The finished product. Features 100 programmable buttons and switches that do all sorts of fun things.
The green section turns on the different programs I run most often. The top row triggers Chrome, Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects and iTunes.
These two panels trigger keyboard shortcuts for Premiere (top) and Photoshop (bottom). I didn't want to tie the panel into a specific apps, so the names are slightly changed. 'Disenhance' is 'Blur'
Center panel controls all my main OS shortcuts. Open, Save, Close, ect
The iTunes controller. 'More Rock' and 'Less Rock' control volume. The bottom four activate iTunes playlists.
Some panels are more for aesthetic purposes…
The top four switches control the control panel (brightness, backlight, ect) Bottom controls the panel's AI mastermind override (currently broken).
The Build – Step by Step
The original brainstorm. Had to cut the top right panel since I didn't have the 1.21 gigawatts needed to run it.
Phase two. Made a mock up in Photoshop.
I printed the mockup and laid it over the metal junction box I decided to use as the body of the thing. Got the idea from some people who make brewery control panels.
Empty Junction box. About to be filled with treasure.
I cut the holes by hand. I should mention that I have no idea what I'm doing.
This took a lot of time and a lot more Dremel bits.
The rest of the guts. USB Hub, LED Lights for the backlight, Arduino for the blinking lights, USB controllers to make the actions actually do things, switches and buttons, and a HAL unit from Think Geek.
The panels are made from white acrylic, spray painted black and then laser etched. The etching would cut the holes AND do all the type. That was the idea anyway, the first laser etcher place I tried didn't go very well.
The second laser etching place did a bit better but I still got some scorching issues. At this point I'm thinking I'll have to go back to the drawing board and think up another way to do this.
Third place was the charm. Looking SHARP. If you ever need some laser etching done I got a guy in Buda, Texas.
Started building the wires. Seriously, no idea what I'm doing.
Making it up as I go along.
Laying down the LED backlights. As well as the USB hub on the bottom.
The flip side of my wood-motherboard is where my USB controllers sit. I fried so many of these babies figuring out how electronics work. Before this project I only had experience in taking things apart.
The LED backlights when I fired them up. I threw in that fan on the right because I was worried about heat building up.
I was so happy with how this looked a part of me wanted to leave it as is.
Time for the real wiring to begin.
Wiring the panels. Don't look at my solder connections please.
Some are a bit more complicated.
By the time this panel was done I couldn't wrap my brain around how it worked anymore.
Plugging the panels into the USB controllers around the back.
I had to spend many nights troubleshooting. I messed up and used the wrong kind of electrical tape, and most of my wires had to be redone. Every wire I fixed would then break two more. I seriously wondered if I'd ever finish.
Painted the base. My only regret is not stenciling Black Mesa on the side.
Finally got everything working.
Had to borrow a block and tackle from my dad to lift the thing (it's very heavy). Installed it all by myself because I am not a smart man.
I wanted the background for this panel to look half-Tron, half-Luke's targeting computer.
Weapons systems. These play funny sound effects.
Stress management. Don't Panic cues a Hitchhikers Guide youTube video, Serenity Now cues a Firefly clip, Hold Steady plays my favorite band. And the big red panic button: www.gfycat.com/BackFailingFurseal
Buttons on the bottom type different levels of laughter into open chat windows. Very useful.
Thanks for checking it out. I built it because it didn't exist and I felt like it needed to. I use it constantly now so… no, it's not for sale.
I learned so much doing this I can't help but think of a million things that I could have done better. Perhaps in a few years I'll make a version two, but for now I couldn't be happier with it.