Have you wanted your own arcade machine, but never thought you had the time, skills, tools or money to make a stylish cabinet?
Here is the solution!
I have designed an extremely easy to build, affordable and stylish cabinet. Now you can build one too. With this home arcade machine, you can play arcade and home console games with a true arcade feel.
What makes this cabinet so special?
So follow along if you finally want to make you home arcade machine a reality!
Step 1: Materials
Here is what you will need to begin:
Hand saw or jigsaw.
Straight edge for drawing cut line
Power Sander, preferably random orbital.
Drill for drilling screws and 1 1/8th spade bit for drilling arcade button holes.
paint roller if painting by hand
Adjustable wrench for bolts
1 sheet of 2' x 4' X 1/2" plywood or MDF wood. This make up the core of the cabinet.
Spare and scrap wood! I used 10 feet of leftover 3/4" square doweling wood and 4 feet of 1/4 by 4" wide flat doweling wood.
16 inches of heavy wood lumber for a base. A 2" by 6" is great.
paint, either can of spay enamel, or bucket of paint if painting by hand.
An arcade encoder. You can get a Zero Delay arcade encoder from ebay for $11
An old Laptop or computer with flat monitor, up to 17 inch screen. Save that old computer from the scrap heap!
Small computer speakers.
Art board for bezel
Screws to keep the cabinet together, bolts to bolt on the control panel and controls, varies in size depending on the controls you use.
Putty to fill imperfections.
(Optional) Vinyl edge banding as as a stylish protectant around edges of cabinet.
(Optional) Plexiglas sheet for monitor cover and marquee
(Optional) 12" fluorescent light for a light up Marquee.
OK, lets dig in!
Step 2: The Plan
Here are the plans, and they are even easier than they look!
Let's draw out the lines on our sheet of wood.
Step 3: Cutting the wood
Cut the board down the line you drew lengthwise. Now cut down the diagonal line to make your triangle sides.
Next, on the other half of the plywood sheet, cut your 3 16" boards for the front and control panel
Now cut the 2 inch arms from the control panel section of plywood.
And that right there is most of the cutting.
Step 4: Sanding and rounding the sides.
Next, clamp the two triangle sides together and whip out your power sander. You will need to sand the edges even on the two sides. Those cuts are hard to get perfectly even.
While you are sanding, you can just sand away the tip of the side and round off the base as well. You will be left with two identical sides, rounded to safety.
Step 5: Cutting the back Notch
Here comes the last major cut. It is a little more difficult because it is a couple angles in one cut.
Keep your side boards clamped tight, and cut the notches as you penciled them out from the plan. Be careful to keep the wood you cut out free of damage. You will need that for the arm.
Step 6: Cut Cross Sections and start Assembling
Now we can take those dowels we have handy and start cutting them up.
We will need a number of 16" bars that we can screw in as cross sections in the cabinet. We will also need furring pieces (Dowels screwed to the inner sides of the cab to screw the cross sections into.The picture shows exactly how the furring works.
With those furrings cut and screwed into the cabinet, we can now assemble the parts. I did begin to paint much of the wood at this point, but that is unnecessary.
Notice how those front panels are placed on the front of the cabinet? The can be positioned however you want them to.
Each arm is made of two pieces of wood. One to go on the outside of the cab, and the other to bring it back flush with the inside of the cabinet. This is made from the remaining plywood.
You can size up how high you want your control panel. and clamp on the arms to test your placement. I chose 22 and 1/2 inches from the ground. Just line up and mark where to cut the arm pieces, make the cuts.
When you have the arms done, they can be bolted to the side. Just drill a hole in the arm and the side of the cabinet and slide the bolt through. I did 3 per side, and that was a style decision.
Step 7: The Control Panel
This is an easy step, but takes some well thought out planning. Simply use your 1 and 1/8th spade bit and cut button holes, and a joystick hole. You will need to test out exactly how you want you controls placed so it is comfortable with you.
I also attached some doweling to the top of the control panel as a groove for the art board bezel to fit in.
Since we are talking about control panels, I thought now would be a good time to go over a few control options you might want to consider for your cabinet. The standard control setup for a 1 player home arcade is 1 joystick, 6-7 action buttons, a start button and a coin button. You could also build mini racing cabinet. On my second build, I made a racing cabinet by just putting a PC steering wheel in place of the controls. See picture 2.
But, you will probably want to buy joystick and buttons. Here are a list of online shops for arcade controls that I frequent. They are reputable vendors:
Step 8: Final Assembly and Dissasembly
OK, now we need to just finish putting everything together. Clamp everything how you want it and screw together. For the area above the monitor, you can either put two dowels and wedge plexi between, or for the easy route, you can just put a flat board across the top and forget a marquee.
Now, dissasemble! Unscrew the sides. You can leave the furring in, we just need to paint the main parts.
Step 9: Painting and Reassebly
You can either roll on paint your spray paint. I chose a spray on enamel. You can also get fancy with the painting.
Here, I started with a Black coat of paint, then let it dry and put on painters tape for "racing stripes" Then I painted with red, and when that was done I peeled off the tape. Made a real easy, stylish paint job.
When everything is dry, just screw it back together again.
Step 10: The Encoder
For this cabinet, I use the Zero Delay Arcade encoder. In my opinion, this is the best little encoder ever made. It is super affordable ($11 on eBay) and it is very dependable.
The method to installing the encoder is easy. In the photos is a diagram of the inputs on the encoder. There is an input for up, down, left, right, and 12 button inputs. All you need to do is take on of the included wire sets, pop in the white connection end to the encoder, and attach the other end to the corresponding control you want.
Now all that is left is to plug in the USB wire to the encoder, and plug the USB port into your computer. It is completely plug and play with windows, and will read your arcade controls just as if you plugged in a USB joystick.
Step 11: Add Controls to Panel
Now that we know how to set up the encoder, Let me cover adding the controls to the control panel.
Buttons work exactly like a nut and bolt. just slip the buttons in the hole, and screw the nut tight.
If your joystick came to you disassembled I have a assembly diagram for a joystick. Please note that different joysticks assemble differently, and this is just one common method they go together. Assemble all the joystick except the ball top and dust washer, now run bolts through the top of your control panel, and the joystick base on the underneath of the control panel. Tighten down the bolts with nuts, then put the dust washer and ball top back on. You now have your joystick installed.
Now we need to do is plug in the encoder as we covered in Step 10 and Viola, a stylish Control Panel.
Step 12: Mounting the monitor
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If you are using a flat screen monitor, chances are that it has mounting hole through the back. Sometimes it is hidden.
I will go over an example with a dell monitor. You see in the photo that there are no mounting bolts see, only a stand attached to the bracket. Let's see what it looks like when we remove the stand...Let me just remove the screws.
Aha! Mounting holes! Now All I need to do is go buy 4 bolts that are the same width as the bolts I just unscrewd from the base. Then, I need to get a 16 inch long board, and bolt the monitor to the board centered. Screw that board to the inside of the cabinet, and now I have a monitor mounted.
But what if I am using a laptop or a monitor without mounting hole? Well you have to get creative. For my laptop, I had to remove the LCD from the casing, Drill holes in the casing to make my own mounting holes. Then I put the casing back on. Another method would be using heavy duty expoxy to glue it to a board.
Now all you need to do is cover up your monitor with that artboard you already started cutting. Cut a center hole with your cutting blade for the monitor. to cover up everything but the screen.
Step 13: Artwork
If you want to do a lit marquee, all you need to do is mount a 12" flourescent light behind the marquee. You will need artwork of Course.
Since I went with a design that felt like a race car, I made a marquee and printed it out on my home printer. More professional marquess can be taken to a print shop.
I also topped my machine off with a hand painted Logo. The cabinet is dubbed the Vigolix because it looks like a Vewlix, and well, I am Vigo!
Step 14: Computer Software
Emulators and Frontends:
So now we have everything physical ready on our arcade machine, but as for all the digital bits, we still have work to do.
When dealing with arcade machines, there are two categories of software that we need to cover:
For a frontend, I recommend getting Mala. Mala is a great, easy to use frontend that can get you to your games quickly. You can also dowload or make skins to make the menu really pop! You can download it free From www.Malafe.net
For emulators, Mame will be the main one you will probably be using. It is hands down the best emulator out there for arcade games. You can download it free from www.mame.net/
You will probably want more than Mame though. Each emulator works differently, so I can't go into detail of each one to use. What I can do is recommend some great emulators that are arcade cabinet friendly:
Super Nintendo: ZSNES, BSNES
Arcade Games: MAME
Sega Genesis/Game Gear/ Mega Drive: Kega Fusion
Neo Geo: Nebula, Kawaks, MAME
Commodore 64: Vice 64
Gameboy/Gameboy Advance: Visualboy Advance
Follow this step by step to install Mala with Mame on your computer:
Please note that emulators need roms to run. These are the games themselves. Downloading these off the internet can be illegal. If you are unsure about legality issues, there are some free legal roms you can download from www.mame.net
Step 15: Time to play!
What are you doing here still? You have a new arcade machine, now go play it!! ;-)
That's it! Enjoy your arcade machine!