Interview with Custom Arcade Stick Junkie Sam Kurd of B15sdmDesigns

March 9, 2011, By Christian Davis

If you look at your Xbox LIVE or Playstation Network friends list, you should see a majority of them playing one game, Marvel vs Capcom 3. One of the most anticipated games of our lifetime is finally here and it’s definitely taking all our time away from other games. Mortal Kombat is being revitalized and is looking like the best in the entire franchise and the announcement of two new crossover games, Street Fighter x Tekken and Tekken x Street Fighter, are destined to be record breakers. There’s something great about these fighting games that we use to be able to play in the arcades several years ago.

One man, is making it his mission to bring the arcade feeling back home to us with his unbelievably polished and artistic arcade fight sticks. Sam Kurd is the mastermind behind these arcade sticks that will make any fanboy, collector, or fighting enthusiast open their wallet whole heartedly.  I was fortunate enough to have a few words with him on his creations.

How have fighting games influenced your life?

Sam: From the moment my older brother told me about a fighting game which was just released (Street Fighter 2, 1991) it had become a huge part of my life at the time. The game itself, artwork, design, characters etc just blew me away and I was smitten ever since.

Growing up I used to play every single fighting game produced by Capcom and refused to play any other game. However, as I got older and responsibilities increased gaming kind of phased out of my life only for the passion to be reignited with the release of Street Fighter 4.

I was very skeptical about the game from the first screen shots that I saw as I was a 2D fighting game fanatic and absolutely detested 3D fighters. But now I have grown to like it very much.

Working full time and also trying to build custom arcade sticks takes up a lot of time and I don’t really get the chance to play that much.

How did you get into designing arcade sticks? Was it always something you wanted to do?

Sam: The funny thing is it all started on a typical boring day at work. I decided to Google Street Fighter images as I used to really enjoy their style of art.

I stumbled across someone who built custom arcade sticks using very nice exotic hardwoods and it suddenly hit me that I had always wanted a proper arcade stick and not a cheap version which has parts that don’t feel remotely equal to those found in the arcades. I guess the person that inspired me the most was a gentleman called Byrdo (

After seeing his work I thought to myself, why not try building one from scratch?  I had some very basic wood working skills which came from building models for my projects at university and everything else was learnt through research and tutorials.

The first few cases I built were respectable (at the time) and I was always trying to find ways to make the overall package better, both build wise and design.

Being an architect one has to turn peoples’ dreams or ideas into reality and the exact same principles apply with the arcade sticks. It became one of my main hobbies as I found it to be very satisfying whenever I would complete a custom order.

Have you been doing this for a long time?

Sam: When I first started building sticks it was more of a way to practice constructing them and I ended up with about a dozen pieces sitting in my room. I sold them all at a very low cost and realized that it was financially unrewarding and I wasn’t soo keen on building them anymore.

After a few years I decided to check up on the gaming community (over a year ago) and see what everyone was doing at the time and I got drawn back into the building side of things. As I had acquired a few more skills along the way I was able to apply them aiming to improve each and every time I built a stick.

Can you elaborate on how the design process goes?

Sam: The design process is fairly simple. Once I receive interest from a potential customer we briefly discuss what they are after, what’s possible, what’s not, cost etc. Once they are happy to proceed I send them a detailed questionnaire which they fill in and return and this pretty much sets the brief. All I need to do is turn that brief into a finished product.

At each stage, designs bounce back and forth between the customer and myself until they are completely happy. Only then do I proceed to the next stage, this ensures that the stick is to the customers liking.

Some customers don’t want to provide any input and would rather I take full control of the project and just implement my ideas.

Are you the only person making these or do you have help?

Sam: I am the only person involved from the initial contact through to completion. The only aspect I outsource now is the printing of the artwork. I guess this is why it takes up so much of my time. I have thought about getting help but I like to work on my own and not rely on anybody else. I’m a firm believer of, if you want something done, do it yourself.

Have you ever considered selling your products to major retailers for distribution?

Sam: To be honest as I am undertaking all of the work myself I couldn’t even dream of mass selling my arcade sticks. I guess it would also take away from the uniqueness of each build as I would need to design and build one set product.

What are some of your favorite fighting games?

Sam: Simply put, anything 2D and made by Capcom.

Is it safe to say that your your arcade sticks to be some of the best around?

Sam: There any many other amazing builders around the world and each have their own style and method of building sticks so I couldn’t consider that. One thing I will say is that I always look to find new exclusive ideas which no one has ever done before.

Have you sold any sticks to some reputable fighting game professionals such as Justin Wong or Mike Ross?

Sam: Sadly, I haven’t. As much as I like to help tournament level players with sticks no one of that caliber has requested one. After attending some tournaments I noticed that most pro level players are happy to play on pretty much any stick that is available.

Have you ever hit a creative “wall” when it comes to designing your arcade sticks?

Sam: Before I started building sticks again, I kept telling myself there isn’t much else that can be done. But with new technology, products, techniques, materials, etc… I don’t think there is a limit. It just depends on how far one wishes to take it, within reason of course.

Aside from the arcade sticks, you also make some eye catching arcade cabinets. How did these come to be?(Video at bottom of interview)

Sam: From my childhood I had always enjoyed visiting the arcades and told myself that one day I would own one. Having saw the ultra modern Taito Vewlix cabinet I knew that was the cabinet I wanted. However, to find one in the UK at a reasonable price is pretty impossible. I didn’t like the fact that it would only play one game so decided to build my own version of the Taito Vewlix with my own twist on it.

I didn’t build this with the intention to sell it, I simply built it as I like to challenge myself and wanted to bring something fresh to the arcade scene and it proved to be the perfect project.

Do you plan on moving on from arcade sticks?

Sam: As I mentioned earlier, the arcade stick building is just a hobby and I don’t think I would take it in any other direction. I enjoy every aspect of designing and building them and will continue to do so.

How much will your products cost for prospective buyers

Sam: Prices vary depending on which system you wanted to arcade stick to be compatible with. The actual design, size, components used, colours etc don’t affect the overall price. It’s mainly down to what’s going on inside that matters as the cost of certain circuit boards can take the price up depending on what compatibility the customer is after.

What does your site URL (B15sdmDesigns) stand for?

Sam: B15SDM was simply my private registration number from my car and I ended up using it for my email address and I kind of used it pretty much everywhere as it was easier to remember. I thought about changing it at one point but everyone started to recognise me as B15 so I stuck with it.

Last question Sam, is there anything you’d like to let everyone know that we haven’t covered already?

All I will say is keep supporting the gaming community in which ever way you can.

I would like to thank everyone that has followed my work and supported me as without them I don’t think I would be doing this.

Here’s a video of Sam’s arcade cabinet in action. I want one in my home as soon as possible. For more information on Sam’s products visit his website at B15SDMDESIGNS.COM.

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