Roll Your Own Joystick
Back to index

You tube video of making the joystick at Rough River

Here is an EZ way to fabricate your own joystick.  You can mold, remold it as many times as you want until it is too your liking.  The heat moldable plastic is also useful for other purposes too.  Make your own buttons, repair plastic things, make handles for tools, forming castings or use it for just molding or forming things.  Let your imagination go wild.

First of all you'll need to purchase some SHAPELOCK from I purchased 500 grams for $24 and it is enough for 3 or 4 joysticks. 

You will need to spend a little time playing with the product.  I spent about an hour or so must messing with it.

Here is a few rules I discovered:  It does not sand, you cut it use a hand saw,  you can smooth it by using a heat gun to heat the surface up (until it turns clear) then rub it with your finger, you can easily drill it...use a slow speed.  To lock in a shape, plunge it in ice water to quickly cool it down. 

Once it turns from clear back to white, it is a VERY tough, hard plastic.  It kind of reminds me of white cutting board material. 

Here ya go.  Heat the product in hot water until it turns clear. About 180 deg f should do it. 


Once it turns clear it will start coagulating together.  You can easily squeeze out the water and squish the pellets together.

Let it cool a bit more and you can start shaping it.  It will be a bit warm, but not too hot to handle.






Here is a rough shape for a joy stick....


Roll it into a tube and now, you can start molding it.



Cool the handle in ice water to quickly lock in the shape.  Start to finish is about one hour.  Hey, if you don't like the shape, just stick it in hot water and start all over again. 

Next we need to put some switches in it..... 

To do so, while the plastic is warm and pliable, just stick a screwdriver into the end and hollow out a spot for the switch.  I preinstalled and tested the wire on the switches and fed the wire through the mounting tube.  Then push the plastic around the switch to lock it in. 

I would HIGHLY recommend testing the grip in your plane first before painting (yes, I made that mistake).  After flying I wanted to relocate the switches a bit, change the angle of the switches (better pull strength), and texture the surface.  After removing the paint (I had to using a sandblaster to get it off..)  I just reheated the grip, made the changes and let it cool to lock in the design.


I inserted two switches (Transmit and Autopilot disconnect).  I think it is important to texture the surface a bit because if it is too smooth your hand tends to stick to it when you sweat.  I used a rough rasp file to make a texture on the surface....experiment!  Paint the joystick with a good black paint.  I used a textured flat black paint made for plastic furniture from Home Depot.

The finished product.   



Since these pictures,  I have added a electric elevator trim switch.  First wrap the stick with tin foil to protect your work, then it was heated with a heat lamp until soft, (the area near my thumb) the switch inserted and when cool, repainted. 


 Notice the elongated mounting bolt hole. 

 You might find a need to rotate the handle a bit for better comfort.






Here is a picture of a SHAPELOCK handle I quickly made for my hacksaw blade.  This stuff is great!