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#3361308 - 08/07/11 03:59 PM Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
I've been wanting to build my own cockpit for ages now. What I have at the moment is a detachable setup that I just put in front of my PC desk whenever I want to sim; I want to have a dedicated 'pit setup so that I get rid of the cleanup/setup part (yeah, I'm that lazy).

I'm playing DCS A10 with TM Warthog, Saitek pedals, TM MFDs, and TrackIR. I prefer a center-stick setup, and I'm playing with metalnwood's joystick extension which raises the stick about 6 inches from the base. I want a "proper setup" with regards to the 'pit which means the controls should be more-or-less where they'd really be in the real aircraft. I'm planning for a CDU, UFC, and radio panels later on as well.

My biggest problem is where to start. I have a gut feeling that all the measurements would have to start with what seat I'll be using. I'm planning to pick up an old car seat from a junk shop somewhere, then mount that on a platform, then build the cockpit from there. The reason for starting with the chair is because this will determine my "eye level" and how far the pedals have to be... and how high the side panels have to be off from the floor to be at the proper height. Then I also want to have a detachable keyboard tray for when I'm surfing or posting, but would want to be able to "mount" the keyboard on the 'pit setup once I'm simming.

Also, I want this to be cheap so no Obutto or other professionally made setups for me.

Any help/guidance appreciated.
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- Ice

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#3361321 - 08/07/11 04:30 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
AndyB Offline
Member

Registered: 12/13/09
Posts: 371
Loc: Ayrshire, Scotland
Hi Ice,

Just remember MDF is your friend !

It's amazing what you can do with it.

Are you planning to have working switches in your pit ?

Why not make your own seat as I did ? A lot of the guys here have done it and I think there are plans kicking around the forums for ACES type seats.

For driving indicators I don't think you can beat Opencockpits USB output board. They do a USBkeys board as well (88 switches) but it only works with momentary action switches. If you wanted to use toggle switches you'd have to use something else.

One last tip: make your base on locking castors. Makes life a lot easier when you need to move it.....


Best of luck,

Andy
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Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk

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#3361341 - 08/07/11 05:13 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Yep, working switches and panels are in the "to-do list," maybe a few months down the line. I prefer looking down at my cockpit and flicking switches than reaching for the mouse and keeping my head steady while I click. I've been eyeing Leo Bodnar's board but the Opencockpits board has been brought to my attention as well. However, until such time as I wrap my head around matrices, I'm staying off for now.

I was thinking of MDF but if I'm making a floorboard out of it, will it be strong enough to hold me+seat?

As for the ACES II seat, I would if I could (even just size/tilt) but I was wondering about padding... hence the reason for a car seat which I think has more padding than your typical office chair.

Locking Castors --- I'll be sure to remember that!
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- Ice

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#3361608 - 08/08/11 03:16 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
GrizzlyT Offline
Member

Registered: 11/22/05
Posts: 549
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
If you want input and output, then I agree that Opencockpits is a great choice.
If you just want to control all kinds of switches, do it with almost no programming, and not have to deal with matrices, then my choice is a Hagstrom KE72. (It's not the cheapest solution, just the easiest and most stable...IMHO)

I used alot of MDF, too. 3/4" for floorboard, 1/2" for chair and supports, 3/8" for panel faceplates.
The only thing to be mindful of is that you really shouldn't attach to MDF, rather through MDF.
It will tear out very easily. Drilling through it and usings nuts, nutplates, t-nuts, etc. is almost a must.

As for where to start, for me it was alot of planning and research. Have a good idea of what you are trying to accomplish and how much detail you want, but be prepared to be flexible and adapt, when s**t hits the fan sometimes. Look into the hardware and software that you might need. Start sketching out ideas. Make some cardboard mock-ups, to check fit and scale.

When you finally have a fairly cohesive vision, start building it up in stages.
(What did Krishna say?, "You cannot jump to the absolute. You must evolve towards it.")
Starting with the seat, base, and controller mounts, is a good place to start. Then, you can add the front dash and the side consoles.
You can make up mock panels, at first. Then, you can gradually replace the mock-ups with real panels and start learning to interface them.

If you try to do it all at once, it will be too overwhelming. So while you have to visualize it "big picture", you want to build and learn in stages.
If you start to stress, then walk away. Turn to the boards for help, when you need it. There is wealth of collective knowledge around here.
And for God's sake have fun!!! bananadance
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Grizzly's Comanche Simulator
"Fear is the mind killer. - Frank Herbert"

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#3361613 - 08/08/11 03:53 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
AndyB Offline
Member

Registered: 12/13/09
Posts: 371
Loc: Ayrshire, Scotland
Hi Ice,

Switch matrices are easy.

Imagine a piece of graph paper. Where the lines reach the top you label each line with a letter A,B,C etc.

Where the lines reach the side you label each line with a number 1,2,3 etc.

Where the lines cross is where a switch would be.

i.e. you connect your switch across lines B and 5. When you press that switch it gives the controller a unique address on the matrix (B5) and it then does whatever you programmed it to do for that code. Simple.....

Hope this helps you.

Cheers,

Andy
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Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk

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#3361617 - 08/08/11 04:16 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Hmmm... what does "input and output" mean? I just want switches that do something in-game when I click them. If anyone here plays DCS A10, it's the UFC and CDU that I want to build, then maybe some of the other panels like the electrical panel, fuel flow panel, etc.

Grizzly, when you say not attach to MDF, does that include MDF-to-MDF, ie attaching the side consoles to the center setup? I do plan to install the seat THROUGH the MDF, same goes for the joystick and throttle, but I think I'll be making holes in the MDF for the panels since I prefer attaching switches to a thin plywood board than to the MDF.

I guess I'll be needing a lot of cardboard for this project then.

But like I said, won't I need to start with the seat first?
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#3361639 - 08/08/11 06:07 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
GrizzlyT Offline
Member

Registered: 11/22/05
Posts: 549
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
Originally Posted By: - Ice
Hmmm... what does "input and output" mean? I just want switches that do something in-game when I click them.

Input is sending data to the PC. Output is getting data from the PC.
If you just want switches...that's input. If you want warning lights and indicators to respond to the software...that's output.

Originally Posted By: - Ice
Grizzly, when you say not attach to MDF, does that include MDF-to-MDF, ie attaching the side consoles to the center setup? I do plan to install the seat THROUGH the MDF, same goes for the joystick and throttle, but I think I'll be making holes in the MDF for the panels since I prefer attaching switches to a thin plywood board than to the MDF.

Yes. Anytime you are screwing into the MDF, it can/will break up. Always try to drill clean through and bolt it together. If you need to make butt joints, then add a solid wood block to one piece and then you can screw, or bolt, to it instead.

Originally Posted By: - Ice
But like I said, won't I need to start with the seat first?

Like I said smile... "Starting with the seat, base, and controller mounts, is a good place to start."

When I did my first generic pit, that's what I did. I built it from the inside out.
However, with the Comanche, I started building the panels, one at a time, first. Then, I built the front dash. Then, the side consoles.
The seat and base were towards the end of the build. So it was built from the outside in.
The difference was, with the Comanche, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
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Grizzly's Comanche Simulator
"Fear is the mind killer. - Frank Herbert"

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#3361648 - 08/08/11 06:55 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Sorry about that Grizzly, missed that line biggrin

At the moment, all I want is INPUT, no plans for fault panel yet and I can live without the Master Caution light on the UFC. Aside from those, I don't think there's any other output I want for DCS A10.

Thanks for the warning on MDF... I was initially planning to wood-screw any joints together, I'm guessing that won't work?
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- Ice

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#3361975 - 08/08/11 01:21 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
HitchHikingFlatlander Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 09/21/06
Posts: 3904
Loc: California
Yeah MDF is probably too brittle for that. I replied to your thread on the ED forums regarding tools of the trade FYI.
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A casual west coast Black Shark/A-10C Squadron always looking for extra pilots and good times!

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#3364241 - 08/11/11 02:00 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
DudleyAz Offline
Member

Registered: 12/31/09
Posts: 145
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Ice, here's a quick drawing of what they are talking about when trying to join up two pieces of MDF.

Being that MDF is just wood pulp and glue with a heavy paper wrapper, it has good strength, but when you drive a screw into it, there isn't much for the screw to bite into to keep it there. So what you want is to screw through it to something more dense on the other side. Any cheap 'white' wood like poplar, white wood, or even pine will work for the joining pieces, and you won't see them once it is all closed up.

While you are at the home improvement store or lumber yard, ask them for some big empty boxes like from washers, lawn mowers, etc. Those are worth gold when mocking up your cockpit to figure out where to put everything and your overall dimensions. Just try to stay out of the public eye when you are doing it... your neighbors may think you have lost your last marble when they see you sitting in a cardboard box making plane noises... mine did! pilot

Remember... this is supposed to be fun!

Good luck!

Dud
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#3364338 - 08/11/11 07:47 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
ericleroi Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/16/11
Posts: 3
DudleyAZ has given you some great advise there for working with MDF. In terms of how to proceed, for me the seat is central to everything. Once you have that, it makes matters a whole lot easier in designing the rest of the pit. Even though it's for a racing cockpit, the thread I put together on the build I made may be useful and give you some ideas if nothing else (lots of pics). I'll be building mk II shortly which will be modular so it can be used for flight and racing sims and will have the same basic shape.

R-pod

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#3366302 - 08/13/11 04:04 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Yeps, thanks for that pic, Dudley.
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- Ice

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#3366307 - 08/13/11 04:09 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Thanks for the link, ericleroi! I think I've seen you pit sometime before and yes, that is more or less the idea I'm going for.
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- Ice

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#3373241 - 08/23/11 03:06 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
With payday coming this week, I'm thinking of heading off to the local B&Q to buy some 3/4" MDF. Sells for about 17 for a 8x4 foot board, with free cuts. I was wondering how long a 'pit needs to be, from chair to screen? Or at least maybe chair to foot pedals? Just so I know how long the "floorboard" part needs to be.
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- Ice

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#3404492 - 10/05/11 08:38 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
Hotshot

Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Finally going to Wickes/B&Q later today (1:30am, gasp!) to buy some MDF. The initial plan was to bore through MDF to a brace of timber, then essentially bolt the MDF to the timber. However, considering the amount of "joining" I would need to do, this may be quite a pain. I do understand screwing MDF-to-MDF isn't a very strong hold, what if I just screw THROUGH the MDF to the timber behind it? Kinda like substituting a screw for a bolt. Thoughts?
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- Ice

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#3404665 - 10/06/11 06:34 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
JAMF Offline
Frugalite & P-38 fan
Senior Member

Registered: 05/29/10
Posts: 3809
Loc: The Netherlands
Does poplar tend to split? If so, pre-drill a sample with varying diameter drills and see what size you need to stop the wood splitting.

Don't depend on the screws alone. Use (PUR-)glue on the surfaces where MDF meets MDF.

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#3404673 - 10/06/11 06:52 AM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
AndyB Offline
Member

Registered: 12/13/09
Posts: 371
Loc: Ayrshire, Scotland
My suggestion (for what it's worth) is:

Drill a clearance hole through the MDF AND a couple of inches in to the MDF you're fixing it to.

About 1" in from the edge drill a 1/2"hole through the MDF intersecting the clearance hole.

Glue a piece of 1/2" dowel in to the hole and cut off flush with the surface.

Now when you drive the screw in the dowel can't split because it's surrounded by the MDF and the MDF can't split because you're only exerting compression force on it's side.

You can buy fiffings that are like this and are used a lot in flat pack furniture (and that's chipboard!!!).

cheers,

Andy
_________________________
Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk

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#3405075 - 10/06/11 04:18 PM Re: Designing a 'Pit, problems to clear [Re: - Ice]
- Ice Offline
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Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 8865
Loc: Philippines / North East UK
Thanks for the suggestion guys.

Would like to avoid glue on some parts, I like the idea of being able to break down the pit if I need to. I will be drilling pilot holes, at least the MDF won't have to expand too much. Also going to screw into kiln-dried wood... hopefully won't split easy but if it does, it's easier to replace a secton of wood than an MDF panel.
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