I finally finished my first panel!
I'll post a quick tutorial, for those who are considering making their own.
The panel is based on the Ultimarc A-PAC USB controller, which is inexpensive (US$39+ship) and
easy to use -- it has screw-terminals rather than requiring ribbon cables/electronics knowledge.http://www.ultimarc.com/a-pac1.html
First I bought some SPST switches and a sheet of Lexan (plexi-glass). Here I was playing with some possible layouts.
Second, I bought a 1/4 inch "glass bit" for my drill at the local hardware store.
I marked out where I wanted the holes on paper, taped it to the lexan, and clamped it down.
Then I used a finishing nail and hammer to make a starting notch for drilling each hole.
NOTE: it's better if you leave the protective sheet of coating on the lexan, as it can help make it more resistant to cracking.
You don't have to push very hard on the drill -- just let the bit do the work.
Then I did a little test just to see how the switches looked, when they were mounted. They
just screw on with a nut on the back.
Of course, at this point I couldn't resist testing it out
, so I did a bad job of temporarily wiring up the switches.
At this point I had tested it and it was basically working (except when the wires
were shorting out because they weren't soldered/fastened properly
Finally I had the basic panel done, but I needed something to
house it (an enclosure).
A brainstorm lead me to gut the insides out of an old CD-ROM drive that was no-longer working.
I cut down the size of the lexan with a plexiglass knife (be careful with these!!)
And I added some black paint to give it the glossy look.
At this point, I had to go and buy a very small drill-bit for the mounting screws.
Then it was time for the serious soldering. It had been a while, but it all
came back -- like riding a bike! LOL
the finished product at last!!
I'm pretty happy with it. It makes engine startups and turning on lights and flaps, etc. easy to execute without having to remember the keystrokes.
All that remains is to come up with a labelling solution. I am considering using
plastic transparencies with labels on top, so I can have swappable templates
for each sim that I play.
As far as programming...
The A-PAC shows up as a pair of game controllers in windows.
I'm using a program called SVMapper to convert the on and off toggle switches into keypresses.
You can get that utility program here:http://forum.sukhoi.ru/attachment.php?attachmentid=70479&d=1173468799
Thanks to GrizzlyT, Kimchoc1 and others for their encouragement!
Hope this encourages someone to try creating their own panel!