My last post highlighted my questions and concerns. I won’t really be doing that any more in these posts in a ‘live’ way because I had to put the blog post writing on hiatus while I actually focussed on getting the arcade machine built in time for my 40th birthday party. So all the posts from now on are written in the past tense after the machine has mostly been built. I’ll still try to highlight any problems that I had along the way though and mention how I tackled them.

Probably the biggest part of the whole process of building my first cabinet was the cabinet plans. In the previous post about Cabinet Designs you saw that I picked the Joust and Moon Patrol cabs as my main inspiration. I had found an image of a Sketchup file that someone had made of a Joust cabinet. I got hold of the Sketchup 3D file and had a look at it but as someone else had made it I couldn’t really get my head around it. I knew I had to build my own plans myself.

I wanted something fairly tangible during the planning process, as opposed to just sketches on paper, because I knew I had to work some measurements out as I went along. Not all the angles, lengths and structures were obvious to me just in my head.

First of all I had to get the basic measurements of the cabinet. As I mentioned previously I was hoping to visit Arcade Club UK and measure a real Joust cabinet and then use those basic measurements along with the silhouette image that I had and work out all the dimensions that I needed. But I didn’t get to go to Arcade Club in the end. I then tried to get someone to measure the height of the Joust cabinet at Arcade Club UK for me. But that didn’t manage to happen either. Then I spent ages trying harder to find Joust plans somewhere online and eventually I found them on the Jakobud website. These plans were exactly what I needed. They were actually Moon Patrol plans but they’re the same as Joust as far as I know. I think the two machines just have 2 inches difference in their width. And I made my machine to my own width specifications anyway. See the images below.


It was slightly annoyingly it was right facing and for some reason my brain wants to work left facing, and it’s hard to flip the image when it has all the numbers on it, so I just kept working on it right facing. But also I like to work in mm and this was all in inches. I’m fussy I know, but I just knew I had to get it into a form that I knew I could work with easily to make my life a bit easier. So for a while I was constantly converting things from inches to mm and back again to check and double check all my measurements.

I also had to work out a few measurements that were not on that document. Things like measuring how large the space was for the TV, because the Joust and Moon Patrol cabinets would have had arcade monitors which aren’t as bulky as a TV in a case. So I managed to scale up the whole vector image so that it was a true scale diagram and if I drew a line tool within Adobe Illustrator I could measure exactly how long a measurement was in real life. When I drew a line from left to right it would say it was 710mm, or whatever it was. This became priceless as I measured out all the little angles and lengths that I needed for the adjustments that I wanted to make. You can see a pic below of various stages of diagrams that I used to help me, including one where I added in all the batons that I knew I would need, and also a scale photo of the TV that I had taken in order to put it in context to check that it would fit too.

Arcade mockups

Arcade 06

Another adjustment I had to make was because I wanted to add castors to the bottom. I didn’t personally like the idea of having castors but I heard it was invaluable later on if you had to move it. I wasn’t planning on moving it too much but I thought I would add them anyway, and in retrospect I’m so glad that I did. But I didn’t want to add too much height to the cabinet, so what I did was lift the base up a few cm, up the inside of the cabinet, and have the castors just sticking out under the bottom of the sides by about 2cm to give it enough clearance to handle bumps or carpet but not look too obviously ‘on wheels’ when people look at it.

While we’re talking about castors, I got industrial strength ones and chose to get two stationary ones and two swivel ones. I put the stationary ones at the front so that it would minimise wobble when playing the games. This does make it slightly harder to manoeuvre but stability is definitely the priority. It still is slightly wobbly when you play games like Street Fighter but that’s the price you pay for ease of mobility. I’m pretty happy with the compromise.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really knew that the secret to me building a good cabinet, while not having much experience of building things, would be in the planning. I had this scale vector diagram in Illustrator which was great, but I needed something more tangible in 3D. I first of all tried to make a scale model in cardboard but it wasn’t really working and it was hard to adjust things or make it stand up properly. So I moved onto Google Sketchup and started learning how to use that. It’s a great app for quickly prototyping ideas and having a look around them. I managed to build the arcade in various layers so that I could see how it would look at various stages of the build and see how things would fit together. I was actually able to take measurements from the Sketchup file in order to check that things like my TV would fit ok. This tool really was invaluable to my process. And it’s free! See the video below of my model.

Once I had effectively built the cabinet in Sketchup, and had the scale measurements in Illustrator I felt ready to move on to the actual physical build.

Here’s a list of all the posts about my arcade build.

Part 1
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