I have long held a fascination with anything mechanical, especially old-fashioned vintage Penny Arcades. I remember the first time I saw an old-fashioned Penny Arcade, it was in one of the shops along Main Street in Disney World. Sadly, this Penny arcade closed in the 1990s, but it held lots of old mechanical arcade games that were invented long before the first electronic video games came along. People would drop their pennies into all-sorts of fantastic mechanical marvels to play games and to watch short flip-book movies long before Pong and Pac-Man and Space Invaders were ever conceived, long before even the television was invented. As I was very young at the time, I found it amazing that there really were arcade games that you could play for just a penny and that worked without video screens. Ever since that time, I have wondered what it would be like to take a more modern video arcade game and transform it into a mechanical penny arcade.
So, I came up with this vague idea that I wanted to somehow turn a classic video game into an even more vintage style penny arcade. As someone who is somewhat interested in Steam-Punk, I had imagined a steam powered Victorian style penny arcade that featured space aliens and vibrant colors. The idea started with a notion of taking the idea of the classic game Space Invaders, and somehow turning this into a penny arcade. I had three major obstacles I had to first over-come before taking on this challenge. First off, I am in a wheelchair with some major physical limitations, so using the traditional penny arcade materials such as heavy wood and metals was simply not going to be possible. Anything that goes much beyond cutting paper with scissors begins to test my physical limits, so whatever the arcade would be made of would have to be very easy to cut and work with. The second major issue is that modern video games were not really created with the limitations of mechanical movements in mind. As much as I would like to have aliens burst into flames when hit by a laser like firing device, it probably would not be practical (at least not for my first version). Lastly, I really have no experience in building anything mechanical to begin with nor real idea what I was doing... but I never let that stop me before. I had the general vague idea of making something like a rubber-band shooter that would shoot at moving aliens... and so with that in mind, I started building with no real plans in mind.
This game is titled Space Alien Invaders. I was just going to call it Alien Invaders, but than I was worried someone might think the object of the game was to shoot at illegal aliens. I figured “Space Invaders” was probably trademarked already, I didn't want to be the first person to ever get sued by making a mechanical arcade game. So, the object of the game is pretty simple. You are suppose to shoot the aliens but avoid hitting the city buildings. If by any chance you are a space alien, let me start off first by saying that I extend a warm greeting to our wonderful and benevolent alien overlords. Next, I don't in any way, shape or form condone the shooting of space aliens or any sort of alien for that matter. The object of the game therefore is not truly to “shoot” to kill the space aliens, but is instead to feed the aliens pennies from a penny shooter before the aliens invade the city to devour the humans who no doubt deserve to be eaten. The idea is to feed the aliens without knocking down any of the buildings. I just wanted to make sure I clarified that just in case.
While this is presented as one instructables project, it can in fact be broken into three separate and equally challenging instructables.
The Penny Shooter which is very cool in itself.
The black-light lamp
The arcade box
If you want to save significant time and reduce stress with this project, you may want to consider skipping the Penny Shooter by replacing it with a simpler rubber-band gun or a toy pop-gun. The penny shooter is designed to shoot pennies with an automatic penny re-loader, which while it is probably the coolest part of this project, it is also by far the most complicated portion. You can also probably skip the black-light lamp by finding something ready made lamp that suits the purpose.
What works and what doesn't
While this is a functioning Instructable, not everything I imaged would work on this arcade game actually worked in the manner I had planned. As I was making things up as I went along, you will see things to improve along the way and I make suggestions to avoid the problems I encountered. For example, the original intent was that heat from the black-light in this project would make the alien targets spin. While the alien's will spin if a coin enters their mouth, I made the alien cut-outs slightly too large for them to spin freely from the heat of the light alone. In theory my principals are sound, but I didn't have time to replace the alien targets with smaller targets.
Now, before you begin thinking you want to start this project, some fair warning. This project is one of those deceptively simple projects that, upon initial reading, you'll think to yourself that you can go out in an afternoon and build it yourself. While it is very simple, and perhaps because of this fact, on a frustration level of 1 to 10, 10 being you want to gouge out your eyeballs... this arcade project is somewhere between an 8 and a 9. In other words, at some point you'll try to gouge out your eyeballs, but in all likelihood, stop just short of doing so. While this would be a fantastic game for something like a school fair or carnival, if you think you can build it in an afternoon... my best wishes to you and your attendant at the insane asylum who will be wrestling the strait jacket onto you.
Please also be sure to read the safety note at the end of this project. As with all projects, be sure to wear protecting eye-wear (in the event want to gouge out eye-balls) and take all necessary safety precautions. Never leave this game unattended.
Materials For Gun
Assorted Balsa wood (Can substitute thin plywood or other wood for most portions)
1 inch nail tacks (optional but recommended)
½ inch nail tacks (optional but recommended)
Dowel stick cut to aprox 6 inches
Small wooden spools (optional)
small springs (optional)
Materials for Arcade Box
Styrofoam board 2 sheets
Card-stock paper- Black, white, and Orange
2 inch Brad Fasteners and ½ inch Brad Fasteners
color printer – Optional
Neon Florescent markers – Optional
Small wooden spools
small beads (optional)
bicycle spoke cover (optional)
Materials for Lamp
Plastic empty CD box
Empty Coffee Can
Bottle Lamp Kit
Contact Lens bottles (used as feet... can substitute)
Drill or saw - optional
Materials for All Components
Hammer (optional but recommended)
Neon Florescent paint
Step 1: The Gun Overview
The first step of this Instructable is the creation of the Penny Shooter gun. If you wish, you may be able to substitute a simpler variation of a rubber-band gun or a store-bought toy gun, but where is the challenge in that? There are several parts in this gun that must fit together precisely to function properly. The gun of this game makes this arcade a real coin operated arcade. For the gun, I wanted to create something that would shoot pennies without the person being required to constantly load another penny after every shot to recreate the feeling of an arcade shooter. While it would be relatively easy to create a crossbow that would fire a single penny, the automatic reloading part was the first real challenge of this project. For inspiration, I looked at the workings of the ancient Chinese repeating crossbow called the Cho Ko Nu. Unfortunately, it was not perfectly suited to the task of shooting pennies. After some work, I came up with the idea of inserting the pennies into a coin slot which would drop the coin down one at a time to where they would be hit by a stick as the bow releases. As the bow is pulled back, the next coin drops into its place. My first attempt at this design failed to account for someone holding the crossbow tilted downward which caused all the coins to spill out. To modify the design, I created a small door that swings open only after the trigger is pulled. This allows the gun to be loaded in any position without the coins falling out. Unfortunately, the first design of the door caused the coin to hit the swinging door changing the coins trajectory downward. The next design, while clearing the arc of the coins, still let the coins fall out. Finding the perfect balance between opening the trap door fast enough to clear the coin while keeping it closed long enough to prevent the coins from falling out takes a lot of trial and error not to mention several bottles of aspirin. Unlike a traditional crossbow, I created a track to ensure that the stick that hits the pennies hits at precisely the right point to send a penny flying by using two bamboo skewers as the track. Because you must hit the side of the penny, and the penny must be upright, this project requires some precision or else parts will not line up properly. The coin drop in particular must be just wide enough to hold the penny upright with a hole just large enough for the stick to pass through to hit the penny. If this is a fraction of a millimeter off, the stick will hit the coin drop instead of the coin and likely send it flying off of the gun.
Step 2: Penny Gun Slide
Next, the gun slide itself consist of several pieces. First, you want to make the part that will slide along the track and holds the rubber-bands. For this, I used two small rectangular pieces of wood and cut two holes that line up perfectly with the holes made for the bamboo skewers. These two pieces will be sandwiched together with two rubber-bands in the middle which will power the crossbow. I used two rubber-bands to ensure it had enough tension to hit the pennies and as a back-up in-case one of the rubber-bands breaks. A small slit should be made for the rubber-bands to fit into such that when the blocks come together, they fit snugly together without any gaps. A gap could potentially cause the rubber-band to come out. You will eventually glue, then nail the two halves together with the two rubber-bands in-between.
If possible, it is normally best to cut out all the parts of the gun and then paint them prior to assembly. As some of these parts require precision cuts, you may find it necessary to assemble some sections to ensure proper alignment before painting, keeping in mind paint also has some thickness and may affect how some parts operate. As I was designing this as I went along, I waited until most of the gun was assembled before painting. Make sure the gun slide moves easily along the track without binding. For my particular gun, I also added two springs and two wooden spools on the track to act as a bumper to slow the slide down as the gun fires. This is optional.
On the bottom of the slide, a wood block must be attached that will catch on the trigger mechanism. The back end is cut at an angle so that when the person pulls back, the slide will pass the trigger, than catch. The front end is flat to press into the triggers catch. The thickness and location of this block relative to the triggers position is critical. If the block is too low, it won't be able to pass over the trigger lock or you won't be able to push the trigger to release the slide. Too high and it won't catch on the trigger. There will also be significant pressure on a small section of this block from the tension of the rubber-bands. The block should catch on the trigger lock without skipping over it. Also, once the slide section is attached to the gun, it will be difficult to impossible to correct any errors.
The next part of the slide will be the stick that will act as a pool cue to hit the pennies which I will refer to as the slide hammer. This stick must be absolutely straight and will fit through a very narrow slot of the coin holder. For the one I built, I used a part of a Popsicle stick wedged between two pieces of wood which was glued to the slide. The stick must be precisely the correct length to work, so you may want to make your other components first to ensure dimensions are correct. It is important to understand how the parts will go together, but hold off on gluing this section until later. If the stick is too long, the trap door won't close and coin won't be hit with force. Too short and the coins will fall out when the trap door is open.
On the side of the slide mechanism, I glued then nailed two small wooden spools for use as something to grip to pull the slide back. Since the nail head was smaller than the spool's holes, I threaded the nail through a bead so that the nail would firmly hold the spool onto the slide. This is optional but recommended as it is difficult to find a good place to grip the slide to pull it back without the spools. Alternatively, any piece small piece of wood could act as a grip in place of the spools.
Step 3: Gun Grip
The next component is what will make up the gun grip. A hole is placed where a dowel rod will be inserted that will make up the bow portion of the gun. The dowel will also go through the rubber-band that is part of the trigger such that the trigger returns to the correct position. The length of the gun will determine how much force the pennies will be shot with and determine the length of the rod that will hit the pennies. The gun I made was approximately 10 inches long. If the gun length is too short, there won't be enough length to slide the hammer back that will hit the coin.
The width of the gun should be approximately an inch and a half wide. The section where the slide hammer will move should be wide enough that the catch for the trigger can slide without hitting any obstruction. I used layers of wood to create the thickness necessary, though if you have access to bigger pieces of wood or other types of wood, this will not be necessary.
Balsa wood is very flimsy, and the force of four rubber-bands puts a tremendous amount of stress on the wood that makes up the support of the gun. Therefore, I used Popsicle sticks which are made of stronger wood to add support to weaker sections of the gun. If you can work with other types of wood
Step 4: Trigger
The location and the movement of the trigger is one of the most critical steps in this process. I suggest sitting the bamboo slide portion to the position it will be eventually positioned on the gun and mark the location where the trigger will pivot on a nail. If the trigger is placed too high, it will either not allow the slide hammer to move over it or the trigger won't be able to move to release the slide hammer. It should be noted that tremendous pressure is also placed on the tip of the trigger mechanism that holds back the force of the slide hammer. To prevent the nail from splitting the soft balsa wood, I used two metal loop rivets to add additional support to the area the nail will pivot the trigger. If it is possible to make the trigger component out of a harder wood, it is recommended.
At the end of the trigger a small hole is drilled or cut with an exacto knife such that a rubber-band can be threaded through. This rubber-band will later be attached to a dowel stick that forms the bow portion of the gun. Once the form of the gun is made, the slide with the bamboo skewers are attached. Two clamp parts together for gluing, I would frequently wrap rubber-bands around the different parts to hold them together as they dry. It is particularly important that the bamboo skewer section is glued onto the gun in the exact correct position, otherwise the slide will not catch on the trigger or the slide will jam. When gluing this component on, make sure the slide moves easily and hits the trigger in the correct position to catch.
Step 5: Assembly of Gun Grip and Painting
You may went to tape the parts together at first to ensure that everything will fit together properly prior to gluing and or nailing the parts of the gun together.
Once the form of the gun is made, the slide with the bamboo skewers are attached. To clamp parts together for gluing, I would frequently wrap rubber-bands around the different parts to hold them together as they dry. That allows the parts to dry without slipping. It is particularly important that the bamboo skewer section is glued onto the gun in the exact correct position, otherwise the slide will not catch on the trigger or the slide will jam. When gluing this component on, make sure the slide moves easily and hits the trigger in the correct position to catch.
Step 6: Penny Drop Slot
The penny drop slot or penny cartridge is a section of this instructable that requires the most precision. The Penny slot allows the player to drop several pennies (in my case 6 Pennies) that will automatically reload in the chamber when the gun is cocked. To do this, the slot that the pennies are inserted into must be precisely the size of the width of a Penny such that a penny will drop without getting stuck but not so loose that the pennies can jam in the cartridge. In addition, the cartridge will have to be placed in such a position that the gun's sliding hammer can enter the rear of the cartridge without pennies falling out and exit the front of the cartridge to shoot the penny out. The penny must be held upright in this firing chamber and prevent multiple pennies from falling into the chamber. If any of the measurements on this are off by even a millimeter, the gun's sliding hammer could potentially hit the cartridge and break it off of the gun.
One of the critical parts is the hole for the sliding hammer to enter and exit. For my particular cartridge, I cut the rear hole too large, so I had to glue an additional small piece of wood over this opening such that a coin could not fall out but the sliding hammer could enter. The hole on the other side must be large enough for a penny to exit easily.
The cartridge is done in walls are done in layers so that the penny is held upright in the firing chamber, but there is more room for the sliding hammer to enter this section. If the walls are too far apart, the pennies could jam in the firing chamber.
An additional complexity to the position of the firing chamber is that the stick that makes up the sliding hammer must completely pass through the firing chamber. The stick then blocks pennies from dropping down until the gun is cocked back. If the sliding hammer's stick is too short, pennies will fall out of the front of the chamber before the trap door closes upon the gun cocking.
Step 7: The Bow
On this gun design, I used a dowel stick to form the bow for this crossbow gun. The dowel stick plays two additional roles. It is used to attach the rubber-band that works the trigger mechanism, and it will later be used as the supporting axle for a gun turret. The rubber-bands that will pull the slide will also be attached to this dowel rod.
Step 8: The Trap Door
To solve this problem, I devised a trap door that would cover the coin opening when the gun was cocked back and which would swing open when the gun fired. Getting the timing of the door opening, the degree to which the door opens and how fast the door opens is all critical to this design and as you can see by my video, it took some trial and error.
The trap door functions by an arm attached to the slide hammer. As the slide moves forward, the door raises. If the door does not raise enough when the hammer hits the coin, the coin will be deflected downward by the door. If the door does not fully close or closes too slow, the coins will fall out the opening. I tried two variations of the door. Using beads to act as washers, I attached the arm from the sliding hammer to the trap door. The lower on the door the arm was attached, the better the door closed... but the more likely it was to deflect the coin. The higher the arm... the better the door cleared the coin, but the less likely it was to fully close depending upon where it was attached.
Once you get this trap door functioning, the shooter portion of the arcade game is complete.
Step 9: The Arcade Box Overview
Step 10: The Aliens
Using tiny brads, I attached the aliens to the wheel. The idea was that the aliens would remain upright as the disk spun. It is very critical that the wheel be well balanced such that the wheel spins very easily. If I were to do this project again, I would forgo using brads and simply glue the aliens to the wheel. <br><img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5305/5583408610_29a1918dfa.jpg" width="500" height="375" alt="PICT0052"> <br>
At this point I should note a mistake that I made. The paper aliens I had initially intended to attach where smaller, but I enlarged them with the idea that the player would try to "feed" the alien by launching a penny into the alien's mouth. The initial design would have been too small for this. Unfortunately, this caused the wheel to be a bit heavier, and now the larger alien cut outs bump into one another and get stuck against the walls of the box preventing it from spinning freely as I had intended.
Step 11: The Fan
The fan is made by crossing two balsa wood sticks and taping tin-foil to act as sails. The idea is to work like a water-wheel, but with hot air rising instead of water falling. A small hole is put through the balsa wood sticks and an axle is inserted. I found a very thin light weight plastic stick to use as my axle, though a bamboo skewer should work in theory as well.
Step 12: Cut Slot on Bottom of Box
Step 13: Attaching Sides
For the sides of the arcade box, I cut a single sheet of Styrofoam board in half to create two smaller rectangular panels. I printed some graphics to use for the sides of my arcade box using my color printer. If you want to use the same graphics, you order full sized prints from my art gallery.
Gamer Guy: http://darkrubymoon.deviantart.com/#/d3c0r9h
Gamer Guy by ~DarkRubyMoon on deviantART
Gamer Girl: http://darkrubymoon.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d35yar9
Gamer Girl by ~DarkRubyMoon on deviant
- Gamer Guy: DarkRubyMoon Store CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/DarkRubyMoon/7748677
- Gamer Girl: DarkRubyMoon Store CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/DarkRubyMoon/7597408
Step 14: Attaching Wheel
Step 15: Buildings
To create the buildings for the skyline, I simply cut out several rectangles from Styrofoam board and colored them in with fluorescent markers with lines to make them appear like buildings with windows. On the back near the bottom of the building, I taped wooden spools. A stick or bamboo skewer is then placed through the spools and will allow the buildings to rotate on this axis if they are hit by a penny. The buildings are inserted into the box and attached by gluing a spool on the end of the stick on each side to hold it in place. The buildings should stand on their own unless something hits them to make them fall over.
I could have left it that the person would have to reach into the box to reset the targets, but instead I created a reset button that consist of a stick or bamboo skewer that is attached to a see-saw like button such that when the button is pressed, the stick raises up behind the buildings to push them back up. The reset button is attached on the front right side to one of the Brads that is through the box.
Step 16: Framing Arcade Box Window
Paint the flaps as necessary, preferably using bright fluorescent colors.
Cut the side flaps of the box to be about 1 1/2 inch wide. Use two brads along the corners of the top flap to hold the top flap down and the side flaps in to create a sort-of frame for the screen of the arcade box. I cut a hole for the reset button to come through on the front bottom right of the box. The bottom flap requires cutting a slot that is about 1/2 inch wide that runs almost the entire length of the bottom flap near the fold. This is where the arm will pass through that holds the gun you will mount on the arcade. To add additional support, I glued two scrap pieces of cardboard along the bottom edge of this cut. That will ensure the arm of the turret gun will slide easily back and forth.
Step 17: Gun Turret
You can now build the gun turret that will hold the penny shooter onto the arcade. For this, I used Balsa wood, but I would strongly recommend using a stronger wood if possible for this portion of the project.
You will need two rectangular pieces of wood with a hole drilled in the same position on both pieces such that the dowel of the gun can slide into it. Next, a base with a hole will be glued onto the bottom. A brad will go through this bottom section to allow the gun to pivot on a stick that will extend from the turret and attach to the arcade box. The gun can also point up or down rotating on the axis of the guns dowel rod. Punch a hole into the center bottom of the arcade box. Slide the arm of the gun turret through the slit on the bottom flap of the box. Use a brad to attach the arm of the turret to the arcade box center. I also cut out a little alien space-ship that raises from a wire attached to this brad.
Step 18: The Black Light
Originally, I intended to simply buy an inexpensive lamp to hold the black light in the arcade box. Incandescent black-lights, particularly the cheap kind, get extremely hot. I noticed this when I intended to use black-lights for my niece's birthday party, but we had to turn them off because we worried they were too dangerous to use in a party with lots of kids. I wanted to use the heat that the black-light generates to turn the fan that makes the aliens of the arcade move. To do this, I needed to channel, amplify and direct the heat to one side of the fan. I also wanted to use this same light to light up the interior of the arcade.
Two things you need to consider with the black-light. First is that black-lights get very hot and therefore there is a fire risk, especially considering the hot light will essentially be confined in a flammable paper housing. Therefore, it is very important that this light never be left on unattended nor for long periods of time. The next thing to remember is that black-lights are very dim. Your arcade is not going to light-up like a Christmas tree. If you want it to be brighter, you might consider using a standard light-bulb instead.
Step 19: Window
WARNING: THE METAL FROM THE COFFEE CAN CUT IS RAZOR SHARP. WEAR PROTECTIVE GLOVES.
Next, using the clear plastic cover from an empty CD blank CD box, a slightly larger rectangle was cut out. Four holes, one on each corner were punched through the clear plastic and the coffee can such that the plastic rectangle piece could be attached to the can with four brads.
Step 20: Bottle Lamp Kit
The next step was to punch a hole in the bottom of the coffee can and a hole in the back. The hole in the bottom will hold the screw for the lamp unit that is part of a bottle lamp kit. The hole in the back is where the wire for the lamp will enter. Take a piece of plastic tubing that is slightly larger than the wire that comes with your lamp kit and put it through the hole that will house the power wire. This tubing will protect the wire from the sharp edges of the cut metal.
Follow the directions for the lamp assembly that comes with the bottle lamp kit with the exception that the lamp will be attached through the hole of the can instead of into a bottle.
Step 21: Feet for the Lamp
Step 22: Let There Be Light
Step 23: Completed Pictures in 3D!
Step 24: Safety
Step 25: Visit DarkRubyMoon
Be sure to check out my artwork on all sorts of fantastic items from T-shirts and prints to clocks and camcorders at my DarkRubyMoon stores following web locations.
- * DarkRubyMoon Store CafePress: http://www.cafepress.com/darkrubymoon
- * DarkRubyMoon Store Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/darkrubymoon
- * DarkRubyMoon Store Printfection: http://www.printfection.com/DarkRubyMoon