4 Player Pedestal DIY Arcade
I’ve owned a few bartop arcades, but they were all CNC kits and I wanted to build a 4 player arcade myself. I liked the idea of a pedestal arcade, so I could mount a big TV on the wall in front of it, and adjust the distance, size of the TV, etc. I think a nice 50″ would look great in front of the pedestal – especially on new games such as MK:X and some modern games available through Steam. I’m not great with wood working, but I’m learning – so I’m going to document my progress through the whole thing (sorry for the poor lighting – I did this in January in the Chicago area, so it was too cold outside, and didn’t want to tie up my garage for a couple weeks). I’m following some pictures and directions another person posted in this thread:
The poster of this thread was helpful in providing some sketches of all the MDF panels, which helped a TON.
Here are all the parts I ordered. I ordered all buttons, wires, PCB boards from FocusAttack.com (great customer service!). I ordered the trackball from Ultimarc (with the LED adapter to let me program the lighting, and the USB adapter so I can easily set it up since the 4 player IPAC doesn’t have trackball inputs).
I bought pre-cut MDF boards from Home Depot (24″x48″) as it saved a lot of time and my car wasn’t big enough to fit a full MDF sheet. I know it cost more, but it was worth it to me. I sketched out all the cuts and used my small table saw and circular saw to make the cuts. Some of them weren’t perfect, so I’ll take my belt sander and try to even them out a bit. I know my first build won’t be perfect, but I want to stick to a budget and can always make it better if I do another build in the future.
I messed up here – for some stupid reason I set them up identical, then when I went to screw them into the 2×4 base that I built, I realized that it didn’t work! I’m a moron – but took my time to take the boards off, and remeasure and screw them to the other side. I’ll have to fill the wrong screw holes with wood filler and sand it down – shouldn’t be a big deal.
I tried following the guide on the initial build page I linked above, and I couldn’t clamp the corners down for the life of me. The original poster there looked like he was better with tools/woodworking than I am, so I went a sloppy route and bent some 90 degree corner brackets to come close to 45 degrees, and secured the corners. I then cut out some 1/2″ MDF board I had laying around for the inside, and then used some bigger 90 degree brackets to hold it all together. The corners were off – it’s not the prettiest, but I suck with woodworking and this was the easiest thing for me to do. I used some wood filler to fill in the gaps to make it less noticeable, then will sand it down a bit before painting. Hopefully the control panel top will block most of light on this control panel box since it overlaps a bit, so it may make it less noticeable. I also took this time to put the front panel on with liquid nails. Hopefully this will work well – I may add some 90 degree brackets to that as well if it seems like it may be getting loose.
At this point, I needed to round the corners off, and drill the holes for the buttons. First off, I didn’t know MDF was super easy to sand down. I thought I would need a special router bit to round the corners off. Well, I just didn’t to not make them sharp and not have a drastic radius, so I used the washer from the joystick as a template, and marked a slight curve for each corner. I then used a sanding block and sanded it down to the line, which only took about a minute or two per corner. Super easy! For more distinguished corners, I would suggest using a router or use a jigsaw right up to the line, then sand it down to make it smooth.
I forgot to take pictures along the way, so I apologize for jumping so far ahead in the progress. I bought a 1 1/8″ fostner bit to drill the holes. I started with the MDF, and took my time to drill each hole. The drill press I had wouldn’t reach past 6″, so I just took my time and tried to drill straight by hand. For the plexiglass, I learned the hard way that scoring it with knife takes patience and some skill (which I obviously don’t have), which ended up with me cracking the sheet that I bought. Wasted $30, but if that’s the only snag I run into, I’m fine with that. I bought another piece, and practiced with the scrap waste to see what would be best to shape it to the same shape as the control panel. We ended up clamping the plexiglass to the control panel – with the long side of the control panel butted up against the plexiglass, so it was one less cut to make. We then used a router flush trim bit to match the plexiglass to the MDF. This worked well! (the ‘shredded’ corners you see in the picture below is just the plastic where it was routed out – I don’t plan on taking the plastic off until I’m ready to put the graphic in and mount the buttons). It smelled horrible the rest of the night from the burning plastic, but it was by far the easiest way to cut it in my opinion. For drilling the holes, I read a few solutions but ended up clamping the plexiglass to the MDF, and using the plywood scrap sheet you see below to sandwich the plexiglass in between the two. I then used the fostner bit to drill through each hole, and it worked out well. Putting the scrap piece on the bottom to sandwich the plexiglass makes the strain and blow back on the plexiglass a lot less. Stupid me – I forgot to drill the start buttons for each player, so I’ll have to go back and add them later on – which shouldn’t take too long. I also printed out the graphic which I plan on mounting later. I also didn’t have a 3 1/4″ hole saw for cutting out the trackball hole, so I’ll have to go to Home Depot and pick one up later. I’ll probably end up cutting the hole in the MDF, clamping the plexiglass to the MDF, drilling a pilot hole then using the flush trim bit to match the plexiglass to the MDF.
I cut out the other buttons that I was missing before, and decided to add a few extra (extra 3 player and 4 player buttons that weren’t being used, so I can program them to do things in Windows hopefully). I also cut out the hole for the trackball – which I messed up a bit. I read online somewhere that if I was using 3/4″ MDF plus plexi, that I want to route out 1/4″ under the hole – which I did – and it sticks up WAY too far. So I’m going to think of something to do to fix it – probably just stick some scrap wood underneath to space the control panel and trackball base from each other. It won’t look pretty under neath, but above no one should notice. I’ll do that after everything is done, because I just don’t feel like dealing with it right now.
I wanted to have the edges of the plexiglass covered by the t-molding as well, so I had to practice on scrap wood with my broken plexiglass pieces until I got it to the right height. You can see in the pictures below that the slot isn’t centered, and is more towards the top of the control panel – then then picture after that shows the plexi right up to some spare t-molding I had sitting around from a previous arcade. May not be 100% perfect, but I couldn’t notice anything during my tests.
For those wanting pictures on how I made the corners rounded, here you go. The joystick washer marked with pencil where the 2 edges should be, marked it with a pencil, then sanded away. I did the routing for the base t-molding after I rounded out all of the corners, obviously.
Since the 3/4″ t-molding would cover the control panel exact, and I’ve put the groove further up to compensate for the plexiglass, but bottom part of the control panel would be visible still. I plan on painting it black like the rest of the arcade to hopefully mask it better, but I also used a bit in the router to round it back a bit, so there is less visible.
Primed all the pieces, then put the first coat of black paint on them. I think it’ll end up needing a second coat.
I’m only doing the first 1.5″ around the underside of the control panel for 2 reasons – conserve paint because I didn’t have a lot of it, and since I made the bottom curve in a bit, I wasn’t sure what would be visible. I figured this should cover it all. Once it’s dry, I may possibly spray the inside with some spray paint of a different color. My ground wire is black, so I want something that will contrast it a bit and make it visible. I think white/gray would be good.
I wasn’t sure how to go about the T-Nut scenario, as I’ve read dozens of threads on how to mount the joysticks. I was afraid that if I messed up, I would have to start my control panel from scratch again. I tested it on some scrap and decided to go ahead with it. I talked with an employee at Home Depot, and he suggested what bit to start out with – so I got some t-nuts (10-32X5/16), and ended up getting screws that were a bit too short – but ended up with #10-32 3/4″ screws that were just about the right size. I didn’t want to go back to the store, but I would’ve gotten one size slightly smaller than 3/4″, though. I put the joystick base in place and used a pencil to mark where the holes would be. I then used a 1/4″ drill bit to drill pilot holes, then a 3/4″ spade bit to slightly recess the holes for the t-nuts. On players 3 & 4, my layout is a little weird and one of the joystick screws would get in the way of the button. Luckily, there were 2 different holes I could use with the joysticks, so I put that 4th screw into the alternative hole. Everything worked out fine – in the future I would probably make players 3 & 4 ‘s buttons into a ‘square’ shape instead of the diagonal layout like players 1 & 2 are. Oh well. I don’t see a ton of 4 player games being played – just when friends come over for some NBA Jam tournaments, etc.
I also spray painted the rest of the underside of the control panel – just because I wanted it to look a little prettier. I thought about painting it black, but the black ground wires would blend in, which I didn’t want. It also helped contrast the black cable mounts that I want to use. I mounted all the buttons and joysticks and began wiring. I wasn’t sure how much to buy, and I severely underestimated how much I would need – so now I’m at the point of waiting for more cable to come in the mail. I couldn’t find anywhere local that sold the wire in all of these colors, and I didn’t want to start mixing up the colors at this point, so I’m going to wait. In the picture below, I’m about 4 hours into wiring – so it takes a lot of time (especially if you want to daisy chain your own ground wire, which I did – mainly because there will be a lot less spare wire everywhere).
About a week later, I got the extra wire that I needed to finish this. Below is the final wiring under the control panel, with the trackball mounted. I replaced the top 3 middle buttons with all black, which I mapped to player 3, buttons 5, 6, 7. This will allow me to map them to different functions, such as quitting emulators, pausing MAME games, etc. I also ended up adding a small strip of LED lights to the bottom. I installed 4 feet on the base of the arcade to lift it up a bit, and the red light should shine through a bit. I had extra LED light strips (like this one) – I had a 16ft one and a 1ft strip. I used the 1ft strip, which worked well but isn’t really visible with the lights on. I’m trying to find a way to stick the 16ft strip underneath to make more light pop through, but that’s a job for another day. I’ll be adding the LED controller for the track ball later on, which will let me light it up finally. Finally, you’ll notice the horrible stand that the TV is on. The wife didn’t really want the arcade as a permanent setup in the living room, so I needed something a little portable that I could set a TV up on when we have parties, etc. I just threw up some spare 1/2″ MDF and 2x4s together (will probably replace the MDF with plywood since the MDF is bowing a little too much for my comfort). Until we finish our basement and I can get a new 55″ and then permanently mount it, this will do for now (currently a spare 42″ being used). I will most likely spray it black just to make it more uniform.