My Complete Illustrated Experience to Mod X-Arcade TankStick (Part 2)

This is the SECOND of the THREE part posts that I wrote to share my experience to mod my X-Arcade TankStick.

The X-Arcade TankStick came with a very sturdy cabinet and offers a lot of room for modding. Search on Google and you'll find numerous mods that people had done with it over the years.

I decided to write this post to share my experience in modding the TankStick with little DIY background :-) I made sure to took pictures of every steps that I did not only to share the progress with you, but also as a flashback moment for me during the mod. The whole mod took around 3 days as I tried different joysticks every time I mounted a new one before finally deciding on one.

Modding the TankStick actually requires no woodwork AT ALL if you're only seeking to replace the push buttons and installing a spinner. Woodwork is only needed in case you want to mount a universal mounting plate such as the Kowal, which you'll then install it on the Japanese or Korean joysticks. This is mainly because the default mounting space is not tall enough to fit it vertically. The width fits perfectly though.

Please see the following post to find out which arcade parts I purchased for this mod project.

Note: This post contains a lot of high resolution images. Please view it only if you have sufficient Internet bandwidth.

In essence, I mod the TankStick in the following ways:
  • Replaced the stock X-Arcade push buttons with Euro iL Short Stem Convex Push Buttons (multi-colored)
  • Installed Ultimarc SpinTrak, a high resolution rotary device that provides analog X-Axis (left/right) inputs. It would shows up as a Mouse device on Windows.
  • Did some woodwork to expand the default joystick mounting place in order to install the Kowal Universal Mounting Plate.
  • Mounted Kowal Universal Mounting Plate on various joysticks, i.e. Sanwa JLW and Seimitsu LS-32. 
  • I also tried to mount the Eurostick iL Joystick without the Kowal plate since it is an exact fit. It's basically a drop-in replacement.
  • Connecting the other end of the JLF-5H 5-Pin wiring harness to the Quick Disconnect. I did it because I don't want to cut the quick disconnect as I might want to use the non-PCB joystick on some fine day :)

Tools Required for the Mod

To be added in the future...

Modding

Push Buttons

I first started to mod the push buttons since they are the easiest to do. Simply unplug the quick disconnect, unfasten the hexagon holder that keep the push buttons in place, and then simply pop in the Euro iL short stem push buttons.

Note: I had to used a plier when unplugging the quick disconnect since some of it are held up very tight. I tried to push it using a flat head screwdriver but find it to be difficult compared to the plier. Make sure to push the quick disconnect soft jacket to the back first before gripping the metal head. Then slowly push it, i.e. left and right movement and slowly to the back to the opposite direction.

Initially I decided to purchase a LED controller (such as the PACLED) and transparent push buttons that will light up when using program such as LED Blinky. But I later decided to leave it for future mod since it might be difficult for first time arcade modder. Besides, installing the LED controller usually require an additional 12V power supply to power both players buttons (such as the PC power supply with molex connector). Not really sure I can place additional power supply INSIDE the TankStick. Even if it is doable, I'll still need to cut a big hole for air ventilation. It's just too much of a hassle.





Spinner

For the spinner, I chose Ultimarc SpinTrak for its advertised high precision rotary and ease of setup. An alternative for this would be the TurboTwist2 but I couldn't find any store that is selling it.

Spinner with the outer jacket removed. I have to remove it in order to remove the hexagon fastener, which you'll then fastened it after mounting to secure it to the panel.

Removed the third row button on Player 2 space to make room for the Spinner.

Spinner mounted (without flyweight).

SpinTrak spinner (with large flyweight).


Next is to mount the PCB that will convert the SpinTrak 4-Pin GPIO signals to USB.

The PCB to convert 4-Pin GPIO signal from the SpinTrak to USB. We'll have to find ways to mount it inside the TankStick cabinet.

To secure the PCB on the TankStick, I'm using a multi-layered polystyrene which I got from my previous electronic components purchase. This will serve as the base mount and is where the PCB will rest upon. There are two revisions that I did and following is the first revision.

As seen in the picture, I decided to mount it on the Trackball housing since it is plastic and double sided tape will stick more securely on it instead of wood.

First revision of mounting the PCB.

While the first revision looks good, I decided to slightly modify the base mount to fit the PCB even more securely, especially since it will be exerted against the gravity after you flip the TankStick over. Notice the cutout for the capacitor for heat dissipation.

Second revision of the PCB mounting base block.

To route the USB cable into the Spinner PCB, I have to sacrifice a push button hole since I don't want to make (drill) one myself. For this I chose to remove the horizontal disabler push button at the back since I haven't used it even once (more like never will).
Removed the horizontal push buttons at the back to make room for the USB cable to connect to the Spinner PCB.

Here is how it looks like with the USB cable connected to the Spinner PCB.


JoyStick

This is perhaps the hardest part, and also the most time consuming to mod since there is some wood work required to expand the joystick mounting space. The Kowal universal mounting plate cannot fit directly on it.

To remove the hexagon nuts, I have to find a small size spanner to fit the nuts since I don't have any hexagon driver around. They are held very tight so it is impossible to unfasten using your fingers.

Start by removing the four hexagon nuts that secure the X-Arcade stock joystick mounting base.

All nuts removed.

Just to highlight, I'm having difficulty to remove one particular screw. I believe all the screws are glued to the wood. This one is held up too tight while other screws simply drop out when I pushed it using my fingers.

The only screw that is giving me difficulty to remove.

I tried to push it using fingers but it just wouldn't budge.

Using spanner to push it and it will works. Alternatively, you can use a smaller nut driver and push it very easily.

All screws and nuts removed.

Now it's time to remove the joystick. Start by removing the E-Clip.

The E-Clip that is holding the shaft securely.

Using flat head screwdriver and push it to one of the smaller hole. Push it outwards.

E-Clip removed.

Make sure to hold the balltop shaft after removing the E-Clip since it is no longer secured by the clip!

The balltop handle and shaft.

The X-Arcade stock joystick components.


Removed the joystick mounting plate.

The clean factory cut joystick mounting place.

The M6 sized 25mm screws, washer, and nuts that holds the mounting plate.



Surface view after removing the joystick. Notice how the screw looks like a screw cap, but it's not and is a screw by itself.

Surface view after removing all four screws

Test Mounting Plate

Now it's time to test various mounting plates and joystick on the default joystick mounting place.

Kowal Universal Mounting Plate


The default mounting space is not a direct fit for the Kowal mounting plate. It just need another ~5mm more.

Seimitsu SE Mounting Plate

Seimitsu SE mounting plate.

Seimitsu SS Mounting Plate

Seimitsu SS mounting plate. It fits perfectly when placed vertically (upper picture).

Euro iL Joystick

Euro iL Joystick is a perfect drop in replacement for the X-Arcade joystick since it is a perfect fit.

Euro iL Joystick mounted on the stock joystick place.

Expand the Mounting Space

To get that extra 5mm of mounting space in order to mount the Kowal universal mounting plate, it's time to get my hands dirty by doing some wood work.

Here is how I expand the mounting space but cutting up ~5mm of wood: (Unfortunately I did not snap pictures when doing it)
  1. Place the Kowal plate and cut a shallow line using a cutter repeatedly until you can fit a small flat-head screwdriver inside. This will serve as the pilot line.
  2. Start with one of the edge, insert a flat-head screwdriver on the pilot line, then slowly hit it with a hammer
  3. Repeat Step 2 along the pilot line.
  4. Carefully finish the other edge.
  5. Clean up the line using sandpaper or other tool.

The extended mounting place.

Time to place the Kowal mounting plate on the newly expanded space.

Kowal universal mounting plate with Seimitsu SS mounting plate on Seimitsu LS-32-01 joystick.

Sanwa JLW mounting plate is a perfect fit with the extended mounting space.

Mounting Sanwa JLW joystick on the extended joystick mounting space.

Note: You'll need either M4 or M5 screw (25mm or 30mm) and nut to secure the Kowal universal plate on the TankStick cabinet panel. The one that I unscrewed from the TankStick is M6 and WILL NOT fit the Kowal mounting plate.

Modding Player 2 Spot

Moving on to modifying parts for Player 2 spot. Basically I'm repeating the modding steps which I did for Player 1. But this time I did it more efficiently and faster too!

Joystick

Before doing the woodwork to expand the Player 2 joystick mounting place.

For the woodwork, I chose to expand both the upper and lower part because I don't want to expand the upper part too close to the X-Arcade PCB controller board.

After the woodwork.

A direct fit for the Kowal universal mounting plate after the expansion.

For Player 2 joystick, I decided to install a Seimisu LS-32-02, which is essentially a LS-32 but with a PCB mount. Since I do not have any male quick disconnect, I did some hack to connect the JLF-5H other end of the wiring with the quick disconnect. To achieve this, I trim a slightly longer copper wire, twisted it, and route it through the smaller hole on the quick disconnect (Note that there are two smaller holes on the quick disconnect). After that I used a tape and wrap them securely to make the contact.

Another alternative is to simply cut the quick disconnect and twist the two wires together. But I chose not to do so. Who knows I might want to switch back to American style joystick or non-PCB joystick :-P


A quick hack to connect the other end of JLF-5H 5 pin wiring harness to the stock female quick disconnect.

Seimitsu LS-32-02 mounted as Player 2 joystick.


Push Buttons

Replacing Player 2 X-Arcade stock push buttons with Euro iL Short Stem Convex, just like Player 1.

Bottom Panel

As many have pointed out, opening the bottom panel is always a pain as it requires using a thin blunt tool such as the butter knife to plunge it open. So I decided to stick a cardboard handle on the bottom panel instead.



My Modding Attempts

Following are some of my attempts to mount different joystick on the TankStick just to try them all out! Guess what joystick I chose at the end?

Attempt #1

1st Player: Euro Joystick iL White
2nd Player: X-Arcade Stock Joystick (Suzo Happ knockoff)

Interior look.
Exterior look.

Same exterior look but with steering wheel installed.

Attempt #2

1st Player: Sanwa JLW
2nd Player: Seimitsu LS-32-02



Final Attempt

So after trying out all different joysticks, i.e. the Eurostick iL, Sanwa JLW, Sanwa JLF (on my Qanba Q4 RAF), and the Seimitsu LS32, I must say that I'm actually preferring the Seimitsu LS32 much more for its shorter throw and engage distance. The JLW is too stiff and the JLF is too sensitive and have a longer throwing distance. So the LS32 is somewhere in between.

One thing to take note of is that the LS32 have a shorter shaft than the Sanwa's, it's shorter by 5mm. The short of 5mm might seemed subtle but the difference is great when you hold it with your fingers. I can't clamp the shaft with the LS32 comfortably than I would on the Sanwa JLW/JLF.

Don't get me wrong, the Eurostick is still the best joystick for American arcade experience. Just that I found myself holding ball top joystick more naturally than bat-top style.

Exterior looks.
Buttons and spinner.

Summary

So there you have it, a complete pictures that shows my progress to mod my TankStick. I'm pretty content and proud of what I have achieved :-) Also this gets me closer to understanding arcade parts even closer now.

Leave in the comments if you like the mod or have any suggestions for me to try out? Perhaps more pictures for the viewing pleasure? I'm also willing to answer some of your questions if you're into modding your TankStick too!

Enough modding already, time for me to play some games! I'm spending too much time on modding rather than enjoying the games heh!

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2 comments

This is a great write up! My Tankstick shows up this week and cabinet should be done any day now. Haven't touched it yet, but already looking at mods /-)

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I did a similar mod to my Tankstick but i replaced both sticks with programmable Ultrastick 360 and placed a SpinTrak in the place of the 2nd player button (on top) - that way it doesn't mess with the 2nd player buttons.
Next up is to install an internal USB Hub and Raspberry Pi 3...

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