Let’s Build an Arcade Cabinet: Episode III

Last week, I was going back through the arcade cabinet posts, and I realized we started this project way back in October. So, our new goal is to get it up and running by the end of March with everything finished except for the artwork which our graphic design team will be doing internally.

Figure 0 - Panels (Not to scale)

Figure 0 – Panels (Not to scale)

Changes in Design

Figure 1: Additional Cuts

In the interest of time, we’ve opted to purchase a fully assembled control panel rather than assemble one ourselves. We ultimately settled on X-Arcade’s Tankstick; I used one in my personal machine and have had zero problems. This change means we also had to make some changes to the design of the shell itself in order to allow it to more securely cradle the Tankstick. Nothing terribly difficult or complicated, thank goodness.

We removed Under-Panel Plate A and will be re-using it as a cup holder plate between the control panel and the bezel. More on that later. Additionally, we had to cut into both side panels (at the 90 degree angle) to accommodate the top edge of the Tankstick. Take a look at Figure 1 if you’re following along with the original designs from Episode I.

We also had to snip the pointed ends of the control panel support arms and add in two additional plates to cover the gap between the control panel and the side panels which I’ll cover later down the post.

More Panels

To the right are the measurements for the remaining panels yet to be cut. They include the all the pieces for the top half of the machine. My recommendation is to work your way up and back. So, let’s start with the MCP (Monitor/Control Panel) Base. Please refer to Figure 0 up above for specific measurements.

MCP Base

MCP Base Support Beams

Figure 2: MCP Base Support Beams

The MCP Base is the piece on which the Monitor and Control Panel will rest. It is very important that it be sturdy and well-fitting. As our design changed with the introduction of the Tankstick, we weren’t able to properly plan the cuts ahead of time. So, our MCP Base is actually in two pieces, length-wise.

The base should be supported by two (or three in our case) cross beams (2x4s) running in parallel with the MCP Base length-wise as picture in Figure 2 to the left.

The back of the MCP Base is only half-flush with the rear of the machine. That is intentional. This extra space will allow us to pass through all of the cords from the monitor and control panel to the bottom of the machine (see Figure 3 below).

Secure the MCP Base directly to the support beams as necessary. Place the monitor so that screen is parallel to the lower slanting edges of the side panels to make sure everything will align properly later.

Here is where we clipped the pointed ends of the control panel supports. We simply cut end ends so that it squared with the control panel. Simple enough.

Figure 3: Rear Gap in MCP Base

Figure 3: Rear Gap in MCP Base

Speaker Panel

Figure 4: Speaker Template Taped to Panel

Figure 4: Speaker Template Taped to Panel

Once the MCP Base is mounted, move onto the Speaker Panel. Once the piece has been cut, you’ll want to drill/cut the speaker grills. The Degenetron Barcade Tutorials have a great set of templates which I’ll directly link here.

Measure precisely so that the speakers are spaced evenly from each other and from each side.  Securely tape the templates in place on the panel (see Figure 4 to the left). Choose a drill bit that roughly fit the circles on the template (ie: 1/8 inch). Drill from front-to-back; if you use garbage bits like we did, the back of your panel will look like Figure 5 below, but it shouldn’t be a problem since the botched back will ultimately be out of sight.

Figure 4: Torn-up Speaker Panel

Figure 5: Torn-up Speaker Panel

Mount the panel so that it sits UPDATE inches, in parallel, from upper slanted edges of the side panels. Use slices of 2×4 so that you won’t be drilling directly into the edges of the panel which would very likely destroy the MDF. Your finished product should roughly come out to look like Figure 6 below.

Figure 5: Mounted Speaker Panel

Figure 6: Mounted Speaker Panel


Marquee Panels

There will be two Marquee Panels, Upper and Lower. The Lower Panel will need to be flush with the top edge of the speaker panel. The Upper Panel will extend farther back than the Lower and will ultimately connect to the Rear Top Panel (addressed in the next section). Mounting both panels is very straight forward. I like the look of some space between the edges of the side panels and the surface of these panels, so take that fact into account when you measure. Use your slices of 2×4 to secure them in place. The most important factor is that the two panels and side panels form as close-to-a-rectangle as possible. This will make mounting the marquee artwork/Plexiglas significantly easier down the road.

Figure 7: Upper Marquee Panel Mounted

Figure 7: Upper Marquee Panel Mounted

Rear Top Panel

We’re down to the final panel! If you would prefer to have a Rear Panel enclosing the back of your machine, feel free to add one when the build in complete. I prefer to keep the back accessible for ease of troubleshooting.

This is another very straight forward mount. Use the same technique required for the previous panels. The one caveat with this panel is that in my two previous builds, I’ve had trouble keeping the top edge flush with the back of the Top Marquee Panel. Don’t worry to much if it’s not exact. One, it won’t be seen, and Two, you can fill in the gap with calk and wood filler. And that leads us to our next section!

Figure 8: Top Rear Panel

Figure 8: Top Rear Panel, Gaps Filled

Calking and Filler

Now that all of the panels have been mounted, use wood filler and/or paintable calking to fill in any and all gaps between the edges and mount points.

Figure 9: Wood Filler

Figure 9: Wood Filler

It is very likely that it will take several “coats” of filler to fill all gaps properly (if you’re as clumsy with the saw as I am). Be sure to let all attempts dry before slathering on more filler. If you have gaps that are significantly large, use calking first. Otherwise, the filler will likely slide right through the gap.

FIgure 10: Wood Filler Around Speaker Panel

FIgure 10: Wood Filler Around Speaker Panel

Finally, feel free to cover up particularly deep (or mis-drilled) screw holes (see Figure 11).

Figure 11: Filler for Screw Holes

Figure 11: Filler for Screw Holes

The filler can and should be sanded down to flush in between slatherings (obviously, wait for it to dry first).

Here’s a quick look at our current status:

Figure 12: Current Status

Figure 12: Current Status

Next Time – Completing the Arcade Cabinet

We’ll start with the final addition of the control panel support pieces and sanding of the entire machine in the next post and move onto priming and painting.



Former military intelligence. Physical security and network penetration testing.

Latest posts by patchwork (see all)