Likely the most common DIY tutorial on the web (next to coffee tables made from pallets), here is my take on a properly sized arcade for the home. Building an arcade requires many steps, but it can also help with e-waste. Often the most costly part, the monitor, can be found for a few dollars or even free if you focus on some discarded technology. I have a habit of saving parts and pieces from discarded electronics. From salvaged ATX power supply fans or speakers removed from outdated surround sound sets these are all common components for discount arcade building. However the most common treasures are old PC monitors.
I present exhibit B, the 4:3 ratio 17" LCD monitor with CCFL backlighting. One of the most common monitors manufactured in the 2000's for desktop PCs and now even more common as e-waste destined for garbage. All the arcades pictured were built around discarded monitors of this type. Two of said monitors were different brands (HP and Dell), but luckily contained the exact same size (to the mm) TFT panels once you get past the plastic housing. Rescued from a yard sale, let's take this common landfill destined-item and build an arcade machine for 2-players. The design will feature a form factor for a tabletop and stay light enough for one person to move and transport.
Pro Tip: When designing any arcade cabinet, start with the monitor first. Decide on the monitor you are going to build around and design the cabinet around the monitor's proportions. Some build the cabinet first, knowing the cabinet is large enough to contain the monitor and cut the view window later, but we are taking a different approach; we are framing the monitor in the cabinet's design first.The first thing drawn is the LCD cutout window and the bezel that holds the TFT assembly, then I design the arcade cabinet around that foundation. In the next steps I demonstrate how I remove the monitor from its plastic housing and measure its dimensions. The arcade cabinet I build is influenced directly from the monitor's size. This keeps proportions aesthetically pleasing and helps the layout of the control panel work with the arcade's overall size. Another tip is to model in 3D before cutting. This way, we can verify all our finger joints line-up, and there is enough room to fit the rest of the electronics. And if the cabinet just looks like an arcade.
In this instructable I will build an arcade from start to finish including: cabinet design, creating graphics, sourcing materials, electronics/wiring, and setting-up RetroPie to build a two-player one-third sized desktop arcade cabinet.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
First, find a monitor. These 4:3 ratio LCD monitors are no longer available to consumers, but any landfill, goodwill, second hand store, and especially yard sales you will find them being given away. I got mine from a blue tarp during a neighborhood yard sale. The sign said "free" which is enough motivation to give this monitor a new life. This DVI/VGA monitor will be the focus of our arcade. If your city or town does annual e-waste drop off for tube TV's and electronics that require a fee to be disposed, those events can be a great opportunity to grab some monitors. Besure to contact the organizer if you plan to take, as these type of events are not for shopping, so be respectful and clear with your intentions.
I've built a few arcades with discarded monitors, and a free monitor is enough motivation to complete the build with only the cost of wood and and Raspberry Pi comprising most of the budget.
Materials + Supplies:
- Wood (one 1/4" 8x4ft sheet is enough)
- Acrylic, (two 1/16" 18x24in sheets, to cover our artwork and protect the control panel)
- 12V power supply
- Stereo Amplifier, 2 watt
- Sanwa Joystick (2x)
- Suzo Happ Arcade buttons (15x)
- Mid Range speakers (2x)
- Lots of wires
- Barrier strip
- Framing/strip wood (or any scrap wood cut into strips)
- Vinyl (white in this case)
- Paint, Body filler, Sandpaper, foam brush
- Nuts and Bolts (I like a non-permanent, modular design)
- Switch and AC Power plug
- HDMI to DVI cable
- Stereo Audio cable
- Raspberry Pi + SD card
- LCD monitor
- 12V LED strips
- Power supply fan (taken from a dead ATX PSU)
- Wood Glue
- Orbital Sander
- Laser Cutter, (or a jigsaw and many hours of your time)
- Printer (24" in size)
- Inkscape (or your choice for CAD)
- Drill, drill bits, countersink bit
- Clamps (lots). 24" wide is very helpful
- Wire Cutters,
- Wire strippers
- Soldering iron
- Printer (or a print shop)
The laser cutter can be a barrier of entry for anyone not near a makerspace. Sadly the maker space in my city closed (Bankruptcy) so I am feeling that pain too. However, options are alway there if you seek them. Sign shops, local Light Manufacturers, and online services can get your design cut.
Step 2: Build!
Watch the video as it covers the details of the build from design, assembly, wiring and setting up RetroPie. Estimated burden for total costs and time building as at the end of video.
The wiring diagram is also included here as some individuals might want to print it out to plan their arcade build.