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The design is sketched out first (the concept above renders are based on the digital plans). This Wikipage explains how to build something using tools or recommendations on materials to use.
Please note that the contents of this website is a collection of advice and experience of many hobbyists. When the first 4x8 sheet is drawn up we can think about roughly cutting up the sheet into smaller more manageable panels.
The first panels we'll concentrate on are the side panels of the cab, everything kind of follows on from getting these prepared. Obviously with a saw bench the next steps would be easier, but as I said, with some patience,some clamps and the straight edge you can make most of the cuts with just a hand held power saw. So we have a panel now which has been accurately cut along pencil lines where possible and rough cut near other lines where necessary.
Once all the remaining edges are routed cleanly along the pencil guidelines we can focus on rounding off those corners. I totally managed to leave the clamps out of that diagram, always remember to clamp the pieces together firmly for this type of work. Having cut out the all the panels for this cab as per the cutting plan we can now get started on making the first few joins.
To make this design accessible to more people I’ve kept it very simple, just using bracing timber, butt joins, screws and glue. I’ve used a bit of colour system in the diagrams just to indicate where panels or timber are in addition to the panels from the cutting plan.
This cab will be sitting on a base fitted with caster wheels, as many builders start by constructing this first, let’s start with that also. Choose caster wheels which are strong enough to handle the fully loaded cab, each wheel should be rated at least 50-60 kg. Attach one side to the base, butt joining the brace on the base tight up against the brace end on the panel.
Once the saw cuts are made we will need to finish cutting each inside corner with a Jigsaw. Next using our straight edge guide and clamps route a rebate along each edge of the cut-out.
Pre-drill the back panel and the support braces at the points shown, remember to over drill each screw hole in the back panel (I use a larger drill bit) to allow for counter sunk screws. We're going to round off some of the corners and edges on these panels to give the CP it's distinctive look. It's OK to use a sander or a Dremel or a sanding block, whatever you've got handy, to sand around these arcs until you have four matching rounded corners. Finally we want to round off the edges of the CP Top panel and one edge only of the Bottom panel as shown below. Next up we'll cut the holes and rebates for the buttons, trackball and joysticks into the CP top panel and then assemble the CP onto the cab.
Attach the decorative panel by driving screws from the outside of the cab through the (remember to countersink the screw holes) panel and the brace pieces.
Using the Visio CP cutting and rebating diagram attached at the end of this post, cut out the holes for buttons, joysticks and trackball.
Again using the CP rebating guide diagram, route out the rebates for the joysticks and trackball.
The CP back panel will need two rectangular holes cut out to allow fitting of controls and wiring. The CP backing plate will also need two rectangular holes cut out to allow wiring to pass through to the CP. Here I'm showing the CP bolted to the cab using the three bolt holes (with the CP top removed for clarity). Here's a slightly more realistic render to show what the assembled cab should look like so far. The plans required for the control panel holes for buttons, joysticks and trackball can be found here in a zipped Visio file. A variant of the above control panel with a different button layout can be downloaded here in a zipped Visio file.
This page is intended for those who want to build their own arcade machine or classic game controllers. There are a dizzying variety of skills, disciplines, methods, materials, and resources involved in this hobby. Arcade cabinets (often shortened to 'cabs') are gaming machines that include the screen to display the game, controls to play the game and the computer hardware that runs the game. Low-boy, a standup cabinet where the marquee is in the same plane as the monitor making the cabinet much lower, hence the name. Showcase, a setup where the screen is in a separate housing as the control panel but still visually part of one setup.
Example standing cabinets next to an adult man for size comparison, from left to right: Regular, Low-boy and Showcase.
Seated cabinets come in two distinct categories; arcade cabinets intended to sit at for easier long play sessions or themed cabinets that involve an activity where sitting down mimics the action of the game (such as driving a car).
Ride-on, similar to the cockpit arcade, a ride-on often is build specific to the activity of the game(s) played.
Example sitdown cabinets next to an adult man for size comparison, from left to right cocktail, candy and cockpit. Bartop, a portable cabinet that can be placed on top of a table (or as the name suggests, on the bartop in a pub or diner). Digital Pinball Table, a digital pinball machine is designed to look and act like an actual pinball machine with the ball(s), lighting, playfield and backglass replaced by monitors and pinball simulation software. Arcade cabinets vary in size and complexity but they generally comprise the same basic features as shown on this diagram. One common pitfall of arcade building is trying to build a cab to "play everything" and ending up with a monster of a control panel often nicknamed a frankenpanel by the community. There are many more topics to explore such as rotating monitors, swappable control panels, and modular control panels.
A MAME cabinet is the collective name for a cabinet intended to simulate the arcade experience.
Some original arcade cabinets have electronic components like Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) or monitors that are missing or damaged beyond restoration. Also note that the name MAME cabinet refers to the emulator MAME, but in many cases several other emulators are used to play games. JAMMA connectorJAMMA is a wiring standard developed in 1985 by Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association, Inc.
If you plan to build your own arcade from scratch with your own PC, the JAMMA standard does not apply; it is an industry standard. The JAMMA standard uses a 56-pin edge connector on the board with inputs and outputs common to most video games. JAMMA Games that have more than 3 action buttons, more than 2 players, or different control types use the JAMMA+ standard.
The JAMMA standard enables you to hook an original arcade cabinet to a PC using a J-PAC encoder. If you have JAMMA compatible game circuit boards, you will need JAMMA compatible arcade hardware to be able to play them.
A Joystick is a device to let you manually control direction of movement in an arcade game. Pushbuttons are the simplest and most common form of control consisting of a momentary switch that makes contact when pressed.
Pushuttons with 3 tabs have Common (Com), Normally Open (NO), and Normally Closed (NC) connections in a SPDT configuration.
Before constructing a control panel, a cardboard mockup often gives you a good impression if the controls are comfortable to use. The number of player buttons (buttons used during gameplay) to put on your panel is determined by the the games you plan to play. To keep guests or children from accidently messing up their cab configuration, many individuals choose to not include a Menu (Tab) button and disable the shifted function for Menu. There are several schools of thought concerning admin buttons -- some people prefer dedicated admin buttons, while others prefer using "shifted functions". PRO + Button functions can be clearly labeled on the panel art or using inserts in translucent buttons. CON - When the "shift" button is pressed, any button pressed at the same time will output the associated shifted function.
Include an instruction card on the control panel overlay or screen bezel so family members and guests can figure out how to operate the cab. Illuminated buttons can be wired directly to a power source for constant single-color illumination or you can change brightness (single-color or RGB) or color (RGB) using software and a USB LED controller board like the LED-Wiz or the PacLED64.
A Spinner is a knob that can be spun rapidly in either direction to move an on-screen paddle or character. One way to expand the number of games that you can play (without turning your control panel into a "Frankenpanel") is to use gamepads or controllers plugged into external USB ports. USB gamepads allow you to add Players 3+4 to a 2-player cab or play console games that use "shoulder buttons" or two analogue joysticks per player (twin stick shooters).

You can also add controllers with specialized controls like an analog flightstick for Afterburner or rotary joysticks for Ikari Warriors.
The wiki has an example project with images to give an impression of how a cabinet is built. Building your own arcade machine is no simple task and requires the correct tools as well as the knowledge of how to use each one correctly and safely.
If you are using T-Molding, the combined thickness of all the layers needs to add up to the width of the T-Molding.
If you aren't able to find T-molding that matches the thickness of the layers, you can use a chamfer or roundover router bit to angle the lower edge of the control panel. This hardware is purchased separately from the joystick due to the variety of mounting options and methods. Top mount The joystick is mounted on top of the control panel; for this a larger hole must be cut in the panel to accomodate the base of the joystick.
Under mount (support blocks) The joystick is securely supported inside a recessed gap using blocks held in place by a metal plate or flat metal bars secured to the control panel by threaded inserts or tee-nuts. It is important to note that joysticks should always be mounted parallel to the screen since it is intuitive for a player to move the joystick in relation to the action on the screen.
The three notable exceptions to this rule are the diagonal games Q*bert, Q*bert's Qubes, and Congo Bongo.
Mounting a trackball in a wood panel is often done with the aid of a mounting plate or kit. If you aren't using a mounting plate, there are several tools that are good for cutting the large circular hole.
An encoder is a device that interfaces between the controls and the computer running the games. Keyboard Encoders When using this, the computer will interpret the connected controls as if it was a keyboard. PRO + Keyboard encoders can support multiple players (see also how many encoder inputs do I need). CON - Certain key combinations can cause accidental loss of focus or other undesired functions. Gamepad Encoders When using this, the computer will interpret the connected controls as if it was a gamepad.
PRO + Gamepad Encoders that support analog (potentiometer) controls are called Analog Encoders. Rotary Encoders A rotary encoder is required to interface rotary mechanical joysticks like the ones used for Ikari Warriors.
Optical (Mouse) Encoders An optical encoder can connect devices such as trackballs, spinners, or rotary optical joysticks. For some input types a software conversion is possible - for example the program "joy2key" is able to convert gamepad controls into keyboard strokes. KADE extended mode (20 inputs ==> 26 functions + 20 shifted functions) or shifted functions can increase the number of controls connected to your encoder. The color-coded plastic insulation sleeve indicates the size wire(s) that the terminal is designed for.
Soldering is the process of joining two metal components by melting a filler (the solder) between them. A good solder connection will have both good mechanical connection (physically strong) and good electrical connection.
After soldering, always clean the joint and surrounding area with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove any residual flux and solder.
22AWG stranded wire is a popular choice -- small enough to work with fairly easily, big enough for solid crimp connections and carrying current for many LED setups.
See Wikipedia for other wire gauges British Standard Wire Gauge, IEC 60228 and Gauge comparison chart.
Wires 1 and 2 go to the Encoder input for the function you want the push button to activate. The first schematic shows the same switches and wires connected to encoder (gray) input 1, input 2, and ground. With no buttons pressed, the encoder inputs and wires have 5v connected to them, but like a light switch that is off, there is no path for current flow through the inputs. The other schematics show the encoder registering a button press when ground is connected to the input which allows current to flow through that part of the circuit like flipping a light switch to turn on a light. One popular choice for neatly bringing power into a cab is a power inlet with an IEC320 C14 socket.
You can use 12v LEDs powered by 5v for extremely-low power consumption -- commonly used for standalone USB control panels to avoid the use of a second cable for LED power. Can be hard-wired to operate like single color buttons, but the most common way to use these LEDs is with a controller. These LEDs have 4 wires: Operating voltage (yellow or black wire), red ground, green ground, and blue ground. An LED controller allows the computer to switch LEDs on and off, change the brightness and (in the case of RGB LEDs) change the color. CRT stands for Cathode Ray Tube and works by sending beams of electrons to a fluorescent screen. Arcade CRT monitor The arcade monitor offers the best arcade experience as these are the monitors used in the original cabinets.
LCD Flatpanel The flatpanel computer monitors are the most common computer displays at the moment.
CON - The viewing angle might be a problem (depends on the model and make- but it is something to keep in mind). LED Flatpanel LED display technology is an improvement over LCD technology and is currently common used in flatpanel televisions. Component The component video (sometimes referred to as YCbCr or YPbPr) connection is indicated by three RCA connectors color coded red, green and blue. SCART The SCART connector is common in Europe- almost all TVs sold are equipped with the connector (another name for SCART is EuroAV). VGA connector The VGA connector (The connector itself is called a DE-15 connector) is a connector recognisable as a three row 15 pin connector- usually color coded blue. DVI The DVI connector is a rectangular (usually white) connector with a three row 24 pin and a two row 4 pin configuration. HDMI The HDMI connector is a flat connector with a two row 19 pin configuration (the pins are usually joined by a plastic center).
Response time is the time for a display to change a pixel from black to white and back to black. Input lag is the time it takes between an user action and the result being processed and displayed on the display. Input lag can come from software (emulators), firmware (some cheap encoders) or hardware (video converters or TV circuitry). Modern TVs have additional features to enhance the picture quality, these features however may contribute to input lag- check if the TV you are using has a "game mode" setting which bypasses most of the features. To design your own cabinet you can sketch and measure it using pen and paper or technical design software.
Build Your Own Arcade Controls Wiki recommends reading the manual of the tools you are using. None of the individual contributors or operators of this website can take any responsibility for the results or consequences of any the information presented on this web site.
TIP!-Use pieces of plywood between the surface of your panel and clamps to prevent denting the surface. Note the three holes for mounting bolts through this panel and through the CP backing plate already fitted to the cab. If you're planning to restore an existing arcade cabinet, please take a look at the topic restoration. This FAQ is intended to provide a a general overview of basic topics and common terms for newcomers to the arcade and emulation community.
Commercially build and operated cabinets are often build to play a single game and are therefore created to match the target audience or recreate the atmosphere of the game. Setups like this usually feature a large screen positioned in such way that onlookers may view the action. The cabinets are often made of hard plastic - the shiny plastic appearance led to them being called 'candy cabinets'. The controls are often matched to the type of vehicle portrayed, such as a steering wheel, pedals, gear shifter or flight yoke. Ride-on cabinets may feature a motorbike or jet ski seat but also less obvious vehicles such as a minecart.
Building a functioning micro cabinet provides experiences cabinet builders a new challenge. Measure the doorways so you can actually move the arcade from the place of construction to the gameroom. This list should include any "can't live without" games and will help you choose a suitable computer.
Keep in mind that more players means adapting your control panel; the more controls the more room you'll need (space might be an issue). Emulators are programs that can make the computer act as a (retro)gaming system such as an arcade machine or game consoles.

The encoder is a specialized piece of electronics that connects the controls to the computer. Picking the artwork or theme early may help you selecting the colors of the buttons or t-molding. It is highly encouraged to create a mockup panel out of cardboard, hardboard, or even MDF to test the layout. The control panel and monitor often dictate the required dimensions for the rest of the cabinet.
This list is by no means complete but it should provide a solid foundation for you to start designing your own cab! It allows you to easily change between JAMMA compatible game boards without re-wiring the cabinet. When selecting the correct joystick for your setup, keep in mind the games you wish to play. This type of joystick is often used where the player must be able to control the movement in a smooth way, for example pushing the joystick further also makes the game character move faster in the chosen direction.
The construction itself involves various disciplines from woodworking, electronics and design. To make sure your design fits together as you had in mind it is wise to sketch out your designs first. Regardless of what kind of thread geometry the wood screw has, with MDF you can only tighten it reliably once. Most push buttons are (from a construction point of view) similar to a nut and bolt: the threaded end is below the control panel and held in place by a nut.
A top mounted joystick adds a raised plate on top of the panel which is generally undesired if any artwork is to be added to the control panel. Countersunk fasteners or threaded inserts leave a flat surface for comfortable play and application of artwork. An area is cleared using a router to sink the joystick into the wood; this gives the joystick more height for play.
If (1) the joystick shaft is very short, (2) you don't want the joystick mounting plate exposed, and (3) need the strongest shallow-mount option available, use a top mount (recessed) configuration.
This might seem not obvious in 4-player designs, but experience has proved that this holds true even if the player is standing diagonal towards the screen. If, for example, you plan to play games that only support gamepads, it is wise to choose an encoder of the gamepad type. Check the vendor-supplied information to determine the quantity and type of inputs each encoder can handle. Please read the topic Working with Microswitches for a detailed description of the microswitch connectors.
For example if the left button is the "Player 1 Start" button, the red wire labelled "1" goes to the corresponding input on the encoder.
Build Your Own Arcade Controls Wiki recommends reading the manuals of the tools and equipment you are using. This allows you to illuminate buttons based on what game is being played or create animated light displays. CRT displays in the consumer markets are becomming less and less common in favor of flatscreen displays.
If you plan to use a television model for your arcade, it is advised to verify if the connection options for the display are compatible to the computer you plan to use. Some connectors can be converted to another connector type by using a conversion cable; usually conversion is only backwards compatible (ie. The quality is better than composite but the available color depth is not as good as component. It is one of the most common video connectors found on computers (even though it is superceded by DVI and HDMI connectors). The HDMI connector is the current industry standard for high definition video and audio signal connections.
Also keep in mind that sawdust, glue and certain paints may be hazardous to your health: always wear safety goggles or a breathing mask when working with these kinds of materials (see also Safety Equipment).
Well rhetorical question, I forgot to include marking and drilling the holes for the screws to mount the joysticks & trackball THEN Glue and screw down the CP Top Panel and the End Panels, making use of the brace pieces to screw into where available. The 'showcase' may both refer to the player being able to showcase his or her gaming skill as to the elaborate arcade setup itself. These cabinets are quite similar to standup cabinets except that they are lower and often have a larger control panel surface. Consider what type of cab (upright, sitdown, cocktail, bartop, etc.) will fit your circumstances. If you plan to support more than 2 players, make sure all players have a good view of the screen. If you already have a computer you plan to use, try some emulators on it to see what games it is capable of running - cross check this with the games you want to play.
There are several vendors that sell encoders, it is also possible to create your own by hacking a keyboard or gamepad.
It may also affect the way you want to arrange the buttons on the controlpanel or the size of the marquee. This enables you to "feel" if the controls are in the right place and the control panel is comfortable to play. While some people in the community have produced exceptional cabinets, everyone with some practice and dedication can build a cabinet. When in doubt, tt is advised to use a cardboard mockup to verify the clearances of the controls. The downside to this method is either the loss of joystick height or an increase in the distance the stick must travel to actuate the switches. The cover piece can be secured using countersunk screws as shown or a cover piece the size of the whole control panel can be held in place by the push buttons. Today vendors have different kinds of encoder circuit boards to make the process much easier and more reliable. Flatscreen displays are available in LCD, LED, OLED, and plasma variants -- each with their own strengths and weaknesses but are generally categorised by availability and pricepoint. These monitors usually support low resolutions (which may or may not be a con, depending on the types of games you plan to play). The S-Video is connection available on some PC video cards (as secondary connector) due to it's small connector size. It is often incorrect assumed that this is an RGB signal (the confusion often stems from the color code of the cables).
The final option is to switch from emulation to simulation (for example use Step Mania to play Dance Dance Revolution style of games). Also more players probably means a bigger budget- keep in mind that there are alternatives like using USB joypads for letting other players join in or using a 2-player version of a 4-player game like Gauntlet, TMNT, or X-Men. There are many programs where players can select and start games (this kind of software programs are known as front-ends. Keep in mind that many arcade games have the monitor in portrait mode (while these are still playable on a landscape oriented monitor, the games will often be scaled down). Also certain types of controls (rotary joysticks, trackballs and spinners) require a specific encoder to be able to connect to the computer. A VGA signal can be converted to the DVI, SCART-RGB, Component, S-Video and Composite with a conversion cable. A few things to keep in mind when selecting an encoder such as the number of supported inputs (how many buttons can you connect) support for analogue devices (trackball, spinner etc.). Some emulators can use special effects (shaders) to simulate the appearance of an old CRT monitor on LCD (flat panel) monitors, this usually requires a decent videocard. The negative example below has outer threads that are too narrow to work properly with MDF. The down-side of using this method is that it is much more difficult to remove and replace joysticks than with the other methods.
Note that SCART is a connector standard- it does not automatically mean that a device with a SCART connector is capable displaying all modes the SCART connector can offer.
Note that it is possible to convert VGA to DVI, it is however not possible to convert a native VGA signal via DVI to HDMI. This can be a bit challenging as there isn't much surface area for the router base to sit on, if in doubt, practise a few times on some scrap pieces first. There is no "native SCART" signal, but there are conversion cables available to connect Composite, S-Video and VGA signals to SCART. Outside corners I'd route away most of the material sand and then refine with a mechanical sander, or hand sand with a sanding block. Note that reusing controls is also subject to personal preference and is an often discussed subject within the community.

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