MAME Arcade Cabinet

Jan 14, 2015

Since we’re now living in the Midwest, where space is abundant, it’s time to build an arcade cabinet for the basement. Researching existing plans and ideas puts you into a late-90’s internet time warp. Marquee tags and CRTs abound!

I figured I’d write up a quick post on a modern build (circa 2014).

  • Build the cabinet myself from a 3/4" walnut plywood.
  • Don't want to deal with retro-looking CRTs. This would be a flat panel display.
  • No custom controls here, I went with the X-Arcade Tankstick + Trackball
  • Reuse my old-ish Mac Mini, which has plenty of power for these old games.

The Process

My first steps were to order the items that would dictate the overall dimensions. In this case it was the display panel and the Tankstick. While I could have placed these two in SketchUp, I don’t really trust that process and nothing beats having the actual components on-hand for layout purposes.

For the display, I picked up the Asus VE278Q 27-Inch LED panel. It’s a 1080p display, which is more than enough. An important consideration here is the fact that it has a Display Port input. My intent is to use an old Mac Mini to power the cabinet, so this is important.

After doing some measurements and SketchUp prototyping, I settled on a design I liked, and proceeded to make sawdust!

Well, actually I proceeded to make polystyrene dust. Using a jigsaw, I created an approximate shape of the side panel in order to make sure all of the heights and angles were comfortable in actual use.

From there, I cut the plywood sides, supporting shelves and struts and did a sanity check assembly.

After ensuring all was well, it was just a matter of building out the rest of the cabinet using the plywood pieces. For joinery, I took the easy route and used pocket screws. In a few places, rabbets provided a little more structural support.

One detail, that I think goes a long way in making things look professional, is to mask the lexan overlay to create a black border around the display. It really ups the perceived contrast of the display and hides the ugly bezel.

I finished the cabinet with a wipe on polyurethane. While waiting for it to dry, I began the process of figuring out what software would power the front end. I ended up selecting Maximus Arcade, primarily because it required the least amount of configuration and setup headaches.

Materials

I’m really happy with how the MAME cabinet turned out, and I’m sure it’ll lead to many happy retro gaming nights in the future. My last step will be to figure out what to do for the marquee…