Fun with power tools

I’m finally back at it. After several months not even desktop simming at all, instead playing Elite: Dangerous fairly obsessively instead, I’ve finally gotten back to the desktop sim project. I have had a fun afternoon with power tools, and I’m reasonably pleased with my labours.

While the sim project proper languishes until I can build the garden workshop that I plan to use as a sim room – and that looks like falling into next year now, since I’ve been unable to find a builder who will do the ground works I need under the conditions that prevail, in particular limited access to my back garden. The weather will not hold for too much longer, and I don’t want to be doing that kind of work in September or October.

So, in the meantime, I decided to make myself a mini-simpit so that I could at least enjoy some quasi-desktop simming. I should probably explain here that I don’t do ‘traditional’ desktop simming – that is, simming using a desktop computer with the various controls etc mounted to the desk. I did, many years ago, but once you go custom, you never want to go back. My desktop computer is actually a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 in a dock with an external monitor etc (see my last post for details), while all my simming takes place on my gaming rig, which is a completely different beast.

I’d built a simple sit-down arrangement using one of those ‘pilot chairs’ you can buy on Amazon which mounts a joystick and throttle quadrant for you, along with some pedals, and put all of that onto a wooden base. This has been a perfect, if Heath Robinson, setup for Elite: Dangerous. But to use it for simming, I need places to put my yoke and Saitek panels.

So, I decided to build myself a mini instrument panel that would sit atop the little table unit I’d added to my Elite ‘pod’, and that’s what I’ve been doing today.

Here’s the setup as it was this morning when I started:


On my mini-MIP, I would need space for my three Saitek panels – radio, MCP and switches – and two Saitek instrument displays, as well as a monitor to use for instruments. The only monitor I have spare is a 22″ 16:9 one that I used in my old desktop ‘pit, so I resolved to use that one. I measured the various pieces out and worked out the size of panel that I’d need overall. Then I cut this out of 12mm plywood, along with a base piece on which to mount the yoke.

Then I carefully cut out holes in the plywood to accommodate the various panels and instruments. Everything except the screen sits above the surface and is screwed down into it, while the screen is recessed and had to be fixed from behind. A simple system of straps and wooden batons secured it easily, since it’s very light and thin.


Some bodging and trimming later, I had my prototype, which looked like this:


Only problem, that is just way too tall. Sitting at my normal height, I could barely see over it. A normal MIP allows the pilot to see over it fairly easily. So, reluctantly, I marked it up and cut it down to this:


Which is where I am right now. I’ve had to remove the switch panel, and there’s now no room for it (without starting again and moving the screen). However, being devious, I have a plan, which is to remove the circuitry from the switch panel and mount the various pieces individually. The switches, for example, can be replaced with smaller switches that I have in storage, and the gear assembly and engine start dial can be mounted separately.

There’s obviously still lots of cosmetic work to do – trimming, covering the ragged edges up, tackling the mess behind the panel – but that’s not bad for a day’s work, I think.

Once I have this panel up and running I will then look to get Prepar3d v.latest set up and running with all the trimmings, and that’ll tide me over until the project proper gets started next year.

It’s good to be back!