-Gone stuff people use when kids crayon up the walls. (It's a yellow liquid in a clear bottle, available where all fine cleaners are sold.)
                                  2. Make a groove in the lid of the Jerky Stuff can that matches the edge of the PSP. There's a couple ways of doing this:
                                  3. Line up the PSP to the can manually - Set the PSP on the can (or just the lid) and match the edge of the can's circle to the spots on the PSP where the main black case meets the shoulder button / strap locations. You can then carefully slide an X-Acto knife along the PSP to make a corresponding groove in the can.

                                    I have also prepared a pattern that you can use to make the cut in the jerky can.
                                    1. Download the PDF pattern using this link.
                                    2. Print it with your settings at no scaling, 100% original size. This ensures it prints at actual size and will match the jerky can.
                                    3. Lay the pattern over your jerky can and make a cut along the red line.
                                    With the reference groove made you can slice completely through the lid by making a few more passes with the knife. Once it's cut out it should match up nicely to the edge of the PSP as shown below:

                                    Please note, you may need to "slant" the edges of the lid a little bit to make it fit properly. See below:

                                    Next we need a hole for the analog stick. The easiest reference item you'll have laying around is a US quarter, but anything around 7/8-inches (24mm) in diameter will work

                                    Now place the lid portion on the bottom half of the jerky can. Make cuts down the side going from the edge of the slant cut as shown below:

                                    With the side slices made, slice off the right portion of the wall, all the way to the base. The pieces should look like the following when done:

                                    At this point you may wish to paint these plastic pieces. The dark gray looks OK, but some nice gloss black enamel spray paint can match this puppy up to your PSP in style. To avoid smudging the finish during the final steps, let the painted case dry for at least a day.

                                    Step 4 - Installing the analog stick into the case

                                    With the case prepared we can install the analog stick and plug.
                                    1. Using the diagram from Part 1 of this project, wire the analog stick to the plug using 4 short wires. Keep them no longer than 1.5-inches so they won't get in the way of the analog stick's tilt.
                                    2. Insert the plug into the PSP and place a small bit of (super or hot) glue on the top of it. (The plug, not the PSP, natch.) Then place the lid portion against the PSP as shown earlier. This will attach the plug in the correct position.
                                    3. Carefully remove the plug/lid portion from the PSP.
                                    4. Inside the lid make sure the wires are bent away as much as possible from the analog stick opening. As with the internal PSP connections, using thin wire can help with this.
                                    5. Try plugging the lid/plug back into the PSP and see how well it fits. Make adjustments as needed.
                                    6. With the wires moved out of the way and the attachment fitting into the PSP properly, put more hot glue around the plug to secure and finalize it. Behind it (away from the PSP end) on the sides and even a little on top is the best bet.
                                    With the plug in we can install the analog stick itself. And guess what - we're using MORE hot glue! Hey, what can I say - it works. Plus this is a cheap little plastic gizmo, not the Taj Mahal.
                                    1. Test out the fit of the analog stick in the case by closing the lid over it and tilting the stick around. A quarter-sized hole worked well for me and the Dual Shock analog stick I used, but if your analog stick... well, sticks a bit simply carve the opening a little wider with an X-Acto knife.
                                    2. Since the inside of the plastic can slope up a bit in the center you may need to snip off and shorten some of the pins on the right side of the stick. Otherwise the stick may lean a bit to the left.
                                    3. Test the analog stick and plug with a PSP game to make sure the connections are correct before proceeding.
                                    4. Dump a whole mess of hot glue in the bottom portion of the case where the analog stick will rest.
                                    5. Quickly place the analog stick into the hot glue, and put the lid onto the case.
                                    6. Rotate the stick if needed to make sure the Up/Down/Left/Right are in the proper place. Most analog sticks have a thin "mold line" on them that can be used for reference, since it's always either at the top and bottom or left and right.
                                    7. Hold the stick in place and let the glue dry. Blow on it to speed this up if you feel so inclined.
                                    The unit should now look something like this:
                                    Alright we're almost there. Let's close this sucker up and add a support on the back, shall we?
                                    1. Add a bit more hot glue to the base of the analog stick, especially around the 4 large posts/corners. Make sure the plastic top portion can still rotate and not be stopped by any glue you add.
                                    2. Coat the inside of the lid rim with super glue and attach the halves together. Don't forget to put the analog topper back on (As I seem to have forgotten to in the photo above) or you'll really want to kick yourself.
                                    3. After the halves are attached, drip some hot glue down into the case to line the inside seam. This will shore up the super glue and also add a bit of structure to the case.
                                    4. You can make an inside "wall" for the unit (to enclose the wires, hot glue and assorted guts) using the portion of wall you sliced off from the base. (Or spend a whopping 99 cents on another can o' jerky.) However, depending on the type of plug you'd used, this may keep the PSP from attaching fully.
                                    To add stability to the attachment you can add a screw to the back of it. Depending on the type of plug you used this may or may not be nessecary.

                                    Looking at the rear, the edge of the plastic comes very close to one of the screw wells on the PSP. This is the one we'll be using.

                                    1. Cut a small notch in the plastic to match the screw hole. The edge of the can probably won't quite cover the hole.
                                    2. Using a scrap piece of the jerky can, cut a small rectangular shape and drill a 1/8th-inch diameter hole near one end. Thread the 1/2-inch long size 6 screw through this.
                                    3. Glue the rectangular piece of plastic to the inside of the jerky can as shown above.
                                    4. To clip on the attachment with this screw installed, simply insert the screw into the screw well first, then rotate the case down onto the jack. Bam, you're good to go.

                                    Using this how-to guide you can now make a case for the PSP Analog Stick attachment described in part 1 of this project. While a more complex method could have been employed, I felt that by using a standard sized commerically available (and delicious) product I could make it easier for the casual modder. With the basics now covered, feel free to elaborate on the design, add racing pinstripes, pimp your portable, whatever you'd like.

                                    Oh yes, and start enjoying those PSP games again. That's important too. Well, until next time...

                                    Benjamin J Heckendorn, blogging from the Heart of Wisconsin.
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