Project: Arcade Machine Complete

I am finally (mostly) finished with my arcade cabinet, so I thought I would do a break down of my process along with general thoughts about how things went with each step. For the most part I followed this tutorial from instructables.

I started out with 2 sheets of 3/4 inch MDF. I would have actually preferred to have 5/8 inch just because it would have been less weight, but the local lumber yard that I went to only had 3/4 inch. I don't have a pickup, and I needed the sheets in their full size, so I had them deliver the MDF. Delivery was free and they had it at my house within 20 minutes. Living in a small town is great sometimes.  I cut two side panels out of the MDF. The first one I measured each corner based on the template from the tutorial. I used my jigsaw to cut it out, and I'm actually really impressed with how straight I made the cuts. I traced the first one to cut out the second one. Once I had two mostly identical pieces, I clamped them together and sanded them so that they would be the same. They're not perfectly the same, but they are really close.

 Once I had the two pieces, I drew a line and inch and a quarter from the edge all the way around both pieces. The idea is that this would give me a half inch sticking out once the other panels were installed. I then cut a bunch of strips of MDF from scrap, and screwed those into place along the line. To attach them first I just nailed them in with my nail gun, but since that's not a good strong hold, I then screwed them together. I took the time to drill pilot holes all around, then used a counter sink bit to make room for the screw heads. Then I used 1.25 inch drywall screws to hold them together. Since I did all of this from the inside out none of those screw heads are visible in the finished product.

I took the scrap pieces and cut them all so that they were 24 inches wide using my table saw. (I actually used my miter saw for to cut the bracing pieces in the previous step, so I got to use three different kinds of power saws on one project. Woot!) I then cut the pieces for each of the panels based on measuring the spaces that they were needed. When I got to the back panel, I actually switched to some lighter particle board that I had laying around.
 Here's just a shot of the whole project starting to come together. Most of the pieces are attached to the braces with brads from the nail gun and some sub flooring glue. The bottom and back pieces are screwed in to make it more stable.

I put in a hinge on the section that is directly below the control panel instead of down lower where it is in the tutorial. I had to add in more bracing pieces to hold that lower angled piece in the right spot. The door piece actually hangs down lower than I wanted it to, I should have mounted the hinge differently, but when you look at it, it's hard to tell, so I'm not too worried about it.

I had the local glass place cut me three pieces of plexiglass to cover the control panel, the monitor and for the top marquee. They ended up not cutting them as straight as I would have liked and I had to recut one edge of the monitor piece with my dremel. Fortunately I picked up a good dremel in a garage sale a couple years ago, so this was pretty easy to do.
Here it is with the buttons in place for the control panel. Nothing is wired in at this point, I just wanted get them in there so that I could see them in place better. The buttons are all 30mm (except start and back are 24mm). My hole saws are all standard instead of metric, so I actually cut the holes a little small, then opened them up with my dremel. I had to do the same process with my fightstick, but it was much easier to do with the MDF than the plywood that my fightstick is made out of. For the joysticks, I took the top mounting bracket off and traced it to get the exact right shape and location for the bracket. I then traced the circuit bored over the top of that and cut away space for the circuit board with the jigsaw. I had my neighbor who is a talented woodworker help me dig out space for the mounting brackets so that everything would be flush. The tutorial says to use a router for this, but we ended up just using a chisel. I also used my countersink bit on the bracket screw openings so that the screws would sit flush. I wish I had an up close shot of this, because it worked really well.

 Here you can see the keyboard drawer poking out of its hiding spot. I grabbed some cheap side mount drawer slides from the local ace hardware. They worked like a champ. Getting them in the right spot just took a lot of time with a level and a tape measure making sure that everything was in the right spot. It was one of those cases of measure 5 times before doing the work. I took a couple of the pieces leftover from cutting the button holes with the hole saw and screwed them in behind the drawer to act as stops so that it didn't fall out the back side. I happened to have a smaller keyboard without the 10key laying around, so I used that. The drawer is a bit narrow, so a full sized keyboard wouldn't fit very well while leaving space for a mouse.

This shows the first coat of black paint. There's a coat of white KILZ primer underneath. I decided to try using a paint sprayer hooked to my air compressor for painting. I wish I didn't. It ended up with an orange peel texture because I don't know what I'm doing with a paint sprayer. It also has quite a few runs where the paint dripped down the side. I eventually sanded those down and repainted with a brush. You can still see them, but they're better. I'm just mad because I did my podium last fall with a brush, and it turned out really well.

 I got the control scheme I wanted from slagcoin. I'm using a standard japanese arcade scheme. I printed it on two sheets of paper and lined them up when drilling the holes. Then to do the artwork, I created a new project the size of the control panel (24x13 inches) then put two copies of the same control layout right in the file. I then used some tutorial that I can't find again to create the circular sci-fi feeling elements in illustrator and put those around the joysticks and a couple buttons. I made the beehive hex area pretty much from scratch by making a hexagon and copying it a bunch of times.

 I printed the control panel from a big plotter that I have access to. It took a couple tries to get everything lined up perfectly. I took the plexiglass piece with me and just kept trying until it was perfect. I used an X-Acto knife to trim the edges and cut all the openings. It was a very time consuming process, but it turned out great.
 Here's all the buttons and sticks in the finished control panel. When I got to this stage, I ended up having to do a little extra work with the dremel in one of the holes to open up the MDF a little bit more. It got out of line somewhere along the way. I should mention that the buttons and joysticks are all Sanwa. I prefer a bat top, so that's what I have. I'm using Akishop PS360+ PCBs for the controls. They're set up to behave just like XBox 360 controllers. The PCBs are really cool though, they will work with just about any console from a NES up to a Playstation4. (Not an Xbox One.)

The machine is running SteamOS on some of my older computer hardware. I have a Pentium D 820 with 4 gigs of Ram, a terabyte harddrive and an Nvidia 9600GT. Everything except the power supply came out of my computer from my last upgrade. I ended up getting the power supply locally at what used to be a Radioshack. SteamOS installed really well, there were zero issues. I'm actually running a variant of SteamOS called Stephenson's Rocket. It just has a little bit more hardware support than the regular build.
 The monitor is an Asus 24" widescreen that I had on my standing height desk. As you can see, I mounted it from above with a cheap monitor arm mount that I got from Amazon. I had to put two blocks of 2x4 behind the monitor to keep it from swinging back. Getting the piece in that the mount is attached to took some work. There's a 2x4 that it's hanging from that is on some MDF braces just like I made before. I should have put screws from the top of the 2x4 into the MDF, but the top of the cabinet prevented me from getting in there with the drill. I had to sleep on the problem, and I remembered that I had some right angle braces in a toolbox totally unused. Once I got those in there, it is solid and not going anywhere.

 Here I have the plexiglass all in place. You can also see the handle that I have in the door below the control panel. Not much more to say about this shot.
Here you can see the shelf I'm using to hold the PC. the case is an old gateway case that lets you remove the motherboard with a single thumbscrew. It's a super old case, but I love the design of it. I took off as much extra stuff from the case as I could, and screwed it right into the MDF shelf so that it doesn't slide around.
 I ended up getting a simple pair of speakers from the local computer store that had controls on the face of the right speaker. This way I can get to the volume knob and power button from the front. I decided to put them up in the marquee space as I couldn't think of a better option. The speakers are held in place with velcro. I might change this and have them in the piece that angles down just below the marquee. I cut the marquee plexiglass with the dremel to fit the speakers, but I didn't do a very good job. I'll probably end up replacing that piece in the end.
Here is the finished product. I have a piece of poster board as matting around the monitor. I still need to do some art for the marquee and I have a new power button coming in next week. Right now the power button is the one from the gateway case and it's just hanging out of a hole below the front panel.

With this all written up, I'm going to go play some games.