Coffee Table Pi




The purpose of this project is to create a modern slimline version of an arcade cocktail cabinet. Also to do other tasks such as browse web or write emails with the use of a wireless keyboard and mouse. The 24 inch LCD screen mounted in the center can be used to do any number of things such as show family photos or updates from social networking sites.

In the spirit of low cost, all the wood work used is recycled. The main expense apart from the raspberry pi itself is for the 24 inch LCD screen in the middle and the arcade joysticks and buttons.

To be child friendly the corners are rounded and perspex is mounted over the LCD screen.

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Step 1: Select Your Parts

The LCD screen

I went with a 24inch LCD screen with LED backlight. Select any size screen you wish.

Make sure it has good viewing angles as the screen will be mounted upwards and almost always viewed at an angle. Test out the screen viewed from above and below, from the left and right and make sure it still looks almost as good as when viewed straight on.

Select one that can be wall mounted as it can then be attached to the table from underneath.

Select one that turns on without needing any buttons to be pressed as all the buttons with be hidden inside the table.

The Joystick and Button

This is up to you, I went with a Happ 4 or 8 way arcade ball top joystick, 2 blue American style buttons, 1 player and 2 player buttons.

Perspex sheet 4mm
Cut to the size of the outside edge of the LCD screen, larger than the viewing size of the screen as it will be screwed onto the underside of the top of the table.

Wood, glue, screws, stain and finish
This is all up to what you want to do. I used pine that I recycled from various places. Hot Hide Glue because I wanted to learn about using it. Using screws rather than glue or screws and common wood glue would have been easier.
I used a black stain and then a shellac french polish.

I recycled a nice 5inch speaker for the sound and used the circuit from an old set of computer speakers. This gave to ability to plug in headphones and automatically turn off the speaker.

Step 2: Woodwork

Start with the sides and the legs. Make sure the sides are easily long, wide and deep enough to accommodate the screen. Also the raspberry pi, speaker and cabling need to fit in. I cut a recess into the legs to fit them into the sides. Make the section to house the joystick and buttons and attach to the side. Lastly make the top out of 4 pieces such that the hole in the middle is the same as the viewing size of your LCD screen. The sides of the table should be wide enough to sit a wireless keyboard and mouse on it. Route the underside of the top to make a recess to fit the perspex. Route a curve into the inside edge of the top. Attach the top to the legs and sides.

Step 3:

The perspex is screwed into the recess underneath the top. The LCD screen is not pressed up hard against the perspex as the pressure effected the display with my particular screen. The LCD is attached to 2 wooden struts underneath so the screen sits just below the perspex.

Holes were drilled for the joystick, 2 buttons on top and the one player, two player buttons on the side.

Wooden tabs are added around the bottom edge for attaching covers made of 4mm ply wood made from the back of old cupboards. There is one large cover for the main section and one small cover for the joystick and buttons section.

This photo shows a double adapter used to power the raspberry pi and the LCD screen. One black cable exits through the cover down the side of one leg. The double adapter was changed to a 4 port adapter later when I added sound.

Step 4:

8 GPIO inputs are used. 4 for the joystick and 4 buttons. An old floppy disk drive cable is cut to size. This plugs into the raspberry pi. The other end goes into a prototype board that has a pull up and a pull down resistor for each of the 8 inputs. This then wires into the Joystick and buttons.

Also attached to the raspberry pi is a usb wifi and usb wireless keyboard/mouse combination.

Step 5: Sound

Warning: This step required opening up the case of some old cheap computer speakers. Mains voltage is inside and care should be taken.

You could make your own amplifier circuit but this was an easy way out. Find an old set of computer speakers. The amplifier circuit inside has everything we need already.

The transformer on the left is taking mains voltage and providing 9V AC to the circuit board. This is safely enclosed inside the coffee table. Never touch the transformer when power is turned on.The volume pot is removed from the circuit board and hard wired with 2 resistors to be the equivalent to being in the max volume position. Volume will be adjusted from the pi. The mini stereo socket is mounted down into the bottom cover. The circuit bypasses the speaker when headphones are plugged in.

Step 6:

A boot menu allows the selection of games using advanced mame, or web browsing which boots into a window manager.

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    83 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Could you possibly link the websites you got your materials from or perhaps say what compounds you used to build it? It seems like a very cool build and would like to replicate it.

    electric guyh_namazian

    Reply 2 years ago

    you could also could use a TV

    or buy a cheep flat screen tv and take the screen out but just using the tv would be easier

    I am B.E student i would like to do a project "Restaurant table with
    embedded menu card" using touch screen. will you help me. i would like
    to know the components and the basic idea for my project.


    4 years ago on Step 6

    Nice. Although what are you using the P2 button for? maybe install retropi?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Would it be easy to add a second joystick and buttons on the horizontal plane to be able to play the games that are not displayed in portrait mode ?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I ask this as a complete Pi/arcade controller noob... Can you give more insight on how to pair this with the Pi? Could it possibly be as easy as connect the pins and go? Hoping you can point me in the right direction...

    Many Thanks!!!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm building one of these now. Using the I-PAC from to interface the controls with the Pi, since this lets me have way more buttons and multiple joysticks. One problem I've encountered is that the HDMI output on the Pi does not provide much power - even with the hdmi_boost options set in the config.txt, the red signal is not strong enough for many of the older TVs and DVI monitors.  I would suggest people use at least a 700mA power supply for the Pi (many USB power adaptors are only 500mA) and make sure their selected TV/monitor can cope with the low signal produced by the Pi.  I've tested about a dozen items; HP seems to have more difficulty, IBM and LG seem better.  But YMMV.
    I picked up an old wooden coffee table from TradMe (NZ version of eBay) to convert, for only $16 -- which was much better value to making my own table (and much better quality than my woodworking skills, too).  No images to post as yet as its still incomplete.
    If any people want a 2G SD image for the Pi holding everything necessary (MAME, menu system, ROMs...) then drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    I'm interested in using the i-pac as well. Did you get your project sorted out and gaming? Do you have an FTP or torrent for the Pi image file?



    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    There are links on the page for my own version of the instructable, including for the Raspi image and the ipac source.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Id love to see this with double joysticks and buttons to play 2 players, like in the real arcades. Play mortal combat or contra with a friend.


    4 years ago

    What did you use to program the RPi for the web browsing and email, also is this making it a computer, effectively? Great instructable!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I'd advise anyone building this to place the buttons closer together. That is way too much space.