How to Build Your Own Arcade Machine From an Old Computer

Arcade Machine Cabinets

You can find arcade machine cabinets on sale at various warehouses, auctions and Web sites, but they tend to be costly. Buying cabinet parts is less expensive but still a significant cost. On top of the purchase price you may have to deal with shipping charges and there's no guarantee that your MAME setup will fit inside a prefabricated cabinet. That's why many enthusiasts choose to build their own arcade cabinets from scratch.

To build a cabinet, you really need to plan ahead. You have to take into consideration the computer and monitor (or television set) you're using, the controls you'll install and even where you plan to put the machine in your home. Arcade machines are pretty large, and if you want an all-in-one arcade game yours will be larger than the average classic arcade machine.

If you're designing your own cabinet, you're really only limited by the equipment you'll be using, the floor space you have available in your home, your budget and your imagination. Enthusiasts have built MAME machines that look like classic arcade cabinets, oversized machines with multiple control systems, cocktail table systems and even cockpit machines complete with a seat inside. The smallest of these systems is the cocktail table, which places the face of the monitor up and has controls on either end of the table.

You can find plans for arcade cabinets all over the Web. There are designs for just about any configuration you could want. And nothing is stopping you from designing your own version!

To build a cabinet, you'll need fiberboard or a similar material for the body. You'll also need wood glue, screws, bolts and brackets to hold it together. You'll require tools such as a drill, a table saw, a jigsaw, a screwdriver and a rubber mallet. Optional hardware could include hinges for a door in the front, a door clasp and a power switch.

You'll also need to plot out your game control panel carefully. You need to make sure you have enough room for the wiring on the underside of the panel, particularly if you're trying to combine several different control systems into one setup. Some enthusiasts prefer to create interchangeable panels designed specifically for different kinds of games. But that would mean you'd need a place to store the control panels you're not currently using.

It's probably best to find a set of plans on the Web and follow those for your first project. You can experiment later.