Introduction: Plywood Arcade Machine

About: We are a new 10,000 sq. ft. makerspace in Portland, OR at 7600 N. Interstate Ave with a wood shop, craft lab, hackerspace, tiny home, garden, and electronics lab for the community.

This Instructable is for an arcade machine cabinet made out of a sheet of plywood and other scrap wood laying around. Inspiration came from these other Instructables:

These other Instructables were missing some details and we hope to fill in those missing assembly instructions.



1 4'X8" Sheet of plywood. Any thickness would work. We used 1/4" thick, which is pretty thin. Thicker plywood would increase the durability.

4 2"X2" 8 foot long pieces of wood

1 1"X6" 8 foot long piece of wood

1 3' piece of 2"X4" wood

6 4" 1/4-20 Lag bolts and washers

6 1/4-20 Wing nuts

6 1/4-20 Washers

A/R Wood Screws depending on the thickness of the wood

A/R Glossy Paint and Primer Paint

1 Can of Chrome color spray paint

1 Large cardboard stencil

1 3' Piece of 1/4 round trim

A/R Wood filler

1 Tube of liquid nails



2 Retro Arcade Joystick 8 Way

A/R Arcade buttons (various colors and shapes available depending on your style of play)

1 Jamma Board and cables

1 Desktop PC with mouse and keyboard

1 Old Sony KLV-23M1 TV

1 HDMI cable


Drill and screwdriver bits

1/4" and 1/2" Drill bit (Use a tiny drill bit for pre-drilling for screws if needed for hard wood and such)


Chop Saw

Table Saw


1" Hole saw (Other hole saws if needed)

Spade drill bit

Jig saw

Paint roller

Paint brush


Tape measure

Right angle

Step 1: Build the Cabinet

Building the main cabinet body was surprisingly the easiest part.

Cut the plywood along the lines shown in the diagram, which was taken from:

We screwed the triangle pieces together and then trimmed the excess off to get the triangles to be the same.

After that, we cut eight 6.5" long pieces of the 2"X2" wood and mitered the corners to act as the braces for the front pieces. The front pieces were then attached to the sides of the triangle while being recessed in by an inch. The two font pieces are overlapped and can be adjusted to any comfortable height. We used a height of 35.5" leaving a few inches for the control panel.

The sides were given more strength by cutting a 2"X6" piece of wood to brace the bottom rear of the cabinet. Then two 6.5 foot long 2"X2" pieces of wood were attached to the inside of the cabinet against the 2"X6".

We wanted the control panel to be removable so we attached two 2"X2" pieces of wood with one side mitered on the inside of the cabinet resting against the front piece. Drill two 1/4" holes before attaching this piece. These two holes are where the lag bolt and wing nut will hold the control panel in place and also make it removable.

To make the cabinet more sturdy, you can attach another 2"X6" piece of wood to the bottom of the cabinet toward the front so that you can put a heavy weight or a computer on top of it.

Adding the display mount will depend on what kind of TV or display you have on hand. We found that our display looked best at a slight angle, so we measured the ideal height and angle and marked it. Clamps were used to hold a 2"X6" piece of wood in the right spot and then a long screw was drilled in to the top in order to allow it to rotate in to position. Once the rotation was complete, two more screws on each side were used to secure it in place. The mounting braced was then attached to the center.

To complete the cabinet, the tips of the triangle were rounded off by using a roll of tape as a stencil and then using a jig saw to round the tip off.

Step 2: Build the Control Panel

Building the control panel was actually the hardest part of the assembly. We couldn't find clear instructions how to do it so we tried to come up with our own design.

The control panel portion of the wood came out to be about 45"X32" and we decided to let it stick out about 13 inches from the cabinet. We then boxed in the control panel with 2"X2"s and a 2"X4".

The so called "arm" pieces of plywood didn't serve much use so we just used them to increase the thickness of the front of the control panel in order to fit a 1/4 round trim for cosmetic and comfort purposes. Maybe if we used thicker plywood we wouldn't have to shim as much. Once the layers were screwed in place, liquid nails was used to glue the 1/4 round trim to the front. Many clamps were then used to keep the trim in place while it dried.

Once the glue dried, we used some 1/2" thick scrap wood laying around to cap off the sides and mitered the back so that it would fit along the front of the cabinet. Wood filler was used to cover up the screws and seams and then it was all sanded down smooth.

Two 1/2" holes were measured and drilled on the 2"X2"s sticking out the back of the control panel for the 1/4-20 lag bolts. You want these holes to be bigger in order to compensate for any misalignment and prevent binding of the lag bolt.

Attach the control panel to the cabinet by lining up the holes, push the lag bolts through the holes, and then screw it down with 4 washers and 4 wing nuts.

For the control panel layout, we used this site for printing out our desired button and joystick arrangement:

We used the larger spaced Hori layout. We also angled the layout a bit so that two people can stand comfortably at the controls without bumping in to each other. We made sure that there is space for an additional 4th column of buttons if needed in the future. We rotated the controls by lining up the player 1 and 2 print outs with the joystick along a line 8.5" from the front edge of the control panel and 4" from the sides. We then drew another line 2" below the joysticks and rotated the player 1 print out by holding the joystick and rotating the buttons until the buttons hit the line below the joystick. For player 2, the top most right button was held down and the joystick was rotated until it hit the line below the original joystick line. Once the desired alignment is achieved, tape the print outs down and use the 1" hole saw to drill out all the holes through the paper.

Step 3: Build the Bezel

The bezel turned out to be the second hardest part of the arcade machine to build. Inspiration was taken from:

This 6 piece bezel seemed to be the best option because of the angle of the cabinet, TV, and lack of room for a glass or plastic cover. We also wanted to use the speakers on the TV so we didn't want to block them. There was a little door that opens at the bottom of the TV so I made sure to make room to reach that as well.

First, the 11"X1" piece of wood was cut to fit the bottom of the TV. A line was traced around the TV and then the largest hole saw available was used to create the radius of the cut and a jig saw was used to cut the rest out.

The other 5 pieces of the bezel were cut on a table saw to form around the TV. The angles forming around the TV were complex, so it was best to just cut pieces, line them up around the TV while recessed 1" inside the cabinet, and then use clamps to hole it in place while measuring and cutting the rest of the pieces.

We wanted to make the bezel removable, so we cut 7.5" long pieces of 2"X2" wood for lag bolts and wing nuts and mounted them in back of the bezel while the clamps were holing it up. The sides pieces of the bezel were removed and then screw holes were then pre-drilled and counter sunk for the top and bottom pieces. We screwed through the countersunk holes and then placed the bezel back on to the cabinet and drilled the 1/4" hole through the bezel and 2"X2" for the lag bolt. We then counterbored the bezel side of the 1/4" hole with a 3/4" spade drill bit for the lag bolt to be recessed in the wood. A few small nuts were used to hold the lag bolt down in the counterbore. The sides of the bezel were then attached, which covered the lag bolt hole.

Make sure that the lag bolt can go through the other side and that the wing nuts can attache. If not, drill the counterbore a little deeper.

Step 4: Paint the Cabinet

To paint the arcade machine, we used the same paint used to paint the walls of the room, which was glossy white and glossy grey. Glossy is easier to clean.

We used grey around the areas that would be touched the most and would get dirty like the control panel and the bottom front of the cabinet that can be kicked.

First, use wood filler to cover all the screws and cracks, then prime all visible part of the cabinet, even parts that can be seen through cracks in the bezel. We left most of the inside bottom of the cabinet unpainted.

After the primer dries, paint with the glossy paint.

For extra design work, we put a circuit board design on the sides of the cabinet. This was done by using painters tape to outline the circuit trace and then painting over it. When it dried, and cardboard stencil was used to spray paint the chrome ends of the circuit board trace. We used a very large stencil in order to make sure that there was no overspray.

When dry, attach the parts to make sure that all visible parts of the cabinet are painted.

Step 5: Install the Electronics

After purchasing the buttons and joysticks of your liking, simply drop them in the holes in the control board. You can add more buttons if you wish. We used american style buttons joysticks with a Jamma board and the kit came with a PCB and wires:

Simply follow the pin out of the board to the correct button. The system works on a shared ground so we connected all the ground terminals together and used the "Normally Open" terminal of the button or joystick switch to the corresponding pin on the circuit board.

Once the wires are connected, plug the USB cable to a computer, connect an HDMI cable to the monitor, and use any emulator of your choice to test out the controls. MAME emulators seem to work best and are the easiest to set up with a lot of support. Map the buttons to your desired configuration. We were able to map the 1 and 2 player buttons to be the coin slot and player start buttons for easier game startup.

We tried to add some lighted up switch buttons, but it can't light up because the circuit is designed to activate when a drop in voltage is detected and the lighted up switch was preventing the switch from dropping to a low enough voltage to trigger an action. We kept the switch buttons, but we had to disconnect the light.

There is enough space to put the computer inside the back of the cabinet and also for some weight to keep the cabinet from rattling around during intense arcade action.

We also added a clamp light behind the arcade machine to light up the wall behind it like a floor lamp. It adds a nice touch.

There is also room available for a lighted sign to be installed at the top of the cabinet in the future.

So far, playing on this arcade machine has been really fun and I finally beat Street Fighter II after all these years!

Here is a great YouTube video on how to install some great emulators:

For future builds, I would probably use a little thicker plywood to increase rigidity, make it easier to add the 1/4 round trim, and maybe even use plywood for the bezel.

CONGRATULATIONS!!! , you built your own arcade machine!

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