Hardware & Technical Desk mounted "sim pit" project

DIY Desk mounted "sim 'pit" project

I built a multipurpose sim pit out of aluminium profiles around my desk, due to lack of space for a dedicated one. Its main purpose is being quickly available, but just as quickly stowed away while replicating the stability and ergonomics of a full aluminium extrusion rig as best as possible. Flight and racing sim hardware must be switchable (CH Products HOTAS + MFG Crosswinds pedals, Logitech G27 wheel/shifter/pedals). The solution I've gone for is a "pedal 'pit" that's permanently placed under the desk to hold flight or racing pedals (exchangable), combined with HOTAS mounts, which will attach to the desk. The wheel / shifter can already be attachedd to the desk with a built in mechanism.

The planning was done using a software called MayCAD with the help of this tutorial, which uses an older version of the software. MayCAD is freely available and allows to model constructions using the MayCAD aluminium profile system. I eventually used the ITEM system, because that's what the store from which I ordered sells, but the parts list generated by the software is nearly 1:1 translatable to ITEM parts:



I've uploaded the MayCAD files with the models to github. Note that these models contain some placeholder parts, as I wasn't able to model all available parts in MayCAD. E.g. the acrylic plates are actually wood on my construction, the steel plates connecting the monitor mount are actually angled and the steel plates for stabilizing the joints of the monitor mount are missing.

The 'rig

Chair attached to pedal pit, no pedals inserted. The spaces between the extrusions allow to insert either racing or flight pedals. The pedal pit has been taken out for foto purposes here, but otherwise it permanently sits under the desk.



Racing pedals:



Flight pedals:



The pedals simply slide into the pedal pit and sit very tight, while the contact points are padded with some felt. With a bit of force, they can simply be pulled out again to switch to the other set:



Monstertech mount clones, which were previously connected by a crossbar. As that made the construction too heavy and clunky, they've been separated:



Triple monitor mount:

I'm using three Dell U2415 and need to pull the screens a bit towards me for a more comfortable distance when using the "rig". Also, our Ikea desk plates mostly consists of air, so attaching the monitors with clamps would probably not be an option, because clamps will damage the plate. As a result, the mount has furniture feet allowing to easily move it on the desk and is build for the particular screen size and height, at which I need them on the desk. The U2415 also sports a rather thin bezel which is great for multi screens, but results in the webcam's or TrackIR's feet sticking into the picture if they're placed on the bezel. That's why the vertical bars are as tall as they are, because they double as webcam and TrackIr holder.



This is how everything looks in motion (TrackIR 5 is used for camera control):

[video=youtube;CGrXGEtGz6w]https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=CGrXGEtGz6w[/video]




History Here I'll keep track of the updates in chronologically reverse order as I go along.

Update 9: HOTAS mounts after reconfiguration and starting out on exchangable pedals.

Size and weight of the original combined design where too impractical after using it for a while. Therefore I removed the crossbar and keyboard holder, replacing the top wood plates with metal parts:
They're now essentially Monstertech mount clones.

I finally get round to making the pedals exchangable:



The two bottom bars will slide into the "pedal pit" and require no additional fixiation - the pedals weight is more than enough to keep them in place. That way they can be easily exchanged. Racing pedals are deconstructed Logitech G27 pedals. I've seen the overhead mounting mod of these quite often on the internet, liked the look and decided to try it with mine as well.

Update 8: Previously completed setup before reconfiguration.

The completed HOTAS mount, which turned out too impractical. I've since modified it:


Everything attached to the desk and ready to go:







Detachable mousepad...



...for whenever 'space legs' happen to arrive.


Update 7: Strengthening the joints of the monitor mount using steel plates.

Cable management in a slightly wip state. The original idea was to have reasonably easily configurable angles for the outer monitors. Mechanically however, the adjustable angles with levers from update 6 don't hold the stress of the monitos without being pushed down some mm by the weight, which results in a notable angled gap between the monitors. Some playtime has shown that I don't realistically need the adjustable angle, but very realistically want well aligned screens. The stell plates may be overkill but together with the adjustable angles for guiding the joint, they fix the outer monitor's arms in place perfectly.


Update 6: The setup will be complemented with triple monitors on a single mount.



WIP though: Saves tons of room on the desk. In hindsight, the portruding feet could've been 10 cm shorter. The inital idea was to angle the outer screens up to 45°, but that hasn't worked out. I'm just too lazy to saw them off for the moment. The angles unfortunately leave too much room, so the outer monitors hang down some millimeters. Il'll think of something to support them.


Update 5: The keyboard holder is finally painted.



This would conclude the work on the HOTAS mount, I thought. After one playing session though, I'm back to modifying the thing. The vertical profiles are currently fixed to the cross beam using angles on the sides and on top. The top angles will be removed, the vertical profiles lowered to end with the cross beam. I'll cut threads into the profiles' cores and attach wooden plates on top. That'll offer a bit of flat space on which I can fix the exchangable mouspad plate with a bit of velcro. It'll also result in a more clean look of the whole thing, whithout the vertical profiles sticking out on top as much as they do now.

Update 4: Keyboard holder fixed to the HOTAS mount:



Some more details of the whole thing:


The armrests of the Ikea Markus chair are set back, to not get in the way of the HOTAS. This was done using two 300mm 40x20 aluminium profiles, through the back of which I drilled wholes (inaccurately) so a couple of M8 screws could go through them (barely... >.<) and fix the profile to the original armrest fixation. Some T-nuts in the profile now hold the armrests using the original M8 screws, with some washers for compensating inaccuracies.



In order to preserve my desk, I've put some stick-on rubber feet beneath the profiles lying flat on the table. Unfortunatley, they tend to "wander away" under the mechanical force of pressing the mount to the table, detaching it and putting it back into the shelf. Does anybody have a better suggestion that prevents the table from being scratched by the bare aluminium while being fixed onto the mount more reliably and not adding any substantial height?



The pedal pit with ropes in "waiting position":


Update 3: HOTAS attached using Velcro.
Added some cable holders and the cover caps for the angles. Despite the missing keyboard holder, it's already quite usable now.


Update 2: HOTAS mount with varnished plates.

Update 1: HOTAS mount heavily WIP and pedal "'pit"





Starting out:
The premise: I've got a CH HOTAS, the MFG Crosswinds and for racing purposes a Logitech G27, which I would like to occasionally use properly on a stable mount (is highly casual sim gaming a thing?). There is no place in the appartment for a dedicated rig however, so I'm looking at a desk based solution, while also being able to stow it all away in a nearby shelf easily, to have back a usable desk. The desk chair is on wheels and gets pushed away when using any sort of pedals, so there has to be an option to fix it in place. Lastly, I don't have any kind of adequate workshop at hand, so the parts have to be mostly premade.

After having put off thinking about it for some years now, I finally went to work on some solution: a combination of "pedal pit" to always reside under the desk and desk mounted HOTAS/wheel mounts. The pedal pit must eventually allow to quickly exchange between flight and racing pedals, while the desk mounts must be quickly mount-able and removeable. Most things will be constructed of aluminium profiles as I can order them machined to my requirements and they are very easily adjustable.





The basic pedal pit is mostly done, with missing feet and the fixed MFG Crosswinds for the time being. Eventually, I'd also like to have a convenient and quick way to switch between flight and racing pedals, but I simply havn't come up with a solution, yet. It'll probably involve some wooden plate to which the actual pedals are fixed and which can be switched easily. How I'm gonna fix that is up in the air atm. The pit doubles as a means to fix the chair in place, as I'll connect the chair to it with ropes and snap hooks. Frankly, it's probably over-specified a lot and could be easily reduced to the beams on the floor losing the upper structure, if it didn't have to hold the chair, as the aluminium profiles are damn sturdy. As I don't want to fix it to the desk however, it's made as wide as to fit between the sides of the desk without being able to turn.

Currently I'm only working on the pictured mount for the HOTAS, but eventually I'll do something similar for the wheel. The design is very much inspired by the Monstertech mounts, but using angles as connectors that don't require machining and with an added connecting beam, because I'll never really want to use the "HOT" without the "AS". The plates to stick the CH HOTAS to are still missing on the image, as are the quick clamps, which will fix the construction to the desk. The eventual configuration for the stick isn't decided yet, but the mount is made to allow me to place the stick in the middle or at the side, depending on what I may prefer.

(Please have mercy on me, I'm aware of the bit of displayed chaos... :eek: :p)
 
Last edited:
Like all good projects, its good to see its being held together with pieces of string :)
In more than one way... Those are placeholders to test how the chair fixation works, because I was stupid enough to order snap hooks that don't fit on the rings. >.< It works better than I had feared though. Also using "strings" of course. ;) Pics will follow.
 
Last edited:
Tested out the final fixation for the Ikea Markus chair I'm using. Works really well. :)



Just the pressure you exercise on the chair from putting the feet on the pedals manages to effectively fix it in place. Compared to whenever I was using the pedals before, it feels really great to be able to push them all the way through without them happily sliding away on the carpet or the chair moving back.

I don't know if others have the same issues doing building projects like this, but as many problems as the setup I came up with fixes - primarily fixation of chair, pedals and HOTAS and quickly mounting those, as many turn up as I progress with the build and test it out. Small errors like having ordered snapping hooks that don't fit on the rings they're supposed to snap to. More serious issues, like the desk chair's armrests preventing me to put the HOTAS into a comfortable position (armrests are now removed temporarily and I'll have to come up with a solution to move them back a bit). And finally: going by "dry testing" the whole setup feels great, but I'm already worried that I'll end up much further from my 24'' PC screen than I'm comfortable with. :p

The latter is a serious one, as having to squint to make out the fonts on a PC destroys any ergonomic aspect a setup might have. A larger screen is not an option. Budget for this kind of stuff this year is pretty much exhausted with what I already got, not to mention limited desk space. Reconfiguring the HOTAS desk mount to have the HOTAS rest on the desk instead of sit on the mount's plates in front of and below the desk plate is what comes to mind. But then that puts it in a less comfortable position again, compared to the currently planned setup... :( "KISS" solution for the time being is probably to pull the screen forward on the desk, which is however a "reconfiguration" I don't really want to have to do every time I get out a flight sim. Fixing the chair and putting the HOTAS mount on the desk ought to be enough.


Edit: Bit of a preview of the whole setup, losely put together:

 
Last edited:
A couple more detail views of the wip HOTAS mounts:







The plywood plates need varnishing and the distance pieces between the clamps and profile need to be sawed off still. The thing works pretty well. :) I'll somehow put the keyboard on top of the middle beam, but I'll have to think of something to place the mouse in reach. The ideal place would be where the Joystick rests, but that's taken.


Edit: As I said above, inspired by the Monstertech mounts. If one had the option at hand to machine metal parts (build the holding plates and drill the holes for the hidden profile connectors), it would be relatively easy to completely replicate the Monstertech mounts, provided one has access to a shop that provides the aluminium profiles. On these mounts, the vertical part is a 30cm long 40x80L I-type slot 8 piece. The horizontal one is a 20cm long piece of the same profile, but can be shorter, depending on the connectors you use.
 
Last edited:
Continuing talking to myself. :p Finally varnished the HOTAS mounting plates (serviceably...):



The cross beam now sports the adjustable angles onto which the keyboard holder will be fixed. Already got a suitably cut piece of plywood, but it'll have to wait until the HOTAS has been fitted. The CH throttle will be fixed using Velcro. For the right plate, I have in mind to put a small mouse pad onto it and clamp the CH Fighterstick on that using a tension lock similar to this. I still have to give it some thought regarding how to fasten everything.
 
Last edited:
hey, if you're looking for something other than rope to hold your chair back (I have the same issue with my crosswinds), amazon sells little hockey puck things that go under desk chair wheels and are designed to immobilize rolling chairs. Works fantastic .. don't even need them under all 4 wheels, 1 or 2 work great. and they have the added benefit that as soon as you stand up, you can move the chair easily without undoing rope.

This isn't exactly what I have, but same idea:

https://www.amazon.com/iPrimio-Furniture-Stopper-Protector-Scratches/dp/B01LD7LYRG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500913133&sr=8-1&keywords=office+chair+wheel+stopper

BTW, love the concept. I've been toying with the idea myself. It's either kick the kids out of their play room and build a proper sim pit, or make something removable.
Love how you mounted the pedals.. I was able to get away with a few strips of velcro on my wood floor, just strong enough to prevent the pedals from moving, yet still removable when needed -- though I've pretty much left the pedals in place, as they provide a nice foot rest when working.
 
Last edited:
hey, if you're looking for something other than rope to hold your chair back (I have the same issue with my crosswinds), amazon sells little hockey puck things that go under desk chair wheels and are designed to immobilize rolling chairs. Works fantastic .. don't even need them under all 4 wheels, 1 or 2 work great. and they have the added benefit that as soon as you stand up, you can move the chair easily without undoing rope.
Thanks! Didn't even know that such stoppers existed when I planned the build. Definitely another contender for a Keep It Stupid and Simple solution to the wheeled chair problem!

I'll stick to the rope though. What I'd gain in ease of detaching the chair, I'd lose in having to stow away the stoppers as additional bits and pieces flying around. And I'd have to place them on the floor every time I wanted to use the setup. The ropes just go on an additional screw on the pedal pit and are always available. On top of that, the ropes will always fix the chair in the same place relative to the pedals without me ever having to adjust them again. Can't speak for the stoppers due to not having tried them, but also in terms of stability, the rope feels just right.

I've given up my consideration of using tension locks for the Joystick. Overcomplicates everything massively and I don't have them lying around anyway, so impatient me wants to get this thing into a usable state. Joystick will be also attached using Velcro. Mousepad will be glued to a piece of MDF with more Velcro on the bottom, for which the Joystick can be easily exchanged. K.I.S.S., yay! :3 Don't even have to cut the mousepad into shape, as it's slightly larger than the Joystick plate.
 
Last edited:
HOTAS attached using Velcro. Added some cable holders and the cover caps for the angles. Despite the missing keyboard holder, it's already quite usable now.

 
What's eventually to become the keyboard holder and the attachable mouse pad...




Bit of plywood reinforced with some spare pieces I had lying around. Edges need rounding/rasping, it all needs putty to hide my inaccuracies when trying to saw a MDF piece into shape while clamping it to a garden balustrade and then it all needs varnishing.

To attach the mouse pad, I'll probably have to remove a bit of Velcro from the Joystick's bottom. Atm. it's fixed with two stripes along the length of the Joysticks base and... it needs quite a bit of force to come off in the first place. Less Velcro will probably do just fine, so putting the mousepad into place should go smoothly.
 
Last edited:
Really nice, what is the reason for the wooden spacers for the clamps?
Thanks ^^

The spacers are there to give the clamps a longer lever so their pressure can hold the mount more effectively. The whole thing is quite heavy. I haven't done any computations or the like (not that I'd even remember the physics and how to), but my gut feeling is that the clamps have an easier time holding the construction when their pressure isn't exercised right at the edge of the table, but a bit further in. I have enough spare pieces of wood around and will probably add another cm to the spacers, once I stop being lazy and the keyboard holder is added. The keyboard alone will be another kg on the construction.
 
Last edited:
Really good... I walked into a metal workshop factory asked the owner if they could build ,what your doing..

this guy, could not get his head around what I was saying / asking for .... "SIM PIT' ? what's that , Pads for joysticks ?

So glad you have pictures :)


Ps I taped two of my wheels up on my chair .. stops the roll back on carpet
 
Last edited:
Hey BurnyBurns, looks very neat! I had to smile when I noticed the 'chair flying backwards prevention device'. As this was an issue with my simpit. So I stuck to the floor some stops that the wheels of the chair ride over and lock into. Its a must feature !

I will include a pic of mine.....
Here we go. You can see one of the white chocks which is glued to the floor.


Flimley
 
Last edited:
Thanks all. ^^ Won't get much work on the keyboard holder done before the end of the month unfortunately.

Instead of applying a tether to the desk to prevent chair from rolling back, (great idea btw), I replaced my chair castors with these, ( https://www.gamut.com/p/friction-ring-stem-medical-equipment-caster-7-16-in-stem-dia-NzEwNjUy?q=626K180 ).
I assume they're casters which have a blocking function for the wheel? That gamut.com site is blocked in my country. Could you post the image?

I didn't know about exchangable casters before planning the setup. Maybe there'd have been some for the "Markus" chair I have? Nevertheless, my models for a sim pit were those - the chair is fixed onto a platform together with the pedals etc.. With the rope construction, the setup approaches this most closely while still keeping the original casters.

Really good... I walked into a metal workshop factory asked the owner if they could build ,what your doing..

this guy, could not get his head around what I was saying / asking for .... "SIM PIT' ? what's that , Pads for joysticks ?

So glad you have pictures :)

Ps I taped two of my wheels up on my chair .. stops the roll back on carpet
Hehe, I put "sim pit" in quotes for a reason. :) Not a native english speaker and I've only picked up the term. I assume it's just a short for "simulation cockpit"? That might've been more clear for them. I didn't want to do threadbare modifications to my chair, that's why any self-made form of blocking the wheels etc. where out of question for me. Maybe something like the casters linked above would be an option for you, too?

Hey BurnyBurns, looks very neat! I had to smile when I noticed the 'chair flying backwards prevention device'. As this was an issue with my simpit. So I stuck to the floor some stops that the wheels of the chair ride over and lock into. Its a must feature !

I will include a pic of mine.....
Here we go. You can see one of the white chocks which is glued to the floor.
http://i.imgur.com/TXpgrSa.jpg

Flimley
That minuscule white thing at the edge of the wooden boards is a stop? What's it made of? Great dedicated setup btw! All self build? A bit jelaous of the space and the triple monitor setup. Not of the X52 Pro though. :p I was so unhappy with mine, even in perfect working condition, that I sold it off for the CH HOTAS after a couple of uses. Which was the beginning of me going down this particular rabbit hole, as I suddenly needed a set of pedals, which then needed a stable thing to sit on instead of sliding around on the floor, which then...

Do you also play other sims on the setup (not ARMA or Star Citizen. DCS and the likes)? As much as I love Elite, I'm very, very, very..... very unhappy with what their game design team has delivered. The whole game is solely carried by its "feeling" of controlling the craft for me. Which is normal flight action. The immedate flight controls and ship response. The meta game however ("Bring trinkets from A to B. Shoot 5000 units of X. Wait hours for non interactive scans to complete. Watch 10000 loading screens. Want to play with friends? Watch more loading screens first! No missions designed for cooperative play...") is so goddamn underwhelming and disappointing that I really have to question whether Frontier's game designers even play their own game for fun in their free time or instead design by the guideline: "Make it like a second job. With only menial, repetitive tasks and a whole lot of waiting involved."

Which is why I plan to look more closely into actual flight sims, once the setup is completed. It's been great jumping back into Elite every once in a while, but my tolerance for watching loading screens or point at something and wait instead of having engaging "normal flight" action is much lower than some other people's. The whole setup and the work that's gone into it is wasted on waiting Elite to finally feature competent game design, so some actual sims should give more enaging things to use it well that respect my free time, instead of watching 20 minutes of loading screens and wade through pretentious second-life-ish brain dead horse poo (ship transfer waiting times?!), before getting to use that setup.

/rant

Eventually I'll also to dig out the racing games from my Steam library, once it's expanded to hold the Logitech G27 wheel/shifter/pedals, too.
 
Last edited:
Yes that minuscule white plastic stop (one on the left hand side also) is just enough to prevent the chair from floating away. Once the castors ride up and over the strips they act as a choc.
Yes its a self build. And currently I only play Elite as I don't have time enough to sink into another game. And the X52 pro so far has been very good. Very useful for VR use.

flimley.
 
Yes that minuscule white plastic stop (one on the left hand side also) is just enough to prevent the chair from floating away. Once the castors ride up and over the strips they act as a choc.
Yes its a self build. And currently I only play Elite as I don't have time enough to sink into another game. And the X52 pro so far has been very good. Very useful for VR use.

flimley.
Much respect! Do you have pictures online showing how you build the whole setup?

As for not having time to sink into another game... Small wonder, when Elite is designed to be a second job! :p You've got such a great setup with the triple screen and panels, that I can just about imagine how ridiculously immersive playing Sturmovik, DCS, even just War Thunder (sim mode) on it would be.

My gripes with the X52 came from details. Useless mouse nub, whereas I wanted a mini stick. Useless throttle display, whereas I needed buttons. Drivers (might've changed since): having to deassign buttons before Elite would register them... Whereas the CH HOTAS has been (mostly!) a revelation. Perfectly placed mini stick for lateral/vertial thrust. HAT switches up the whazoo. You know the HOTAS has a good amount of buttons, when you can map everything important comfortably with a single modifier and still have room to assign the engine and weapon color toggles. :D
 
Last edited:
I do have all the design and build pics, but not online anywhere just in my pics folder. ...I really should post them one day. But here are some pics I posted in the "show is your setup" thread...post #1016
https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/19065-Show-Us-Your-Setup/page68?highlight=Show+us+your+setup

I began designing the desk just before game release. So it's been slowly evolving over the years as and when I have time.
Oh yes your spot on about that useless mouse nub, its way, way too sensitive to be of any use. [haha]

Flimley
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom