I’ve had a few questions and concerns along the way with the arcade cabinet build. Some of which I have already answered and some of which I’m nearly there with but not quite yet. I thought it would be useful to list these in case other people out there building cabinets have similar concerns. It’s also useful for me to list them all out as it highlights what questions I need to ask to which person. I’m very lucky that my father-in-law is a builder/carpenter and my next door neighbour is an electrician/handy man in his spare time. I do want to try to do as much of the build as I can myself but it’s great to know I can ask them questions along the way, or get physical help if required, as well as asking more specific questions on the forums online such as UK VAC and ArcadeControls.com.
So, in no particular order…
How can I get my wood home?
We’ve only got a small hatchback car and the sheet of MDF I need is 2440x1220mm. I could get it cut to the rough size of the cabinet at the store but I still think it will be too big for the car. I may need to hire a van for the day.
How can I cut the main arcade cabinet shape accurately?
This was one of my main woodwork concerns. I have no experience so far using power tools and I wanted to make sure I got a really nice finish and cut on the outline of both sides of the cabinet. I could ask my father-in-law nicely, but I’m actually also investigating asking a local joinery workshop which is literally about a 5min walk from my house. They have a CNC machine and hopefully might be able to help.
Will the cabinet and base be strong enough for my CRT TV?
Most of the builds I’ve seen online just use a modern flat panel TV which are pretty light. I’ve not really come across any CRT TV builds which go into detail about the structure of the cabinet. One of my concerns is that when I put my heavy TV on it the whole cabinet will collapse. This is one area I will definitely be checking with my father-in-law. I’m not sure if a single MDF shelf resting on the wood batons will be enough. It might need some more supports underneath. Also, in terms of the base, I’m not sure if a single MDF sheet is enough for the base or if I need to build something more sturdy like a box base.
How do I fasten in the TV?
The TV is very heavy. It will be tilting backwards as well. And it’s narrower than the width of the machine. So I want to make sure it doesn’t slide about laterally and although it’s unlikely the machine will be tilted forward I want to make sure the TV will be secure enough to not fall forward against the glass if it was tilted. I’m not sure yet how this will be securely attached.
Wheels or no wheels?
I’m not sure about adding wheels or castors to my machine. I don’t have any plans really to move it much after it’s built, but you never know. From what I hear I don’t think it should move around at all while playing, if it’s on wheels. Particularly if it has a heavy CRT TV and a big coin door. One concern though I had about wheels is that it might give it smaller points of weakness that could buckle under the weight. Again one to run past my father-in-law.
How to cut the slot for the t-moulding?
All the online projects in the US talk about this very simply. Get a slot cutting bit and route the edges. But in the UK it seems to be a lot harder to get the right bit. And not many people seem to have heard of some of the terminology that you hear in the US builds. I’m hoping that the joiners or my father-in-law can help here, although annoyingly I think I may have to spend £20-£30 on one slot cutting bit that is only going to be used once for about 10mins. I’m hoping the joiners already have one.
Which areas do I have to cut out or route?
My woodworking experience is non-existent at worst and basic at best. I’m up for a challenge though. I’m generally very ‘arts and crafty’ and pretty good with my hands and hey, I’ve watched lots of YouTube videos on building cabinets, so I’ll be fine, right? I should be more than able to cut pieces of wood to the right size and attach them on and drill holes etc, but other woodworking bits I may need help with are the larger holes and shapes for the speakers and the coin door which will have to be cut out with a jigsaw. I may have to borrow a jigsaw but ideally get someone’s help with cutting these holes too. And the other bit is any routing that needs to be done. This may just be for the joystick which I think needs to be put into a slight recess so the metal plate doesn’t show on the control panel.
How will the control panel be attached on?
This is a biggie. There doesn’t seem to be any standard way to do this. Everybody does it in different ways. I also really really want to have a curved front on mine, like the Joust and Moon Patrol cabinets have, so that I can have one sheet of vinyl covering the whole control panel overlay. I’m hoping I can do that via two pieces of wood and just curve the edge of one of them. But I also want the whole thing to be able to be opened, ideally tilted forward on a hinge so that I can access the underneath of the buttons. That all seems doable but I’m not sure how to fasten it down so that it doesn’t lift up whilst playing. Another one to ask my father-in-law. The control panel is obviously one of the main parts of the machine, so I would really like it to be done well.
How do I print the side art?
I’m talking to several vinyl print shops just now and I have no problem with creating the artwork, but my main question has been that if I have small bits of artwork that are loose from the main piece of artwork (imagine a bunch of small space invaders near the top, etc) then do these need to come as separate pieces of vinyl and be intricately added one by one or do I specify a larger outline to make it all one big piece that has areas of transparent vinyl, or third option, do I have to just print it all as one full sheet of vinyl covering the entire side of the machine with no transparency and get the background colour printed on the vinyl itself so there is no transparency. It might affect the structure of my artwork, so I’d like to find out asap.
Which bits do I have to glue and what order should I paint?
I think I’m able to work this out myself but I just need to decide, before I start building, which bits need to be glued down as they are permanent structural pieces or pieces that won’t need to be removed, and which bits I need to leave just screwed so that I can get access to internals later on. Also this probably affects the order in which I paint things. Which bits need to be painted before the cabinet is built and which bits can be painted in situ. A lot of that depends on screwing, filling and sanding, and also ease of masking.
What access will I need later?
This is obviously related to the last question about which bits will be screwed or glued. I’m thinking I won’t need access to the TV from the rear, so I’m going to put a structural panel in the middle at the back. If I want access to the TV I’m thinking I will remove the glass and the bezel and access it that way, particularly if the control panel will be opening out forward anyway. I also think I will leave a panel at the top at the back to access the marquee/speaker area if required. At the bottom I will obviously have some limited access through the coin door for things like adjusting the volume but I think it’s wise to leave a bottom panel at the back that I can access too. These back panels can be screwed on. I’m not going to be accessing them very regularly so I’m happy to unscrew them to get access. The control panel is the one that I would ideally not have to unscrew to get access to.
How to build the marquee?
Again, I haven’t come across a definitive way of building the marquee to be honest. There seem to be quite a few approaches. I think I know roughly what I need to do though, and I just need to see if I can get some plexiglass from somewhere. I don’t think I’m going to get the design printed directly onto it unless I find somewhere that does that fairly cheaply. I might just print it out and stick it behind a sheet of plexiglass or glass.
How to attach the marquee and monitor glass?
Again there doesn’t seem to be a standard way to fix in the monitor glass but I did some research in my local arcade and I really liked the method of just having an angle bracket around the top and bottom of the marquee (with the screws going in on the top and bottom of each respectively, not on the front) and also inverted angle brackets holding in the monitor glass which screw onto the speaker panel and wood near the control panel. I’m very wary in general about the TV and glass being secure. I don’t envisage the machine being tilted forward at all but in case it is one day I’d rather the TV and glass didn’t just fall out easily.
How do I put a bezel around the TV?
I’m just using a regular CRT TV with the plastic box still on it, so I need to cover that up. I’m hoping to make some sort of black bezel which will sit around the TV screen and block out any view of the plastic surround. Not sure how I’m going to do this yet. It also means I don’t need to have any artwork on the glass to cover any of the insides. So I’m not actually sure if I want to have any artwork on the glass bezel. I might just keep the glass plain and the bezel black. I find the bezels on some arcade machines to be a little distracting.
How do I find a light for the marquee?
I’ve been struggling with this one. I found some fluorescent bulbs of around the right width but they didn’t have harnesses to fit into with the power etc. I’m also thinking of going down the LED route to minimise the risk of heat and fire etc. I’ll keep looking and I’m sure I’ll find something.
How can I adjust the volume?
I wasn’t totally sure the best way to do this, particularly as I thought I was just going to be using an old set of PC speakers, and I had also heard about a way to do it using the software and programming some of the buttons. But in the end I just bought a set of arcade speakers with an amp from Arcade World UK, as this would make my life easier, and I figured I could just have the amp box all the way down near the bottom of the machine and I can simply open the coin door and reach inside to twiddle the volume knob. Simples.
Will the TV automatically switch on?
I wanted everything to switch on and start up simply by turning the machine on. I’m not going to add a main power switch for the machine (something I could add in the future) but I’m just going to be plugging it in at the wall every time I want to play it. And when I plug it in I want the TV to switch on and the Raspberry Pi to fire up MAME. I have checked and the TV does have a physical on/off button that you can leave in the ON position so that when you plug it in it switches on. I just need to check that it defaults to the SCART channel. I’d rather not have to use the remote control every time I play it. But I’ve not heard of this being an issue at all so I’m sure it will be fine. I’m sure the same happens with the Raspberry Pi and everything else.
So, quite a few questions. I certainly try to be thorough. And I prefer to think of these things before I start building rather than coming across hitches once I’ve started. But I’m confident that all the above can be addressed. We’ll find out soon enough.
Here’s a list of all the posts about my arcade build.
Part 2 – Decisions
Part 3 – Cabinet Design
Part 4 – Control Panel Plans
Part 5 – Initial Questions and Concerns
Part 6 – Online Resources
Part 7 – Cabinet Plans
Part 8 – Buying and Cutting the Wood
Part 9 – Tools and Materials
Part 10 – Building the Cabinet
Part 11 – Building the Control Panel
Part 12 – Sanding and Painting
Part 13 – The Coin Door
Part 14 – Artwork
Part 15 – Printing and Applying the Vinyl
Part 16 – Adding all the T-moulding
Part 17 – The TV Monitor
Part 18 – Making the Bezel
Part 19 – The Marquee
Part 20 – Installing the Electronics
Part 21 – Setting up MAME
Part 22 – Issues to Watch Out For
Part 23 – The Finished Cabinet