Most gamers are certainly familiar with the joystick, used in all sorts of video games from the early days of television video games back in the late ’60s. Being a very intuitive device, the joystick is also used in cranes, trucks or other machinery, especially in an industrial environment. Moreover, the joystick is used extensively in the aeronautics industry, to control an airplane’s ailerons.
Quite simple in design, the joystick usually has 2 axes of movement, similar to a mouse, moving along the X axis with left or right signals and along the Y axis with up or down. Its simplicity as a piece of hardware is the reason why it can be made using parts from all kinds of devices. Here’s an example of such a joystick, built from an idler wheel of an old VCR.
Besides the idler wheel, this joystick has 4 microswitches and a spring and it’s installed on a piece of sheet steel. The idler wheel has a metal shaft which, combined with the spring, serves as the actual “funstick”. The metal is drilled and the shaft is inserted into the hole with the convex side of the washer facing down, so the shaft rolls against the metal when it is moved. Putting the spring between the metal sheet and the flat side of the washer turns the shaft into a joystick, having it return back to the center position after it is released.
The switches take some fine tuning to adjust properly, because the hole should stop the shaft from moving and not the actuator of the switch. But after the switches are set up correctly you have a working joystick ready to be attached to a front panel. More details and pictures of the VCR joystick are available in the link.