Building a Bartop Arcade Machine – Part 3

This is the last of the 3 part tutorial on how I created my own bartop arcade. Here are the first two parts incase you missed them:

Part 1
Part 2

Front button panel

This part of the build is really optional. I decided to put my 25 Cent buttons on the front of the machine along with a USB plug and headphone jack. The USB plug has come in really really handy, so I would very much recommend at least doing this.

If you’ve already drilled holes for other full size arcade buttons, then you’d do the exact same thing here. If you don’t have the 25 Cent buttons and want to use regular buttons, they are the exact same size holes.

Again, you’ll need to coat the outside of this panel with KILZ so you can paint it or stick an adhesive to it.

You can see the pictures below my front panel with the buttons and USB plug.

A good tip is to leave the wiring very long for the 25 Cent buttons. These required different voltage because of the LEDs and so I needed to route the power to a different source and needed much longer wire for it.

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Cutting T Molding Grooves

You should do this before you get everything installed in the box so you can turn it on it’s side.

You’ll need a router, this bit, and this cutter.

Make sure you have the cutter spinning the correct way. I read that if you don’t it makes the MDF board smoke like crazy. Fortunately this didn’t happen to me.

Do a test run! Do not just cut it without cutting a small strip of T molding and testing out your cut on a scrap piece of MDF board. You’ll want to make sure the cut is centered and that your T molding, when in the grooves, doesn’t overlap the edge of the board.

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Adjust the router so that the groove is exactly in the center of the board and then simple guide the router around it. Don’t insert the T molding until you’ve painted the entire box. Otherwise you’ll get paint on the T molding and some of it can be expensive.

Assembling the box

This is easily one of the more time consuming parts of the build. Measure 3 times before you cut. I had to redo the sides twice because things were slightly off.

After you have your bottom, sides, and back cut out, you’ll need to glue and screw (glew?) them together using the batons as you guides.

More importantly, at this point in your build, you should have the monitor/TV that you want to use. Make sure that the monitor doesn’t fit too tightly, but that you also have a plan for mounting it inside the box. I’ve seen all kinds of ways of mounting monitors inside of the box. You can leave it on the stand and just fasten it to the inside bottom of the box. Or you can use the mounting holes on the back of the monitor to mount it to a piece of wood that spans the entire width of the box, which is what I did (not pictured). I did this for one reason really; I wanted the inside bottom of the box to be free of anything so I could place my power strip, cooling fans, and anything else I needed.

For the most part, all of the pieces that I did not specifically mention like the marquee, the top of the box, and the area with the speakers just under the marquee will need to be cut to your exact width. Just as I mentioned before, I would base all of your measurements on how wide your control panel is. If your control panel is 50 inches wide, then your marquee needs to also be 50 inches or so wide. I ordered mine 52 inches wide so that I had room to cut it exactly the width that I wanted.

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Wiring the Control Panel

This is going to be different depending on the controls that you buy and the number of buttons. Let me know if I can help on this part.
Here is a picture of the under side of the control panel. I’d say about 3/4 of the wiring was just plug and play. The USB controllers all came with USB boards that I can plug buttons into, which made it SUPER easy to setup. The rest of it I had to crimp a lot of ends on wires and figure out ways to get power to the controllers.

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This is the USB Hub and all of the cables coming from the joysticks, buttons, spinner, and trackball. You can also see the wires for the first and second player buttons towards the bottom of the picture. Those wires needed to be very long so that they wouldn’t be pulled as I lifted up the control panel.

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It’s basically a rats nest of wires and I could probably tidy it up a little. Most of the wires just aren’t that long so there is no danger of getting them hung on anything.

I can’t think of anything else to cover on this unless people want more information on the marquee or anything specific. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you need help on any part of your project.