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After a fair amount of debate I decided on the Ultimate Arcade II package from Northcoast Custom Arcades. They have a lot of options accessories, and experience. Additionally, everything is cut by robots so it all fits together perfectly. The UA2 kit provides the look and feel of a classic arcade machine with the nice to have for a computer based arcade machine of a keyboard/mouse drawer.
These guys have been around for awhile and take really good care of their customers. They are also happy to answer any questions you may have and if they make a mistake they will send you whatever is needed to make it right.
I ordered 2 colors of T-molding (light blue and black.) If you order 1 color they will still include enough to finish the kit out. I also highly recommend their custom control surfaces and wish now that I had ordered one instead of purchasing a pre-built unit, although the X-Arcade Tankstick I used for this build is still pretty awesome.
This thing is very heavy and shipping was around $100 but sometimes they offer free shipping as a promotion. Get everything you need the first time and save some money on freight. Also, be aware that since it is actually freight they may just drop it off at the curb. Either way, head down to Harbor Freight and get yourself a furniture dolly. It will let you reposition your project without scratching it up or knocking it over.
It probably doesn’t seem like it at this stage and you may be inclined like i was to worry about the control surfaces later, but now is the time for you to decide how many players you want to provide for at a time, what type of monitor you want to use (crt or digital) and whether you are building your controls or you want to use a pre-built setup. The cabinet type you decide on will help you determine what you need for the most part.
Having gotten this far I have to recommend the digital monitor. MAME lets you add a directive to the startup script and an artwork file if you want to be true to your roots and have scan lines:
When you are not playing a game you can still use this machine as a jukebox, media server, and internet connected computer. If you spring for the CRT display not only do you pay extra, you also stand a good chance of shocking yourself (never touch a flyback transformer) or starting a fire, and your desktop will be blurry and a general pain to use.
Northcoast will be happy to send you the appropriate glass, brackets, recommend a monitor, and are happy to answer any questions you have about your choices at this stage. They also sell construction plans if you are on a tighter budget and don’t mind cutting the pieces out yourself. Be advised if you do so you will have to cut the grooves in the edges for all the T-molding which is a requirement for building with particle board. This is painful, but if you opt for hardwood, plywood, or if you enjoy suffering the pain of Lexan you can opt out.
Construction of the cabinet is pretty easy once you download the instructions (they weren’t included because they are subject to change) and takes about an hour. Give yourself plenty of space because the pieces are awkward. I put the top and bottom together separately, then flipped the divider upside down to make it easier to install the top section by just dropping it into the screw sockets. Everything fit perfectly but I had to shim out the keyboard drawer brackets a little bit. I will probably install a lock on it later. If you read the controller section of this tutorial you already know why it’s no longer needed, but still good to have just in case.
All you should need for the assembly is a screwdriver.
As a procedural note, particle board is very brittle. The post and seat connectors used in most particle board constructed items are also not known for their durability. Polyurethane calking holds the windshield on your car in place while you are barreling down the interstate at 90 miles per hour and is rumored to have held the ceramic tiles on the space shuttle in place to keep it from burning up when it reenters earth’s atmosphere. It is relatively cheap, remembers the shape it took when it dried, is paintable, and when used on particle board joints after they are assembled will make your cabinet pretty much indestructible. This pays dividends if you are building the cabinet in one location and ever (I mean ever) have to move it somewhere else later. Lay a fine bead on the inside of your seams and joints.
One tube will do the job easily with enough left over for you to glue a brick to a window afterward.
Allow 24 hours for your creation to dry. When you are done you will have something like this: