I opted for the J-Stik ball-top joystick from Ultimarc when I put the control panel together.
Overall, it's a nice joystick. The travel is good, the switch action is nice, and I like the 4-way to 8-way switching feature. Playing Pacman with a 4-way joystick is much easier than with an 8-way.
They also top-mounted quite nicely, and I left just enough of a cutout around the top plate that I can reach the screws and remove the joystick without disturbing my laminate... leaving the plate buried in the laminate. Of course, this wouldn't be possible unless the ball-top was also removable. And it is.
This is touted as a feature, and rightly so. However, in the (very) limited MAME playing I've done, with the PC and TV set up in the basement while I'm supposed to be working on the cabinet, I've noticed that the tops have a real tendency to unscrew just under normal gameplay. I'll tighten them up and play for maybe half an hour, and they'll loosen again.
It may not sound like much, but it can really affect the game play when you shove the joystick up and the knob spins in your hand... or even spins off, if you haven't been noticing the increasing looseness. And then it goes bouncing across the floor, sending you scrambling after it to catch it, and then you've got to madly try to thread it back on while Sinistar laughs evilly, or Binky, Inky, Pinkie and Clyde zero in on you. It adds a certain amount of excitement to the games, but it's not exactly what I was looking for.
What I may end up doing is putting a little bit of Loc-tite thread-locker on there. Enough to prevent accidential loosening, but weak enough that I can still break it and unscrew it if necessary.
The cabinet hasn't really progressed much since the last post. I've traced out all the cuts for the second sheet of MDF, and even cut out a few of them. It won't be long now until I can start putting it together.