Ikeakade - Hidden Arcade Cabinet




Welcome to Ikeakade! 99.5% Done!

As a child of the 80's, I've always had a place in my heart for these arcade games that I spent countless hours and quarters on. Some of my fondest memories include my generous dad taking me and my younger brother to the arcade, giving us a bunch of tokens, hanging out with us despite not really caring about video games, hanging out at the local liquor store playing karate champ and later the original big buttoned street fighter with other kids, and pretty much fainting when we first saw the number of machines at the Disneyland arcade back in the day. So for the past few years, I've totally wanted to build my own arcade cabinet but unfortunately my wife and I love the modern clean lines of the Ikea aesthetic as our small house is pretty much an Ikea showroom. When I approached her a few months ago about this, it was a quick "Heck no! Where would it fit in here? It would totally look out of place even if we had the room for it."

The design... I convinced her to allow me to build and put an arcade cabinet in our living room if I could hide it inside a really slim 11.5" deep Ikea billy bookcase that we had upstairs. I started working on the design using Autodesk Inventor. I figured that I would divide it up into two parts and put them on drawer slides so that they would extend out and make it look like a real arcade cabinet. The marquee and the monitor would make up the top part and the control panel would make up the bottom part.

It was at this point where I decided that I would play up the Ikea aesthetic using their blue and yellow color scheme and even the graphics that they used in their instruction manuals. Our black Ikea Billy bookcase is pretty nondescript from the outside and I wanted to contrast that with the hidden arcade machine that is bright, brash and perhaps even obnoxious with its lights and colors. And thus the Ikeakade was born.

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Step 1: Starting the Build...

My woodworking skills were rather poor and I lacked a table saw and a router. I borrowed a miter and jig saw from my brother and designed the cabinet on the computer in advance so that I could construct it with the fewest number of cuts. I had bought a multitool and a drill earlier in the year and I went ahead making the cuts. It was here that I learned about the wonders of the sanding attachment tool. I clamped the differently cut two side pieces together and started sanding away until they completely identical to each other. You literally can't tell how horrible my jig sawing abilities are. Another lesson that I learned was that despite the hardware store telling you that the a plank is 10" wide, it is actually only 9.25" wide. I counter sunk my screws using a slightly larger drill bit and filled them with wood putty.

Step 2: DIY Controllers...

Once I received my buttons, joysticks, and controller from Paradise Arcade, I built a test control panel quickly so I could figure out what bits and how big things actually are and to make sure all of the lights worked out. I also ordered a cheap 2" trackball from Sparkfun. Because it didn't come with any mounting materials, I took some ideas from the way that DaOldMan from arcadecontrols.com forums mounted his in his control panel. I highly recommend this because if you are doing an cabinet for the first time, its a lot easier getting the mistakes out of the way on the practice control panel. I also wanted two spinners on my control panel for games like Ivan Stewart's OffRoad or SuperSprint and after seeing the prices on them I went the DIY route.

I used some 5/16" threaded rod and fed them through a skateboard bearing that was sandwiched between two washers. I JB welded it all together. The washers allow the center part of the skateboard bearing to spin freely. I then used a fostner bit to route out a hole on the bottom side of the control panel, big enough for the washer in diameter but not enough for its depth so it sticks out a little bit. I then drilled a hole in the center of that for the threaded rod. I had to make sure that it was big enough for the center part of the skateboard bearing to spin freely. I then took a mending plate that was holes in it, bent it into a L, drilled a hole big enough for the threaded rod and screwed the mending into the bottom of the control panel. The mending plate bends a little and keeps the washer bearing sandwich in place. I used nuts, plastic washers, and metal washers to hold the threaded rod in place and give the rod some momentum when spun. For the top, I found a 1-1/2" PVC cap (who knew it is actually over 2" in diameter), JB welded a coupling nut in the middle of it, painted it yellow, and screwed it in to the top. The hard part was making sure the coupling nut was lined up in the center. I wasn't able to get it perfectly lined up so when I spin it, it wobbles a bit. Maybe I'll try again in the future. After reading online, I noticed everybody was using rollerball mice in their DIY setups. I wondered if I could go the optical route, so I flipped the mouse over and had the laser pointed at the nut and noticed that the computer was able to translate this data into a certain axis. I then used a piece of wood to mount the mouse pcb, hot glued the clear plastic piece that the laser shoots through, and adjusted where the laser was pointing at on the spinning nut at the bottom until I got some smooth motion on the computer.

Besides the slight wobble when it spins, the only other issue is that is spins too good and if you accidentally bump it, it will spin for a bit.

Step 3: Control Panel Layout and Graphics...

I then took my Lexan, borrowed a bunch of clamps from work, printed out my control panel layout, taped that on real good, and then got some 1", 1-1/8" and 1-3/8" forstner bits to cut the holes for the buttons. Unfortunately, I didn't have a hole saw with the right diameter for the trackball so I had to cut the hole using the next largest size. It works fine, but there is a 1/8" space between the ball and the sides of the hole. It bugs me a little bit, but I think I've gotten over it as I get closer to the end of the project. I then made a printout from Costco using their poster making services and put that under the Lexan with the holes drilled out. I used a sharp xacto knife that my wife uses for her scrapbooking to cut out the holes on the printout. Make sure you tape it up good with some painters tape so that nothing moves. For my control panel graphics, I found a website that would "Ikea-ify" words and put the names of video games that I grew up with e.g. Donkey Kong became Dankki Kanng, Space Invaders became Spass Insvadders etc.

Because I didn't have router, I used my multitool with a plunge cutter to cut the slots for the T moulding. I simply drew a line of where the slot needed to be and with the correct thickness and then proceeded to cut it as straight as I could. I cut off a piece of the T moulding and tested as I went along. I'm glad I did that because some of my slots were too thin and required some extra cutting. In the end, its not perfectly straight but I thought it was a pretty decent job.I then covered the front faces of the control panel with Lexan that had been spray painted blue on the other side. Once you removed the protective tape on the other side, you get a nice glossy look that looked really professional. I sprayed painted some screws and then mounted the Lexan onto the control panel.Here's the final version. Next time, I need to remember that the T molding has a tough time making 90 degree turns. Some of it doesn't fit totally flush around that bend.

Step 4: Painting and Marquee

Yikes! After lurking on these forums for a while, I had the choice between spraying it and hand rolling it. Since I didn't have a compressor or sprayer, I thought that having to buy a bunch of spray paint cans would be very costly. I ended up ordering some Kansas Jayhawk blue laytex Gliden paint from Home Depot. I put down some Kliz primer and then sanded and sanded some more. I then put down some paint using some 1/4 nap rollers thinking it would give me a smooth finish. No matter how many coats I put on, and how much I sanded I could never get the brushless consistency that I wanted. I even bought the expensive microfiber rollers thinking that would solve my problems. I tried wetsanding with latex but I just couldn't get it to look right. I used a wide variety of different grit sandpaper as suggested by people on the forums but to no avail. Luckily for me, most of the painted areas are hidden by the Ikea bookcase so my poor paint job wouldn't be too noticeable. The next time I do this, I think I'm gonna bite the bullet and just go down the spray paint can route.

The marquee is attached using some aluminum L brackets that are sprayed painted yellow. I then took some metal sheet screws, sprayed painted their heads yellow, and screwed them into the L bracket. The marquee is a poster print (which I think is on photo paper) from Costco. The nice thing about it is that the back of the photo paper doesn't have anything printed on it so you don't get any dark blotches when you shine light through them. It is sandwiched between 2 acrylic panels. I then got a 5 meter strand of led strips, attached them to a thin piece of mounting board (the one with all those little holes) and hooked it up to the 12V of the power supply. I learned that the sticky tape doesn't hold up well to the mounting board and it kept coming off. I've got my fingers crossed about the large amount of hot glue I layed down to keeping the strips from coming off. I attached some small L brackets on the light board and screwed in some metal mending strips in the cabinet and put one of those ridiculously strong magnets in between. This allowed me to play with how far the light strip board was from the marquee so that you don't get those hot spots from the individual leds and also lets me quickly take out the light strip board and access the computer that is behind it.

Step 5: Speakers and Computer Motherboard

I then used my hole saw to cut 3" holes for the speakers I took from a pair of computer speakers. My poor 12V drill would overheat so it took forever to cut these two holes. The speakers didn't have any holes for mounting so I simply hot glued them to the cabinet. I then bought on ebay some metal speaker covers and I sprayed painted them yellow and attached them on the bottom. While browsing ebay, I came on some yellow EL wire that seemed reasonably priced and it came with a box that flashes the wire when detects sound. I wrapped the EL wire in several loops and stuck them above the speaker. It makes the speakers flash as sound is being played through them. I also installed a door pull I got from Home Depot so I could pull the top cabinet forward and extend it out of the cabinet.

I went with a 2GB i3 540 system that I had lying around. Its overkill for a Windows XP mame machine but I thought I might want to run the graphics intensive Pinball FX someday so it was a good fit. I installed the computer motherboard using some mounting standoffs that I screwed and hot glued into the wood. I installed a smaller power supply that I had left over my HTPC. Luckly it had some mounting holes so that I could screw it into the cabinet. With the hard drive I used some industrial strength Velcro to affix it to the power supply. Plastic tie downs everywhere to somewhat organize the cabling!

Step 6: Drawer Slides and Magnetic Latches

After painting and installing the drawer slides, I put them in and the control panel and monitor piece seemed to slide in and out find. However, I quickly noticed that the special "lock in and lock out" drawer slides I searched high and low for weren't up to the task of steadying the control panel during play. I ended up using those cabinet door magnets to help lock each of pieces in places whether they are out or in.

On one "play testing" session of Street Fighter as Guile, I tried to execute a flash kick which is pressing kick and pushing the joystick upward at the same time. This jerked the control panel pretty hard and the control panel "disconnected" from the magnets and slid backwards. For 99.9% of the time, this inelegant solution has held up. I wonder if magnets get weaker after time and that this disconnection would occur more and more. Should I evaluate a much stronger option? Perhaps an electromagnet solution?

Step 7: Monitor

The next thing I did was to install the monitor. I was orginally going to use the 4:3 17" lcd monitor that I had laying around but after really looking at it, I thought it was much too small for proper gaming. Luckily the week I searched ebay, I found a 21" 4:3 monitor that would fit the cabinet and for a reasonable $60 shipped. It had VESA mounts on the back so I took a board, drilled some holes for metric bolts, and then mounted it to the top unit at an angle. I then used some metal tie downs to keep the gigantic power brick in place.

Step 8: Plastic or Glass Screen

After looking at online prices of Lexan and Acrylic and also at Home Depot and Lowes, I decided that the online route even with shipping was pretty comparative. I eventually ordered from Tap plastics and had them cut the pieces to size. I ended up ordering 1/8" sized Acrylic for everything except fot the control panel in which I ordered 1/8" Lexan. I read all the horror stories of cutting Acrylic so I figured the extra scratchabilty aspect of Lexan was worth it for the control panel. One thing that I was glad to read somewhere on this site was that there was an arcade buidler that sandwiched 1/8" clear with 1/8" solar grey acrylic for the front "glass." I spray painted the back of the solar grey black for the "bezel" and then I was able to slide in between an instruction card for a professional look. So I highly recommend Tap Plastic, their prices are online and reasonable, the order was quickly fulfilled and shipped out to my workplace (for some reason shipping to business rather than residential is cheaper). As many of the builders on the site attest, the smoked glass with the spray painted bezel makes a big difference especially to make that screen seem like its floating in midair and to hide the monitor when its off. The only thing about acrylic that everybody complains about that is completely true is that it is a dust magnet. I looked for a place to get smoked glass cut around where I live but it was to no avail. The one place that a lot of builders use, www.onedayglass.com was a little pricer than the acrylic to get it shipped to my location.

Step 9: Automation?

So far so good with the project. The only hiccup was my attempt to make this build automated by having the control panel and monitor cabinet slide out by themselves. I only had to make the top monitor cabinet slide out 4 inches and the control panel 11 inches. Doesn't sound too bad right. However, because I might need to take the control panel and the monitor cabinet out eventually if we ever moved the arcade cabinet, I needed a solution that could be detached and reattached quickly or that was an all-in-one self contained unit. I also only have an 1/2" between the sides of the bookshelf and the control panel and monitor cabinet due to them being on the drawer rails. So that eliminated the pulley and wheel option. I looked into buying or making a linear actuator. Besides the cost, linear actuators are rather slow and that to move something 11 inches, the linear actuator would be much greater than 11 inches, which is greater than the depth of the Ikea bookshelf that I'm working with.

So I ended up using the turning wheel idea that a lot of you have used for the rotating monitor. I mounted a wheel and motor to the screen door hinge and then mounted inside the top monitor cabinet horizontally which I got the idea from the photo above. So as the wheel turned it would push against the inside of the Ikea cabinet, and thus move the monitor cabinet forward and back on the drawer slide. The problem was that I was never able to get enough traction for the wheel and it kept spinning but not always pulling. I ever put some really grippy traction tape under it but I was never able to get smooth, consistent movement with it. So for now, I'm resigned to the idea of having to pull the top monitor cabinet and control panel out by hand.

Step 10: Wiring...

I've spent the last few days, extending all the wires and making sure that there is enough slack but not too much slack so that when the parts move in and out that they get caught in something. I've thought about using a server rack arm but I don't have enough room in the bookshelf to put one of those in there. The solution that I ended up with was to use those retractable key chains that I bought at the dollar store. So when the control panel goes out, the key chain will extend out and when it goes back in, the key chain will make sure the cable goes back to the right spot so it doesn't get caught in anything. I bought myself one of those Smart Strips and they work great after turning the adjustment dial a little. My power button is wired up to the motherboard. When I turn on the computer, the marquee that is wired directly to the 12V of the power supply turns on, and the USB computer speakers turn on. Then the strip will power on the monitor and the lights of the control panel.

I then cut the end of the Smart Strip and wired it to the back end of a power plug that allows access from the outside of the bookshelf. I still need to find a solution to make sure our kid when getting something out of the bookshelf doesn't accidentally detach the wiring from the insulated crimps and hurt himself.

I also bought a 15 feet yellow led strip that is connected to a box I got on ebay that flashes whenever it hears a sound above a certain threshold. I put this strip in between the sliding monitor and the cabinet and on the bottom of the sliding control panel. As the speakers play the sounds of the game, the cabinet flashes along. No seizures induced yet so I think they'll stay!

Step 11: Gameex Frontend and Putting It All Together

I eventually went with the Gameex front end as my custom "Ikea-fied" menus were fairly easy to setup. I really wanted Hyperspin and gave it a go but the inability to update a game list within the program gave the nod to Gameex. I've hidden Windows XP with a custom bootup screen and it automatically boots into Gameex.

So after extending all the wires, what a pain in the a** that was, it was finally time to put in the top monitor piece and the control panel into the bookshelf. For the most part, it slid in pretty well except that part of the top of the control panel was rubbing against the T molding that wrapped along the bottom of the monitor part. I forgot to include the depth of the T-molding in my calculations. I ended up taking the slides for the control panel out and reinstalling them a little lower to give in enough clearance.

Step 12: Doors

I bought two Ikea Billy doors to attach to the front of the bookshelf to hide the cabinet. When I got them home, for some reason, they were too tall and too wide. Perhaps, my bookshelf isn't an Ikea bookshelf or they changed the size of them since we got the bookshelf many years ago. I had to take these doors apart, cut them done to the right size and then put them back together again. Since Ikea products generally are not supposed to be taken apart and hacked, the doors ended up being very flimsy since they are held together by dowels and glue. I ended up having to screw in some mending plates to make them a little more sturdier. Luckily the fine folks at Rockler got me the right hinges and they mounted fine without any issue. I then got some of those magnetic press to open door latches for a nice clean look from the outside.

Step 13: Updates: 6/11/2015

Since I last posted this instructable I have added an led marquee and some sound activated led strips.

The led marquee is made of a 5M strip of ws2812b leds cut up and wired together into a 38 X 9 matrix. Using an Arduino Leonardo, I used an array in the sketch to "draw" each frame of the animation with the Neopixels library.

The marquee is actually yellow and blue to match the Ikea aesthetic but the leds are bright enough to washout the colors when I filmed it.

I'll post my awfully programmed sketch for all to ridicule in the near future in another instructable.

I also have some yellow led strips that flash whenever there is a loud noise from a particular game. I installed them in the body of the cabinet and on the underside of the control panel to add some additional flair to the machine.

I just want to thank everyone on this forum for all of their helpful tips and the time they put in to documenting their builds. They have been an immense help in fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine.

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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I'd definitely pay you for this bro. Amazing.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi! My Husband also grew up going to the arcade with his brother and Dad all the time. I would LOVE to make him something like this for a Christmas gift, but honestly I don't really know too much about how to complete the computer components. Is this something that requires a lot of computer know how?

    Also, do you have a guesstimate of the cost for this project?

    I am pretty confident in my ability to build the cabinet the painting, and those parts, but I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to hardware, or programming.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I would say that with everything it probably came to out to $600 or so. However, I had the computer parts already. Most of the cost came from the control panel (joysticks, buttons, trackball), the plexiglass which I had cut for me, and finding the right drawer slides for the project (I went through a few of them).

    If you didn't need a custom front end, I would probably use a Raspberry Pi to power it. There are many instructables of people using it for this purpose.

    Good luck!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I'm loving this idea, I have an arcade machine that really over powers our dining room. this is going to be the perfect solution.

    Many thanks for sharing, did you find a better solution for locking the control panel in place?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    No not yet. Still holding out for an automated solution that could possibly be the answer to both problems. Thanks for looking!


    4 years ago

    Herculean effort! Great job! :)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Looks really great well done.
    Some photos of the build in the first step would be awesome too, to catch more peoples attention


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I like this a lot! Where did you get your panel mount USB plugs? I have been looking forever and can't find any that I like. Great Project! It's got my two thumbs up.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    Try Amazon.com, I was looking for that yesterday and found quite a few...


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome idea and build quality. Thumbs up! You should consider submitting this instructable to a contest, in case a suitable one comes up.