To be honest, the control panel was one of the parts of the build I was most nervous about. I had a specific idea in mind for the control panel. A lot of people build control panels that are square but I stubbornly wanted to recreate the curved front of the Joust cabinet I was basing my machine on. I just thought the curved front looks so cool, particularly when you have a nice vinyl sticker with artwork that accentuates the curve. I think most of the curved control panels in actual arcade machines are made from metal, but I knew I had to do mine from wood. But it wasn’t as ‘simple’ as putting two bits of wood together at 90 degrees and curving the edge, because the top of the control panel is actually at an angle. Now, I’ve got no experience at all of curving edges of bits of wood or of attaching bits of wood at angles, so I knew from the start that I would have to get help from my father-in-law for this bit.
First things first though. I had got the bits of wood cut by B&Q and I’m pretty sure these were exactly right and were good to go with no changes. That was a good start. So the first thing I actually had to do was to cut the holes for the joysticks and buttons. I knew the placement would be very important and I wanted to get it absolutely right. I had found the great Slag Coin website which has lots of button layout based on proper machines and anthropomorphic testing for hand sizes etc. Don’t just place your buttons randomly. Use one of these tried and tested layouts. I went for the Sega Player 2 layout in the end.
I had to print these out at 1:1 scale. They wouldn’t fit on an A3 sheet of paper so I had to scale them up in Photoshop to 1:1 scale and then split it into two images and print these out on A3 paper each. I then cut them out and sellotaped them together. Then it’s just a simple case of laying this over your control panel and using something sharp to mark the centre of your button holes onto your control panel below. I think I used the sharp point of an old spade bit. Then just be very careful that you drill straight when drilling the holes and don’t slip. I think I mentioned before but I used a 28mm spade drill bit. This is perfect for the arcade buttons. I also used it for my joystick holes and the size was fine.
One of the hard bits that I certainly couldn’t do myself on the control panel, because I don’t have a router, was to route an inset into the bottom of the control panel for the joystick base to fit into. The reason for this is that the joystick base is quite thick and if you just have the base underneath the 18mm control panel wood then you lose 18mm of your joystick shaft length. I took the joystick apart and then drew round the joystick base on the underside of the control panel. My father-in-law then used that line as a guide and routed the area out to a depth of about 9mm, halfway into the depth of the control panel. After this, however, the problem was how to attach it to the control panel. The easy way is to screw from below and put screws into the control panel from underneath. But we were nervous that this might not be strong enough as it was only 9mm thick in that area now and we knew the joysticks would be getting waggled a fair but (oo-er – Ed) [that’s my Your Sinclair reference]. The solution we came up with was to pack something into the space around the edges of the joystick base and then trap it but putting some wooden bars under it which would drill into the 18mm thick surround. The material I chose to pack it with ended up being double sided sellotape. I just cut lots of strips and put layer after layer on until it reached the correct depth. It worked pretty well as it was a slightly spongy material in the end and cushioned the joystick well. You can see what I mean by the pictures below. To be honest I’m not sure how people normally mount these joysticks but this method worked for me.
My father-in-law managed to attach the two bits of wood for the control panel at the correct angle and also round the edge off and it looked great. I tried it in the machine and after a little bit of adjustments it fit perfectly. HUGE wait off my mind there (for now. See a later post for some sizing issues).
The last issue with the control panel was that I wanted it to be accessible so that I could repair buttons and wires in the future if required. And I couldn’t just lift the whole thing off because the buttons and joysticks would be attached to wires. So I decided to put hinges underneath. I got hinges from my father-in-law and I managed to attach them ok myself. I was really pleased with how the control panel was looking and working. In the photo below you can see the hinges as well as all the buttons on the front and bottom. I discussed these in my post about the Control Panel Plans, and I’ll be discussing the buttons in more detail in a future post. The front panel obviously has Player 1 and Player 2 buttons. The yellow one is the main button to go back to the home menu page. The other white buttons is currently assigned as an ‘Enter’ button which is useful for some menu options. On the under side, the two black buttons on the side are for Coin 1 and Coin 2 and the middle one, currently unassigned, may be used as a Pause button.
The picture below includes the wiring (which I cover in a later blog post) but it shows what it looks like when it is hinged out and how easy the access is.
I thought I would have to have some kind of latch or catch for the control panel to click into on the supporting baton so that it wouldn’t flip open when people were playing games (and I was planning on being able to reach inside the coin door and reach up to flip open the latch every time I had to open the control panel) but actually when we tried it it fit so perfectly snug that it was pretty secure in place and I didn’t really have to worry about that at all. It felt like there was no chance of it flipping open when playing it so I just left it.
Control panel done. The cabinet is taking shape.
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