Introduction: Plywood Arcade Suitcase With Retropie

When I was a kid, our friends had 8bit nintendo and it was the coolest thing on earth. Until me and my brother got sega megadrive as a christmas present. We did not sleep from that christmas eve to new years eve, we just played and enjoyed that great game. That was the most memorable christmas present ever.

Today there are many different amazing video game-consoles. They are amazing to this generation kids, for me those doesen't feel so great or they just do'nt give me that feeling what I got when I was a kid.

That's way I wanted to build old school retrogaming arcade suitcase with Raspberry with thousands of ole school retro games.

I wanted to make retro arcade game machine which is not too big, so its easily put to closet when not playing.

That's why I wanted make it quite small but still big enough for two adult players.

I wanted it also to make it quite simple, so everyone can make it. I hope I succeed on that one.

Tools needed:

Circular saw / table saw

Jig saw,

cheap router, some router bits,


some screws,

peeling wire cutters,

some basic tools screwdrivers etc...

Material needed:

4mm birch plywood

12mm birch plywood

Little bit of 20mm plywood

Screen :




Power switch :


Two different kind of connectors:

USB dual port:

Power adapter:

Flat HDMI:

Wood insert nuts:

Suitcase handle:

Lock latches:

Adapter cord:

Raspberry :

Optional also retro controller :

Step 1: First Make the Plywood Box

You will need 4mm and 12mm plywood.

First you cut 12mm plywood with circular saw to ~16cm. Then with miter saw you cut it with angle 45 to two ~50 cm pieces and two 36 cm pieces.

Then you glue all corners together. I glued it with adjustable corner clamps with steel tape. Then you should have ~50cm x 36cm frame.

After glueing the corners you glue 4mm plywood below and above the frame. You dont have to measure it precisely, just make sure that 4mm plywood is bigger than the 50cm x 36cm area.

We have a box which is not so beautiful yet.

Then you take the router and cut all the sides even with trim router bit. After that use your round router bit to every side and make all the corners round and smooth. Note that if you make upper and lower sides first and then those short sides, you have to trim again all the corners. But that is ok.

When you have done those its time for some heavy sanding.

Now we have the plywood box ready.

Step 2: Make the Box As a Suitcase and Make the Preparations for Power Plug Switch, Amplifier and Usb Ports.

First we need to cut the box in two pieces.

So the box is now 16cm + 4mm + 4mm = 16,8cm.

With table saw adjust the guide fence to 9cm and cut all the sides. Rotate the box sides so every side goes through saw blade. Its better to adjust saw blade just over 12mm so it will not do any other damage in the box.

Unfortunately I did not make a video from this or any pictures, but you get the idea.

We have two pieces now.

Both area is ~50cm x 36cm and depths are ~7cm and ~9cm. 7cm side will be the buttons side and 9cm side will be screen side.

Power plug.

I did not want power switch below the case because then the case will need little legs, otherwise the case would be always on top of the switch. That's why I wanted it on the right hand side and in that way that the switch is before cable input, then its easily turned on and off.

Its better to make first a silhouette to paper with a pen. When the plug fits perfectly to paper, that is a good model for plywood.

Draw that silhouette in plywood, drill holes every corner. Those holes can be little bigger than jigsaw blade. Then just cut it with jigsaw. Its better to use as small blade than possible, small blade does not tearout so much.This does not have to be perfect cut because the power plug will cover it.

Other small hole is for the amplifier.

I wanted to place that amplifier so that I can adjust volume with my right hand. That hole is just same sized than the volume knob. Remember to drill it from the outside in! With plywood its so easily cracked in the other end.

Volume knob is about center of right side. I also made little bit more space for the amplifier by self feed wood drilling bit. Then the volume knob is enough outside the box.

Under the amplifier some plywood (plywood will be glued later in that place), and attach the amplifier to plywood with one screw. That is enough when the volume knob is holding it also in place.

At this point is good to make one 28 mm hole in the front for the two USB ports.

Measure the center point of the front wall and cut the 28mm hole there for the usb.

Now we are ready for the power plug switch, amplifier, and USB ports.

Step 3: Arcade Kit Holes and Game Pad Fastening

I took big board of 4mm plywood. Then I glued 12mm plywood underneath it, but only where the arcade kit buttons will be. You can make this just with 12mm plywood, I did not have enough 12mm that time.

Cut the plywood so that it will fit in the middle.

I took the template for the buttons here.

Remember to make sure that the left joystick has room to go there. Joysticks need more room underneath.

I cut all button holes with 28mm wood drill bit, and joystick holes are 14mm. 14mm was almost too tight, 16mm or 18mm or even bigger will be ok as well because there are these black covers in joysticks.

I wanted to make start and select buttons there above, so I added 2+2 28mm holes there. Remember that the center of the holes has to be at least 40mm apart, otherwise it can be too close.

So then the gaming pad is ready with holes.

Its time to make fastening between gamepad and suitcase frame. Fastening the game pad should be done in that way so it would be also easy to take off. Im sure I will be putting it in a place and then again taking it out many many times.

My gamepad is in the front 4mm + 12mm thick and from the back its only 4mm.

Glueing supports in 4 places. I used game pad thicknesses there when I was glueing. In another support picture there is 12mm and 4mm plywood pieces above the wooden support which Im glueing. In another picture there is only 4mm plywood. That way it is easy to glue support in the right place and also straight.

After glue drying place the gamepad there and drill 6 mm holes through the gamepad and supports. Try to drill as straight as possible.

Then add these wood insert nuts there. This was really easy assembly. Just remember to drill through the game pad when it is in the right place, that way you have both holes in the right place. I used M4 because this does not need any heavier stuff and 6mm drill bit is good for M4 wood insert nuts.

Now we have all the holes and cuts in the lower side of the suitcase ready.

Step 4: Screen

Screen mounting to suitcase.

First we have to measure the height of the upper suitcase piece. In this case it was about 36cm - 1,2cm - 1,2cm cm. So I cut 2similar pieces of 20mm plywood. About 33cm x 8cm. Then we put those pieces together with two screws. Measurements are 1cm in the other end and 4cm to other end. Then we cut and unscrew the pieces and we got two pieces of plywood, lenght about 33cm and widths in the other end 1cm and other end 4cm. I cut these with band saw but you can cut this with many tools.

Precise dimensions are not so important in this case, important is that you make two same size pieces. But keep in mind that the joysticks has to have enough space when closing the suitcase. That why those supports are only 1cm in the other end.

Then we glue these 20mm plywood pieces to upper half of the suitcase.

You need to glue those sides which you cut, that way we can make sure that straight line is above. I cut those with a bandsaw and my cut was not straight, so I glued that side below.

When you glue these, remember that the 1cm piece is the upper side, screen top side will be in that side.

After glueing those supports there we have to make a plywood-piece that fits there perfectly. I run out of 12mm plywood so I glued 8-10mm mdf and 4mm plywood together. Then with circular saw I made a piece which was about 47,6cm x 33,6cm. I cut the downside with 10 degree angle, otherwise it would not fit there well.

I did that piece really long time. Finally I made it.

It was so tight fit that I had to make hole in the center so I could get it out there.

After that I placed the screen in the middle. I measured all the sides equal and then I draw that screen lines there.

Then we cut that part away.

I did it with track saw, I had to use hand saw for all the corners. You don't need to be really precise with this cut because this cut will be hidden.Or I mean that you need to be quite precise, but this cut does not have to pretty because it will be hidden.

After making the screen size hole there we take 4mm plywood. We measure 1cm inside the screen line and 2cm outside the screen line. It will be then 3cm wide screen cover. After measuring we make the cuts. After cuts I used a lot of sand paper and sanding. Finally it was enough good.

Then we find again center place for the 4mm cover. Its should be quite easy because you can mark 2cm out of screen hole in every side and there should be the center. Then we glue that cover there.

After glueing we can install the screen. Using some cushion there and then just one piece of plywood with little screws to hold that screen. Screen does not need any heavy attaching because it is so light and fragile anyway. This will do.

For the screen driver control board, I measured that width with wires, cut about that size of plywood piece, fasten driver board with screws to that plywood, and then glued that plywood to below that upper suitcase half. I had to glue it downside because there is more space and no need for longer wires.

We need to make the way for the HDMI and screen power wire.

2,5mm connector to screen for power and HDMI for the videosignal.

Using router make a small hole for the HDMI and power wire. As small hole than possible.

Step 5: Surface Finish and Hinges

Now its good time to make a surface finishing and then assemble the hinges.

I used these hinges.

I made the suitcase surface little bit lighter with a wood wax. I thought it turned out too light because I just love birch plywood as it is. I was almost sure that I ruined my suitcase with this but luckily it came more and more lighter. I want to see patterns of plywood, that makes it so beautiful.

So for the hinges, clamps are really good for that. I did not have clamps long enough to assemble those in the sideways. So I had to put my clamps other way. I think I still succeed quite well.

Note: Remember to keep both sides of the suitcase all the time in right way. As it was when you cut plywood box in two pieces. Its not a big difference but it can be such a little difference in the other sides.

For the hinges place those in the middle and then fasten those with little screws.

No router for hinge holes because that is really difficult.

Step 6: Arcade Kit Buttons Assembling

All the holes are ready for arcade buttons and joysticks. Assembling those was not too difficult.

You can't go wrong with these button functions and joysticks, then its only plug and play, USB in raspberry and then just adjust game controllers in retropie.

Joystick is attached with 4 screws, I wanted it to be tight fit because there might be some players who use too much power with joystick. Also what will be the height of joystick is adjustable here. If you don't want it so high, you just add there more filling below. If you put 12mm plywood in the joystick place, then the stick will be 12mm lower.

When you drill a hole for the joystick, joystick should be in the center of the hole so it will work every direction.

Problem is that when you are fastening joystick, you can't see is it in the middle or where.

One way is to drill a hole in a some scrap wood which precise same diameter than joystick. Then place that hole in the center of joystick hole and attach that with clamps. Then you put the joystick there in the hole and fasten it with screws. That way joystick is in the middle. I hope that those pictures help. In the 4. picture you can see that little guide hole there. I have just used little bit of self feeding drill bit there to make more space for joystick.

Only difficulty in this case was the led lights in buttons. I bought the cheapest led arcade kit and there was only wires for button function, not for the leds.

So I made the wiring myself. I made all the abiko connectors and wires. I got three first button ledwires in encoder straight. Then there was only one place left. Rest five buttons I connected as a series, that's way they are dimmer than the 3 first buttons. However all the leds work now.

So my suggestion is that do not buy the cheapest one, if you want led buttons. And when you are buying some led arcade kit, make sure that for the buttons there is more than 2 pins. If there are 3 pins, it uses same ground, and different + wire so the button works when pressed and led is on all the time. I think there are so many different aracde led kits.

Without led buttons it does not matter because the button functions are just with two connectors in a button.

For my next arcade build I will buy this arcade kit:

EDIT: If you are building arcade machine without led buttons, you can use this arcade kit:

If you want LED arcade kit that works :

Or these two:

Step 7: Add the Rest Hardware

Converter place is in the back in the middle.

Power switch is wire ready, so we put blue wire in the ground. L and N are similar in this case because they will use AC power so it does not matter which is which.

+5V and G wires will go Raspberry and in amplifier. +12V and G will go to screen. Remember to place cooler heatsinks in Raspberry. You need these connectors and adapters for the screen and raspberry power.

For the speakers I solder the speakerwires and made so small support.

In a picture is seen that converter is attached to suitcase wall with 2 small screws and I glued 2 plywood supports as well on the sides. Raspberry is attached to plywood with two screws, and that plywood is glued to suitcase. Plywood with speakers is also glued to suitcase. Everything needs to be fastened so they wont move when you carry that suitcase.

One of the most difficult parts was the HDMI with power cord to the screen.

I order this great small and flat HDMI cable 1m.

Then I glued power cord on it. See the pictures. That was really good. But then I made a mistake and I tried how hard that was attached. Then the HDMI break!! I should have not done that!!!

I order a new HDMI but it takes like 2,5 weeks to get here so I went and bought a new HDMI cable. It was so much bigger but it was flat. I glued black power cord there and now I did not try how good it was attached to each other. There is no need to glue more than 10 - 15cm. After that wires can be separate.

For the HDMI and power cord I made a little holes with a router to plywood. Measure the HDMI and power cord size and then draw it. Then make a sample cut in scrap plywood and see if that is ok. You want to do as small hole than possible.

I took HDMI in the middle. Now afterwards it would have been better in left side because there is more room. Now the HDMI is above the power supply and there is not so much space.

Also HDMI-power plug cord rises gamepad plywood little bit in that point. So fastening screws should be near HDMI.

Step 8: Warning

That small amplifier is for 12V but in this case it did not take that power supply 12V very well.

First I gave it 12 Volts but the amplifier started to melt that aux wire as you can see from the pictures.

So I order new amplifier and that is the reason that amplifier is not connected in these pictures. I kept it there because of the volume knob, only hole would not look so good.

So when you making electrical installations, be careful and you should know something about it. If you dont know anything about it, you should NOT do any installations by yourself! It can be dangerous!

Step 9: Final Touches

Your suitcase should look like this now.

Its time to add handle and lock latches. Handle on the center and lock latches on the sides. Just remember to use screws that does not go through the plywood. It will be visible then.

I did now want any screws be visible. I wanted to cover those but the covering has to be in that way that you can unscrew. So no glueing.

I wanted it to be plywood so I took 4mm plywood and made these little round pieces.

I don't have bench drill yet so first I had to make guide for the drill bit. In the first drill picture you can see the whole drill bit. Make a hole with that, I made hole in MDF. After that you loose drill bit head away. Then you have drill bit like in the second drill picture. Now just 4mm plywood under guide hole and just drill.

When I got 6 pieces ready, its time for some heavy sanding, after drilling those were not so beautiful.

After sanding its time to attach those with blu-tac. Those little round pieces are quite tightly there with blu-tac.

My 6 years old daughter played with this maybe one hour one evening, and none of the blu-tac fastenings did not loosen.

Then its time to put those cushion stickers. I only had four there at the moment. It would be good put one upon the other so the cushion sticker would be more thicker than the hinge. Then the suitcase would not wobble.

Then its time to insert power cord and start enjoying.

These NES -like controllers are so good with the NES games!

Super Mario and Punch Out felt like old good times!!

Step 10: Final Words

I have been playing with this many days. It has been on several hours straight. I can feel the plywood warming up above the power supply. It is not hot, just warm and I think that is normal.

I was little worried about that because HDMI is also attached on power supply but no worries anymore.

I think anybody can make this, if you just have a router, any router will be good ( I think I have the cheapest one), circular saw and some basic woodworking tools.

This was my first instructable so there is a big chance that I forget something.

So please ask anything.

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