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DDR Pad
Looks Great

The Home Built Hardwood DDR Pad Project

Robert Walsh

DDR Pad
Works Great


If you love to play Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) this is the project for you! This article describes how to make an oak dance pad for DDR that works with the Playstation (or PS2, of course). The project costs about $100 and is fairly easy to make. The pad is extremely sensitive and very durable. Further, the buttons are unsealed so fine tweaking the sensitivity and performing maintenance requires no tool!


Misc

Parts List

Pictures

Finished Pad 1
Finished Pad 2
Finished Pad 3
Finished Pad 4
Finished Pad 5
Finished Pad 6
Finished Pad 7

Video

End of Century 7.3mb
Drop the Bomb 7mb

Other Pads

The Original
Riptide's

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Oak Dashboard
Trampoline

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DDR Pad Project

The base for the DDR pad is a 3' x 3' sheet of 3/4" plywood. You will need to cut a 4' x 4' sheet of 3/4" plywood to this dimension because most plywood vendors won't sell plywood in this dimension. That's OK, because the scraps will come in handy later if you don't have a table saw.

Now, mark your three foot square piece of plywood as shown in the diagram. The dotted lines are guides for placing the buttons and non-button surfaces. The blue line marks the position for the wire groove which is cut into the base.


DDR Pad Project

I designed the DDR pad to have a solid core. So, a groove must be cut into the base so that the wires can be routed to each of the switches. The blue line in the diagram shows where to cut the groove. If you have a router, set it up to cut a groove ¼" deep and 3/8" wide. Otherwise, the groove can be cut using a circular saw with the blade set to cut ¼" deep (see image to right). If you use a circular saw, you may want to make two passes with the second pass just to the side of the first. This will make the groove twice as wide allowing the wires to be installed easier.


DDR Pad Project

After cutting the groove, it is time to install the wires. You will need five 20 gauge wires. Four wires for the buttons plus one common ground. As the diagram shows, the ground (black) is runs the length of the groove. The remaining four wires should be wired the as shown. The left (yellow) and down (red) wires run counterclockwise to there respective locations and the blue (up) and green (right) wires run clockwise. This wiring pattern minimizes the length of each wire and keeps the wires from overcrowding the groove. If the wires don't stay in the groove, put some tape over them. Just be sure to use the least amount and the thinnest tape possible so that it doesn't interfere with the gluing that in done later. Also, be sure that there is a significant amount of extra wire at each end! Because, you won't be able to run the wires through the woodwork after the oak top is glued in place!!!


DDR Pad Project

Cut five 1' x 1' squares out of a piece of 3/4" oak plywood. If you are using a circular saw, be very careful to cut accurately! These five squares are the non-button surface of the DDR pad. So, using the guide lines, glue the center square in first. Try to get it as perfectly square and centered as possible. Place a piece of cardboard (to protect the oak finish) on the square and then place something very heavy on top of that. I found dumbbells and car batteries useful! Wait for the glue to set (or wait overnight so the glue is dried) and then glue the remaining four square in their respective corner. Align the corner of these squares with the corner of the center square and make sure they are as square as possible with the center square. Don't worry if the corner squares don't line up perfectly with the out edge of the plywood base. That will be fixed later. Be sure to use enough glue and be sure to clamp them (or use weights and batteries like me) in place until dry.


DDR Pad Project

If you used a table saw, your edges probably line up fairly well. For the rest of us, we need to trim the edges perfectly flush and straight using a circular saw! The picture on the left shows how to do this. put your 1' x 4' x 3/4" plywood scrap on some old 2" x 4"'s. Then, center the edge of your DDR pad upside down on top of the plywood scrap. Then, clamp the 1' x 3' x 3/4" plywood scrap on top of the DDR base being sure to use small pieces of scrap wood to protect the oak finish on DDR pad where the clamp touches it. The top piece of plywood is your cutting guide. It needs to be clamped square with the outer edge and far enough in so that you are trimming off only enough wood to make the outer edge perfectly straight and flush. The actual distance from the edge depends on your saw and how much you need to trim to make your edge flush. To cut the edge, set your saw cutting depth cut through the DDR pad and about ¼" into the scrap plywood at the bottom. Then, just run the left edge of your saw guide along the right edge of the top piece of plywood. Some caveats - The right edge of the top piece of plywood (the piece that you are using as a guide for the saw) should be the edge cut at the plywood factory. If that edge is not a factory cut, the edges of your pad will only be as straight as you cut. Also, don't cut your wires! Don't cut your wires. You can cut most of the edge with the wires but keep the saw far from cutting the wires.


DDR Pad Project

If you cut your wires, your in trouble! You might be lucky enough to pull the wires out but don't count on it. You may have to run your wires under the pad - that is OK but not very elegant and I won't discuss how one might do so... Anyhow, if you didn't cut your wires, you should have something that looks like the image to the left. Notice that I cut up to, but not through, my wires. To finish the cut, I am going to use a hacksaw and very carefully cut the edge free. Although a hacksaw is for cutting metal, it cuts wood very slowly which is what we want here! So, very carefully finish the cut with the hacksaw - without cutting wires. Use sandpaper to clean the ragged edge that the may be left by the hacksaw.


DDR Pad Project

Now, trim the edges of your DDR pad with 2" x 3" oak dimension lumber. This step is similar to installing crown molding. So, expect it to be somewhat difficult! Install the left and right oak edge first. The ends of these edges may be cut at perfect 45° angles. They should line up perfect with the edges so measure each edge individually and about 5 times! Use finishing nails to hold the edge in place and be sure to nail into both the base and the oak for extra strength. Next, install the back edge. Cut the angles at about 46° at first and test fit. If the angle is too great, trim or sand too fit. This trimming is necessary because you can't guarantee that your DDR pad is perfectly square if you hand cut all your wood with a circular saw. Finish by installing the top edge just like you did for the back edge. However, drill a ½" hole for the wires to run through.

I don't like nails because they eventually rust and they don't expand and contract like wood. So, I attached my wood edges the old fashion way - with wood dowels (oak dowels actually!). This is difficult and time consuming and I would only recommend it to those who are obsessed with fine wood work like I am.


DDR Pad Project

Now is a good time to add the corner trim to the button. You can make the corner triangles by cutting a 2" wide strip off of the left over 3/4" oak plywood. Then, make 16 triangles from the strip by cutting the ends alternately at 45° and 90°. Your triangles should be right triangle with two 2" edges and one 2.8" edge. If they all look good, glue them into the corners of the button holes of your DDR pad.


DDR Pad Project

This is what the finished buttons will look like. There are four mending brackets around the outside, thick felt in the corners, a piece of ¼" polyfoam in the center and a piece sheet metal on top of that. The button work by compressing poly foam which closes the circuit between the mending brackets and the centrally located metal plate. This is possible because the entire back side of the button tops are sheet metal. The backside piece of sheet metal actually rests on the piece of metal in the center of the poly foam and hovers over the mending brackets until the button is pressed. This design not only makes for super sensitive buttons, but it also allows the button to be used unsealed. This allows you to pop open the button and tweak them any time you want! Oh yeah, the felt in the corners are there for support. If they were not there, it would be possible to step on the edge of the corner and pop the top of the button off.


DDR Pad Project

Making the buttons is very easy. Screw the four mending brackets along the outer edges of each button hole as shown in the picture. I used 6 inch brackets, but if you don't mind the extra cost, get 8 inch brackets. The height of the brackets is important. The buttons are more responsive and quieter as there height gets closer the height of the poly foam. However, if the mending bracket is as high, or higher, than the poly foam the button will always be closed. So, use washers under the mending brackets to tweak the height of the mending brackets to be just a hair lower than the poly foam. Wire the mending brackets to be ground by cutting the ground wire that you have in the center of the button holes and connect the wires at nearest mending bracket. Here, I have the ground wire attached between a washer and the mending bracket at both the top and the bottom (the picture just isn't large enough to see them). Of course, the up button does not need a second ground attached because it is the last button in the series. Now, look closely at the corners. Can you see the wires? All four mending brackets are wired together by running a wire from one bracket to the next at all four corners. This is a good time to add the central contact plate. It is easy to do. Just cut out a hunk of sheet metal, drill a hole near one end and tie the none ground wire to it! If you used 6" mending brackets, I would suggest adding felt in the corners. This is not totally necessary but is a nice touch as it limits the movement in the corners.


DDR Pad Project

Finish the lower part of the buttons by adding the ¼" poly foam in the center and placing the contact plate on top of it. ¼" poly foam can be purchased at any reputable fabric store. Don't bother with JoAnn's - they don't carry it and can't even order it!


DDR Pad Project

The tops are very easy to make. Just cut out four 1'x1' pieces from ½" oak plywood and cut 2 inches of the corners off at a 45° angle. You may have to trim a bit more on any of the eight edges but start with 1'x1' with 2 inches off the corners. If you are really good with power tools, they will fit perfect. If not, trim to the custom size. Once you have them fitting perfect, cut out a piece of sheet metal to fit perfectly under the bottom and glue it in place with rubber cement. NOTE: Wood expands and contracts with temperature. So, a perfect fit means about an eight inch gap around the edge. I also could not find ½" oak plywood in 2'x2' sheets. The smallest I could find was 4'x8' for $50! So, I used sanded fir plywood - for now...


DDR Pad Project

The DDR pad is almost usable now. All you need to do is wire it to a Playstation controller. Usually, that means soldering the wires to the PC board on a hand held controller. However, I found this arcade controller at Game Stop for only $8!!! So, I changed my design a bit. I bought an old genesis game pad at the local Goodwill type store, cut the cord off of it and wired it to my DDR pad. Then I added a 9 pin DIN to the back of the arcade joystick and soldered it accordingly. The joystick still works 100%! And, I have the luxury of being able to unplug the DDR pad and use the joystick for non-DDR games!!!


DDR Pad Project

If you noticed in the last picture, I have a joystick cable coming out of my DDR pad cleanly. This looks really good and it protects my wiring if someone decided to drag my pad around the room by the cord! To make the cover, cut one of the 2"x3" oak scraps at 45° at both ends. Drill a hole off center just large enough for the cable to run through. Then, hollow out the backside. A router makes this very easy but, if you don't have one, borrow someone. If you can't, you might consider using a chisel or even using a ½" drill bit and drilling a zillion times. Then, run the cable through the hole and tie a knot at the end. The knot will be too big to pass through the hole and it is what protects the precious wiring from being yanked out by a two year old! Speaking of wiring... You must decide how you want to wire your cable to your DDR pad. You'll probably need a multimeter to figure out which color wire corresponds to which pin. In any case, solder the wires and cover them with electrical tape.


DDR Pad Project

When you are all done, screw the wire cover in place. You want to use screws here so that you can access the wiring later if needed. Look how pretty it looks! Errr, I think I need to replace those two ugly screws with pretty brass ones...


DDR Pad Project

I hope you remember which pins on your cable are up, down, left, right and ground because now is the time to solder five wire to those corresponding pins on the back of the 9 pin DIN. Once you have the wires soldered, make a hole in the back of your joystick and screw it in place.


DDR Pad Project

Still remember your pin out configuration? Good, then just solder the ground wire to a ground terminal on one of the microswitches. Then, solder the remaining four wires to the appropriate non-ground microswitch terminal. If your not lucky enough to get a nice arcade joystick like mine, you'll want to follow the links in the sidebar to other DDR pad project because they explain how to solder a DDR pad to the PC board on a Playstation controller.


DDR Pad Project

Now, plug it all in and take your DDR pad for a test drive!!! Because all you need to do now is to put the finish on it!


DDR Pad Project

To make the pad more interesting, I stained patterns into the buttons. This web site should be the first clue that I am into the East Asian thing. And, Riptide's DDR pad had just the perfect graphics. So, instead of 'reinventing the wheel' I borrowed his images, modified them a bit with Paint Shop, and printed them out. Then, I taped the print-out to contact paper and cut out the pattern out with a knife to make a stencil. I stuck the stencils to the buttons (as shown to the left) and applied a very dark walnut stain. I actually applied several coats of stain because I wanted maximum contrast. When the stain is dry, remove the contact paper and prepare to add the finish!


DDR Pad Project

I rubbed boiled linseed oil into the bare wood then coated it with polyurethane to produce a Playstation controller that looks like fine furniture! For more images of the finished pad, click the links in the right side bar.


DDR Pad Project

WARNING: If you cannot actually read what you stained, as I can't, be very careful when replacing your buttons. Or, you may end up with the south button facing upside down and how embarrassing would that be! - especially if you posted it on the internet!!!


Copyright © 2005, Robert Walsh, All Rights reserved.