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Groucho's Ready Player One Bartop


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I've finally reached a point in my cabinet build where I am happy to show what I have made to the community!

A big shoutout goes to the popular "Weecade" and Floriske.nl's (from ArcadeControls) cabinet designs.

After reading Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, I was inspired to build a mame cabinet. Programming Hyperspin took the brunt of the time, but I want to focus on the physical build here. There are easily over 300 hours poured into this project (about 6 weeks of learning Hyperspin and another 6 weeks of woodworking on weekends or when I was able to get home a bit early from work). Mainly, this is because I have never made a single thing out of wood before. My first foray into carpentry allowed only 4 tools--jigsaw, dremel, sander, and powerdrill. I could only use what I could borrow or purchase but would also be able to be used on the back porch of my apartment. Perhaps my project can inspire you to tackle a cabinet creation if, like me, you have no access to a wood shop/garage that would allow a dedicated work space with a selection of tools.

I chose birch plywood to be able to stain the sides. I wanted to emulate the classic early 80's retro feel with the wood paneling on most electronics of the era. A stain mixed with the off-white, Pong inspired color scheme offered just the look I desired.

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Also, everything was made on a budget! All parts came from eBay sellers, Goodwill trips, discount stores, etc. Without including the buttons/joysticks/I-Pac, this entire project cost under $200.

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The wood is cut. It felt like I just emptied the box of materials from an IKEA dresser. In order to ensure accuracy, I used a stencil on my first piece, then traced to cut piece for its mirrored side. The stencil was only used on half of the pieces. This approach allowed me to adapt to any errors/variations in my cuts. By the way, my hand was numb from sanding all of these pieces. Right away, my wife was impressed with the pieces, and began to appreciate my constant, "No, No. The mess isn't that bad." and understanding all the hours programming Hyperspin on the computer.

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As I stated eariler, my cuts were not entirely perfect. This happens when you choose you use a jigsaw for straight cuts over a table saw. The Dremel saved me on countless occasions. It was my rescue tool. In order to get a feel of the assembled product, I wanted a way to attach the pieces, but not permanently. Making custom wooden dowel pegs proved to be a great solution. These later also provided a very sturdy joint connections that forced 90 degree angles. Very happy with the result.

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The cabinet is born! I fell in love with Floriske.nl's "highchair-tray" control panel design. It gives me a compact bartop form factor all the while allowing more room for two to play at once. At this stage, I was beginning to get very excited, showing off my build and Hyperspin to any visitors that came over.

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From this point on it seemed that the woodworking time grew and progress shrank. Small cuts creating the acrylic and button holes seemed to be endless. This is also where I first had to use some trail and error. I went with 1/8" thick acrylic for the marquee and promptly snapped my sheet in half when cutting. A second try with a finer tooth jigsaw blade and, of course, my trusty dremel, did the trick. The buttonholes gave me some trouble too. I used birch plywood, so when I drilled with my spade bit, the underside of the cp would splinter and tear out. A good amount of sanding fixed this, but next time I would recommend using hardwood over plywood and a step bit (this was a drill press free project for me).

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Progress seemed to kick back into full gear again. I used an off-white acrylic paint for the bezel and control panel and an espresso colored Minwax oil-based stain. 3 coats of each gave a nice even and vibrant tone. The paint soaked in and dried up almost immediately (I live in a dry and hot Colorado), but even here, the stain took a full day to be ready for a 2nd coat and 48 hours to be ready for sanding. I pre sanded with 220 grit sanding block and sanded after coats 2 and 3 with a 320 grit block. For varnish, I used a Deft semi-gloss spray. Deft is amazing. By the time I coated the cabinet once, it was dry enough for a second coat.

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The artwork is in! I made the marquee by editing the cover art of Ready Player One and added borders for a retro loo--this proved to be perfect for my ability in Photoshop. I can't really create unique images, but I feel I am proficient at manipulating and editing premade images. The CP artwork is a direct adaptation of Floriske.nl's with minor changes to adapt to my unique layout. I love the Pong color scheme. The acrylic is 1/4" and I had to purchase a special bit called a step bit to drill out the holes. A spade bid wont cut it.

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Alas, this finished product. Minor touches were added here. Small speaker grills, rubber feet, USB front interface, etc. I am ecstatic that it came out even better than I envisioned. There is still work to do, and I will be posting images and details of some of the fun internal bits.

Enjoy!

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