Sunday 30 September 2012

Day 9 - Spiritual Enlightenment

Today I got my calling. It's fine cabinet making, and all I need now is some kind of ability.

At the end of the day I have all the batons on and bar the odd half-millimetre in two of the batons, both of the sides match up. It's only the alignment that counts not whether the batons are the same length.

Just a quick description. The top three pieces (2,3,4) constitute the marquee, 12 (yes, one is missing - it was tea time) is the speaker panel, 13 is the screen/bezel, 11 is the mount for the TV, 9 and 12 is the control panel (and possibly a shelf for a monitor stand - the gap being where the panel will lift out as the hinge will be at the front), 8 and 14 are part of the control panel (more later), 7 and 15 the kick-plate with a gap for a drawer.

It's really quite pleasurable spending a day being anal and meticulously following your own little rules, tinkering with wood then seeing the results unfold. That is what the enlightenment I mentioned at the start was about.

The rules were to measure multiple times, cross-reference where necessary (i.e. especially doing the second half), secure everything and take it slowly. This is the very first piece, and while it's the back panel that nobody sees, I tried to be millimetre perfect.

First up, I made sure my screws were the right size and set the depth of the drill bit (it's 1mm narrower than the screw - 4.0 x 35mm.

Then I created a little measuring device which is half the width and half the depth of the baton to make it quick and easy to space and positions things.

 I also made use of my countersink bit (for the first time in 10 years), and I don't know why I never used it before - drill the hole, create countersink, screw. Perfect flat, unsplit result every time :)

In the finished picture I've made a (deliberate) mistake in that I'm putting in a door at the back so the rear vertical baton on one side needs cutting to make way for the hinges.

Notice I'm screwing into the batons, this is to not have holes on the facing side for my crap filling ability to spoil it - and to avoid having to fill in the first place. I never went past torque level 2 on the screw driver for anything and this meant the screws never went too far in and stopped dead flush.

If you recall from Day 1 or something, I got the three pieces of MDF pre-cut to 730mm wide for two (the sides) and 660mm wide for one (the middle). Measuring up I can fit the back panel, kickplate and drawer from this perfectly sized piece. The other 'off-cuts' will do the rest - I'll just cut 660mm off each one then cut to the right height.

Once I'm happy, the screws will be off for gluing the batons.

Getting the plans is just the start really, you've got to tinker and make adjustments for your kit as you go along, the prime example being the monitor and bezel positions. I'm thinking now of some marvellous Heath Robinson device to rotate the monitor as if I leave it on it's stand (rather than mount it) it can do this (some kind of lever at the back of the cabinet attached to a rod connected to a clamp on the monitor) ;)

This is where I came across my first problem - I'm planning on using 18mm aluminium right-angled quadrant to hide the edges, make the marquee retainer and generally look nice. However the perspex on the control panel will probably be 3mm meaning the bottom 3mm of the MDF will show and as the control panel surround is angled it won't fit properly. The design is as follows (which may or may not work):

The idea is to make the facing panel removable with dowels or those metal expandable clip things with rollers on (forgot name), which then allows access to flip a simple wooden lock allowing the control panel to flip open hinged at the front. This allows the aluminium edges to fit nicely and the location allows the glass to fit nicely too.

Obviously you've got to think in 3D for the location of the wooden lock and hinge. Needless to say, this will have to be verified by Harry the Builder.

Oh, and I'm going for (cost permitting) slightly smoked tempered 4mm safety glass not perspex on the assumption it'll be cheaper and look nicer and won't require screwing.

Now, onto cabinet designs. I decided my vinyl sticking skills will no doubt be rubbish so I'm not going for a full size side art and instead a nice piece of art. This means the cabinet will have to be coloured. Here are the colours (kind of Neo-Geo red, donkey kong blue, a racing green and a darker blue), which I knocked up in a few minutes with Google Sketchup:

The votes were in (friends and family) and the unanimous winner was red. Though I may make it darker that Neo-Geo/SNK red and if I spray it possibly a metallic.

For the side-panel art I thought of the following choices:

From left to right they are Varkon (the blue should be red), the thing from Space-Invaders (yellow to be changed to whatever colours are on cabinet), Rolling Thunder and a Pac-Man insired art (the 4 ghosts and a bottle of pills -I added the blue outline to represent the maze edge).

Now I thought The pac-man picture was perfect, but everyone else seems to think the thing from Space-Invaders, despite it being done to death on a million cabinets....

I suppose if I went for the space invader thing then at the bottom of the sides I could put a few bases.

For the kick-panel, it'll be plain black but I'm thinking of putting a couple of tiny little randomly rotated sprites on, e.g.

That's about it really for this blog. If anyone's reading while I'm posting (doubtful) leave a comment with your preference to the art.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Day 8 - Router Bit Hell

I've spent nigh on a week searching and searching trying to firstly find someone selling a 1/16th of an inch router bit (about 1.5mm) to cut my 3/4 inch (18mm) MDF, and secondly someone selling it as one piece (otherwise you need the bit, the arbor, spacers and bearings).

Cheapest I've found is £27. Which is quite scandalous given it's under a tenner in the USA and you can buy a box of 20 bits for not much more.

So, I gave up and visited T-Molding website. There I can get the 20 foot of T-Molding required plus the router bit for £47. The T-Molding is half the price of gremlin arcade parts. So add the two together and it's £47 - saving about £15 on UK price.

Not only that (assuming it arrives), but there's a massive choice of colours :)

I'm taken by this one:

It's black with a chrome insert. Just got to see what colour I'm doing the rest of the cabinet...

Hope this helps anyone reading this thinking of building a cabinet.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Day 7 Finished Drawings

Just an hour again today, it is a work day after all.

Having drawn all the lines for where the wood will go for the marquee, control panel, monitor, etc (and therefore where to place the batons to hold the wood) on the first side of the cabinet, I meticulously wrote them all down for the plans.

With these numbers (and my other half matching almost exactly, but mirrored), I drew the lines on this.

Now, one way to check is to extend the lines fully across and line each half up beside each other and the lines should match exactly. This is what I mean, if you look closely you can see the lines matching. The first picture is a close up of the marquee, speaker and monitor.  The second is the control panel. The photos aren't great quality (done on my tablet) but they are just to show the meeting of the two cabinet sides).

On the second I artificially extended the lines to the edge of the board for this purpose of checking.

 It was here that I discovered that drawing by measuring isn't exactly perfect ;)

While the marquee matched perfectly, the control panel seemed out at the far edge (lucky I drew these lines really).
I guess it was just slightly off and exaggerated through the length of the line, but you don't really want a control panel that isn't straight.

To fix it (and really the proper way of doing it), is I marked on the edge of the originally drawn side, put both sides together and drew across with a T-square so that even if the cuts were out they would still line up squarely when put together.

This is what I mean, and with that job done, the next day I can screw on the batons (no glue yet). I'm planning on screwing from the inside and hope this is ok as normally you'd screw from the outside, but I'm hoping that given I'm gluing the batons and the screws are only a millimeter or two short it should be fine.

On reading, I'm thinking that really what I should have done is not bothered with the batons for the majority of the joins as the MDF is quite thick, and instead I should have just bought confirmat screws.

Apparently these have deeper threads making them idea for particle boards, as seen.

Today I got REALLY excited after browsing the internet for random arcade cabinet stuff ;)

I found that printing services are really quite cheap. At, a full colour side art on self-adhesive vinyl is only £25. The marquee on backlit paper, control panel and any other (kick-panel, etc) is about £15 each.

The only worry is whether I can put the sticky vinyl on as it looks quite hard and one crease and it's knackered. You can do it the 'wet' way (by using water spray so you can move the paper around and leave it to dry in it's own time) but people seem to not think highly of this approach. The other is just to get a normal poster printed in the same size and use some kind of contact spray glue.

Day 6 Shapes and Batons

Not much done today. Spent 30 minutes in the morning rounding the corners. Found a suitable circle (a spray can top) and jigsawed the curves from the control panel and marquee. After sanding, I drew round the curves onto the other side and repeated.

I was out shopping on the weekend and thought I'd see what I could use to retain the marquee and screen. I was going to just use some kind of quadrant, but then saw you can get 18mm right angled quadrants, which means for the marquee you just fix them with a gap and the marquee slips in nicely.

I then saw you can get aluminium ones (fairly cheap too) and so the plan now (unless it looks garish) is to use these aluminium right-angled quadrants for the marquee and to finish off the edge of the control panel, and maybe anywhere else.

So I figured maybe T-Molding is a good idea and I can use chrome molding. But, welcome to rip-off Britain. I searched online for a slotted router bit to put some grooves in to fit T-Molding and the prices ranged from £30 to £80. In America the bit is £9. Rounding and painting the edge chrome/silver will probably look crap so I'll see if I can find a wood shop who'll do it for a tenner or something.

You'd think the likes of arcade supply websites (e.g. gremline arcade controls) or even arcade forums (e.g. would have somebody selling these cheap.....

Sunday 23 September 2012

Day 5 Drawing and Pondering

Half the day was spent at the pictures watching Paranorman, so only a small amount of time was allowed for today.

In brief I drew round the cabinet for the baton placements, drew the likely monitor placement using the family as pretend game players and did research into button layouts, positions, etc.

The website SlagCoin (great name) has so much information it's just unreal. Anyway I settled on a standard six button layout with offset first column buttons (I hope they don't mind me embedding their picture).

I decided that a door would be most agreeable to provide easy access (well, I always did from the beginning) but I'm now putting it at the back to make the front look nicer. Given the side panels are the deepest points of the whole cabinet (the rest fits inside leaving a lip) the door has to be inside.

Armed with a few spare kitchen hinges this is what I came up with as the solution.

In order to fit inside you need to double up the hinge mount on the inside of the door and as it happens the same 18mm MDF seems to fit nicely. The hole for the hinge (33mm diameter if I recall) was done using a router, otherwise using a drill bit (assuming I had one the right size) would probably puncture a hole through the other side. Imagine the doubled up wood is the left/right cabinet side and the wood with the drawing on it is the back where the door opens.

When drawing round to see where the batons went I decided to leave a 18mm lip around the front visible areas and round the top/back just a few millimetres to give as much space as possible inside and for the marquee. I fear I've not made the marquee big enough and probably should have taken 50mm from the height of the screen and increased the marquee by this much. Similarly I should really should use thinner MDF for the marquee and speaker housing toincrease height but I'm going to use what I've got and probably regret it later.

I've spent a few hours pondering and placing the monitor and decided that I need to compromise between size of control panel, height of monitor and space for the speakers.

I think what will happen is the control panel will be longer than I expected (14 inches,  35cm), the monitor slightly too low and too far back and not really enough space for speakers, but we'll see. I'll set out the control panel layout tonight to check the size length. This isn't an issue as I can always chop off an inch from the front.

The problem is when you extend a line from where the control panel fits (zoom in on the drawing and you'll see it) you need to intersect that with the monitor line and doing so produced a really large control panel or a really high monitor bezel. One solution is to add an angled cover to make up and maybe mount some buttons (like the picture to the right). However I don't really like it.

The image to the left is much more in keeping with what I had in mind and so I had to tweak things until I got it right. Curiously the cabinet below (Zombie Cabinet) is 660mm wide and 320mm deep and they've managed to fit a trackball and spinner, so when I draw mine up I'll see if it'll fit (though those two will cost upwards of £120 so it's out of this year's budget) and if they do I'll buy the I-Pac controller that supports trackball/spinners.

Tonight's job is to draw the panel layout to see if the depth is looking daft and/or can fit a trackball comfortably and figure out if I can fit my pc speakers, or whether I want to buy a subwoofer. Round car speakers look the best I think but PC speakers are usually rectangular. I think maybe what I'll do is fit the speakers inside the cabinet and create a hole big enough for the sound to go through and cover with round car speaker grills. I'll just have to remove the volume/bass/treble, extend the wire and locate the volume somewhere unobtrusive and easy to fine like beneath the control panel. Though I've no idea whether the knobs will travel (i.e. if the components to make the knob rotate are part of the speakers).

Saturday 22 September 2012

Day 4 Second the Best

I went to my  local electrical wholesaler and bought 3 metres of flex and a fluorescent tube (14watt) with diffuser. Cost about £12 for both.

I'm undecided whether to keep it or not. The cabinet will be 66cm wide and the tube is 62. Add the flex and it's just big enough. I need to do some searching as I'm wondering what size tube every one else uses to light up the marquee. The only other size they had was 30cm, which would be neater and cheaper but will be light up the whole space without shadows?

Anyway,  traced round the first side and cut round the wood using my straight edges, etc. The end result (for me anyway) was quite remarkable.

They were perfectly sized bar half a millimetre in a few spots, which was fixed with a quick blast with the belt sander.

While I was out I almost had a heart attack. I reckon I need about 130cm by 66cm by 3mm of perspex (plexiglas, acrylic sheet whatever you want to call it) but had to get back so I tried Wickes (think B&Q but pretending to be high quality, low priced and a cross between B&Q and a builders yard - however the result is really a rather expensive shop full of stuff you can get cheaper anywhere else) on the way home.

At Wickes the price for a 1.m by 60cm was £20 and the next size up was £30. Think I'll be going to the builders merchant on Monday.

Friday 21 September 2012

Day 3 The first Cut

I discovered a flaw in using jigsaws. When you cut curves, no matter how slow you go you end up with a slight camber, i.e. the profile is not straight and you end up with one side of the cut higher than the other. This is probably due to slight pressure on the jigsaw or the blade not being rigid.

Anyway, I found this out with testing and it usually affected tight curves. One solution is to leave a millimetre or two spare then finish it off with a router. This was quite successful but relies on no guides for the router.

Luckily Harry the Builder came round and came up with another solution. Using a straight edge (e.g. this is me with my square) put the handle tight on the high side, angle it back slightly and scrape. The finish is smooth and the edge is now nice and straight :)

If you look carefully at the picture you can see a little bit of daylight on the left of the square. For the marquee the camber was more pronounced so I sanded it a little then repeated the above procedure.

So I set about cutting out the first side and it was fairly successful. For all the straight edges I clamped a straight edge to guide the jigsaw, then removed for the curves.

There were a few issues, mainly on the curve beneath the marquee I just didn't make the curve (due to the angle I had to put myself in to get round), so I adjust the marquee and top slightly to make up and it's ok.

Remember to check out my MAME Cabinet Plans for the detailed instructions. Hopefully tomorrow the other side will be cut.

The plan is draw round this one to ensure both sides are equal, then measure out on the inside of each where the baton will go to hold the rest of the cabinet. After this the edges will be rounded (I'm not using T-Molding).

Monday 17 September 2012

Day 2: Drawn

Taking the drawing from Project Mame I resized it to 730mm deep and 1850mm high. This was to give it a bit more height and more hand space on the control panel.

I also felt the height to the control panel was a bit low, so after a bit of investigation ( I found the Konami cabinets of the late 80's/90's (e.g. Bucky O'Hare) were a nice shape and size and so increased my cabinet by about 4cm to between 93cm (front) and 96cm (back) giving a rise of between 3 and 4cm.
After remembering how to dissect a line/angle I set about drawing the cabinet, and now I have the new measurements I'll publish them on my MAME cabinet page when done.

So, that concludes a couple of hours work for day 2. What's to do now is cut it out, trace it and repeat.

Not quite certain yet whether I'll be using the router or the jigsaw to do the curves.

Anyway, here's the full side panel (click to enlarge) and you can find (when it's finished) the cabinet making instructions in my MAME cabinet plans section.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Day 1: I Have Wood

The building of the cabinet can be found in my MAME page on the side bar (MAME Cabinet Build).

So I have the wood, screws and glue for my cabinet shell. Here's the lovely workshop and would be home for the cabinet, it's going roughly to the left of the odd looking wooden box on the wall, where the red bucket is.

If there's one kind of shop I cannot stand it's those that preach daily in the adverts that they are cheap when in reality they are quite the opposite. The theory, I guess, is if you tell people often enough they'll eventually believe it.

One case is B&Q. I've never been in there once and found something cheaper elsewhere, including little tiny DIY shops with no bulk buying power. For example, a pack of 100 4x35mm screws will cost you about £6. Go to the trade counter and it's £2.15 for 200. That's a markup on trade of 600%. Pop along to Screwfix and do you know what the price is? £2.15. Screwfix and B&Q are the same shop

Obviously the reason is convenience, just don't believe the adverts. You want hardware? go to a builders merchant (or Screwfix or even your local DIY corner shop), you want wood go to a timber yard. They aren't scary. The other way, of course, is create yourself a headed logo, take it to B&Q and open a trade account. Just don't pay the price at B&Q. Homebase, etc. are all the same.

Anyway, check my cabinet build in the link above, I'm off for a night in with the lads (beer, curry, board games and poker).

Day 1  

The MAME cabinet project begins.

So, approximately 6 years in procrastination mode I've started my MAME cabinet. When I say started, I've started a blog.

Six years ago I had grand plans for a lovely curvy affair in black and purple (I'll see if I can hunt the designs down), but after countless DIY exercises showing my abilities are less than stellar I've decided that was just a concept, I'm going for a slightly customised off-the-shelf affair with more straight lines :)

It's going to be based on Project Mame 2-player upright.
Of course, it won't be anywhere near as good as these :)

When I say 'based on' it's simply this design but bigger. Your average cabinet is about 180cm (6 foot) high and 66cm wide (about 2 foot) for the control panel excluding width for side panels and about 70-80cm deep (about 2.5 feet). This cabinet is narrower, shallower and lower.

My thoughts are the result will be slightly cramped layout for two player games and the player's head will be too high. I'm planning on about 180x66x72.

Day 1 Schedule

I'll be getting wood.

Three pieces of 8x4 (feet) 3/4inch MDF. Metric doesn't exactly work out like this and it's 2440x1200x18mm. The wood is costing about £15 per sheet (from most places, obviously avoid B&Q unless you have a trade card - top tip: make yourself a header sheet on your printer, take it into B&Q and open a trade account. You'll get most things you need at 'normal' prices.

Don't get 15mm, you can't drill into it, it warps and it's just not good enough. Worried about the weight? well, its an arcade cabinet and you won't be taking it round your mates every week that's for sure. It'll be in one place.

Real life pictures to follow.

Note: this won't be a 'doing stuff' every day job, it's going to take months I imagine.

More detailed plans in a sequential and ordered fashion will appear in my pages.
The MAME Project Page