Mame Arcade Cabinet. part 4

me:  I could technically stick to my plan tonight

 Sent at 17:58 on Friday
Andrew:  and your plan is? drink lots of beer, balance monitor on crate, play galaxians?

This was an extract from a conversation I had earlier. I had planed on having a working machine by this weekend but like all good projects, its run on a bit. I blame the weather and my decision to build this in December/January as its too dark and too cold to work on the cab in the evenings, making it a weekend project.

As in the above, I could wire it all up and play a few games right now albeit on a monitor balancing on some frame work and the motherboard dangling by wires from the inside of the cab. But no, Im not going to insert the 1st coin (so to speak) until its ready. So close yet so far.

This part deals with the finishing off the cab by adding the electronics and the fitting of the components such as the controls, monitor, PC and all the other auxilary parts.

Building and fitting the control panel

With the control panels cut and drilled I could get on with wiring in the buttons and sticks. Should be a nice job, a change from all that woodworking.


Well, after 1 1/2 hours of soldering I had the 1st panel done. It was a lot of work to be honest, the hardest part was soldering the wires to the gamepad as some of the connection points were tiny and was hard to get a good joint. But eventually it was done however it's all a bit fragile.

You too could have one like this after 5 hours of effort

This done I got on with the 2nd panel and the control strip that has the player select and auxilary buttons. The control strip is connected to the keyboard interface but was the same process and soon enough all 3 panels are done and connected up to the pc for testing. One or 2 wires snapped off or werent soldered correctly so a few repair jobs were required but was soon fully functional.

No one will see that!

It was then on to fitting to the cab, where I found the 1st problem. The auxilary strip didnt fit! The buttons are held in place with screw rings which were too wide for the gap between the framing. I had to mark out the button positions and chisel out the sides to allow but didn't take long and soon the panel fitted nicely. Next was to fit the control panels and screw everthing down. The effort spent on the accuracy of making the panels paid off as they all went together nice and smooth and flush.

Ready to play

Adding the monitor stand

With the control panel in place I can add the monitor stand. To be honest I've been dreading this bit. But turned out pretty easy.

I've got a 17" CRT to put in here but have been on the lookout for a 19". I can always swap it out later but I might as well get one now if I can. Missed out on a few on ebay for 99p as they are all collect and none were near enough so just went ahead with the 17".

Got quite lucky here as the lower top panel was just cut to a random length and stuck in and I drew a line from the back of the control panel to the back of the top panel for the screen. I can attach the top of the plexiglass to the back of the top panel and the bottom to the back of the control panel and the angle came out just right. So I marked out the monitor stand at 90 degrees, added some frame work to support it and put in a piece of mdf that was left over from the cutting out of the rest of the cab and again, was just right.

The perfect screen angle

One problem and it was the problem I was cautious about from the start. The monitor doesn't fit! I don't know how many times I've measured it and planned it out on the computer but no, the monitor overhangs the back by about an inch.

The perfect screen angle

Theres only one thing for it now and thats to cut a hole in the back panel to accomodate it. Im not worrying about it now, it's too late to do anything else.

I trimmed the front of the monitor stand so it would sit closer to the control panel and screwed it down. And that was that.

No one will notice that..

Powering up the cab

With the monitor in I had to hook it all up and try it out. I added a simple shelf inside the cab and screwed the motherboard to it and velcroed in the rest of the bits. To start, I plugged in the keyboard and mouse and powered it all up. Amazingly it boots up. and seems to be working ok.

The heart of the machine

The 1st snag, it keeps shutting down after a few minutes. Cooling was one of my fears, so I took a look inside and found that a wood shaving had lodged it inside the fan! This removed is was running nicely so I switched the keyboard with the real controls.

2nd snag, some buttons are not working. It was going to be a bad solder joint or a broken connection and a quick look inside revealed just that. One or two wires had broken off and so were resoldered back on. Finally, with fingers crossed I booted up, yet again. It's working brilliantly. A quick go on a few games and all is well.

To be honest, I couldn't quite beleive it. Seeing it there after all this was quite emotional and spiritual and I imediately launched a game of Virtua Fighter and tested out all the controls.

work continues..

After I had the cab working I must admit, work stopped and I spent most of the time playing. I don't know how I managed all this time without one but having your own arcade machine in the house is simply brilliant! Just being able to come home from work and de-stress on a game of defender or something, theres nothing like it.

The crisps and beer won't be part of the finished product

The next thing I had to do was get the speakers installed. I removed the lower top panel and cut some holes for the speakers and controls. A bit of fancy woodworking required to cut the neccesary recesses but was quite straight forward. A hole for the PC on off switch was added also and connected up.

The dismembered desktop speaker set put to good use

The finished top section with on off button

This should conclude the cab build so next up was to give it its new paint job. A tin of black gloss will do the job. Took 2 coats applied with a roller and its not a bad finish. Once dried it was time to reasemble all the panels and the cab is looking like the completed article.

Adding the marquee and screen.

The next job was to add the plexiglass components, the main screen, the marquee and the control panel cover. I worked out I would need a 610mm x 610mm x 4mm sheet for the main screen and a 610mm x 610mm x 2mm sheet for the rest. I found a local supplier for all this, £20 which was quite reasonable.

I couldn't afford any mistakes here so I made templates of for the marquee out of cardboard and the same for the main screen and control panel and marked and cut out the parts.

Thing to note here that cutting plexiglass is 'frightening' as 1 wrongmoveand  you could snap the whole peice. I scored out the parts with a stanley knife and 'snapped' each piece off. I will say, as you bend each piece to it's snapping point, then when it goes, Im sure your heart stops for a moment! but luckily* it's a clean snap each time and my marquee and control panel cover are ready to go.

The marquee needs to be illuminated from behind so the marquee is made of 2 sheets of 2mm clear plexi with the marquee artwork sandwiched inbetween. The light came from an old bedside lamp which had the cover broken off. I was looking for a mini tube light but the one I saw in a store didn't have a real flouresant tube and was worried about heat. The bulbs were quite expensive also. I tested the old lamp I had and it didn't generate much heat at all so I decided to use it. I cut a piece of mdf to back the marquee section and drilled a hole in it to accomodate the lamp.

Inside the marquee. Note the energy saving bulb, this project is helping the environment.

Another piece of 2mm was going to be the control panel cover. As with the marquee the design work will be on a piece of printed card with the plexi cover over the top. This should hide any screws etc.

Turned out to be quite a job as each of the 21 holes had to be marked and sawn out by hand with a coping saw.

Finally it was done and attached to the cab. I havent finalised the designs yet and I didn't want to leave the cab in peices for any longer so I reasembled the control panel, fitted the marquee with a redimentary test marquee printout and fitted the and screwed in the main screen (remembering to clean the monitor 1st).

Marquee with temporary graphic.

There is one flaw in the design however, as to remove the plexi cover to add the panel design involves removing every button which is screwed in from underneath but 1st removing each and every microswich. No matter ill just have to deal with it when it comes but for now I've a while before I have to worry about it.

Control panel with plexi cover.

*It might not be luck as this is the recommended way to cut this stuff and I'm probably worrying about nothing.


The cabinet is built, the PC is installed and running and the emulator is working and its all fully playable, so I'm finally calling it done. Well, maybe not finally but for now it will certainly do. The 2 things remaining to do are the coin door and the design and art work. It was always the plan to get to this stage and work on the remaining bits at my leisure to keep the project and the hobby going. There is no rush now or the hard work so it's time to enjoy the machine.

My work here is done

If I count the gathering of the roms and the software and configuring and fine tuning the emulator, it's taken nearly 6 months with the cabinet build nearly 3 months. A long way from the 'Build an Arcade Machine in 24 hours' I took some inspiration from. The total cost £158.00. Not bad, spread over the 6 months of the project. Bearing in mind however that I got a lot of stuff free especially the PC components which could easily have doubled this.

I've managed to reproduce the reflection from the sun preventing you from playing games during the day just like the old arcades in wales.

Shopping list

MDF Board 12x1220x2440mm x 2

MDF Board 12x606x1829mm x 1

Timber Framing

Ball Top Arcade Joystick colour: Red x 2

Classic 1 Player Start Button

Classic 2 Player Start Button

Classic Arcade Button - Concave colour: red x 12

Classic Arcade Button - Concave colour: white x 2

Classic Arcade Button - Concave colour: black x 3

Classic Arcade Button - Concave colour: blue x 4


Various Screws

Desktop Speakers (to replace the set I borrowed)

Black Gloss Paint

610x610x4mm Clear Perspex

610x610x2mm Clear Perspex


Stuff I got for free

P4 3.00 ghz cpu

1 gig ram

Radeon 9200 gfx

Motherboard with onboard sound

80 gig HD

17" CR monitor

Electrical wire

Paint undercoat



Speakers (to replace set I borrowed)

Extension Cable

70x70mm Wooden Posts

Marquee Light

Donor Keyboard and Joysticks for interfaces




Soldering Iron

Panel Saw

Coping Saw

Block Plane


Things I would do better if I ever made another one.

Use a circular saw and cut all the peices up front. Cutting the front, top and rear panels and the large wooden posts to support the frame need to be 'Exactly' the same width so running al these through a circular saw would have ensured this and thus making sure the cabinet was properly square.

Making the control panel as one piece. Pretty well straight away after I build it I realised Im never going to be swapping out the controls for 1 or 2 players and would have been a lot easier in one piece.

Spend some effort on the sound. My sound system in the cab is pretty good but I've come to realise how important it is to get this right.

Decent PC hardware. This one to be honest is marginal. My spec is fine but more is better but more 'costs more' so this one is down to cost.  There are some roms that are struggling to run on the cab but not missed.

Cut and paint before assembly. Cutting the peices and then painting individually would have definitely been easier I think and improved the finish.

The End - or is it! read more in the Post Build