Building the Arcade Cabinet
The first step many people take in their MAME arcade projects is to build or acquire the arcade cabinet. This can be a very time consuming task if you build it from scratch but it is a very significant part and should not be rushed as once the cabinet is completed everything else falls into place rather easy.
As mentioned earlier I chose to buy the UAII kit from Mameroom to build my cabinet. I mainly made this decision because I didn’t have the space available to construct one from scratch. However if you are interested in designing your own arcade cabinet or building one from scratch I’ve included a list of places below that should prove to be very good resources.
Saint’s Project Arcade Book - The ultimate arcade building resource, covers everything.
Spy’s DIY Arcade – Cabinet Construction – Good overall guide to the process of building a cabinet from scratch.
BYOAC Wiki on Design & Building – Provides help with designing your cabinet and lists the tools and materials you may need when building your arcade cabinet from scratch.
Build a MAME Cabinet in 24 Hours – Another good overall construction guide, similar to Spy’s guide.
BYOAC – Cabinet Plans – A good listing of different MAME projects that have their plans available online.
JakoBud – Has details on his MAME project and then a good listing of arcade plans for many of the original game cabinets.
Lusid’s Arcade Flashback – Has plans available that many people have based their MAME machines off of (go to the design section).
One thing I’d like to say is that during the construction of your cabinet, regardless of which method you choose, just remember it’s a project. Don’t be afraid to make little tweaks or come up with new solutions as you go, it will and it should happen.
My Cabinet – Using the Ultimate Arcade II Cabinet Kit
Overall the assembly was pretty easy and I managed to complete it with my dad in one night (3 hours or so). I still haven’t installed the brackets that came for the monitor bezel as my 27” TV seems to fit perfectly, nor did I install the back panel to fully close the machine.
A few times during assembly some screws were hard to reach but I managed to squeeze in there and get them. Another thing to note is that when putting the pieces that belong in the middle of the cabinet (in between the two sides) you may have to loosen a few pieces near the one you are trying to install in order to squeeze the new piece in.
The T-molding was probably the most tedious part but it wasn’t too bad at all, it just took some time and patience. Since the pieces already come routed all you need to do is use a rubber mallet to help force it into the groove and using a knife make small cuts so it can curve nicely around edges. Check out the guide to installing T-molding at the BYOAC Wiki.
The assembly instructions are rather easy to follow and can be downloaded from the UAII product page.
The kit came in a total of 5 boxes, the hardware and T-molding had a box to itself. Pictured above are all the pieces laid out before I began assembly.
Side view of the base.
Back view of the base, those thin support beams are somewhat difficult to install if you don’t loosen the ones around it first. The big gap is where a final back panel should go after the cabinet is complete but I chose to leave the back open.
Here is a front view of the base. The kit basically comes in two parts that are built separately and then joined together. The first part is the base as shown above. The second part is the top which when completed is mounted on top of this base. Using the hardware and instructions provided by Mameroom the cabinet comes out quite sturdy as the top and bottom are secured together very well.
Here’s the top and bottom attached. The display I used is a 27” Panasonic TV, it is pretty heavy but the support base for the monitor is surprisingly strong. You can actually see through the arcade cabinet in this picture because the back panel is not installed nor is the keyboard drawer yet.
Next, after some trial and error and after completing the control panel, I made the supports to mount the control panel. The reason the beam going across the cabinet is cut in two places is because the player 1 and player 2 start buttons would get in the way so I used a router to give them some extra room. Basically since the back end of the control panel was left open, the top part of it rests on top of the piece of wood in the middle. I also went ahead and installed the track for the keyboard drawer.
To keep the control panel from being able to slide I used the L-shaped brackets that are provided in the kit to mount the control panel. The brown part of the picture is the underside of my control panel that hangs off and the black part is the side panel of the base.
Although it doesn’t really matter when you do I installed the light for the marquee. The light I used was originally for a fish tank but any light will suffice. To do this you:
- Remove the light bulb from its fixture to prevent any damage
- Drill three holes through the top of the fixture
- Pre-drill three holes into the top of the cabinet (it helps if you have someone hold the light while you drill through the light fixture so you go through into the cabinet panel and won’t have to worry about lining up the holes)
- Use screws that are no longer than ¾” to prevent them from piercing the top
Using double back tape I attached a power strip to the base of the cabinet. When using double back tape be sure to clean the two surfaces with alcohol swabs to ensure they stick longer and stronger. The power strip will provide a switch to turn on the TV and the marquee light. Make sure that the marquee light switch is set to on before mounting the marquee this way all you need to do is turn on the power strip for it to light up.
The majority of the cabinet I built in that one night so I could continue on with the essential building steps of this MAME project. However the little touches like the beams to mount the control panel, the marquee light, and the power strip were all added in later. Most of these additions were solutions to problems that arose during construction.
You can’t plan for everything so don’t worry if minor problems arise. Remember it’s a project, just relax and think things through- you will be able to find a solution!
The next step, after you have an arcade cabinet, is to build your very own arcade control panel!