I play Star Citizen a lot. ( It’s a new space-sim online multiplayer game still in alpha with six degrees of freedom when piloting space craft and fully simulated Newtonian physics. It’s being made by Chris Roberts, the creator of Wing Commander. Check it out if you’re into that sort of thing. ) You can play it with just a keyboard and mouse, but other controls are much more fun and immersive. I needed a more ergonomic solution to using my Joystick and Throttle. Leaning over my desk wasn’t comfortable and couldn’t be done for any real length of time.
My solution was to put desk “wings” on each side of my chair, after reading about a couple of insane-looking customized chair builds some nerds at Progamerreview made. I’d mount my HOTAS to them and use the right one as a mouse pad, too. The basic design used galvanized pipe mounted to my chair as support for the plywood desk wings.
List of needed supplies:
- 3/4″ Galvanized Pipe (10 foot length, cut down and threaded to needed pieces)
- Galvanized Pipe elbows
- Floor flanges
- 1″ Aluminum square stock
- Longer bolts for seat
- T-nuts and matching bolts
- small bolts and nuts for mounting joystick
- 3/4″ Birch plywood
- Wood stain (Dark Walnut, canned)
- Polyurethane (satin finish, canned and spray)
- Sand paper (80 grit, 120 grit, 220 grit, 320 grit, 400 grit)
- 0000 Steel Wool
- Beeswax polish (super awesome, saved the day).
My chair is a Black Friday special I bought for $70 in 2014. The pipe I bought at home depot for around $18. They offered free cuts and threading (provided it wasn’t too excessive). Considering a 12″ length of pipe was $10, it was a much better deal to buy the 10′ length.
The first night I cut the aluminum square stock to length. One long section to be the mounting support, and one smaller section to keep the seat even. I placed the square channel between the seat and the mounting plate on the chair base. I drilled holes in the square stock and ran longer bolts through it, connecting the seat to the mounting plate, holding the square stock snugly in between. I mounted galvanized floor flanges to the square stock using u-bolts. I needed to drill out and clean up the screw holes of the floor flanges a little bit, though. The casting process didn’t have tight tolerances, so the screw holes weren’t always uniform or the proper diameter.
On the second night, I decided to move the longer, support piece of square stock back to the rear position. I also took the chair to Home Depot earlier in the day to measure out how high I wanted the support pipe and have it cut and threaded right there. 10′ lengths of pipe were roughly $18, while 12″ lengths were $10 each. Cuts and threading were free, so it was a no-brainer to buy a single length and have it cut down for all the parts I needed.
The 3rd night was spent at the lab. I cut the birch plywood into rectangles, clamped them to the pipe supports, and marked a rough outline of how I wanted the wings to be shaped, then cut with a jigsaw. After this, the wings were able to be mounted without the chair’s arms getting in the way.
To mount the wings, I marked the position of the screw holes in the floor flanges and drilled small pilot holes. From the top, I drilled down about an 1/8″ with a spade bit to counter-bore the T-nuts. Then I enlarged the hole for the bolt and hammered in the T-nuts. With counter-boring, the T-nuts ended up flush with the plywood. The bolts had a tapered head that mated well with the floor flanges on the pipes.
With a more stable platform, I further refined the outline of the wings and cut again with a jigsaw. I rounded the corners with the sanding wheel. I made a used a copy machine to get a scale image of the bottom of my Warthog joystick and used it as a guide to drill mounting holes with a drill press. I also drilled a large hole centered underneath the joystick to run the USB cable. One of the mounting holes was off by a slight bit. Lance loaned me his file set to correct the problem.
Suraj was kind enough to help me set up the router table to round the edges on both sides of the wings and the joystick cable hole. I then sanded down both sides to get rid of any marring from careless handling. I started with 80 grit and worked my way up to 400 grit (In retrospect, this may have been excessive and hampering to staining).
I brought the chair back home to stain and seal. I first used Min-wax pre-stain to treat the wood, then applied a coat of Min-wax Dark Walnut stain. I waited a day, then applied a second coat. I then put 2 coats of polyurethane on with a brush on each side, sanding between coats with 400 grit sandpaper. I was having trouble getting the top coat to be perfect though. I used a spray can for the final few coats on the top, which helped some, but the top coat still wasn’t perfectly smooth and sanding clouded up the finish.
A friend of mine, Jack, recommended using beeswax. I used that in conjunction with 0000 steel wool and the results were astounding. Steel wool on its own was okay, but adding the beeswax made any imperfections just seemingly melt away, leaving only a smooth finish behind.
Aluminum square stock is held between the seat and the mount that connects to the center stand. I replaced the bolts that would normally hold the chair together with longer ones that run through the square stock. Two u-bolts hold a floor flange to the square stock as a mounting point for the galvanized pipe. The plywood is held to floor flanges by machine screws and t-nuts.
After staining and sealing, undid all the pipes, applied loctite, and then cranked them all down as tight as I physically was able. A pipe wrench helped immensely, though it did leave marks on the metal. I may try to grind those down if I ever decide to paint the pipes. For now, though, they don’t bother me, since they’re only visible on close inspection.
Many thanks to Suraj, Lance, Daniel, and everyone at FamiLAB for the help, facilities, and brainstorming!
Love the build! I know this is almost a year in, but any changes since the initial build? Is there anything you’d do differently?
Well, the first thing I added was cup holder. Drinks kept sliding right off.
What I would have done differently? I would use a design that uses two pipe supports on each end to make things slightly more stable. I’m happy with how it is now, but it could be a little better.
The chair itself, though, is the main source of any instability. I may build an entire chair from the ground up as a project to learn how to weld.