Definitely getting there

So I continue to work on my desktop instrument panel. It’s very nearly finished now.

After getting the panel the right size last time, I took it apart and worked on detailing things a bit. Using simple wooden moulding strips, I put some details around the yoke port, the screen port, and the base of the panel. This improved the look no end, especially as some of my holes were a bit ragged – cutting freehand with a jigsaw is not good for ultra-straight cuts.


Having previously decided that the panel was too tall, and cut it down, I now had to figure out what to do with the extra Saitek control panel that I had. There was no space on the panel to mount it entirely, so short of re-designing the whole thing, I had to consider something more radical. What I did in the end was to move the autopilot panel to the bottom-left slot, and remove the switch panel – which has two rows of switches for lights etc, a landing gear panel, and an engine start panel – and, well, cut it up.

Which is what I did. The landing gear panel was cut out of the fascia of the panel using my trusty Dremel and a diamond cutting disk. The engine start switch was removed, and I cut the cabling to the switches. This left the gear panel and engine switch wired together, which was fine as I planned on mounting them near each other, and the need for a bunch of switches somewhere else on the panel.

Finding a bunch of quite nice illuminated single-throw switches in my parts box, I set about cutting regularly-spaced holes in the panel to mount them into, making a square hole for the landing gear panel to fit over, and drilling a hole for the engine start switch. This last was tricky – the collar of the switch is 10mm, but it needs to sit at least a few mm proud of the surface to get the locking nut on, and there wasn’t enough height on the switch given the necessity to pass through 12mm of plywood. So I had to rout out a much bigger hole behind the 10mm hole I’d drilled to fit the body of the switch into and bring the collar out far enough to get a nut on it.

Then I painted it.


The top of most instrument panels features some form of cowling, often called a glareshield, to prevent direct light from above striking the panel. So I made a cowl from pieces of stripwood, painted them black, and attached them; the photo below shows the partially-assembled panel with this cowl on. But honestly, it wasn’t very good.


I worked on another one, trying to be more accurate with cuts and angles, but it still came out awful. Third time’s a charm, as they say, so I put some extra framing in the back of the panel to mount a larger, heavier cowl to, and built one out of 18mm pine shelving. This, finally, looks appropriate.


In the meantime, I had fun with a soldering iron as I re-wired the new switches to the switch panel PCB. I used my not-patented bridge-board technique, to avoid having to join very thin wires directly, and after a lot of multi-meter testing, I finally had the switch layout right. It’s not pretty behind there, but it works!

Finally, I added some LED strip lighting under the edge of the cowl to down-light the panel in darkness. This is dimmable and colour-selectable for extra fun. Though having mounted it, I think I now want to put some edging on the front edge of the cowl to make the LEDs invisible from directly in front. Hmm.


Now all I have to do is clean up the room – which is full of sawdust and offcuts and all kinds of bits – and mount the big 55″ TV I’m using as a display to the wall, then mount the panel unit on top of my makeshift gaming ‘pod’, connect everything up, and off we jolly well fly. Some video will be forthcoming in due course.

My next project is to turn the gaming pod into something rather more like one of those old sit-down arcade consoles. But that’s a subject for another post.