I’ve dreamed about building my own Arcade for a long time. Now that I finally had a shed/storage space where I could build it, it was time to do it! 🙂 I found a very good instructable on the Internet (http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Cab-arcade/), so I didn’t have to come up with the design myself. However, as with my other blog posts, I like to put my own touches on things. This was no exception 🙂
First off I didn’t use MDF. MDF is expensive so I used the cheapest 15mm plywood available. My plan was to build this Arcade as cheap as possible. I thought about painting and stuff, but then somehow I stumbled upon the magic DC-Fix adhesive film. What a good idea 🙂 Secondly, I didn’t use T-molding because it wasn’t available in my country. Instead I used a “list” called reunanauha (in Finnish) which is applied using an iron. I used LED lights behind the marquee for an extra light effect and I also used plexiglass on top of the control panel for a nice overall look. Lastly I powered the whole thing using a Raspberry Pi 3 running RetroPie.
Here are a couple of pictures from the final product; I do hope you carry on reading for full details though.
Planning and sawing the pieces
Moving along to the project itself. I started by buying two sheets of plywood. These were bought from Rautia because they had the best price at the moment (https://www.rautia.fi/verkkokauppa/rakennustarvikkeet-ja-puutavara/rakennustarvikkeet/vanerit/vaneri-havu-15x2400x1200-iii-iii-iii-2-88m2). I paid 30€ each, which is a fair price (compared to MDF for example). After this it was time to draw the whole design onto the plywood. A little bit time consuming I have to say, because I had to convert all measurements to the metric system. After some conversions, the result looked something like this:
These pics are somewhat final, but they were slightly modified from day to day as the project matured. An important thing to notice is that an EU plywood sheet is exactly 2400mm x 1200mm. This makes the sheet a bit smaller than the equivalent US version. It also adds some challenges because the height and width doesn’t convert 1:1 from the original drawings. I used an exact converted scale on the bottom half of the cabin, from the floor up to 99cm. I also used 18cm for the marquee height. The measurements in the “monitor space” were slightly modified however. My modifications are in the parenthesis in the above picture. (The other measurement are a straight conversion). The last two pictures are just a layout from where the pieces will be cut (without measurements). The yellow mark is just a note to myself for remembering to cut that line in a 45 degree angle.
I had now made all the measurements so it was time to start drawing the actual layout onto the plywood:
Not that complicated, just a little bit time consuming with all the measuring. I didn’t have a long aluminum ruler in stash, so I had to buy one. It was a very good investment though, and it was probably the most used tool in this whole project 🙂 The one I got was from Biltema, http://www.biltema.fi/fi/Tyokalut/Mittausvalineet/Suorakulmat/Alumiiniviivain-1-m-2000018145/ . At only 9,49€ it was a bargain.
Then came the most demanding part, namely cutting the pieces with a hand-held circular saw. I did google a bit on how to cut properly, but in the end I used common sense. I didn’t own a saw from the past either so I bought a new one. I didn’t want to spend lots of money, so I ended up with an electric (corded) one. The one I got was a Bosch PKS 55, http://www.bauhaus.fi/pyorosaha-pks-55.html. I paid 99€, and I also bought a new blade for 34,90€, http://www.bauhaus.fi/pyorosahantera-puulle-160-x-20-16-mm.html. You can’t cut plywood with the standard blade, it has to be one with many teeth. I hadn’t done that much wood work in the past, but I was very pleased with the handling of the saw.
Here’s me doing my first cut, yey 🙂 It’s the cut for the front bottom part of the arcade. I had practiced on some scrap wood at first, and the cut on the right is also a practice one (that area is just scrap):
Very accurate and nice. I used a piece of spare wood (clamped to the table) as a guideline for the saw. The wood was clamped exactly 3.5cm from the cut line. (The blade is positioned 3.5cm from the metal guideline on the saw). This is actually the same wood I used for braces, https://www.rautia.fi/verkkokauppa/rakennustarvikkeet-ja-puutavara/puutavara/puutavara-11/mitallistettu-48-x-48-mm. It costs only 0,90€ per meter. I bought 11m which was shooting over the top, but they were only sold as 5.5m pieces. 5.5m wasn’t enough so I ended up buying two pieces. Total cost for this was no more than 9,90€.
I used a “normal” hand saw for the very last millimeters on the more demanding cuts.
The uncut sheets were quite big so a little bit of MacGyvering was in place for maximum support:
End result for the sides (+ a couple of the other pieces):
I was very pleased with the result thus far. Then again I’m quite meticulous 🙂
Now the focus was on getting all the pieces as smooth as possible. This was easily fixed using some filler where needed. The smoothness is needed when applying the dc-fix adhesive film.
Some filler (small holes already sanded):
I had to fit the “reunanauha” before applying the adhesive film. Well, I didn’t have to but it’s a lot easier this way (otherwise you’ll probably damage the adhesive film when trimming the reunanauha-edges). Also, there were no drilling needed on the side pieces so the adhesive film could be applied right away. Here’s a pic where the “reunanauha” is already applied :
The reunanauha was a bit too wide (18mm), so I cut off the remains with a box cutter knife. I bought the reunanauha for the bargain price of 3,99€ from Biltema, http://www.biltema.fi/fi/Rakentaminen/Sailyttaminen/Sailytys-hyllyt/Reunanauha-valkoinen-2000022893/
Here’s a (inside) pic with both the adhesive film and reunanauha applied:
Now you might wonder why there’s some adhesive film on the inside of the cabin also. This is because part of the inside will be visible from the outside as well (due to the “lip”). This is by design. You’ll get what I mean from the final pictures 🙂
Outer side dc-fixed:
DC-fix was bought from Bauhaus (only company selling it over here in Finland), http://www.bauhaus.fi/kontaktimuovi-d-c-fix-mustapuu-67-5-x-200-cm.html. I bought 2 x 90cm rolls and 3 x 67,5cm rolls. The total price for the 5 rolls was 40,70€.
With the reunanauha and dc-fix applied, it was time to cut and fit the brace pieces. As mentioned earlier, these were bought in bulk as 2 x 5.5m pieces for just 9,90€.
I have no pictures from cutting and measuring these, but then again it’s a job everyone should handle 🙂
Instead, here are some pictures when mounting the wood braces:
I pre-drilled holes in the brace wood and used 6cm/60mm long screws (also bought in bulk from Bauhaus (about 4€ in total). This was the perfect screw length as the brace wood itself was 48mm thick.
After finishing the brace work (and dc-fixing) on both side panels, it was time to focus on the other pieces. I used a little bit of filler where needed and of course did some sanding. I drilled holes and used a countersink bit, http://www.biltema.fi/fi/Tyokalut/Leikkaustyokalut/Senkkaustera/Senkkaustera-3-kpl-2000016869/, 4,99€. Here’s the speaker mount piece as an example:
(This is not the final piece, the speaker grills are just placed there as a test layout).
With all pieces drilled and counter sinked, I applied dc-fix on them (exception: control panel, drop drawer and speaker mount. More about these pieces later on). Here’s an example of the bottom front piece:
I then used my fingers to locate the pre-drilled holes. I used a sharp knife to make small cuts in these locations. (There’s of course no need to put dc-fix on the floor and back pieces).
Before putting the whole puzzle together I decided to finalize the speaker mount. As seen from the previous speaker mount picture, I had pre-drilled screw holes and used the countersink bit. I had also used filler and sanded the whole thing. I then made some marks where the speaker holes would be drilled. I drilled the holes with a circular saw drill bit (which I already owned). Here a picture:
After both holes were drilled, I applied the dc-fix adhesive film and also the speaker grills I got from eBay (http://www.ebay.com/itm/2x-3inch-Black-Circle-Speaker-Decorative-Circle-w-Protective-Iron-Grille-Mesh-/331962746791?hash=item4d4a8587a7 ) for a whopping 2,50€. Here’s a pic from the finished front side:
With the holes drilled and dc-fix attached, it was time to attach the actual speakers. The speakers I used were some old 4.1 ones, Creative Cambridge SoundWorks 4.1 I’d remember. These were available for free. Anyhow, attaching the satellites onto the back of the speaker mount was easy. A little bit of a ghetto fix but it worked just fine:
The metal hole-string was also bought from Biltema for 4,49€, http://www.biltema.fi/fi/Rakentaminen/Asennustarvikket/Muut/Asennusvanne-galvanoitu-2000017277/
With the speaker mount completed, it was finally time to assemble the other pieces. It was actually a very easy task and I had no problems with fitting whatsoever. Here are some pictures from the process:
I used black screws so they would stay as hidden as possible, https://www.k-rauta.fi/rautakauppa/ty%C3%B6kalut-ja-pienrauta/pienrauta/kipsilevyruuvit/kipsilevyruuvi-prof-ph2-3-5×25-tk-fos-100kpl .100 pcs for 3,95€. Here are some more pictures from an upright position:
There’s an addition in these two pictures, namely the pull-out tray. I made some measurements and attached the tray on a height that felt comfortable. The tray itself was cut 2cm shorter than the other pieces to make room for the drawer slides (http://www.biltema.fi/fi/Rakentaminen/Saranat/Muut/Teleskooppikannattimet-2-kpl-2000018627/). I used the white ones, 350/628 mm, 2,99€. I also fitted some “reunanauha” onto this piece to make it look cool when pulled out.
Also, the whole arcade was now “floating” on top of a “siirtoalusta”, http://www.hongkong.fi/fi/tarjoukset/tyokalut-ja-nikkarointi-tarjoukset/siirtoalusta-pyorilla/p/874547/ . This makes rotating the arcade super easy (and was actually one of the better things I impulsively bought).
The whole thing now started looking like an Arcade. However, some important pieces were missing – the marquee, the drop drawer and the control panel. I started with the easier pieces and left the demanding one (control panel) as the last project.
I started by triple checking and measuring the piece so it would be an exact fit. I suggest you do the same because no arcade will have the exact same measurements when finished. When I was completely sure of the length and height I did some trimming with the hand-held circular saw. (I did some test cuts on another piece to get the 45 degree angle just right also). After this was done I yet again applied the dc-fix adhesive film. I then got a helping hand from my wife so I would have my own hands free for marking the places to drill/screw. I got these places marked and then attached the hinges. Hinges (and the latch) were bought from Prisma, https://www.prisma.fi/fi/prisma/kaapinsarana-25×25-1499-sinkitty (3,40€) and https://www.prisma.fi/fi/prisma/tyontosalpa-4539-38-messinki-kromattu (4,50€). After attaching the latch I drilled a 8mm wide hole so the latch “end” would fit into the side panel piece.
It’s actually very hard to find “free” marquees on the Internet. I did find a couple of candidates though, and I ended up using one which just says “Arcade” (with a Pac-man theme). I don’t remember where I found it, but there were plenty of googling involved 🙂 You can at least get a couple of marquees (and other graphics) from http://arcadecontrols.com/artwork.shtml#marquees. Anyways, I just printed the marquee with a normal color printer. (MS Publisher is very convenient when designing and printing marquees btw).
I then got a piece of plexiglass (http://www.stark-suomi.fi/fi/akryylilevy-3x1000x1000-mm-kirkas) for 31,80€ and made some measurements (basic stuff). I cut two sheets of plexiglass so the marquee would fit in between the sheets. I drilled holes in each corner and screwed the marquee in place. Easy peasy 🙂 You shouldn’t use a normal drill when drilling plexiglass, instead use one made for glass or tiles. I had these drills in my stash already, so there were no need to buy new ones. There are many different brands however, and I used trusty old ones from Biltema:
(The large drill is actually a step drill which I used for the control panel. More info in the next chapter).
Before attaching the marquee, I attached some LED lights bought from eBay, http://www.ebay.com/itm/12V-2A-Power-5m-SMD-5050-3528-Flexible-300LED-Strip-Light-Roll-Super-Bright-EUR-/201674180578?var=501328208085&hash=item2ef4b7c7e2:g:dRwAAOSw8w1X47Ou) to the arcade frame. The 5m warm white one + AC Adapter was a bargain at just 6,30€ in total.
I saved the most demanding piece until the bitter end. This was actually a very good idea, as new ideas kept maturing in my head during the whole project.
I had made a “beta version” of the control panel a long before I bought the plywood. You could say this was the thing that got me excited about the whole project. I started by ordering some stuff from eBay, namely:
- Raspberry Pi 3, about 35€
- 2 x Zippy Joysticks (Sanwa clone), http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Arcade-Competition-Control-Handle-2-4-8-Way-Long-Joystick-For-MAME-Fighting-Game-/201338786571?, 18€ total
- 2 x Zero Delay USB Encoder PC to Joystick, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Zero-Delay-USB-Encoder-PC-to-Joystick-2pin-Happ-Push-Button-For-Arcade-MAME-/181856611219?, 16€ total
- 16 Happ buttons, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Happ-Arcade-Push-Button-Durable-Multicade-MAME-Jamma-Multicade-Game-Long-Switch-/191296772817?var=490408351332, 22€ total (you can see which buttons I ordered from the pictures later on).
When the stuff had arrived from eBay, my first task was to build a “beta version” for testing all the electronics. That said, I started using my imagination 🙂 In the end, an old Dell monitor box worked just fine 🙂 I first had to figure out the position of the joysticks and buttons. Luckily there’s a very good site for this, namely http://slagcoin.com/joystick/layout.html. From here you can download different layouts which you can then print at a 1:1 scale. Very nice 🙂 I used the one that says “This is a precise diagram of the Sega layout used in Astro City, Blast City…”. It was indeed a very good choice and it’s super comfortable. I had no use for the last two buttons, and they would also take up too much space. For the joystick layout I used the alternative hole which is placed a little bit more to the left (marked in yellow). I suggest you do the same if you don’t have very small (children) hands.
Having tested the “Dell-arcade” and confirming that it worked, it was now time to transfer the cardboard box layout onto the plywood 🙂 I carefully measured and then just taped the layout onto the plywood. After this I used an awl to make marks on the plywood. Then, as seen in the picture, I drilled small holes for the buttons. This way I made sure that when drilling the larger holes they would stay in the correct position. (I also pre-drilled holes for mounting the control panel itself onto the Arcade). The right-hand side controls were mounted in a slight upward angle, otherwise two adults wouldn’t fit playing at the same time. Here are some more pictures of the process:
I used a spade bit (24mm) http://www.biltema.fi/fi/Tyokalut/Leikkaustyokalut/Puuporanterat/Keskioporanterasarja-13-kpl-2000030871/ , 14€ for the joystick holes and a 29mm hole saw for the button holes http://www.hongkong.fi/fi/tyokalut-ja-nikkarointi/tyokalut/sahkotyokalut/vannesahat-maaliruiskut-ja-muut-sahkotyokoneet/procat-reikasaha/p/1812553/ , 3,99€ + the chuck for the hole saw, http://www.hongkong.fi/fi/tyokalut-ja-nikkarointi/tyokalut/sahkotyokalut/vannesahat-maaliruiskut-ja-muut-sahkotyokoneet/procat-reikasahan-istukka-16-30-mm/p/133056/ , 5,99€.
The instructable I had been following was just about finished with the control panel at this stage. I myself had to do better 🙂 This is what happens when you have too much time to think about improvements. My own addition to the control panel was to cover it with plexiglass. Plexiglass on top of the blackwood dc-fix adhesive film, that is.
Before I started working on the plexiglass I had yet another idea. Why not put some nice action figures between the plywood and the plexiglass? Well, a bit of beta-testing later I can confirm that it was a good idea:
Now that the layout was done it was time to focus on the plexiglass itself. The plexiglass was cut using the very same hand-held circular saw as before. After the glass was cut, I clamped it on top of the control panel piece, like so:
It’s very important that the plexiglass and the control panel are a very tight fit before starting the drilling. The drilling is already done in the above picture, however it’s not that difficult. Just mark the center and pre-drill with a small drill (the one used for glass or tiles). After that use a step drill (I got mine from http://www.motonet.fi/fi/tuote/786028/Askelporasarja-2-osaa-4-35mm, 23,90€). A step drill is “The Drill” to use when drilling larger holes in plexiglass. The drilling part was actually very easy. However, make sure you don’t drill the holes TOO large/wide (it happens very easy). If that happens, you’ll have to start from scratch (the buttons will fall through). Instead, leave a little bit of edge and finish the hole(s) with a sanding tool/rasp. Also, make sure you drill the four fitting holes (and use a countersink bit on these).
After this step was done I also fitted some reunanauha before attaching the dc-fix adhesive film. After fitting the film I mounted the joysticks. (The screws should be fitted UNDER the plexiglass. Just use some normal metal screws and nuts from the hardware store and paint the upper part black). After fitting the joysticks I laid out the arcade stickers. Then, finally, I put it all together:
Awesome! I’m happy with that 🙂
As a last step I tested the control panel one last time:
It worked just fine so now it was time to fit the control panel onto the Arcade (again using black screws):
Jiiihaa, one step closer to the finish line 🙂
The last piece of the puzzle was the monitor bezel. The instructable didn’t give away much information on how to attach this to the arcade frame. Once again I had to settle for common sense. That said, I got myself a very sturdy piece of cardboard from work (free). I also bought one sheet of black poster board (or equivalent). I then took some measurements and made the cuts (I use a 20″ TFT 4:3 monitor):
The hole in the black sheet of paper was cut 5mm smaller in diameter compared to the hole in the cardboard. This was done to create a little border. I also used a chisel to carve out a place for the monitor buttons. The monitor would also be a tighter fit against the cardboard this way.
With both the sheets carefully measured and cut, I glued them together:
Here you can also see the tiny black frame surrounding the monitor edges. (Only in the center, the outer black borders on the left and right side were trimmed off).
I also measured the plexiglass that would cover the whole bezel. After carefully measuring and cutting the plexiglass, I yet again got an idea for action figures between the plexiglass and the cardboard:
This is just a mockup picture, but the final bezel looks just about the same (monitor frame on the other side of course 🙂 ). I also painted the monitor frame black, just in case some silver color would have shine through the edges. It would have been enough painting just the inner sides, but it didn’t matter. The monitor frame should stay hidden anyways.
I had to scratch my head a bit when trying to fit the whole thing into the arcade. In the end I ended up using some old computer parts 🙂 I used the metal plates that covers the PCI slots in a PC to support the bezel. I then glued a piece of wood on top of the metal plates (otherwise the bezel wouldn’t be high enough). See picture:
With the support braces done, it was now easy to attach the bezel to the arcade frame. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes:
In other words the bezel rest on the metal braces, and on the lower edge it’s pushed forward until hitting the control panel edge. This makes a tight fit. Same goes for the upper edge – the bezel is hitting the speaker mount edge.
With the monitor bezel done, the project itself was almost done. As a finishing touch I googled some nice arcade art. I printed them on self-adhesive labels using a normal color printer (laser). The end result looked like this:
This quite much summarizes the whole project. It took me about 1 month to complete and approximately 60+ hours of work 🙂
Total build cost was about 350€ (not including the hand-held circular saw). You’ll easily be under 300€ if you own some tools to begin with.
All in all it was a great and fun project!