Easy Cab (arcade)




Introduction: Easy Cab (arcade)

Here are instructions on how to build an upright arcade cabinet. I have built a couple of arcade cabinets and have enjoyed learning how to build them and customize them.

a preview video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-3FZYUdghI

I wrote these instructions to assist those who are not yet comfortable in taking on a project like this singlehandedly. I tried to make it as inexpensive as I could, while making it easy to design and construct one with the minimum required skills. I will not be talking about programming or where to download videogame files from, but I’ll offer references to sites that will.

I believe this is a great first project to pick up because not only do you get something awesome at the end but you get to learn about: electronics, soldering, construction, and designing. Once these skills are picked up, they can be applied to other projects.

I used a jigsaw, router, and drill to build this cabinet so the tool requirement is not out of reach for a beginner.

Before starting this project please read though the whole instructions, because there are many different things that can be done.

Step 1: Tools:

Here is a full list of tools that are needed to construct this arcade. If you don’t know what these are you can go to your local building supply store and ask because they will know. 
You will need:
� Drill
� Drill bits
o 1 1/8th spade bit – I got mine from Wal-Mart in a set for $10 (it needs to be this size for the buttons)
o A drill bit set for various holes – again Wal-Mart for about $14
o A Philips screw bit – usually comes with the drill
o A countersink bit- (used to make the screws flush with the wood)
� Router
� Router bit – I bought it for around $17 (it’s a slot cutting bit and ill post a picture , I used a 1/16 th inch)
� Knife – (to cut the t-molding)
� Soldering iron
� Hot glue gun
� Wire cutters
� Hammer
� Jigsaw- I bought mine for $20 at Wal-Mart (make sure you can cut angles, meaning the faceplate can bend at least 45* degrees)
� Jigsaw blades- cheap like $3 for a couple (buy fine saw tooth or smooth wood)

Here are a couple of pictures that go along with the tools:

Step 2: Materials:

There are a lot of different options available for building and designing your arcade. That’s what makes this so much fun, the fact that you can customize almost everything about it! Here are the materials I used for mine:

Wood: -- (2) black melamine 4’X8’ft sheets of 5/8th inch thick mdf $85
- I used (2) 4’X8’ft sheets of 5/8th inch thick mdf covered in Black melamine. I have painted one and I have used the melamine on one. I highly suggest the melamine to be used. It is a little more expensive but once you buy paint and primer (mdf soaks up paint like a sponge!) it is around the same price. I got each sheet for about $40 to $50 and it does come in different colors. What I had to do, was go and place an order through to get it delivered, so I had to wait 2 weeks for it to come in.

T molding: -- (40ft) of 5/8th inch T-molding $25
- You need about 40 ft. of t-molding I ordered mine from
 http://www.t-molding.com/store/home.php .These guys are great they will send you free samples of each kind so you can look at them before making a decision. The only down side is it did take 5 days to get them delivered. It cost about $25 to buy the t-molding

Screws: -- Box of Black 1- ½” inch screws
- Makes sure they are black, the screws blend into the melamine and makes them hardly noticeable.

Hinges: -- Any kind will do

Latch / bullet catchers: -- anything that will lock the drawer into place

Plexiglas: -- Purchase this after the cabinet is built
- I had my cabinet together and just measured from cornet to corner, and wrote down the dimensions. Then handed it to a glass shop were they cut it out for you, and it was only $12 dollars.

Finishing nails: -- They are not needed, but I tack down the start and end of the t-molding.

Drawer slides: -- (1) 16” door slide $13

Buttons: -- (16) Happs push buttons & (2) competition joysticks $51
- Ebay is where I bought my buttons you can get them in almost any color and they come with everything you need. Here is an example :


There are many different types around the web, go and google “arcade push buttons” There will be lots of different style and prices. Just make sure the 1-1/8”inch diameter ones are bought, and it will screw into a piece 5/8th inch thick mdf. Another example is: http://groovygamegear.com

Button interface controller: -- (2) USB gamepad with 14 inputs OR a ipac controller
- There are two choices when it comes to connecting the push buttons to a computer. What this does is allow the extra buttons being added to be read and recognized by the computer.
- There are two ways:
- 1. Buy a $40 dollar ipac controller from a website Example site here: http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=303
- And another option is here:
- http://www.ultimarc.com/JShopServer/section.php?xSec=2
- OR
- 2. Buy (2) 14 button USB gamepads. This is a lot cheaper it only cost me $10 and I had a soldering iron laying around so I didn’t have to buy one. This is the cheaper route and works ok, but is a pain in the A#$... Here is a picture of what has to be made.

A lot of little wires have to solder to a lot of little connections, and it is a delicate and annoying process. This is where the soldering iron and glue gun come in. If the ipac controller is bought instead, a soldering iron and glue gun will not be needed, possibly saving some money. (For more information go to the “button control board part of these instructions”)

Poster Board: -- I grab (1) 22” by 24” black poster board from Wal-Mart for 70� cents
- I would grab (2) in case a mistake is made. This is what he monitor bezel is made out of. A hole the size of the monitor screen is simply cut out.

Wood Glue: -- Any kind and any size. I used it, but the screws are more than enough to hold it together.

Speaker wire: -- Solid core speaker wire got from RadioShack for about $7 (make sure it’s not bare wire)

Pencil: -- Note: if you are making a black arcade buy a white pencil it helps a lot.

Yardstick / ruler: -- Make sure it’s bought in inches; this will make the lines being drawn a lot easier to follow when cutting.

Tape measure: -- To measure lengths

Braces: -- (2) two by fours that were 8 feet long
- You can use anything to brace the sides together for example: L-brackets, but I used a two by four and had them cut down the long way to make them closer to a square shape. I went this way because it cost me $6.50, and because the place I purchased the two by fours from charge me 25� cents a cut. (Take a look at the inside pictures of my arcade to see what I am talking about.) L-brackets cost more money!
Surge protector: -- $5 at Wal-Mart with 7 ports

Step 3: Layout:

Lay out:
There are many plans and examples on the web, but I decided to try my own because I needed it to fit my needs. Some of the things I had to consider was:
� How much room can I spare?
� How heavy is it?
� How many players can I put on it?
� How much space does each player need?
� How big is my screen going to be?
� Do I want the keyboard available?
I decided to make a 2-player arcade; that did not take up a lot of space to do this  I had to use a flat screen.
Note: (A CRT monitor will not fit in this cab) most CRT monitors have a depth of something like 26” inches. There is only 20” inches of space between the front and the back of this cabinet design. I did this so it would fit on (2) sheets of mdf.

Feel free to change anything you want just remember to plan out everything first.
I found it to be really helpful to go ahead and draw all the pieces needed, onto the 4’X8’ ft. sheet of mdf.
 how i laid mine out is in the image posted:

- I had one side piece cut out from each sheet of mdf and then used the remaining parts to cut out the pieces that go in between the arcade sides.
We will start with the sides of the arcade. Here are some drawings and dimensions of just the side. Remember the front, top, and back pieces are 24” inches wide.

This is where the yard stick comes in handy. Measure out from the bottom left corner and mark the points, then draw a straight-line between each. Make sure the line is clear and straight because you are going to have to follow along with a jigsaw to cut it out. At each turn I drilled a hole, so I could place the jigsaw in and cut again at a sharp angle.

Once the sides are cut out now is time to pull out the router and route the sides. When using the router remember to get the cut exactly in the center of the stock because if you don’t, the t-molding will be off center. I found it best to go ahead and cut a test piece and apply the t-molding.
If the tmolding fits correctly then you are all ready to go.
(Warning: Mdf is bad for the lungs and this creates lots of dust so be sure to wear a dust mask!)
Note: it is important to hold the router flat on the surface, if the router is angled at anytime during the cut, the t-molding will be off, so take your time.

The next step after routing the edges of the side panels, is to apply the t-molding. Grab the t-molding and start applying it from the back. Hammer the t-molding in softly and along the edge.

When you get to a corner cut out a notch so the t-molding will bend nicely around the corner. When you get to an acute angle just make little slits and continue to hit into place.

Once you cut out both sides draw a line 1-1/8” inch in all the way around from the outside.

The reason for making this outline is to have a half inch lip all the way around the arcade. This helps protect the arcade as well as making it easy to hide the ends of the width pieces.
The white line needs to be drawn 1-1/8th” inch in all the way around the arcade, because this is going to mark were the brackets are to be laid. There will be other measurements based off this line; for example, it shows how long the inner pieces are going to be, just measure cross section to cross section and that will be the length of the piece. For example: the top piece white line is 11-1/2” inches long therefore he pieces to be cut out for the top is 11-1/2” inches by 24” inches big.

Now screw in the brackets up to the white line all the way around, making sure that they are being spaced evenly throughout the arcade.
Once you have the blocks cut out, screw them into place. Make sure you have more than one screw in every bracket.
It should end up looking simular to the example image when finished:

Step 4: Now the Rest of the Pieces

Once the sides are together, now is the time to cut out the remaining parts. Now measure the length of each white line and cut out that length, and then make it by 24" inches.

Look at very top of the cabinet. Measure the length of the white line that was drawn earlier. My length was 11-1/2” inches, so the piece is going to be 11-1/2” inches by 24 inches
There is an example of all the pieces: Make sure you measure every pieces don’t just base it off my drawings.

A few special notes: (Read this before cutting out all the pieces)
• The drop drawer top edge needs to be cut at an angle. To do this, just adjust the angle plate on the jigsaw and cut it just like before. The drop drawer needs to be trimmed a little bit the in 24” inch way so it doesn’t grind and scratch the sides.

• The speaker mount pieces are also at an angle to make a flat face for the marquee to set on. To make the speaker holes you can drill a hole then cut out a circle or you can purchase a saw hole bit and cut out a 2” inch hole.

• The front bottom needs to extend far enough to cover the bottom piece, so the bottom piece end grain does not show.
(this and the control panel are one of the few pieces that extend over the with line.)

• Route the front of the slide drawer and the front of the control panel pieces, and apply t- molding.

• The drawer slide piece needs to be cut to 23” inches instead of 24” to accommodate the drawer slides.

When I cut out these pieces I would cut a long strip that was 24” inches wide across and then slice it up into the right size.
There is an example below of a long strip being cut to several pieces.

Step 5: Constructing:

Now is the time to screw the pieces onto the sides using the braces. Here are some picture examples:

I placed the screws from the outside going through the mdf into the brace. Make sure you pre-drill. Create a pilot hole for the screws and make sure you don’t counter sink too far, but if you do, just color it in with a sharpie and you can’t tell. Use glue if you feel like you need to, but the screws should be strong enough.

Example of pilot and counter sink is shown:

when one side done add the other side and screw it in. Your cabinet should now start to look like an empty arcade.

Drawer slides:
When the drawer slides are place in make sure they do not get in the way of the drop drawer. You want to be able to shut your drawer. About ½” behind the white line should be enough space. Here some pictures of the drop drawer.

I found two hinges that I liked, but lots of people like to use a piano hinge. I colored in the top of the drop drawer with some black paint and black sharpie.

Step 6: Buttons:

Button holes:
You need to put some time into thinking how the button should be laid out. Some buttons that are needed are: a start button, a coin button, and others for various reasons. There will also need to be a hole for the joy sticks. The same size hole I cut out for the buttons worked for me. The best thing to do is to draw on a piece of paper and physically place your hands were the buttons would be, to see how it feels. Once the layout is done mark it on the control panel piece, and put the 1-1/8”inch spade bit into the drill, and start drilling. Here are some examples of layouts and I picture of mine:

Installing the buttons:
Simply push the button into place and the then screw the button into the nut on the other side. Just like a normal bolt and nut.
There are button schematic:

Step 7: Button Wiring:

Button wiring:

This might look overwhelming at first but it is in fact pretty easy. Just take it step by step.
There are two routes to having your buttons wired:

1. You can buy a ipac controller interface board, which will be a little pricy but it is a lot easier and has more buttons.

2. You can buy two 14 input usb controllers and solder each connection. This is about $30 cheaper if you have a soldering iron and glue gun already. I bought the two Usb game pads at a second hand store for $2 a piece so I went this route.

Soldering up the button interface board:
First you need some wire. I used speaker wire but you can use network cable, or regular wire.
Take apart the usb controller so it looks like the image:

This is very time consuming and requires a steady hand. The connections are very close to each other and you can’t have a wire going across both. But once you are done it feels good.
To make sure the connection works go ahead and plug it into the computer. Then go to start > control panel >devices or game controllers> then click you usb game pad controller. Right click it click game controller settings> click properties. The screen should look like captured image:

When a connection is made it lights up red. If one of the directional buttons is being pushed the axes cross hair will go that direction in the picture above I was pressing left and down at the same time.
I used a spare piece of wood to keep things in order and help make it sturdy you don’t have to do this but it does help.

As you can see once the connection were soldered on, I hot glue gun it into place then stapled the wire down so it wouldn’t move. This allows the wires to be messed with and keeps the soldered joints from breaking off.

Connecting the buttons:
Once the game pads are tested and working. Go ahead and mount them in the arcade cabinet. I mounted mine right under the monitor support piece.

Connect one end of the wire to the ground part of the micro switch and the middle tab. Example image is given:

Then slip the micro switch into the button housing.

Once you connect all you buttons you are ready to go.
Note: don’t worry about connecting the up button with the up joystick micro switch it doesn’t matter when you run an emulator, you choose what button does what function.

Step 8: Speakers:

The speakers are easy just get some computer speakers like in the image:

Any kind will do just make sure that it plugs into the wall and the computer because the need to have its own power source. Take apart each speaker and cut the wires connected to each speaker. Remember which wire went to what because it has to be reconnected. Mount the speakers on the speaker board. Pic example:

Then attaché some wire to each speaker and run the wire down to the speaker box that has the power button and volume control. I mounted mine right above key board right inside the arcade. You can’t see it but it is easy to access. Pic example:

I also used the speaker box to house my power button. I just screwed though the plastic and mounted the speaker box to the inside of the arcade cabinet.

Step 9: Power Button:

Power button:
If you don’t want to go around and find the power button in back of the arcade, and rather have easy access to it, the power switch will have to be extended out just like the speakers. In a computer case there will be a power switch cable, it is usually a white and orange wires and the plastic tab says (power SW) pic example:

Simply cut the cable and extend the wire out of the computer case, then hook it up to a new button or a micro switch.

Step 10: Monitor Bezel:

Monitor bezel:
 To do the monitor bezels first get your Plexiglas. To get the measurements for you Plexiglas measure the height and width of the monitor window space. Then either go to a glass shop and buy it  were they cut out the size for you, or go to home depot and buy a sheet of it and score it to size with an Exacto knife. Then break it were you scored it. After the Plexiglas is cut out grab the black poster board and cut out the screen size of your monitor and place them into the cabinet.
Images below:

Step 11: Get to Gaming:

There is a instructable on how to make your own marquee at: https://www.instructables.com/id/how-to-make-a-vintage-arcade-marquee/ (thanks to slimguy379)

Some other helpful websites:
http://www.hyperspin-fe.com/ , this is the site were i got my frontend

Now hook up all the cables: plug the computer in, plug in the keyboard and mouse, connect the monitor and plug in the game pads. The arcade should no be able to turn on from the external switch and the computer should recognize and read all the buttons. If you have any more questions email me at: tomj300sr@hotmail.com

I hope you enjoy there instructions and it help you decide to build your own  :)
Here are some random pictures that might help out:

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Question 3 years ago on Step 3

I love this and thanks first and foremost. Question is the cab size so large for the overall effect or did you originally intend to put a regular CRT in this? I'm making one now and I am very grateful for the info you have shared. It just seems like such a huge monitor area I'm surprised it can't fit one.


Answer 2 years ago

i orginally wanted a CRT monitor. But to keep in my 2ft by 2 ft space and to keep the dimensions small enough to fit in 2 sheets of ply i had to go with a LCD monitor.


Question 4 years ago on Introduction

What a great instructable. I'm at the point where I'm installing the braces. It appears the inside brace that a monitor would sit on is at a downward angle from the control board. I can't seem to find that measurement in the instructable. Is there a point to point measurement for this, or a degree in which it should lay? Thanks so much for these plans, looking forward to the final product.


Answer 3 years ago

old post but to help others, I held up my monitor and roughly eyeballed the angle that would allow it to sit the best. As long as you put the exact same line on the other side is the most important part it would seem. For me it was from the corner to a mark I had on the back 38 inches from the bottom. in other words, I measured 38 inches from the bottom of the side panel, made a mark, and then drew a connecting line to the corner. it worked out fine.


3 years ago

Used the bases of these plans to finally build a cabinet after many a years just thinking about.

Thanks for sharing the cabinet measurements and other details certainly helped me a great deal.


5 years ago

I have been wanting to design and build something like this for a long time but was scared about the electronics part of it. Mostly want to use if for my Mad Dog McCree shooter game. I am fairly good wood crafter and have professional woodshop but the rest of it is going to be a supper challenge.


Reply 5 years ago

I truly love the design of the sides and am planning to use a 3/4 Oak Veneer to make it appear more western. To reduce the overall weight, I first considered dados and rabbets, but with all the angles involved, I think it would be better to use plastic corner braces to attach the horizontal pieces to the sides. Just a few thoughts before I start.


Reply 5 years ago

I know you posted this awhile ago, but in case you do come back and check. There are a few tricks you can do if the electronics seem like too much of an undertaking. One would be to buy a X-aracade stick. from https://shop.xgaming.com/ and retrofit it into your cabinet. (thats if you plan to use MAME/PC... The other way that makes it pretty simple is to use a JAMMA all in one device (like on ebay) and get a JAMMA wiring harness (which has simple designated wires with butt-connectors that you can just hook into your switches. I'll give a few links. If you have any questions I'd be glad to try and help.

I love MAME, and it is a great way to setup a box, however, it does require quite a bit of configuration to function properly, and you can easily change boot-screens and make it look super professional. Just in case though, the multicade boxes are preloaded, and have many games, with no configuration at all.

If you go this rout, you will need a power supply, a jamma multicade box, and a jamma wiring harness. Most likely this will come with instructions on where to connect the wires, but if it does not then quick google search will provide a plethora of information on it.




5 years ago

I'm going to be starting this project this week. I have all the parts needed and now just need the time. I may even start cutting today. I wasnt able to find melamine MDF anywhere locally so I need to paint mine. Does anyone have any suggestions on paiting MDF? Ive never had to paint MDF before so I dont really know what to expect.


Reply 5 years ago

Painting MDF is quite the under taking as it tends to really soak up the paint, resulting in the need to apply many coats. I like to avoid MDF and like to stick to plywood. However, when I do use MDF, I usually like to apply a coat of pre-stain of other wood conditioner, then a primer and finally my top coat. That usually does the trick. :)


Reply 5 years ago

Thanks for the reply. I actually finished my cabinet a couple weeks ago and couldn't be happier. Especially for the first big project I've made. I'm no great woodworker so my cuts were a little off (I think I should have used a circular saw instead of a jig saw ok big pieces}, but overall I really had fun building it. The painting part was much easier then I expected. Like really easy. All I did was have a quick sand the MDF, with giving the cut edges more sanding then the sides, then put down a coat of Kilz oil based primer, let it dry, did a light sanding again, repeated then did two coats of black semi gloss latex paint. It took a full day of paint and drying, but it came out great.


5 years ago

Thanks so much for the plans and share. This one was made using your plans modified to fit a large Sony Trinitron tv with a super old dust-collector computer for the internals. Might be making a few more with Raspberry Pi for friends.


5 years ago

I have literally just started the project based on this guide and i'm looking forward to getting it done!

Come visit my blog as I publish a step-by-step guide. It would also be cool to share some ideas and get some suggestions :)



5 years ago

whats the biggest monitor you can fit into this thing? or at least what size did you use?


Reply 5 years ago

You can easily fit a modern (16:9) 24" or 27". However I wanted the 4:3 retro-look so I went for the biggest 4:3 easily available. I'm using a Samsung 20", model Syncmaster 204B. I got it for free from work.


Reply 5 years ago

Thanks :)


Reply 5 years ago

monitor and tv sizes sizes come in a diagonal corner to corner size.

the max you can do is 24 inch across so you have to look at specifications of the monitor/tv. make sure not wider then 24.

There are so many choices I just get the largest I can get.


Reply 5 years ago

Thanks :)


Reply 5 years ago

I wouldn't go bigger than 24" though, and the ideal size is probably 20"-22".