I'm a product designer, videogame geek, and apartment hobbyist. I got bitten by the MAME arcade bug, and needed to get a wedding present for my friends Dorothy and Arvon, so I decided to design and construct an arcade cabinet that would be unobtrusive and could hopefully become a family heirloom.

Using the cocktail arcade form factor, I focused on simple, classic games like Pac-Man and Galaga which are displayed in portrait mode on screen. Sticking to these classic games also limited the complexity of the interface, meaning I could go with a simple 4 way joystick, a trackball, a couple of play buttons, and some menu buttons. While I wanted to go simple and elegant, I also wanted it to be versatile and upgradeable. My version only has 2 play buttons, but are arranged so that 4 more could easily be added, and the trackball makes running a jukebox or GUI pretty simple.

The styling I chose for the cabinet is meant to evoke the WHOPR computer from "War Games" and still feel like a piece of furniture. The wooden sides are slatted to allow for air circulation and as a place to mount the speakers. The shelf surrounding the monitor cabinet is there to add space under the glass for the controls and act as a shelf for little Japanese toys and trinkets. The sides and back of the unit are fairly plain since it's probably going to end up living out it's days as an end table.

This instructable is meant to be a record of how I made the cabinet, it is NOT meant to be about making a MAME computer ( although I do include the parts I used ) The resource I used for setting up the electronics was "Project Arcade: Build your own Arcade Machine Machine" by John St. Clair available from amazon.

This entire project was built in a messy corner of my tiny studio apartment, and cost around $600, but I did use my office's drill press, band-saw, spindle sander, and belt/disc sander mainly for working on the aluminum components. I also "farmed out" the production of the sticks to my dad who has a table saw. It should be noted that all my dimensions are in inches and the dimensions I give for the pine wood pieces in the materials section are 1/4 to 1/2 inch over in terms of width and 1/4 in thickness. This is just how their lumber is marked. The original design was created in SolidWorks.

Step 1: Parts

Scrounged Components:
power supply
motherboard (I recommend epia mini-itx, which have built in sound + video)
video card
sound card
monitor (I used a 17 inch CRT)
hard drive
power strip
slot loading combo drive ( not scrounged )

Happ Controls.com:
joystick ------------------------50-6084-1125R----23.55
trackball ----------------------56-0300-10----------161.40
microswitch button (x2)---49-0577-00----------0.91
momentary button (x3)----58-9100-L------------2.25
shielded speakers (x2)---50-9005-00----------11.25

McMaster Carr:
36 x 40 x 1/16 perforated aluminum----9232T171-----57.12
24 x 12 x 1/8 aluminum sheet------------88685K16-----31.36
36 x 2 x 1/8 aluminum strip---------------9134K132-----27.62
brass screws---------------------------------92114A110----3.40
adhesive backed felt------------------------8764K3--------21.08
1 1/2 dia aluminum rod--------------------9038K2---------6.40
stainless steel push button--------------???
3/8 inch dia aluminum tube--------------???

One Day Glass:
1/4" solar gray, 24"x24" pencil grind edge,
custom cut 2" radius on corners, no temper clamp marks----26.00

Home Depot:
24 x 48 x 3/4 inch thick plywood sheet
12 x 72 x 1 inch clear pine
10 x 72 x 1 inch clear pine
4 x 72 x 1 inch clear pine (x3)
3/4 inch square clear pine for 50 sticks
black paint
black primer spray paint
spray lacquer (clear)
mahogany stain
1 1/4" Sheetrock screws
wood glue
wood putty
Clear glass table top bumpers
How much would it cost for you to build one of those for a dad of 3 year-old twin boys?!! I have little time and energy to build one of my own - sadly to say... Please let me know... 562-413-0336 text me
o moi gorsh you should put burger time in here!
For good cabinet quality clean holes, use forsner bits. They can be found at Rockler.
NICE!!!!! just by looking at it, makes me feel like im in the early 80's. :P BOM CHIKA WA WAA!!!!
this looks like it would make a nice case for my gaming computer
Where did you get the buttons?
Happcontrols.com is a good source for such things
Hi everyone, I've just entered this project in the Instructables Book Contest and was hoping for advice on anything I should clarify, illustrate, or photos I should change. The cabinet is thousands of miles from me right now, but I have more photos and was considering making one for myself. Let me know, and wish me good luck!
Nice cabinet. What CAD Program did you use?
SolidWorks - I use it all day at work as an industrial designer, so I know the program very well, and don't have to pay for or pirate my own copy.
That's what i though. I have a student copy thanks to my involvement in battlebots iq, it expires sometime this year :( but it is definitely an awesome piece of software to use.
how much did you pay to make this in total? (please specify if in US or AUS dollars)
$600 US, although I found donor parts for the monitor, motherboard, ram, hard drive, keyboard and amplifier.
A good way to get cheap computers for this purpose is to check with any community colleges nearby and see if they are holding any auctions or just selling off old computers. Computers as old as Pentium II could emulate games like that. (Assuming you own both the system and game that you are emulating, for legal purposes)
That's also a good way of keeping toxic CRT's out of landfill. My university had computers destined for the dumpster laying in the hallways every night. CRT is actually preferable over flat panel LCD - My friend used a cheap LCD - it didn't have the brightness to go through the smoked glass and with the flat cocktail screen orientation, the viewing angle of the LCD really screwed up the picture unless you were looking at it straight on.
whats the cheapest i could make something like this, cosmetics aside.
Probably zero bucks .. given that you can scrounge up an old computer and some wood. Guessing some dumpsterdiving could produce an old smoked glass-door or likewise from, say, a hifi-cabinett or bar. Could be hard to find the paint n such chemical things in a dumpster.
The purpose of this instructable <strong>IS</strong> to make it look good. I don't talk about how to assemble any of the electronics at all. If you want to know about that read the book I mention in the 4th paragraph.<br/>And no, you can't make a MAME arcade for zero bucks. Unless you have really incredible dumpsters by you, you can not scrounge up a couple hundred bucks in Happ controls. The buttons may be cheap, but the joystick and trackball are $15 and $160 respectively. If it doesn't have arcade style controls, you may as well be playing on your cell phone.<br/>
Ah .. but with some skilled work recycled materials could be made to look quite well even on a small budget. (still loving this idea)
Yeah, this is beautiful, but definitely could have been cheaper. I'm looking at an optical trackball on ebay as I type this that is only $35. I have to build one of these. Great work!
I've scrounged up one three-player arcade cabinet before, complete with buttons and joysticks. Keep your eyes open, something will come up.
Running it on an old computer and scavenge an old joystick, adapt it to your needs...
I'm about to make one of those with a pac man plug in play controller
Great job. As an industrial designer myself, I can really appreciate your skill and approach used in this. Very nice work, all the way. :)
man thats awesome. the finished product looks sweet!
I would of stuck with a more stable lumber product. CDX/ACX changes its shape in humidity. MDF or Particle board would be a better medium. If your doing it for weight I would do a stabilized CD / AC like MDO.
Looks great! Congratulations!
. Great job!
From one Mame fanatic to another... Great job!
seconded, i made my own cabinet a year or two ago and it's very fun, i might have to make a smaller one to replace it some time since it's so huge though
Mine's a bit large too... A restored original cab. <a rel="nofollow" href="http://mame.how.to/">http://mame.how.to/</a><br/>
As a scenod thought, the original Namco Space Invaders (one of which can be found here <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.trenthouse.com/)">http://www.trenthouse.com/)</a> have a wee bit more room for your beer and an ash-tray...<br/>It's still a very cool build regardless.<br/><br/>L<br/>
Really neat instructable! ;)
A beautiful piece of work and a great instructable- I so want to make this!
Wow! This is great! It looks like it would be easy to add another control panel to the other side to make it two player.
Thanks for the comments guys, but I have a question: I just noticed that I accidentally categorized it under craft and RIDE instead of craft and TECH - is there any way to change it?
On the bottom of the right sidebar is a category interface. I've also done it for you.
Excellent Instructable - Very thorough, and detailed. The finished product is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks very much for posting this.
Very sexy if I say so myself.
Not only geektastic, but a nicely-designed piece of furniture, to boot.
Space-Invaders rock (or other similar choice of word) I want one of these. L
that is awesome! thanks for posting.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a product designer who works at an e-commerce / gadget & toy company out in Fairfax. I make furniture, decorative boxes, and other fun stuff ... More »
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