I recently started my second build project and decided to do a much better job of documenting it throughout the process. My first build was a standard 4-player MAME cabinet (Ultimate Arcade Blueprint with a gutted CRT) which was banished to the basement by the wife. She was patient with it basically in our living room for the last several years so I can’t complain. But, as in all great marriages, we found compromise. So I started out on a build that will look a bit more like a piece of furniture and less like a giant toy. I like the viewlix arcade side profile, but with less of a footprint, so started searching for inspiration when I came across a YouTube video by locoZ31, which had basically exactly what I was looking for. He shares plans as well, so it’s a great starting point. I took a slightly different approach with a larger TV and used ¾” sanded birch which I stained to make it blend into our home a little better.
I’ll mostly share pictures with commentary here and there on the key parts of the build. I’m happy to share any tips, specs, or anything you might want related to the build. These forums are just such a huge help to me so I wanted to share what I did in case it can help someone else down the road.
I started by designing the cabinet in Google SketchUp. I definitely recommend this if you’re building your own from scratch. It made it much easier to setup cuts and visualize the process. Here’s what the final product should basically look like.
I ended up using 3 sheets of ¾” sanded birch plywood. This is soft enough to work with, but still relatively durable and will provide a decent finish once the stain is applied. I took it a piece at a time and put down 1 coat of wood conditioner, 3 coats of stain, and 3 coats of shellac to protect the finish.
Next I started putting things together. I built a base out of 2x4’s and used 2 swiveling and 2 stationary castors. This was to all ow me to roll it around freely, but having the stationary units will help keep the cabinet more stable when playing under normal conditions since I don’t have it setup to drop completely to the ground. I wish I would’ve purchased some longer clamps for this project since the overall width is just over 44”. It would have made handling everything much simpler. I used a Kreg Pocket Hole Jig System for all of the fasteners. This makes for a very strong hold, but completely hides all of the fasteners and allows for disassembly or removal of pieces if necessary.
I used this project to justify purchasing a drill press, which saved a lot of headache when drilling for the speakers and control panel. That, along with an adjustable circle cutter, allowed me to make custom size cuts with perfect fits. I used a 1 1/8” Forstner bit for the button holes. I went with single-color, white LED’s for the marquee back light. I put down a layer of reflective tape to make sure I was getting enough light behind it.
Only the lower, rear portion of the back of the cabinet will fold down for access to the CPU, Power Supplies, etc. I used magnetic backstops that are spring-loaded to eliminate the need for a handle or knob on the outside of the cabinet. I used a 2x10 for mounting the 42” Flatscreen TV and got my control panel ready.
At this point, the cabinet is basically assembled, so now for the nitty-gritty. I purchased the translucent IL-Lumination pushbuttons with black centers from Paradise Arcade Shop. I had planned to use their 5V RGB LED adapters to light them up, but they’ve been out of stock for well over a month with no replenishment in sight. Instead, I came across the Helio9 RGB Lighting Modules through Groovy Game Gear. These didn’t come cheap, but they’ve got 9 elements that put out a ton of light, and I’m impatient, so I was willing to spend the extra cash to get this project back on track. They’re specifically designed for a different button, but worked perfectly in my pushbuttons. The staff at Groovy Game Gear was awesome with a quick turn-around considering that they hand test every unit before shipping. I had to drill into the buttons in a couple of spots, but it was very quick and painless. Thanks to ChanceKJ over at Arcade Controls for the tutorial.
I fully admit, I am no master-wirer. I kept them relatively neat, but I know it’s still a bird’s nest under there. I used the Ultimarc Ultimate I/O and also purchased their Trackball, spinner, and 2 Servo Joysticks. I’m an enginerd, so having servo-driven joysticks makes my heart flutter. I had considered a few different options for the control panel, but ended up just going stain and varnish to maintain the look I was going for. My wife is a freelance artist (Liana Kangas Designs) with all sorts of gadgets and graphic design skills so she made some awesome button decals for my back, pause, enter, coin, L/R mouse click, and volume buttons. Lastly, I installed cup holders to keep the beers at bay.
My wife designed the marquee, which turned out great (inspired by Thor: Ragnarok). I had it and a vinyl bezel made by Game On Grafix. I had slotted the top piece of the cabinet and the lower support so that the marquee is embedded into the wood frame, which kept it very clean. I programmed the LED’s through LED Blinky, which can be seen in the second picture.
So that’s about it! I’ll spare you all of the details on the power supply, pushbutton switches, etc. But I’m very happy with the way it turned out. And it made it into the main level of the house, so I’m happy! (and so far no regrets from the wife) It definitely doesn’t meet the standards of true retro-gamers out there, but there’s something to be said for the widescreen setup and more modern look. I’ve got this setup to play movies, Netflix, Xbox One (Play Anywhere), and Sling. Feel free to hit me up with any questions, details, or specs. Like I said, these forums have been a huge help and I love how much the community contributes so I’m happy to share whatever I can.