Adam's Cocktail Arcade


   I decided to get into the arcade arena because a friend of mine enlightened me to the MAME site.  I spent the good part of six months deciding which style of cabinet to make and how.  I went with the cocktail cabinet mainly because of the weight and space issues.  I am currently living in Frankfurt, Germany and work for the US Consulate, so weight and space are real issues when having the US Government move me and my household effects around.

    I took the basic design that JelloSlug has to offer and modified it to my likings.  Basically I beefed it up a little by making all the joints mate in routed slots and built the entire unit out of cabinet grade plywood.  I made a few changes here and there but those are the most significant ones.  My drawings, created with SolidWorks2006, can be downloaded here.  If you are really interested, I have 3-D models I created of each piece as well as a complete assembly in 3-D.

    I chose the Ultimate Arcade Controls because they offered the joysticks (4 or 8 way), buttons,  and the keyboard emulator needed to map the controls to the joysticks.

   First I began by adapting the drawings from JelloSlug to my engineering program and modeled it in 3-D to detect any errors in my vision.  Once that was completed I consulted a woodworker that I know and got his opinion on MDF.  Not surprisingly he was biased towards cabinet grade plywood and talked me into making a solid cabinet.  I then began laying out the pieces on the sheet of plywood and started making cuts.  The first Piece was the front piece.  I then cut out the two identical side pieces and notched them for the control pieces.  I then routed the front piece to accept the side pieces.  Once the routing was completed (even with a guide I didn't stay within the lines all the time).    Luckily most of the errors were on the inside edge of the cabinet so they will be less visible.  Once the side pieces were successfully dry fit, I then cut out the rear bottom piece and routed it to match.  After a successful dry fit of the entire cabinet, to include the bottom piece, I glued it all together and clamped the cabinet everywhere I could possibly get a clamp.  I then reinforced the  pieces joints with a brad gun.

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    The next day, after the glue set, I began to cut out and shape the top piece.  I was hesitant to cut any holes in the cabinet or top plate until I had the components to fit properly.  Once I finished the top piece basic shape (minus the monitor cut out) I set out to get the fan and speakers.  I also came across an unused monitor...  I cut out the holes for the speakers and fan and attached them, again for dry fitting. 

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    The next day I took the monitor out of it's case and traced the display outline onto a pieces of paper to transfer to the top plate of the cabinet.  Once transferred, I drilled a few holes on the inside of the pattern and began cutting with a jig saw.  after a few sanding adjustments, I successfully got the monitor to fit inside the hole.  After looking at numerous web sites, I was gong to do as everyone else did and support my monitor from the bottom up.  I decided to support my monitor from the top plate of the cabinet, mainly because I was using solid cabinet grade plywood and it should hold...  So I counter sunk hole from the top to support the monitor and then mounted the associated circuit board next to the monitor with shallow wood screws.  I decided to cover the top piece of the cabinet with a thin piece of picture matte, this way it will cover my less than stellar hole cutting for the monitor and also cover the monitor support screws.  I have ordered an over/under single coin door assembly from Happ Controls, I am hoping to install that when I return from my  upcoming travels.




   I finally got a computer (from a neighbor) that works, a Pentium II 400 MHz with 128 MB RAM!  I had to upgrade the hard drive (4 GB) and installed Windows 2000.  Everything seems to be working fine.  Although I finally got around to checking the monitor I have already installed.  One would think that a new monitor, out of the box, would not have any issues.  Well mine does.  It seems the sides bow inward after a few minutes of being powered on.  It does not really seem to affect the games, unfortunately the only way to fix this might be to acquire a new monitor.  Hopefully it will fit into the current cut out!?!? 

  The computer is mounted to the bottom inside of the cabinet with wood screws and plastic washers.  I mounted the power supply on the bottom of the unit with sheet metal brackets.  I have remotely mounted the hard drive and CD-ROM drive.  These two items are near the access panel and the hard drive is in a removable tray, in case I have to do some maintenance, I can just remove it and put it in my desktop for repairs.  Everything seems to be working now, so I am moving on to the control panels.

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  The control panels, two of them, will each have, one 4/8 way joystick, one player control button and four action buttons.  I learned that a pneumatic brad nailer can shoot nails at an angle, so hopefully the cosmetic blemishes on the surface, as well as the joints, can be sanded out and/or puttied...  I attached the control panels with three long wood screws on each side so if need be, they can be removed easily.  I have yet to decide if I want to put bottoms on the control panels.  I have them cut out, but my fear of not being able to access all the necessary buttons and wires is preventing me from putting them on right now.  I later attached the bottom pieces with small screws so they can be removed as needed for servicing.  I have decided to go with black for the color.  Krylon to the rescue.  I put three coats on the control panels and that seems to have done the trick.  The wood sucked up the first two coats in a matter of minutes.

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     I also installed an EMI filter for the AC power coming in to the cabinet.  Why a filter?  Basically I just had access to one and it made the transition from the outside of the cabinet to the inside that much easier and aesthetically pleasing.  From the filter I split the AC into two cables, one for the computer and the other for the monitor.  Maybe I will install a UPS when I am all finished - to be the ultimate gamer regardless of power conditions...

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     I purchased 25' of smooth black T-molding from Happ Controls.  I then ordered a 1/16" slotting cutter for my router to make the groove for the T-molding.  I finally received my slot cutter and made the groove in the table top.  I then painted both sides of the table top black and reinstalled it on the cabinet.  I then inserted the T-molding without any problems.  I needed to use a rubber mallet to encourage the T-molding to go into the slot..  Three things I learned: 1) don't stretch the T-molding as it will only shrink back to original length, 2) try to avoid perpendicular angles and T-molding, 3) keep in mind Datto'ed edges when planning for T-molding.  
     I also installed my coin door assembly.  I traced the hole pattern on the top piece and cut the hole.  I then did the same on the lower half of the side and  threaded metal inserts into the holes so I can utilize #8 machine screws without having washers and nuts on the back side.  I also did the same to attach the piece to the cabinet, but am using #8 flat head machine screws for this attachment..  I wired the coin and lamp assembly to power and turned on the machine!  

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     I am having some issues getting all of the  button mapping to work properly, but that is a technical issue.  I purchased some matte board to cover the top of the cabinet.  I used the top panel as a guide and traced the outline on the back of the matte.   As I learned years go, be sure to use a sharp blade when cutting, and change them often!!!  Before making the final cuts, I traced the outline on some brown packing paper to ensure I had the proper hole location for the monitor.  Once I finished with the cuts, I then colored the white edges of the matte board with a black Sharpe marker.  I cut a piece of smoke colored Plexi-glass for the top instead of glass.  It is usually much cheaper and easier to work.  Make sure to run a sanding block over all the edges on both sides as Plexi-glass can cut like paper, quick and painful.  I used four flat head wood screws to hold the top in place, after I counter-sunk the holes.  I chose the screw method instead of the metal clips mainly because of the availability issue and the fact that my top piece is 3/4" instead of 1" thick and simpler is easier.


Lessons Learned:

         After having played the games for a few days, I would change the following if I were to build another cabinet.

  •   Increase the width of the control panel.  When I use the joy stick, my hand rests on the edge of the control panel.  After five minutes or so, my hand begins to ache.  Maybe in time I will build a callous?!?

  •   RTFM -Read The F%@king Manual.  I figured out my issues mapping the buttons - I forgot to change a jumper.

  •   Make sure everything works before you install it or make any cuts.  My monitor, even though it was new, tends to change aspect ratio on it's own.  I also installed a newer CD-ROM and my old PC does not "see" it.  Luckily the network card works and I can plug  the game cabinet into my Router and fix everything (so far).

  •   Make the top panel 1" thick.  This way the joysticks will have plenty of clearance between the top of the joystick and the bottom of the glass/plexi-glass.  I used 3/4" wood that was available and my joystick clears the plexi-glass by 0.100".  But if you lean on the plexi-glass, the joysticks rub due to the flexing...

  •   I think I would mount the computer board and the coin  assembly on the opposite sides in which I mounted them.  I think access to the computer board is more important and since I have been having to plug a keyboard in a few times a week, it would make it a lot easier to do.  All the examples I have seen did it the way I should have done it, but my computer has an accessory board that is perpendicular to the motherboard and had to be secured to the cabinet.  This precluded me from mounting it on the removable panel.

  •   I think my next cabinet will be an upright.  Some of the ROMS have issues with Cocktail settings and switching to the other side when player 2 is up.  Maybe I have bad ROMS?!?

     I think that is it!!!  Please email me with questions or comments and look for the upcoming PC Extreme 7, due in mid-July 2003 for more on game cabinets!!!

05 May 07: I just sold the arcade cabinet to a friend, so I guess I have to fabricate an upright cabinet....