Build a mini arcade in 2 days

building a MAME arcade cheap!
May 04, 2009
Well well well, here we are again!!!
I finished my how to build a mame arcade article awhile back to some critical acclaim, so I thought I'd put another article up!

I was tinkering around the back yard and was noticing I had a piece of plywood left over from a bench I had made and I thought 'wouldn't it be cool to make a mini arcade out of this stuff?' Well, that's what I did and am now going to give you the benefit of my limited experience on how to create your own!

First of all, I'm a strong believer in ''use the junk you have laying around'' rule for building projects. I'm sure if you go to your garage right now and look around, there is a piece of plywood perfect for something like this. I made my design based on an all-in-one p.c. I had that has a 15"lcd on it. Your design can be based around anything you have at home. I also must give props to mike at whose original design gave me the inspiration to come up with this one.

Materials needed:
1. all in one p.c. or 15" lcd monitor and small form factor pc. If you poke around google for the ecs aio a950 all in one p4 2ghz pc, it's the perfect piece of equipment to stick into a mini arcade. see pic.

2. plywood. I used an 8ft by 16" piece I had laying around. You can buy an 8x4 and just cut it to size. The width is 16" since that's what I had laying around.

3. Joystick buttons and joysticks. I buy my stuff at The buttons are about 1.50 each and I bought the 8 way joysticks for about 8.50 each. I also added a 1 and 2 player button and 4 buttons per player. I couldn't do 6 buttons per player due to the limited size. Heck, I'm glad to have 2 joysticks on here.

4. There is a small device called a jpac that has a usb connection on one end to talk to the pc, and small little connectors all around that connect to the buttons and joysticks. that's how the joysticks/buttons speak to the pc. it cost about 40 bucks. I used the jpac mini. search google.

5. Plexiglass. An 18x24 piece at home depot is about 9 bucks. This you cut to the exact size you need for the monitor

6. at home depot they also sell a vinyl lining in the cabinet section. the vinyl lining comes in different colors. they have a faux leather one that's perfect and comes in 15' rolls for about 11 bucks.

7. a cheap white light from walmart about 12"long and an extension cord is about all we need.

First print the your plans out so you can start cutting the wood. Once all the pieces are cut, start assembling it. I used 1/2" scres to tie everything together and wood filler to fill up the screw hole heads so they don't show thru the vinyl. They show anyway no matter what you do but at least it's not so bad. The only way to avoid the screw holes is to use small pieces of wood on the inside and screw all the pieces onto that. I decided to do it this way to save time, plus I had no more wood.

Once I screwed everything together, i sanded all the rough spots out. I bought a 2.00 black spray paint can and spray painted all the spots I thought would show if not covered up properly. Spray every corner and edge just in case.

Get your router and route out the middle of all the edges to be able to fit t-molding in. I bought mine at 1/2"black. You use your glue gun to hold it in place even though it won't really budge since it has a middle tooth that grabs onto the hole you made. You put this on at the very end but you have to route the wood now before you put vinyl on!!

Grab the roll of vinyl and start cutting it to size for the sides and front portions. I let it overlap where I could so I wouldn't have any exposed areas of plywood. You smooth it out with a credit card. I had some bubbles come up I had to smooth later on.

none for the back. save it for later.

I build the joystick box separate from the arcade. This way I can change it when I want to. I really wanted to integrate it into the design but didn't make it tall enough for clearance at the bottom.

Notice the joystick plywood piece I cut. I started putting in the buttons etc. mike at has a great control panel pdf that I printed and used to make the holes. It is to scale so I cut the holes perfect using a 1 1/8" circular bit. If you bought the HAPPS standard buttons and 8 way joystick, then that's the size you need.

I wired everything up to the jpac and installed the software to test it. Worked great.

At this point I put in the tmolding all around the edges. This is what gives it a nice cabinet look and feel. It's easy to do if you routed the edges correctly. I hate routing and don't know how to do it very well so it came out a little bumpy.

notice the difference between rough wood up top and molding. this is a very rough pic with no plexiglass in front of pc and wood showing everywhere.

I went to and found a great marquee I liked. I printed it using adobe and told adobe to print on multiple pages. That's the only way you'll print a 16" pic on a regular printer using photo paper. I then cut them all around and used the 2 halves to make my marquee. I cut a piece of plywood that would fit up on top (2 pieces) and sandwiched the marquee photo in the middle. I didn't notice the marquee pic moved so you see a line down the middle! :( Anyway, when people see the arcade they won't care about the line :)

control box

Next up I finished my control box and placed it on top of the control box shelf. Everything was working great.

I went back to and printed some pics I liked and stuck them to the side as art. I have about 2000 roms loaded on this pc but also have dragon's lair and space ace. For me, it's all about the retro!

Last but not lest, get the plexiglass and cut the piece you'll need to cover the monitor up like a bezel. Go to office depot and buy black construction carboard. it's about an 1/8" thick. cheap and yet durable. I glued it to the plexiglass using the glue gun around the edges. I then very very carefully cut out a hole in the center where the lcd shows. I should have cut it first before putting it on the plexiglass. oh well.

I then had a great idea. I had lots of vinyl left over so I took the cardboard, wrapped it in vinyl, and then placed the plexiglass back on it. it looks even better! and shiny! look at this shine:

The rest is history. When I start up the pc, I have it go directly to's front end. You choose the game using your buttons, and you browse using your joystick, so no need for a keyboard EVENTHOUGH I can put one in this space at the bottom (see this unfinished pic):

here is the back. Notice how it's not painted or covered up. why should it be? It goes against the wall. In your case, if you want to have it in the center of a room, etc, just use the vinyl to cover the back as well.

Well folks, that's it. I hope you enjoyed it. If you want more info, hit me up via the personal message function here on retrojunk! have a great one!!

More Articles From mogie
An unhandled error has occurred. Reload Dismiss