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vonrickenbecker

Replica Sopwith Controls Development Log

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Hey All,

 

In the runup to the release of Flying Circus, I’ve been working on my own WW1-themed simpit to maximize immersion with this fantastic simulator.:pilot: As part of my simpit, I’m developing some semi-replicas* of various Great War cockpit controls, including a Sopwith Camel joystick grip, Tampier throttle quadrant, and a Sopwith-style rudder bar. I’m also toying with the idea of making a panel with magnetos, cocking lever for machine gun, radiator controls, etc. 

 

(*By semi-replica, I mean nearly identical to the real thing both visually and dimensionally, but with some extra buttons discreetly added for help in VR)

 

Inspired by the excellent work of folks like Cheb2006 and GVL224, I’ve attempted to design these controls in such a way that I can manufacture extra copies for any fellow virtual flyers who might be interested. 

 

The first item coming down the pipeline is the Sopwith Camel grip, my first prototype of which is shown below. I based the design on original Sopwith Company drawings from 1917, so the look and feel of the grip should closely match the real thing. Here's my grip and a photo of an original from an auction house:

 

_C5H9851.thumb.jpg.360504860c25ce0e736f85fd9710124c.jpg

 

f_035_1.jpg.53b385cbe23ba40f487654507b50bf42.jpg

 

The grip itself and most of its components are cast from a hard and durable polyurethane resin. If you think that the surface finish of the grip looks a lot like actual aluminum, that’s because it is! I produced the grip using a process called cold casting, which entails coating the mold with a metal powder (aluminum, in this case), which then fuses with the resin during casting, leaving a thin layer of real metal on the surface of the part. This finish looks very close to real cast aluminum, because that’s essentially what it is. As a side benefit, the surface is very hard and scratch-resistant, unlike paint. It also appears to oxidize very slightly as it ages, which is pretty cool and adds a realistic patina to the part.

 

The grip features four controls: two trigger paddles (actuated by the user’s thumb), a blip-switch, and a 5-way hat switch to add functionality for VR flyers. Obviously the real grip didn’t have a hat switch, but I’ve tried to incorporate it into the design in a way that is low-profile and inconspicuous, but still easy to use when flying. Full disclosure, the trigger paddles and their mechanism is not an exact replica of the original. I have been unable to locate original drawings of these parts, and obviously some mechanical changes had to be made to incorporate electronics. However, by working from photos of both original pieces and replicas, I think I’ve come up with a unit that preserves the appearance and functionality of the original, while adding the electronics necessary to make it useful in-game.

 

 

_C5H9867.thumb.jpg.62c4f7038543f929bc24f852632e9ae9.jpg

 

Speaking of electronics, interface with the computer is accomplished through an Arduino Leonardo Micro board, connected via USB. I considered making wiring harnesses to interface directly with various joysticks (Warthog, Virpil, MSFFB2), but due to the complexity and the cost of components I opted to just use a separate USB connection for the grip. Windows and IL2 don’t limit the number of controllers nearly as much as systems have in the past, so this isn’t as much of an issue as it once was.

 

The grip is mounted to a length of 1 inch OD aluminum tube (similar to that used in the real aircraft), and I’m working on adapters that will allow it to attach to several joystick bases, including Warthog/Virpil bases, and the Microsoft Force Feedback 2. The length of the tube can be changed to suit floor, chair, and desk mounted stick setups.

 

This is just the first prototype, and there are several changes I want to make before I consider the design complete. I’m redesigning the trigger mechanism slightly for added robustness (and also using a better surface finish than what is shown here). I’m also not happy with the jute twine I used for the grip wrap, and have found a different type of cord that appears closer to that used on the real aircraft. From the factory, these grips came with a molded rubber coating instead of cord wrapping, but since these rubber moldings were cast around the grips in one piece, they wouldn't allow for servicing of the electronics on this unit. These rubber moldings eventually wore out in service, and were typically replaced with cord wrapping, which is the approach I've decided to take here. The Warthog/Virpil adapter shown in the photos is a generic one I found on Thingiverse; I’m in the process of creating my own that will be printed from a high-strength carbon fiber reinforced plastic. 

 

If anyone is interested in purchasing one of these for themselves as a Christmas present, I’m hoping to have the first batch available in a few weeks. Cost will be around $100 USD + shipping from the southern US. PM me if you’re interested, happy flying! :salute:

 

P.S. Here are some shots of a few other projects I have in the pipeline:

 

23913590_TampierQuadrantIsometricView.PNG.cab03c55031dca8943c22856e7c6c6b5.PNG

 

Simpit.PNG.39a66dea2348d9e1a21c0dd9f7458bb6.PNG

Edited by vonrickenbecker
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Damn! Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your craftsmanship. Never heard of cold casting before. Thanks too for the education. Keep up the interesting work. Consider yourself bookmarked. 

 

Cheers, FC

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Thanks for the kind words everyone!

 

@Flying_Colander: I'd never heard of cold casting until recently either, just happened to come across a video of it while learning the ins and outs of resin casting. Seems to be mainly used in the prop making/special effects business. You never know what an exploration of YouTube how-to videos will turn up! 

 

Making progress this week, slowly but surely. Development of the joystick base adapters has been slowed by a jammed 3D printer extruder, but that should be sorted out soon enough. In the meantime, I'm working out the details of the electrical bits (wiring harness routing, Arduino coding, etc.), and am almost done with the revised trigger mechanism. 

 

Progress is being made on some future items as well:

IMG_20191126_214706430.thumb.jpg.622ae205ac9c5b933c60d70106d5b26e.jpg

 

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Great project. I have virpil based t.50 joystick and this could be nice addition to my standard one but I rely on many more handy buttons especially in multiplayer environment. Anyway outstanding job. 

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S!

 

I have an immense respect for people who can pull off projects like this. Shows that talent and craftmanship has not died, despite being in the age of people being more attached to the social media and their phones than real world :D

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On 11/23/2019 at 11:44 PM, vonrickenbecker said:

P.S. Here are some shots of a few other projects I have in the pipeline:

 

23913590_TampierQuadrantIsometricView.PNG.cab03c55031dca8943c22856e7c6c6b5.PNG

 

 

 

Here, that is what it should look like (maybe a bit more polished):

lever_Immelmann.thumb.jpg.82b7271a5cb21b41dee6e185fbed5421.jpg

 

It is the lever from a (IIRC) Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus. It is Max Immelmanns trophy and proof of his 8th air kill.

 

The plaquard reads:

"Carburetor regulator of the 8th aircraft downed by Lt. Immelmann near Beaumetz lez Cambrai on Jan. 12th, 1916."

 

If you want better images, you can PM me.

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On 11/27/2019 at 7:02 AM, LLv34_Flanker said:

S!

 

I have an immense respect for people who can pull off projects like this. Shows that talent and craftmanship has not died, despite being in the age of people being more attached to the social media and their phones than real world 😄

Thanks Flanker! As a member of the millennial generation, I do my best to be a counterexample of my generation's stereotypes :salute:

 

On 11/27/2019 at 5:33 AM, 1PL-Husar-1Esk said:

Great project. I have virpil based t.50 joystick and this could be nice addition to my standard one but I rely on many more handy buttons especially in multiplayer environment. Anyway outstanding job. 

Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it! I definitely understand where you're coming from with the issue of button count. Unfortunately the design of ole' Tom Sopwith's control grip doesn't lend itself well to lots of extra buttons, so this is my best effort to find a compromise between form and functionality. My primary goal with this project is to provide maximum immersion for WW1 aircraft, so that factors into the compromise in design decisions as well.

 

23 hours ago, ITAF_Rani said:

You are an artist !!

Thanks Rani! 

 

On 11/27/2019 at 7:29 AM, ZachariasX said:

 

Here, that is what it should look like (maybe a bit more polished):

lever_Immelmann.thumb.jpg.82b7271a5cb21b41dee6e185fbed5421.jpg

 

It is the lever from a (IIRC) Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus. It is Max Immelmanns trophy and proof of his 8th air kill.

 

The plaquard reads:

"Carburetor regulator of the 8th aircraft downed by Lt. Immelmann near Beaumetz lez Cambrai on Jan. 12th, 1916."

 

If you want better images, you can PM me.

Thanks for the photo ZachariasX, it's hard to find many good photos of Tampier units out there. I would certainly appreciate any additional photos you have. The image of my unit you saw is just a screenshot from my preliminary CAD model, so it shouldn't be taken as reflective of the final product appearance. The production unit will be finished in cold-cast stainless steel to replicate the metallic finish of the real-deal Tampier.

Also, I just want to mention that the photo you included is of a slightly different variant of the Tampier quadrant. The Vickers FB5 it was taken from was powered by the 100hp Gnome engine, which had no throttle control, only a fine-fuel flow adjustment (which today we call mixture). The unit I am working on is based on the version used in the later Sopwith Camel, whose 130hp Clerget rotary engine had both throttle and mixture levers (see below). This is why my unit has two levers (throttle + mixture), while the one in your photo has only a mixture lever.

 

390180455_TampierUnit.png.a62fe73ce455facc4cfe76ed0a829280.png

 

I have also had to slightly modify some components for added strength, since my unit is made of plastic instead of steel (mainly just thickened some parts a little bit).Thanks for your comment, I always appreciate help in achieving the highest historical accuracy possible! 

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On 12/9/2019 at 5:57 PM, Flying_Colander said:

vonrickenbecker,

 

Any news or new photos you can share? I'm keen to see how your project is progressing!

 

I do indeed! Sorry for the hiatus from progress updates. Between travel to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday, and finalizing end-of-year tasks for my engineering day job, it's been a busy (but good) few weeks.

 

Despite the business, I've made progress on the grip, and the project is nearing completion! I've finished the electrical bits of the design, as well as the programming for the grip's Arduino "brain". I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, so successfully programming a microcontroller is quite a personal success, and one I'm glad to have behind me! I even figured out how to make the device display its name as "Sopwith Grip" in Window's list of controllers. :pilot:

 

As of this morning, I've completed the mold for the revised trigger mechanism, which means that all molds are ready for production! The adapter for mounting to the Microsoft Force Feedback 2 (my personal choice in joysticks) is complete as well, photo below. The photo shows a prototype version in gray plastic, the production version will likely be silver or black in color.

IMG_20191210_184820311.thumb.jpg.b1f270963b4ef0ebb70704d0f86fc716.jpg

 

IMG_20191210_184926055.thumb.jpg.195d9db53f8d1fdce41a3966b5a18acf.jpg

 

The only component now remaining to fabricate is the adapter for mounting to Thrustmaster/Virpil bases. I've ordered a Thrustmaster Warthog which should arrive soon, and as soon as it get's here I can verify that my design fits and is structurally robust. 

 

I'm not quite ready to declare the stick ready for pre-order yet, as I want to make sure that I have all parts on hand so that I can assemble and ship quickly once an order is placed. but it won't be long now, so stay tuned! 

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Vonrickenbecker,

This may seem pretty weird, but I'm building a full-scale representation of a Sopwith Camel (Airdrome Airplanes), and I'm int he hunt for a grip like the one you've made here...

 

As per the original aircraft, the OD of the stick is 1.125"...can you make such a thing?

 

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On 12/11/2019 at 6:49 AM, Flying_Colander said:

Well done. Thanks for behind-the-scenes documentation. Vicarious engineering for those of us without the degree or innate talent.

 Thanks Colander!

 

Between travel for the holidays and an unexpectedly difficult DIY clutch replacement/transmission service job on my car,  I haven't had as much time to work on this project over the holidays as I could have wished. But I'm very close to having the grip ready for full production! I'm putting the finishing touches on the prototype stick today, and will post photos and maybe some video as soon as I can. The adapter for TM/Virpil bases is complete, and I'm stress-testing several different plastics to see which gives the best balance of strength and aesthetics. Once that is complete, I can begin quickly producing these for anyone who is interested! You can probably expect to see a release and pre-order announcement within a week. 🛫

 

On 12/30/2019 at 3:37 PM, nknobil said:

Vonrickenbecker,

This may seem pretty weird, but I'm building a full-scale representation of a Sopwith Camel (Airdrome Airplanes), and I'm int he hunt for a grip like the one you've made here...

 

As per the original aircraft, the OD of the stick is 1.125"...can you make such a thing?

 

Hey there nknobil! That's not a weird request at all, sounds like you've got a really cool project for yourself. I'm quite familiar with Airdrome Aeropolane's kits; I'd love to build one myself one day, but for now I settle for renting an old Cessna 152. :) I think we could definitely find a way to make my grip work for your aircraft, feel free to PM me to discuss further!

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At long last, she's done! Thanks to all of you who have expressed interest in the project and followed my efforts through this development blog. To paraphrase a certain famous Prime minister, "This isn't the end, or or even the beginning of the end, merely the end of the beginning!" I look forward to keeping you all updated on my other ongoing and future projects. Blue skies! 

1508510095_Pre-OrderAnnouncement.thumb.jpg.065c483fd3f1a642cdd6d8f5e5ccf80e.jpg

 

See topic linked below for more info and ordering instructions!

 

 

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S! 

 

Did not wnt to clutter the initial release thread, so postin here. Congratulations on the finished product! I wish good sales for it :)

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Bravo! Can't wait to see what you'll pick next to offer. What resin-plastic worked the best in the end? The stick looks fantastic.

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4 hours ago, LLv34_Flanker said:

S! 

 

Did not wnt to clutter the initial release thread, so postin here. Congratulations on the finished product! I wish good sales for it :)

Thanks Flanker, I appreciate it!

 

3 hours ago, Flying_Colander said:

Bravo! Can't wait to see what you'll pick next to offer. What resin-plastic worked the best in the end? The stick looks fantastic.

Thank you, I'm glad you like the final result! The Sopwith throttle unit (Tampier quadrant) will likely be next, along with a rudder bar. Sometime soon I will post my vision for future products and how they will work together for an incredibly immersive experience. For plastic resin, I settled on a product called Onyx from a company called Smooth-On. It's a very though resin, has properties similar to ABS plastic when cured, and cures to a deep black finish, which works well for backing the metal powder in my cold-casting process.

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Community response on the newly-released SopGrip has been fantastic! It really is a pleasure to be part of this awesome community. 

 

Meanwhile, back at the lab, R&D on upcoming products continues... 

 

IMG_20200114_072252781.thumb.jpg.644844c11a19f911545058b1d59fb106.jpg

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16 minutes ago, ZachariasX said:

Wow... this is impressive!

Thanks @ZachariasX! Still some work to be done on it, need to make the knob for the mixture handle with "Rene' Tampier" embossed into surface. Electronics will be housed in a separate enclosure, connected to Tampier unit by a bearing & pushrod linkage, just like the real thing.

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Fantastic workmanship...looks great...I'll be sure to let others know all about this project :)

 

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On 1/15/2020 at 7:02 PM, vonrickenbecker said:

Community response on the newly-released SopGrip has been fantastic! It really is a pleasure to be part of this awesome community. 

 

Meanwhile, back at the lab, R&D on upcoming products continues... 

 

IMG_20200114_072252781.thumb.jpg.644844c11a19f911545058b1d59fb106.jpg

How much would something like this cost me? Looking great, jumped on and am waiting for the SopGrip, this also look great. If you make a AlbyGrip :) I would pay double. Tried making one myself for an force feeback 2 joystick many years ago but became to heavy as I was using aluminum from the scrapyard and the motors in the ffb2 was to weak.  Added a picture of the interior of an alby  just in case you should feel the urge.

 

 

44275952245_53a0a61c78_b.jpg

Edited by J5_Rumey
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22 minutes ago, J5_Rumey said:

How much would something like this cost me? Looking great, jumped on and am waiting for the SopGrip, this also look great. If you make and AlbyGrip :) I would pay double. Tried making one myself for an force feeback 2 joystickmany years ago but became to heavy as I was using aluminum from the scrapyard and the motors in the ffb2 was to weak. 

 

 

44275952245_53a0a61c78_b.jpg

 

Hi Rumey,

 

Your SopGrip is under construction as we speak! I hope to have it ready to ship to you this weekend. 

 

As for the Sopwith throttle (aka Tampier Quadrant), I do not have an exact price calculated yet, but suspect it will be a little bit more than the SopGrip, as there are more components (especially electronics), and requires more work to assemble. I don't want to throw out any exact price yet, as development is still in the early stages.

 

You are not the only person who has requested that I do an Albatros grip! It seems to be a community favorite. Once I complete the full suite of Sopwith controls (grip, throttle, rudder bar, etc.), the Alby will likely be my next project ;)

 

And you are correct about the motors of the msffb2, any significant addition of weight or stick length will greatly reduce the felt force from the motors. There is a relatively easy modification that will double the motor output, but requires a bit of soldering. Here's a link the the modification:

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=125281

Edited by vonrickenbecker
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Lovely parts :) I have a lot of Sopwith drawings if you contemplate doing something bigger!

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12 hours ago, Spitty said:

Lovely parts :) I have a lot of Sopwith drawings if you contemplate doing something bigger!

 

Haha, thanks Spitty! I'll keep that in mind ;)

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This is the first time i see this and i want to say that i am very much impressed.

Thanks for sharing this.

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