Introduction: Bubble Bobble Bartop Arcade Machine

So about 14 years ago after finishing University and having been obsessed with playing MAME emulated games I discovered the magic of a SuperGun and the fact I could own actual Arcade boards. This resulted in me finding a guide on the internet and building my own Supergun.

It wasn't perfect but I made it all myself and began collecting a number of my Holy Grail games namely Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Double Dragon. As time went on and I moved out this all ended up in the loft and recently I rediscovered it and my interest was reinvigorated. I then noticed that Bartop arcade machines were quite popular with many guides around and in particular big thanks to Rolfebox who wrote an excellent guide that I ripped off and used to make my plans.

So I decided to sell all my old boards in order to finance making my own Bartop machine. The sale of TMHT for £125 mainly financed this.

Step 1: Creating the Plans

All my plans were based around wanting to have artwork from my favorite game ever Bubble Bobble.

I managed to find the artwork here:

By using this as a template I was able to alter mainly the Control Panel to change the number of buttons and tweak the sizes in general within PhotoShop.

I then decided to get these printed and dependent on the size I was then able to create my scale plans.

I found the following Print Company who did 2 sides,Control Panel and Marquee all for about £15: via Ebay.

So with the printed sides I then got a large piece of A2 paper and traced around them and this would be my scale drawing. This allowed me to get exact measurements for each part and plan and prepare for cutting the wood.

I designed a mini cutting plan as seen in the pictures and the parts were as follows:

Back - 500mm x 554mm
Top - 500mm x 135mm
Marquee bottom - 500mm x 61mm
Control Panel - 500x192mm
Coin front panel - 500x89mm
Front Bezel - 500x483mm
Bottom - 500x 429mm

The sides I again traced onto the wood and cut around the 2 boards clamped together.

Step 2: Tools and Materials

Here is the list and cost of all the parts I purchased. Some can be got cheaper but sometimes it was easier to travel half a mile up the road to B&Q rather than 6 miles to Wickes.


  • Cabinet
    • 18mm MDF board 1829 x 607 - £15 (B&Q)
    • 12mm MDF Board 1829 x 607 - £15 (B&Q)
    • Perspex - 600mm x 1200mm - £16(B&Q)
    • 20mm x 20mm x 4000m Baton - Free
    • 25mm Screws - £2 (B&M)
    • 1 1/4" Screws - £2 (B&Q)
    • 600mm Piano Hinge - £5 (B&Q)
    • White Wood Primer - £8 (B&M)
    • White Gloss Spray Paint - £3 (B&M)
    • Wood Filler - £3 (B&M)
    • 14ft Chrome T-Molding - £17(ArcadeWorldUK)
    • Artwork - £15
  • Electrics
    • Jamma Harness - £8 (Ebay)
    • 19" LCD Monitor - Free
    • Headphone Jack lead - 99p (Ebay)
    • 16 Buttons - £6 + Free (Ebay)
    • 2 Joysticks - Free
    • PC ATX Power Supply - Free
    • 3 IEC Power Cables - £3 (Ebay)
    • 4 way Plug Socket - £3 (Ebay)
    • IEC Power Socket - £1 (Ebay)
    • 2 LED strip lights - £2 (Ebay)
    • Another Pandora Box 3 - £66 (TimeHarvest)


  • Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Cordless Drill
  • Corded Drill
  • Orbital Sander
  • Soldering Iron
  • Dremel
  • HSS Cutting Disc
  • Various Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • 28mm Hole Cutter
  • 25mm Hole Cutter
  • 50mm Hole Cutter
  • Countersink Drillbit
  • Ruler/Protractor/Set Square
  • Eye Protection
  • Workbench

Step 3: Cutting the Wood

So it was at this point I decided to start photographing everything hence the lack of pictures of wood!

With the use of a circular saw and Jigsaw I proceeded to cut all the parts needed. As some of the wood needed angled edges I figured out a order to cut the various parts. However stupidly got the first one wrong resulting in not having enough wood. The sides were 18mm MDF whilst the rest was all 12mm MDF.

Eventually I visited my dad who has tons of wood and he recut me the control panel piece which you may notice is a different colour and made of Chipboard not MDF. But he used a Bandsaw to cut it and it made me realise that I should of done it all at his house. So my advice would be if you can get hold of a table or band saw you will get a much better and easier cut.

It was at this point that I cut lots of 20mmx20mm batons. I just used a large piece of scrap timber that I cut down to size.

After everything was cut I wanted to get the Slot Cut for the T-molding as I wasn't sure how I'd do this. Now most people advise getting a router and a special 1/16 slot cutter which cost about £25. I don't have a Router but could have borrowed one but £25 for a tool I will probably never use again seemed abit OTT so I decided to improvise.(There is a disclaimer here that you do this at you own risk).

I have 2 Dremel Multi Tools - 1 cheap chinese jobby and one genuine Dremel I was given. Now the Dremel is gutless but the Chinese one is a monster and spins damn fast. So I took that and clamped it into my workbench with 2 little cutting discs back to back. Now by taking a test piece I was able to hold it flush against the workbench and get the Dremel set in the right position to cut perfectly in the middle of the 18mm edges..

Now these discs are not designed to cut wood and although this did not take long I did wear down a few of the discs and some snapped(one of which would have hit my eyes had I not got goggles on!). It resulted in the beginnings of a slot all the way round the sides but they were not deep enough and to keep going would have taken ages.

It was then I discovered on Ebay you can get HSS cutting discs in a pack of 5 sizes for £4. So I ordered these and then as I had a slight groove I was able to cut the correct depth freehand with the Dremel resulting in a perfect slot which didn't cost £25 to do and I have the discs which I know I'll use again for bits n bobs.

Step 4: Pre-assembly of Cabinet

So before I began putting the cabinet together I took each side and drew the exact cross-sectional pieces on them so give or take I would know roughly where each piece and each baton would go.

Slowly and surely I assembled the cabinet fixing the batons accordingly and checking it was all square and flush etc etc.

The cabinet was only screwed together at this point as I wanted to make sure everything all fitted and ensure the monitor would fit. I would then take it all apart again and rebuild it with gluing.

Whilst assembled I sanded down all the rough edges to make everything super smooth.

Step 5: Monitor Installation

I was given a 19" Hannspree Monitor by a friend which I began by stripping the front bezel off it so I could mount it flush against the wood. All the buttons for the monitor were on the front and I thought I may need them so with the assistance of my Dremel I was able to reroute the PCB to the back of the monitor.

The monitor had 4 mounting points so I decided to use these with some screws that were long enough to go through the wood and fit the thread holes.

By lining up the monitor on the board I then had a mounting board which I laid over the top and tried to get everything parallel before cutting and drilling holes.

Everything was fitted into the cabinet and then I found the best position for the mounting board and attached that.

Step 6: Making the Control Panel

Before fully fixing everything in place I wanted to get the Control Panel built.

By using the printed control panel I tapped this to the wood and marked the centre of each button and the joysticks. Then on the wood I drew out the exact size of each control.

I then mounted a piece of perspex onto the wood and using the hole cutters drilled all the holes out.

The Joysticks I had from my old unit were recessed into the wood but without a router to cut the lip I went at it with a hammer and chisel until they fitted.

I fitted the artwork, the perspex and all the buttons and had a completed control panel :)

Step 7: Rear Access Door

With the back panel an Access Door was needed for maintenance inside the cabinet.

I firstly measured out a door on the back panel of the cabinet and cut it out with a jigsaw. I then drilled and extra hole for opening the door and then cut and attached a piano hinge to the back. To prevent the door being pushed in I attached a Kitchen door type magnet so it has a nice solid feel when closing it.

At this point I also cut a hole for the rear IEC connector/switch to get power into the board

Step 8: Priming and Painting

This was the most simple task of all.

After re-assembling and gluing the cabinet together I then decided it was time to paint it,

I began with the Wood Primer and did a couple coats whilst rubbing down and then finally a few top coats using White Gloss Spray paint.

In all honesty I found the spray paint very watery and I kept getting runs or no adhesiion with little paint applied so with hindsight I would have used a better quality paint as I'd never experienced this when spraying before.

Step 9: Adding Power and Lighting

I firstly wanted to wire the lights into the Marquee. For this I got 2 stick on LED Strip lights which would run off a 12v supply and I drilled a small hole to pass the cables through to the cabinet.

I installed an old PC Power Supply which I firstly cut all the rogue cables from it and just left a single 4 Pin molex which would give 5V,12V,0V and -5V. I then had a female connector as well which I would use to wire into the Jamma Loom. By doing it this way it means if the PSU gives up the ghost I can get another PC Supply and just unplug the Molex and plumb in a new one in a few minutes. This was then rigged up to the LED lights on the front.

To get mains power into the cabinet I used a switched IEC connector in the back panel which was then wired to a standard 4-way Plug extension lead in the cabinet which I cut the lead down from. I then had a mini cable to power the Monitor and another for the PSU. Potentially if I wanted powered speakers the spare sockets may come in handy.

Step 10: Control Panel Wiring

This part can be quite fiddly but luckily I had done some of the hardwork so this was straightforward.

I took my old Joystick panel and the wiring was already rigged up and connected into electric chocolate blocks so I easily moved this onto the new panel. I did need to add 4 more connections for extra buttons and this was easily achieved and hooked upto the rest of the loom.

After this I only needed to connect the Jamma Loom to the chocolate block connectors by checking each pin connects as required.

Step 11: Pretest Pandora 3 Game Board

So with power in the cabinet and the control panel all wired up it was time to test the Pandora 3 Game Board.

The board itself has a Jamma connector so everything was wired into the Jamma Harness that I bought. The Pandora box has a VGA output so this was plugged into the monitor and a Headphone jack socket which was connected to the monitor speaks.

It booted perfectly and there was a nice test mode to check all the joysticks connections.

My kids this saw what I'd created and I got them to give it a good testing :)

Step 12: Adding Side Art and T-Molding

After putting it all together having proven the board was all working good I finally needed to apply the T-Molding.

Using a Rubber Mallet I carefully hammered in the Molding all round each of the 2 edges. The top tip when coming to a sharp corner or a curve is snip out a wedge in the slot part of the T this allows it to bend into groove and around the bend.

This left me with just needing to apply the Marquee and Side Art which was done carefully and slowly to achieve a nice finish.
The Bezel I printed at work on A3 paper and mounted using Stick Glue, I did t get this printed professionally as I didn't have the monitor at the time so couldn't guess how big it might be and then decided it wasn't worth it.
After this I mounted a sheet of perspex over the screen and bezel to protect it all.

Step 13: Playing!!

And that folks is it!

It is now time to play for hours to come.

There are obviously things I would do differently if I were to do another Bartop but for a first attempt I think I did pretty well