A Super Easy Arcade Machine From 1 Sheet of Plywood




Introduction: A Super Easy Arcade Machine From 1 Sheet of Plywood

About: Vigo is an electronics enthusiast with a passion to bring back the nostalgia of the past. His goal is to share major projects that anyone can follow and do, especially those on a tight budget.
Have you wanted your own arcade machine, but never thought you had the time, skills, tools or money to make a stylish cabinet?

Here is the solution!

I have designed an extremely easy to build, affordable and stylish cabinet. Now you can build one too. With this home arcade machine, you can play arcade and home console games with a true arcade feel.

What makes this cabinet so special?
  • Easy Woodworking:There are no curves or special cuts to make, every cut is a straight cut and little measuring is needed. The only power tools needed is a saw, a drill and a sander.
  • Extremely Affordable: The entire cabinet cost me less than $100 to build! I did have an old laptop I put in that I am not counting in cost, but this is cheaper than a small bartop cabinet!
  • Easy to do: I built this in two weekends, and I was going slow!
  • Stylish: Most Viewlix style cabinets are extremely complicated and very expensive to build. Usually between $1000-$1500 This cabinet has everything that is great about a viewlix. Striking angles, design for seated play, slim profile. It is an affordable eye grabber.
The cabinet I will be showing you here is a mini cabinet, perfect for kids or as a sit down cabinet for adults. Most of the cabinet is build from one sheet of 2' by 4' by 1/2" sheet of plywood. You can follow these instructions and build a full size cabinet instead by doubling all the dimensions. You would use a single 4' by 8' by 3/4" sheet of plywood instead. 

So follow along if you finally want to make you home arcade machine a reality!

Step 1: Materials

Here is what you will need to begin:

Hand saw or jigsaw.
Straight edge for drawing cut line
Power Sander, preferably random orbital.
Drill for drilling screws and 1 1/8th spade bit for drilling arcade button holes.
Cutting knife
paint roller if painting by hand
Adjustable wrench for bolts
Wood Clamps

1 sheet of 2' x 4' X 1/2" plywood or MDF wood. This make up the core of the cabinet.
Spare and scrap wood! I used 10 feet of leftover 3/4" square doweling wood and 4 feet of 1/4 by 4" wide flat doweling wood.
16 inches of heavy wood lumber for a base. A 2" by 6" is great. 
paint, either can of spay enamel, or bucket of paint if painting by hand.
Arcade controls
An arcade encoder. You can get a Zero Delay arcade encoder from ebay for $11
An old Laptop or computer with flat monitor, up to 17 inch screen. Save that old computer from the scrap heap!
Small computer speakers.
Art board for bezel
Screws to keep the cabinet together, bolts to bolt on the control panel and controls, varies in size depending on the controls you use.
Putty to fill imperfections.
(Optional) Vinyl edge banding as as a stylish protectant around edges of cabinet.
(Optional) Plexiglas sheet for monitor cover and marquee
(Optional) 12" fluorescent light for a light up Marquee.

OK, lets dig in!

Step 2: The Plan

Here are the plans, and they are even easier than they look!

Let's draw out the lines on our sheet of wood.

  1. Draw a line down the middle of the sheet of plywood lengthwise.
  2. Draw a line from the end of the middle line to the corner, this will be the sides for the cabinet. 
  3. The control panel and front panel sheets are all even 16" widths.
  4. Two inches of the control panel goes to the arms, and there is a notch that will be cut into the back of the triangle sides. We will used that wood for the arms as well.
Not bad, right? Besides a few random wood dowels, this is the entire cabinet! Lets go over the cuts in detail. 

Step 3: Cutting the Wood

Cut the board down the line you drew lengthwise. Now cut down the diagonal line to make your triangle sides.

Next, on the other half of the plywood sheet, cut your 3 16" boards for the front and control panel

Now cut the 2 inch arms from the control panel section of plywood.

And that right there is most of the cutting.

Step 4: Sanding and Rounding the Sides.

Next, clamp the two triangle sides together and whip out your power sander. You will need to sand the edges even on the two sides. Those cuts are hard to get perfectly even.

While you are sanding, you can just sand away the tip of the side and round off the base as well. You will be left with two identical sides, rounded to safety.

Step 5: Cutting the Back Notch

Here comes the last major cut. It is a little more difficult because it is a couple angles in one cut.

Keep your side boards clamped tight, and cut the notches as you penciled them out from the plan. Be careful to keep the wood you cut out free of damage. You will need that for the arm.

Step 6: Cut Cross Sections and Start Assembling

Now we can take those dowels we have handy and start cutting them up.

We will need a number of 16" bars that we can screw in as cross sections in the cabinet. We will also need furring pieces (Dowels screwed to the inner sides of the cab to screw the cross sections into.The picture shows exactly how the furring works.

With those furrings cut and screwed into the cabinet, we can now assemble the parts. I did begin to paint much of the wood at this point, but that is unnecessary. 

Notice how those front panels are placed on the front of the cabinet?  The can be positioned however you want them to.

Each arm is made of two pieces of wood. One to go on the outside of the cab, and the other to bring it back flush with the inside of the cabinet. This is made from the remaining plywood.

You can size up how high you want your control panel. and clamp on the arms to test your placement. I chose 22 and 1/2 inches from the ground. Just line up and mark where to cut the arm pieces, make the cuts. 

When you have the arms done, they can be bolted to the side. Just drill a hole in the arm and the side of the cabinet and slide the bolt through. I did 3 per side, and that was a style decision.

Step 7: The Control Panel

This is an easy step, but takes some well thought out planning. Simply use your 1 and 1/8th spade bit and cut button holes, and a joystick hole. You will need to test out exactly how you want you controls placed so it is comfortable with you.

I also attached some doweling to the top of the control panel as a groove for the art board bezel to fit in.

Since we are talking about control panels, I thought now would be a good time to go over a few control options you might want to consider for your cabinet. The standard control setup for a 1 player home arcade is 1 joystick, 6-7 action buttons, a start button and a coin button. You could also build mini racing cabinet. On my second build, I made a racing cabinet by just putting a PC steering wheel in place of the controls. See picture 2. 

But, you will probably want to buy joystick and buttons. Here are a list of online shops for arcade controls that I frequent. They are reputable vendors: And lastly, here are a couple of my joystick recommendations:
  • Sanwa JLW - A good, well-rounded joystick
  • Mag Stick Plus - Has a cool 4-way mode for those classic games like Donkey Kong.
  • Sanwa JLF - A great joystick for fighter games. 
  • Seimitsu LS- 32 - A great Joystick for vertical shooters.
  • Zippyy Joystick - If budget is on your mind, this is a good joystick for a cheap price.

Step 8: Final Assembly and Dissasembly

OK, now we need to just finish putting everything together. Clamp everything how you want it and screw together. For the area above the monitor, you can either put two dowels and wedge plexi between, or for the easy route, you can just put a flat board across the top and forget a marquee.
  • You can putty and sand any areas that are not smooth.
  • You can also cut your artboard to fill the entire monitor area, and as soon as you have a monitor in place you can cut out the center hole.
  • Plexi and artboard should both just be cut with your cutting knife and your straight edge.

Now, dissasemble! Unscrew the sides. You can leave the furring in, we just need to paint the main parts.

Step 9: Painting and Reassebly

You can either roll on paint your spray paint. I chose a spray on enamel. You can also get fancy with the painting.

Here, I started with a Black coat of paint, then let it dry and put on painters tape for "racing stripes" Then I painted with red, and when that was done I peeled off the tape. Made a real easy, stylish paint job.

When everything is dry, just screw it back together again.

Step 10: The Encoder

For this cabinet, I use the Zero Delay Arcade encoder. In my opinion, this is the best little encoder ever made. It is super affordable ($11 on eBay) and it is very dependable.

The method to installing the encoder is easy. In the photos is a diagram of the inputs on the encoder. There is an input for up, down, left, right, and 12 button inputs. All you need to do is take on of the included wire sets, pop in the white connection end to the encoder, and attach the other end to the corresponding control you want.

  • Take a look at the photos I included of common arcade controls. If you look at the buttons, you will see two common styles. On the left is 2 pin button with built in micro switch, the other is a standard button with an attachable micro switch on it.
  • All you have to do is take the metal connect ends of each wire set, and plug them in to the metal tabs on the switches. For the 3 pin switch like the one pictured to the right, you will be connecting to the outer two pins and leave the top pin open. The same goes for the micro switches on the joystick

Now all that is left is to plug in the USB wire to the encoder, and plug the USB port into your computer. It is completely plug and play with windows, and will read your arcade controls just as if you plugged in a USB joystick.

Step 11: Add Controls to Panel

Now that we know how to set up the encoder, Let me cover adding the controls to the control panel. 

Buttons work exactly like a nut and bolt. just slip the buttons in the hole, and screw the nut tight. 

If your joystick came to you disassembled  I have a assembly diagram for a joystick. Please note that different joysticks assemble differently, and this is just one common method they go together. Assemble all the joystick except the ball top and dust washer, now run bolts through the top of your control panel, and the joystick base on the underneath of the control panel. Tighten down the bolts with nuts, then put the dust washer and ball top back on. You now have your joystick installed.

Now we need to do is plug in the encoder as we covered in Step 10 and Viola, a stylish Control Panel.

Step 12: Mounting the Monitor

If you are using a flat screen monitor, chances are that it has mounting hole through the back. Sometimes it is hidden.

I will go  over an example with a dell monitor.  You see in the photo that there are no mounting bolts see, only a stand attached to the bracket. Let's see what it looks like when we remove the stand...Let me just remove the screws.

Aha! Mounting holes! Now All I need to do is go buy 4 bolts that are the same width as the bolts I just unscrewd from the base. Then, I need to get a 16 inch long board, and bolt the monitor to the board centered. Screw that board to the inside of the cabinet, and now I have a monitor mounted.

But what if I am using a laptop or a monitor without mounting hole? Well you have to get creative. For my laptop, I had to remove the LCD from the casing, Drill holes in the casing to make my own mounting holes. Then I put the casing back on. Another method would be using heavy duty expoxy to glue it to a board.

Now all you need to do is cover up your monitor with that artboard you already started cutting. Cut a center hole with your cutting blade for the monitor. to cover up everything but the screen.

Step 13: Artwork

If you want to do a lit marquee, all you need to do is mount a 12" flourescent light behind the marquee. You will need artwork of Course.

Since I went with a design that felt like a race car, I made a marquee and printed it out on my home printer. More professional marquess can be taken to a print shop.

I also topped my machine off with a  hand painted Logo. The cabinet is dubbed the Vigolix because it looks like a Vewlix, and well, I am Vigo!

Step 14: Computer Software

Emulators and Frontends:

So now we have everything physical ready on our arcade machine, but as for all the digital bits, we still have work to do.

When dealing with arcade machines, there are two categories of software that we need to cover:
  • Frontends - This is just a menu interface to launch out games from, and it works off arcade controls. It makes the arcade experience much better.
  • Emulators - These are programs that run games from other systems and platforms. If you have an old arcade game or video game console game you want to play, you will be running it from an emulator.

For a frontend, I recommend getting Mala. Mala is a great, easy to use frontend that can get you to your games quickly. You can also dowload or make skins to make the menu really pop! You can download it free From www.Malafe.net

For emulators, Mame will be the main one you will probably be using. It is hands down the best emulator out there for arcade games. You can download it free from www.mame.net/

You will probably want more than Mame though. Each emulator works differently, so I can't go into detail of each one to use. What I can do is recommend some great emulators that are arcade cabinet friendly:

Nintendo: FCEUX
Super Nintendo: ZSNES, BSNES
Arcade Games: MAME
Sega Genesis/Game Gear/ Mega Drive: Kega Fusion
Neo Geo: Nebula, Kawaks, MAME
Commodore 64: Vice 64
Gameboy/Gameboy Advance: Visualboy Advance


Follow this step by step to install Mala with Mame on your computer:
  1. Download the Windows command line version of MAME and Mala from the websites I listed above
  2. Extract MAME in a directory on your harddisk (eg c:\mame)
  3. Extract or install the program on your harddisk
  4. Execute MaLa
  5. The options dialog will open, when it does, Point the MAME executable to your mame.exe file
  6. MaLa will create a mame.ini and a mame.xml file for you if not found, let it do it's thing.
  7. Enter a rom path*
  8. Go to the config options tab, and then click controller tab
  9. Click with the control that you want to be set up with your arcade contols.
  10. Press the corresponding control (Up, Button 1, etc) DO this for all the controls you want to map.
  11. Close the dialog and MaLa will ask you to refresh the main game list.
  12. You can now select a game and play it in Mame
  13. If your controls don't automatically map to your aracde controls in mame, press tab while a game is open, go to Input (General)  and map the controls to your liking.

Please note that emulators need roms to run. These are the games themselves. Downloading these off the internet can be illegal. If you are unsure about legality issues, there are some free legal roms you can download from www.mame.net

Step 15: Time to Play!

What are you doing here still? You have a new arcade machine, now go play it!! ;-)

Final Thoughts:
  • You can also make a great racing cab with a few slight alterations. Pictured is a racing variant of the Vigolix.
  • I also know I do skip over the finer details about some arcade cabinet processes. This is intentional as these are things that are done on many different arcade cabinets. I tried to cover the areas unique to this cab without unneeded details. If you have any questions on anything, you can find the answer at forum.arcadecontrols.com. You can also look at other arcade cabinet instructables here!
  • The mini size of this cab makes it perfect for children. Mine absolutely, positively love the cabinets I built! This will not be uncomfortable for adults either, you just need to sit when playing. If you want a full size machine, just use a 4 by 8 sheet of wood as instructed in the beginning of this Instructable.
  • Other people have followed these plans to make this cabinet before, with great sucess. It is a tested design!

That's it! Enjoy your arcade machine!
Epilog Challenge V

Runner Up in the
Epilog Challenge V

Instructables Green Design Contest

Third Prize in the
Instructables Green Design Contest

Game.Life 3 Contest

Grand Prize in the
Game.Life 3 Contest

41 People Made This Project!


  • Tinkercad to Fusion 360 Challenge

    Tinkercad to Fusion 360 Challenge
  • Trash to Treasure Contest

    Trash to Treasure Contest
  • Woodworking Contest

    Woodworking Contest



1 year ago

Love this design. I did a 1.5x build using 6' project board. Modified width to work with the controls and monitor I wanted.


Reply 8 months ago

I dont suppose you have modified plans for this version do you? I really wanted to make a two player version.


Question 2 years ago on Introduction

Hi I'm a puzzled by the art board section. Can anyone give some advice? Is this just a thinner piece of wood I have to buy, cut and paint?


Answer 1 year ago

Art board is a layer of cardboard on each side and foam in the middle. Try searching "foamboard" or "foam core board".


Reply 1 year ago

Thank you! I just got some 3mm mdf to use, but measured wrong! Will have a look for foam board.

Hey there, I'm just wondering where I can get the plywood in the UK. Could anyone send a link please?


Reply 2 years ago

I got mine from Wickes. Less than £10!


Question 4 years ago on Step 14

Can I adapt this for two players. Building this with my grandson.


4 years ago

Great plans though doubling for a full size cabinet would result in an 8 foot tall cabinet. Use a 3'x6' sheet of plywood (need to buy 4'x8' and cut it down) and increase the design by 1.5x... this gives you a cabinet 6' tall, and if using 3/4" wood, overall would be 25.5" wide. Can't wait to get started on the project.


5 years ago

I had an epiphany while working with this! I had seen a comment here about upping the measurements all by 1.5- and it worked perfectly- about 72" tall, etc. Then in putting the arms on - I was trying to come up with a plan to most appealingly make the interior pieces so that the control board would reach- when I suddenly said "put the arms on the INSIDE!" it looks SO much more attractive with the arms on the inside! I did a little tweaking and just used wood screws instead of bolts - keeps the side much cleaner too without any exterior bolts- just some sunken screw heads. I'll have to try to post pictures- I didn't do well with recording it - but found a 24" screen on Craigslist, and it looks great so far.


Reply 5 years ago

Yes, I wanted to put them on the inside as well but, I routed grooves that my monitor slides into. If I had put the arms on the inside the width would have been to wide for the monitor.I am sure it could have been easily done with a few changes but I decided to go outside and put black caps on the bolts.


Reply 5 years ago

Ah, good point. I like the idea of the routed grooves. So worried mine will end up looking kind of hokey in the end - but as long as it's fun!

I think I just kind of lucked out with a monitor that just sort of fit right in, resting on one of my braces - almost accidentally. So, I ended up with space to put arms inside. Just serendipity I think. I am shorter than most, so that may be one factor! I put the control panel a BIT lower (like about 38" from the ground), as I figure I might as well make my cabinet fit me... and any taller friends may have to slouch a bit - HA!


Reply 5 years ago

Everyone who has looked at the pictures all ask if the monitor is to high....but all who have played then say its perfect. A co-worker who helped me build it is like 5'6, and he said it was perfect. The reason I put my monitor up higher is I am going to make the void area, controls, plasma ball (flux capacitor), LED lit fans (red and blue), digital clocks and gauges. When finished it will be my very own time machine!


5 years ago

And can I be one more person saying THANKS so much for the instructions- been thinking of doing this for years... and finally, now with a 10-yr-old son who actually likes my working Atari 2600 console and these "quaint" old games, I finally umped in (even working with a Raspberry Pi for the first time- yikes)


5 years ago

I'm wondering, how much more should I increase the dimensions to make a 4 player cabinet, I love this design!


5 years ago

Hey guys and gals, quick question, I see he made this build for one player in mind but I see completed builds with two players. Is there a difference in the plans? Please elaborate! :)


6 years ago

just again. How do you get the games onto the monitor. Is a hard drive needed?


Reply 5 years ago

Try a Raspberry Pi computer. It's not very expensive, and if you load an OS like RetroPie on it, it can cant as an emulator for a ton of diffrent consoles.


Reply 6 years ago

Or a 60-in-1 board or an ArcadeSD board.


Reply 6 years ago

You need an old computer, a program called MAME, and some sort of front end to run it (a piece of software that will allow you to easily pick a game with a nice menu).

Hit up the thrift shops and look for Core 2 Duo equipped computers. Those often do the job just fine. Pentium 4 or Pentium D computers could do it, but try to go for Core 2 Duo. Then you'll need to A. Learn how to use and set up MAME and a front-end, B. Need to get arcade ROM files (these are the games themselves), which if you want the classic arcade games is not legal and I can't supply you with them, and C. You need to know how to set the computer up so that it automatically goes into the front end, so you don't need to use a keyboard and mouse to use the arcade cabinet.

Here is a good guide on the same deal, just follow the steps that explain those three points I mentioned: http://www.maximumpc.com/how-to-build-a-kick-ass-mame-arcade-cabinet-from-an-old-pc/