Insert Coin – The Original Cabinet
This was a project to refurbish a previously converted MAME RM Arcade Cabinet I had purchased back in 2008.
Although the originally purchased Arcade Cabinet was still fully functional and working, it had outdated components such as a Pentium PC, CRT Monitor and an unintuitive button layout which all needed to be updated to bring it up to date to the current arcade standards, which would also better support the more modern arcade games too.
Select Player – The Plan
- Replace the current control panel and add new buttons, joysticks and plastic with a more ergonomic button layout too.
- Replace the ageing CRT screen to a more modern and efficient LCD screen.
- Replace the current Dell Pentium PC to a faster i5 PC with dedicated graphics card to support the newer front-end game emulators.
- Update the front-end game emulation software
- 2 x Illuminated Joysticks And 20 x Chrome Illuminated Arcade Buttons Kit
- Daisy Chain Wiring Set With Molex For Illuminated Buttons
- Ultimarc I-PAC 2 And Wiring Kit
- DELL UltraSharp 2007FP 20″ LCD Monitor 4:3 Aspect Ratio
- HP Compaq 8200 Elite PC Core i5
Round 1 – Removing the old CRT & Control PanelTime: 1-2hrs aprox
The first step was to remove the old CRT monitor, control panel plastic, buttons, joysticks and cables.
Round 2 – Creating the Initial Mock-up Control Panel2-3hrs aprox
After removing the old components the aim was to create a quick mock-up of the control panel, as this was my very first time attempting such a project and my theory was this would be the best way for me to familiarise myself with it all and also test the joystick, buttons and iPAC usb controller setup with a PC for any potential pending issues.
- Using the old control panel plastic as a dimensions guide, I marked out the area to cut on the MDF sheet.
- I then continued to cutout the control panel using a Jigsaw, then cleaned off the edges with Wire Brush
- Sourced a wireframe Joystsick/Button layout to use as a template from the web (link below)
- Printed two copies of the wireframe layout (one for each player) using Windows Paint to print to actual size
- Secured the printed wireframes to the previously cut MDF sheet with Tape, then secured the MDF sheet to a work table with G Clamps ready for cutting
- I then proceeded to slowly cut out the holes with a Drill using a holesaw bit
- After all the holes had been cut I cleaned off any excess with a Metal Brush
- Next step was to install the joysticks and buttons to MDF Control Panel sheet
- Then connect all the wiring from the Joysticks and buttons to the iPAC2 Controller
- Once the Joysticks and Buttons had been connected to the iPAC2 USB controller, I connected the controller to a PC via USB
- The PC auto detected the iPAC2 controller as another keyboard as it correctly should
- I was then able to configure the iPAC2 controller using Ulitimarc’s WiniPac software (link below)
- Once I had finalised the configuration I used PassMark’s excellent Keyboard test software to ensure the joysticks and buttons where working correctly and also correctly assigned to their correct letter keys (link below)
Round 3 – Installing the new LCD ScreenTime: 1-2hrs
- I started off by creating a cardboard template mock-up for the MDF sheet that would be used to mount and support the LCD monitor, as it was easier, quicker and cheaper to make adjustments using cardboard then starting with the actual MDF sheet.
- Once the cardboard sheet had been tested and perfected I continued onto create the actual MDF sheet using the cardboard mock-up as a template guide.
- To create the cutout area for the screen I first marked out the area to cut using the cardboard template as guide, then drilled into each corner to allow the Jigsaw access to cut, then finished off cleaning the edges of debris with a metal brush.
- Then went onto check the sheet fitted inside the cabinet correctly and if not continue to make the necessary further cuts till it did.
- Once the sheet fitted correctly inside the cabinet I placed the LCD screen into the MDF to check it fitted correctly too, making further adjustments again until it did too.
- The next step was to secure the LCD screen to the MDF sheet by cutting some short strips of 2/4″ timber and then screwing these pieces to each side of the LCD screen on the MDF sheet.
- I also needed to secure the LCD screen at the back for when it was mounted, and to do this I utilised the MDF sheet I had previously created in Step 2 from the mock-up control panel as it wouldn’t be needed in the final build.
- As the LCD screen was VESA compliant (meaning it had industry standard mounting holes at the rear), I was able to utilise these mounting holes by securing the panel to it.
- Then panel was then secured with the monitor to the MDF sheet via the surrounding 2/4″ timber strips surrounding the LCD monitor to ensure it was fully secure.
- Next I placed the MDF sheet with the LCD Screen attached into cabinet.
- The sheet with the monitor was then finally secured to the cabinet using small Metal ‘L’ brackets with screws.
Round 4 – Creating & installing the final Control PanelTime: 2-3hrs
At this stage I had now tested the control panel and installed the LCD screen and all was working as expected. The next stage was to build the actual final control panel. I used the same approach as I did in Step 2 when making the initial mock-up control panel. The only additional step was to shallow out a cavity of about 5mm deep for each of the joysticks to ensure that the sticks would be long enough to use, as the MDF thickness I was using for the final control panel was now 20mm as opposed to the mockup MDF sheet of 5mm.
I used a combination of steps to shallow out the joystick areas. Firstly drilling out each entire area using a drill bit with a depth restrictor. Second step was to continue cleaning out the areas left using a Dremmel with a sanding attachment. Then the final step was to finish of and clean any debris remaining with a hand chisel and hammer to create a clean level surface area for the joysticks to seat into.
I also added some 20mm thick half round timber molding strips to the top and middle edge of the control panel to give what I hoped would be a more pleasing aesthetic to the control panel once it was finished.
Finally, I finished of by using some wood filler to smooth out the bonding of the molding strips to the MDF sheet and lightly sanded after to give a smooth finish.
Once all was dry I cleaned the panel and did a quick check to see the buttons and joysticks would fit correctly.
Round 5 – Painting & SprayingTime: 1-2hrs (+ 48 hours drying)
Note: Ensure area being painted and sprayed is well ventilated and you are wearing a protective mask and some rubber gloves to save washing your hands later.
Control Panel Spray
I protected the cabinet with newspaper, then spayed the control panel with an initial few coats of spray paint. I then added some further coats after about 30 mins until the control panel was completely covered. However, I wasn’t too concerned about getting a perfect finish, as the main purpose for spraying the control panel was to identify any issues with the earlier wood filling and molding strips I had added, and I also wanted to see what the control panel would potentially look like prior to its wrap.
Cabinet Paint and Touch-up
To give a clean consistent look to the cabinet and to also touch up some areas damaged over the years of use on the outside I decided to paint the cabinet using some multipurpose black paint.
I started off by ensuring I had protected the surrounding floor, then worked on painting the MDF monitor support and inside area and shelves of the cabinet.
Next, I laid the cabinet on its back and proceeded on to paint the bottom edges of the cabinet, which were now looking a little worse for wear due to its age.
Finally using a fine brush I went over any areas small areas that wear chipped or damaged to complete the task.
Coin Door Re-Spray
This was a job I hadn’t anticipated on doing as I didn’t realise it needed to be done, however after closer inspection I could see allot of the black paint on the front of the coin door was flaking off, and a simple touch up was not going to cut it (which is what I initially attempted).
- I removed the coin door from the cabinet, then I removed all of its parts to leave just the metal door.
- Next, I hand-sanded the entire front and edges of the door and parts to their bare metal
- I then cleaned the door and parts with some soap and water, then left them to dry
- Next, I placed the door and parts on some scrap wood, then gave them an initial spray to get their surfaces covered
- After 24hrs I finished off with a final coat, then left them for a further 24hrs to dry completely
I was pleasantly surprised with the results, however next time I think I would use a hammered finish spray paint instead of just a flat Gloss Black to give a better effect.
Round 6 – Installing Joystick ThreadsTime: 1-2hrs
At this point I had decided that I didn’t want to show the bolt heads on the top of the control panel, as I wanted this area to be as smooth as possible as it would be used for the joysticks and buttons. Therefore I did some research on the interweb to find a solution and came across T-Nuts, which would create a secure thread that the bolts could attach to, thus avoiding having the bolts heads appear at the top of the control panel.
They where pretty simple to install, I just had to drill out the existing joystick securing holes in the control panel to the same diameter of the T-nuts, then hammer in the T-Nuts after.
However as the T-Nuts now used larger diameter bolts, I had to increase the size of the holes in the joystick templates to allow the bolts to fit.
Round 7 – Cutting & fitting Plastic to the Control PanelTime: 2-3hrs
This was a task I wasn’t looking forward to, I was worried I would crack the plastic whilst I was cutting it. Therefore I watched quite a few videos on YouTube to ‘cover my bases’ and even checked out a few forums to get further advice to try ensure I avoided making any common mistakes.
The few points I picked up to pass on would be leave the protective film on till you finish on both sides of the sheets, drill slow and ensure the bits you are using are sharp and clean too. Most importantly drill in reverse, taking your time to drill to a slow/medium speed consistent speed.
I removed the Control Panel from the Arcade Machine. Placed it on a work bench, then secure the first plastic sheet to it, then secured the sheet with some G Clamps and scrap wood so as not to damage to sheet. I then flipped it over and using the holes already drilled into the control panel as a guide slowly started to drill each hole. Another tip I read was to use water to keep the sheet cool as not to melt from the drilling, so occasionally I would use a spray bottle filled with water to spray each hole as I was drilling. This was a slow and time consuming process as I had to drill slow so as not to melt or break the plastic sheet.
24 holes later, I had finally cut out all the holes for each sheet and all that remained was to remove the excess plastic left around each hole from drilling gently with some fine sandpaper.
Finally I removed the protective film from both sides of each sheet and using a craft knife slowly and gently removed any excess plastic left around the holes. Then procededed to clean each sheet with some soap and water then test the buttons fit in each on the control panel.
Round 8 – Wrapping the Control Panel & Monitor BezelTime: 1-2hrs
This was another task I was initially not looking forward too. The was going to be the first time I was attempting vinyl wrapping. Again, doing the research and looking at YouTube videos and forums for advice on common noob mistakes to avoid was a great help, and gave me an insight of how to do the job and what to expect. I had also watched allot of ‘Yiannimize’ car wrap videos so was starting to feel more confident too.
I started off by unrolling a small area of the vinyl wrap, then placed it on the first side of the control panel and started to smooth it out. I then continued on to the last side of the control panel repeating the process.
The key as always is to take your time and go slow, working from the inside out to push the air out. If you find bubbles still trapped later delicately make a small pin prick in the area to allow the trapped air to escape, then smooth it out. If all else fails, pull the wrap off and start again. You have a few chances at this till the glue fades or dry’s out. Also using a hairdryer or heat gun really helps out and is good with fitting around intricate edges to give a more professional finish.
Finally after the vinyl had been smoothed out I finished off by cutting all the holes that had been covered by vinyl for the screws, buttons and joysticks.
Next I fitted the buttons to ensure there were no issues and everything was sitting correctly.
I also left the control panel to sit till the next day (about 12 hours) to expose any vinyl that hadn’t stuck properly, then re-secured any areas where there was an issue.
This was relatively straightforward, I bought some thin and thick card to create the bezel. The thick card was used to add depth to the LCD screen edge, as it was not going to be completely flush to the glass once it was mounted and finished. The second thin piece of card was to be used as an overlay to give a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. I also made a cut in the thick card to allow access to the LCD monitor screen controls and status light.
Velcro was then used to ensure both pieces of card stayed secure on the cabinet, with the benefit of being easily removed if required.
Round 9 – Adding screw caps to secure the Control Panel PlasticTime: 1hr
I had hoped that the buttons used on the control panel would secure the plastic to the control panel. However I found these where not adequate enough as the plastic was still loose in some places and could be lifted. So I drilled a hole approximately 20mm from the edge in each corner of the plastic sheets, then added a chrome cap to give a professional finish.
Round 10 – Wiring the Control Panel & adding Front Switch controlsTime: 4hrs
Control Panel Wiring
I was now pretty confident that I could complete the final version of the control panel, as I had gained the experience and confidence from creating the previous working mockup in Step 2. Therefore, it was simply a case of replicating these steps, but with the addition of ensuring I didn’t mark or damage the Lexan Plastic that was now secured to the control panel in the process.
LED Lights Switch
Once the control panel had been completed and tested I decided that it would be nice touch to add some additional features to the build, such as the ability to turn the illuminated Joysticks, Buttons and Coin door LED lights on and off with a front switch. This was a new challenge as I didn’t have much experience prior to this build with electronics so the logistics of adding this control took some time to workout (but Im glad I did it). Part of the solution was to purchase a Molex switch, as the lights where powered by the Molex cable from the PC. So the Molex switch would be the bridge between the LED lighting cables and the PC, thus allowing them to be controlled.
Marquee Light Switch
I also wanted the ability to turn the Marquee top light on and off from the front. The Marquee light was a simple setup, it was a light bulb wired with a 2-Core cable with a standard plug at the end, plugged into the extension lead at the back of the arcade cabinet. To add a switch I purchased a inline push switch, then re-wired the 2-Core cable coming from the light bulb in the Marquee to the Push Switch, then added another 2-Core cable from the push switch with a plug at the end and connected to the extension lead at the back of the cabinet.
PC Power On/Off Switch with Status LED
As I now had the ability to control all of the lights from the front of the cabinet I decided to add a further feature to give the ability to power the PC on and off from the front with a switch too. This switch would also feature a status LED indicator light to show if the PC was on or off too. This took some time to workout and I had a few fails along the way to finding a solution that worked, but thankfully I persevered, eventually finding a pre-cabled solution online in the form of a ATX PC power cable which also featured the status light I wanted. To get the cable to work I had to identify which jumper pins on the PC Motherboard where responsible for turning the PC on and off and the pin in charge of the status light. After some testing this was eventually substantiated and I wired the cable from the PC to the front of the arcade cabinet which featured the status LED light.
Round 11 – Installing the new T-MoldingTime: 1-2hrs
This was one of the final tasks I was actually looking forward too, mainly because it would complement the arcade cabinet by adding the finishing touch to the build.
Again, this was another task I had not previously done before and so I did my usual due diligence of ‘Googling’ and ‘YouTubing’ to get some tips. The fundamental point to note is to ensure that your T-Molding can get enough grip with the T-Molding grooves to give a strong enough grip that it will stay secure. As I wasn’t initially sure what to expect before I started, I had ordered a new Glue Gun as a precautionary measure to ensure that if I didnt have enough grip from the grooves in the cabinet that gluing the T-Molding would compensate for this.
I started off by carefully removing the existing T-Molding, which came off surprisingly easily than I expected. I then proceeded to clean the grooves with a fine chisel in preparation for installing the new T-Molding.
Using the bends and cuts created from the previous old T-Molding as a guide I started to install the new T-Molding, starting from the back top of the cabinet. A few tips to note, ensure to unravel the T-Molding as much as possible at the start so it is flat and straight and maintain this method throughout the install. Also when creating the bends for the T-Molding cut out a wide ‘V’ shape using a side cutter to give enough space for the molding to bend.
Finally as you progress installing the molding ensure to go slow and hammer slowly, taking time to ensure the molding is sitting tight to the cabinet, especially around curved edges.
Bonus Stage – Adding the extra finishing touches
Below is a list of additional features I was inspired to add during the course of the refurbishment process.
Rii i8+ Mini Mobile Wireless Keyboard With Touchpad Mouse and Backlit LED
The original cabinet had a wired keyboard and mouse that where located on slide-out shelf inside the cabinet, but the only way you could access them was to open the control panel first which I felt made them quite inaccessible.
My solution was to purchase a wireless miniature all-in-one keyboard and touch mouse keyboard which was easy to use and also offered a back-lit display. It was charged via USB cable, so I routed the USB cable from the PC to the front bottom speaker compartment, and secured the keyboard to the bottom of the compartment with some Velcro for ease of access. I have to say I was really impressed with the response rate and ease of use of the keyboard, and it also looked quite good too, and would highly recommend it for any arcade build or HTPC home setup.
Rear Multi colours LED Lighting with Remote
Another nice and simple feature I decided to add to enhance the build was some rear LED multi-colour lighting. I had already purchased a few of these kits for my main TV and PC setup so new they would work well. I purchased a 4 piece set consisting of 2 x 40cm and 2 x 60cm strips, which worked out well to create a rectangle of ambient mood lighting for the back of the cabinet which could be easily controlled with the included remote. Again this was finished by securing all the cabling and plugged into the rear of the PC via the USB connection.
Wifi 300 Mbps 802.11 G/N USB Dongle
The original build did have wifi card but for some reason I never managed to get it to work. As I was now using a new PC for the build I decided to purchase a relatively cheap ‘N’ range USB Wifi dongle on ebay and ‘Voila’ wireless network and internet access added to the cabinet.
2 x Battery Powered Touch Lights
During a recent shop to my local Lidl (yes I do shop at Lidl, the food is great and much cheaper than the name brand major supermarkets for the same if not better food quality), and to my surprise that day one of the specials they where selling was a pack of twin battery touch lights for £5.00 – bargain!. Its was almost like they new I was coming to shop that day! So another nice feature added to the cabinet for a very cheap price again and easy install. These lights come with batteries and 3M double sided tape to secure, so it was a simple job to secure them in the cabinet; one in the speaker compartment and the other inside the cabinet to help assist when opening and closing the control panel via the internal latches.
Rear Door Panel Lock
Originally this was a nut and bolt combo to secure the back, but it was fiddly to lock and not so secure. So I updated the mechanism to a Cam Lock mechanism which allows the panel to be securely locked with its own dedicated key for security.
Round 13 – Cable ManagementTime:: 1-2hrs
As part of the final stage of the build I wanted to ensure that the cable management was organised and tydy to give a professional finished look. This was quite a long and laborious task, but my hope was it would give the build the final professional finishing touch.
Control Panel, Speaker Compartment and Coin Door
Rear PC Cabling and Power Extension Socket
Rear Monitor Cabling, adding a backboard for a professional finish
Round 14 – MAME SoftwareContent coming soon! (Hidden Character)
Final Round – The Final Completed Build
The final stage of the build was to re-test all the hardware and software, then make any necessary touch-ups and repairs that where required. I then gave a final clean, buff and shine to the cabinet inside and out.
Front of Arcade
Back of Arcade
MAME RM Arcade Cabinet Final Specifications & Features
- 2 x Illuminated Joysticks
- 20 x Chrome illuminated buttons
- Wireless compact portable Back-lit keyboard with multi-touch pad
- Light-up Coin-Mechanism for 1 & 2 Player credits
- Light-up Top Marquee
- LED Multi-Colour Rear Lights with remote control
- Front PC on/off/reset button with Status LED
- Front on/off buttons for Joysticks, Buttons, Coin Credits and Top Marquee
- Interior touch on/off lighting
- Control Panel Access via rear quick release internal latches
- 100 Watt Pioneer Speakers x2
- Volume and Treble control dials with 3.5mm input jack for headphones
- Removable Glass screen cover
- Rear-Door with lock
- Coin Door with lock
- New Chrome T-Molding
- Lexan/Polycarbonate top/bottom protected panels
- Wheeled base for ease of moving
- DELL UltraSharp 2007FP 20″ LCD Monitor
- HP Compaq 8200 Elite SFF PC Core Midi PC
- Intel Core i5-2400 @ 3.10 GHz
- Windows 8.1 64bit Licensed/Activated
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 730 1GB DDR3
- Seagate ST3500413AS 3.5 inch Barracuda 500 GB 7200rpm SATA Drive with 16MB Buffer
- 4GB DDR3 Memory
- DVD RW drive
- Wi-fi g/n 300mbps Adaptor
- Ultimarc iPAC2 USB Controller (expansion for trackball/spinner)
Continue? – Notable F&*kup’s
No build would be complete without acknowledging the list of mistakes made along the way. And my build is no different, below is a list of the ‘Notable F&*kup’s’ I made along my refurbishment journey, with the hope and aim that others will avoid making the same mistakes.
However, a key point to always remember is that every mistake we make in life is not a failure, but rather a new lesson learned.
If you can master your mind and mindset you can achieve anything!
Control Panel Plastic Cover
I did actually screw up at the first attempt of cutting the Control Panel top plastic sheet, but ironically this was not due to the hole drilling part, but rather the cleaning up of edges. After I had drilled the required holes I attempted to scrape of the excess plastic left from edges with a craft knife, but as I had already removed the protective film I ended up permanently scratching the sheet many times as I was removing the excess plastic.
I then made the attempt to try to see if I could remedy the situation, and did some research online to see if I could somehow get rid of the scratches. The two main suggestions I continually came across where to either use a special multi-part chemical compound to sand/buff/polish the scratches out, or alternatively use a heat gun to try to meld the marks back into the plastic. I went with the last option of a using the heat-gun. Suffice to say this didn’t workout too well. Although the heat-gun did reduce the depth of the scratches, it also warped the plastic sheet too. I therefore had no alternative but to ‘bite the bullet’ and purchase another sheet of plastic and to start over again. Which thankfully did work out as you will see from Step 7 above.
The original cabinet came with metal clamps that were used to secure the control panel when it was in use, and these could be undone when you needed to access the control panel by opening the back of the arcade cabinet and reaching in to open or close them.
Although this worked perfectly fine and did the job I wanted to update to what I thought would be a more elegant solution. This solution would involve using cam locks on either side of the control panel which in theory would close automatically because of the angled spring loaded latch and then lock when the control panel door closed. Then when you needed to access the control panel you would use a key to open each lock to release the latches.
However, the problem I faced was that the spring loaded latches didn’t close properly when attempting to close the control panel, and although if I spent more time I could have possibly remedied this, I decided to accept defeat (a very rare thing for me), and revert back to the original brackets. Which is now the current way to open and secure the control panel and still work perfectly fine as before. However I did have to refill the large holes I had created. And a great solution I found was to use Black Milliput, then once dry, finish off with some wood filler and sanding to give a finer finish.
End Credits – Conclusion & Resource Links
Before I started this refurbishment project my Father advised me not to undertake it, as he felt it was too advanced a project for someone like me with no experience dealing with electronics or arcade machines to undertake. Probably a rational and justified statement, however If I only ever worked on projects or tasks that I was familiar with or had an understanding of I wouldn’t grow, and that is not the person I am either.
Don’t get me wrong, I had many moments during the course of this build where I either wanted to give up due to sheer frustration, exhaustion or that fact I didn’t know what I was doing at certain stages, but I thankfully persevered (as I usually do), and hopefully you will agree the final completed build speaks for it self too.
I also have gained new knowledge, experience and confidence that can all be applied to the forthcoming projects I am and will be working on, as well as applying the lessons I have learnt from the mistakes (‘lessons in failure’ I like to call them) made along the way. So all in all, would I do this project again? – Definitely 1000%!
Hopefully this post will inspire you to build/refurbish your own Arcade Cabinet, or possibly motivate you to start another project too.
I would also be greatfull for your feedback on the project, just submit your message below, also many thanks for taking the time to come to my site and view this project too! Share and Like as they say too! 🙂
LaunchBox/BigBox MAME Arcade Cabinet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw2KwqjZvYg
LaunchBox/BigBox – Steam with Ultra Street Fighter IV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5WsgE0hEKQ
Button and Joystick Wireframe Templates: http://www.slagcoin.com/joystick/layout.html
iPac2 Product Page: https://www.ultimarc.com/ipac2.html
WiniPac Windows Software for iPac2: https://www.ultimarc.com/winipacv2.html
Joystick and Buttons testing software (free trial): https://www.passmark.com/products/keytest.htm