Jan 012010
 

The following nonsense is a pseudo blog I wrote on the BYOAC Forum back in 2006. It is about the construction of my arcade cabinet “BLACKOUT”. There were 5 full pages of threads to wade through. I have tried to edit it down into some sort of understandable form and added information for those who are not familiar with the retro arcade world. Knowing that not everyone would have the same background, I decided to also write a preface to the build log. It may give a little understanding as to why one would be daft enough to take this on. You will find that many of the folks who built one of these have similar stories. If ya don’t care, then skip it and head to the build.

PREFACE

I was an 80’s kid. I grew up with Atari being the sole home video game system. The word Nintendo was not part of any child’s vocabulary. It was the beginning of a craze. We first moved to Texas when I was 9. My friend Clint (who lived in the apartment below us) said that I needed to come with him and to bring quarters. There was a golf and tennis club behind the apartments we lived in. I found a quarter and followed him to the club house. Though it was the early 80’s and it still reeked of the 70’s. We found a way to sneak in the side door of the place. It was classy with orangish walls and brown smoky glass panels separating the various rooms. He pointed at a large box taller than me. It had a TV inside of it, and a console of buttons just under the screen. “It’s Asteroids”, he said. “Did you bring quarters?” I showed him my quarter. “It’s not enough” he told me. I pointed out that it only cost $.25. I did not understand. He explained the game and put in a quarter to show me. It looked like fun. His game ended remarkably fast (He was not very good). He said it was my turn. He had a weird look in his eyes. It was the pusher giving the future junkie his first fix. The quarters were lined up on the glass just above the control panel. The quarter was inserted. It made a deeply satisfying kachink. The player one button started to flash. The screen told me to press start, and I did. The music started, my ship appeared, and I started to play. My game ended remarkably fast (I was not very good). My heart was racing. I just stood there staring at the screen. I did not want it to be over. My one quarter was not enough. I was hooked.

I was a kid with a near obsessed need to do better at these things, one quarter at a time. Fortunately for me there were many places near by that had games. There was a little movie theater just inside of a strip mall that went out of business. They turned the lobby into an arcade. I lost a lot of money there. They had so many great games like Donkey Kong, Frogger, Bosconan, Pleades, Galaga, Galaxian. They had 4 small rows with about 4 or 5 games in each. On the back wall there were few pins as well. At that time though, I was not into the pinball machines. I think that this was there that I learned that if you told the guy behind the glass that the machine stole your quarter that he would come over, unlock the door, and click in a few credits. But they got wise to us far too quickly.

I also helped the convenience stores stay in business. Between Mr. J’s and 7-11, I laid down a few rolls of quarters. There I found Roc n’ Rope, Time Soldiers, DK3, Cloak and Dagger, Crystal Castles, Mappy, and Super Mario Bros. and Dragon’s Lair. When I got a little older, I started to go to Castle Golf and Games. The bonus there was that it had a Malibu Grand Prix right next to it with even more games. We would ride our bikes for close to an hour to get there. We would often waste all our allowance and birthday money there. It was at these two places that I found Tron, Gauntlet, Gorf, Centipede, Space Fury (Stupid Alien always taunting me), and Red Barron which was one of my favorites for a long time. Castle even had a Black Hole Pin which is still one of my all time favorite pins. Castle had rows and rows of games. It was a great place until they started to charge $.50 for the games (greed).

Over the years, arcades started to die off. Home consoles started to eat up all the quarters that people used to put into the machines, and most of my hang outs disappeared. Though it was sad, in some way, I suppose it was a good thing. I got to start keeping most of my money. I tried several of the consoles, and to some extent I enjoyed them. The problem was that they never had the same feel as the real thing. There was something to the full sized joystick, the concave buttons that you could really hit, the sound and vibration of a cabinet pushed into distortion because the volume was set far too high. Another thing is that the games changed when consoles took over. Eventually I left my kidhood behind. I would occasionally find a game here and there and drop a couple of quarters into them, but money became more valuable, and that sort of closed a chapter of my life.

I grew up, got married, and started a family. Somewhere around 1997 or 8, I found MAME. This was an wonderful discovery for me. I really tip my hat to the guys who have put countless hours into developing it and making it work so well. I got to play so many of the games I thought were all but gone. My only gripe was that my arcade memories did not include sitting in front of a computer tapping away on a keyboard. It did however, include standing in front of a big wooden box, and beating the hell out of it. Several years later, I stumbled upon the BYOAC website and I started reading about all these people, who were actually building their own arcade machines. I read this site nearly daily for several years. Eventually, I designed and built a desk top arcade console. It had real buttons and real joysticks. I hacked a computer keyboard so it would interface between the computer and buttons. It worked very well, and gave me a little more of that feel that I wanted. Sadly, I still was not fully satisfied. Still reading the BYOAC pages and forums, I started to think about building a full sized cabinet. I designed, redesigned, and re-redesigned a cabinet of my own.

I thought about all my favorite games and realized a totally unappreciated artform. So many games had very unique cabinets. If you look at a Tron, Asteroids, and Ms. Pacman, you will see very different designs and methods of building. I found a great site called the Killer List of Video games or KLOV. There you can find listings, pictures, and information about the full sized games. I went to arcade auctions. I started to study how they were made. There is actually an unrealized art in all of this. The designers actually produced very nice machines. There were so many great shapes.

Finally I started to close in on the design of my machine. I decided that 2006 would be the year I built my machine. I tend to be a perfectionist on things I create. There are folks who say they can build one of these in a weekend. I really do not know how that is possible, but sure, whatever, have fun. I would take my time and think it through. I saw a lot of examples of cabinets with a rat’s nest of wires inside. I have seen very poor examples of structure, and worse examples of paint (hey, it’s important). After a long bit, I realized what it was that I was after and clearly what I was not after.

A word of warning… The log is way long winded (As if I could somehow be less). It is my dream arcade machine, and it is a beast. In total, it took a little over a year to build. There were many steps to get it completed. I thought about consolidating the log into a general overview, but as I re-read it, I realized that it was really a diary of the build. It is more than a simple how to. It contains so much of the mindset and reasoning as to why I chose to do what I did. It provides a fairly clear reality to someone who might be considering building one. Quite honestly, though I am glad I built the machine; it was not always a joyous and fun time. It was frustrating, hard, and caused more than one ripple in my marriage. It was far deeper in scope than it might seem at first glance. The other thing I discovered while re-reading this, was how poorly written it was (not that it is much better now). I am not a writer by nature. But I am taking the time to try and neaten up, correct the horrendous spelling issues, and fill in some holes that I may have left. Now that I am removed from the situation by several years, there are several things that I have thought of conceptually, different approaches, and life lessons. I will notate these extras (AT = After Thought).

Actually, to be honest, it is still not totally finished. There are a few little things that are more or less things I needed to do for me. But all in all, it is complete, and fully playable.

The following is my account of the build process (Said in your best Jack Bauer voice).
To start at the beginning, head on over to January 2006.

Sep 112006
 

Power cord Hole
The first order of business was putting in the monitor. Looking back on thing putting in the monitor should have been one of the later things, but…oh well. Live and learn. I realized early on that I forgot to drill a hole for my power cord. Doh’. So, Being very careful not to goof up all the paint, I strapped a board to the bottom of the cab and drilled my power cord hole. This was a painless procedure. Also, I ran the vacuum tube through the coin door hole. Anytime I had to drill, I would turn it on so all dust was immediately sucked up (except for the power cord hole). Then I put in the smart strip.

Aux Power Supply
I decided that I wanted car speakers and amp for a little stronger audio source. I also wanted to use cold cathode lighting. I did not want to run either off the computer PS, so I installed an auxiliary PS. Seeing as I would not be hooking this up to a computer, I did away with the Molex adapters, then trimmed and sorted the wires. I capped each line with heat shrink that I was not using. This way the feeds would be there if I wanted them for future add-ons, but 1. Would not be a safety concern in the mean time and 2. Would be neater wiring in the cab. You will notice that the 2 lead sets that ware coming off to go to the amp and the lighting also have a green and black pair. I soldered these together and heat shrank it to the bundle. This way the PS is always on as long as there is power. I shortened the 2 PS power cords to about 1 foot.

Securing the PS’s

I did not want to make a custom bracket for the 2 power supplies. So, I took the PS apart and used the bottom to be my connector. I used a Dremel to cut tags on the PS. I bent them out flat and pre drilled holes in them. Then after I drilled pilot holes on the cab I attached the PS. Rock solid!!! I then attached the amp to the right side of the cabinet (inside left).

Coin Door
In the evenings my kid likes to play outside. Duh, it is summer and kids play outside when it is nice out. So, I used that time to work on out door cab projects. I think I mentioned it before, but I got a over under coin door at a not so near by pinball dealer. When I went to get my back glass for my Black Knight, I was a sawed off dynamo being as a TV stand. I asked if he would sell the coin door out of it. He said I could have it for $15 if I pulled it myself. SOLD!

I do not know where this thing had been but if was covered in crap. The coin mechs had to be dremmiled clean with the soft wire brush. This stuff was stuck on. The mech holders had some mystery goop on it. I became almost OCD about cleaning my hands after dealing with it. I feared that I was handling someone’s puke or worse. But hey 15 bucks is 15 bucks eh’.

I wound up taking the entire thing apart. I took a stiff wire wheel doors and frame. Afterwards I sanded everything nice and clean. I opted for the Rust-o-lium Satin instead of the original hammered look. It came out really slick.

Motherboard
I had a computer that I had set aside for the project. When I went to set it all up the computer decided it would rather kill it’s self, instead being involved with this project. I was really bummed. My partner in arcade crime, Neal, had a Celery 1.8 GHZ that he was not using that he donated to the cause. Woo hoo! Nice case too, but the computer was destined to be inside the cab caseless.

When removing the mother board I took lots of pictures so I would remember where to put everything. I have to tell you, having a camera on my phone is a wonderful tool in situations where I forgot my real camera. I also made a map of the screw holes so I would not forget any. 12 screws. I was not sure if I needed all of them, but it would seem that is I was adding or removing IDE lines or power or video cards, not having all the support might damage the board, so I decided to do all 12. The motherboard would not sit flat against the wall so I found some 1/4  in nylon stand offs at the Home Depot. I will just say for the record that mounting a motherboard to the side of a cabinet, maintaining level, and getting little stand offs on with the screw in it while balancing between the monitor and the floor of the cab was a major main in the posterior. Remember the comment about perhaps putting the monitor in later? So, I screwed one screw (with stand off) in the center top hole of the motherboard. I leaned in the cab on one elbow (left) got the stand off in a pair of pliers in my right hand. I put the level on top of the motherboard, found maintained level with the left hand, put the stand off behind the motherboard with the right, then pushed down on it with the right while grabbing the screwdriver with the left, fidgeting to get a screw and placing it through the hole and finally tightening it down (which was the easiest part). Needless to say, I did not take a picture of this process.

Hard Drive Mounting
While I was taking the PC apart, that there was all sorts of usable metal bits in the case. I decided to use this stuff for many parts of my cab. I dremeled off the hard drive cage (it was tack welded in there) and modified it to be screwable to the cab. I put some holes in it, bent it, painted it, put it in the cabinet, added the hard drives, and screwed them in. I did the same for the DVDr Drive. When I got the DVDr installed, I realized that the lip of the door stop was right in front of the DVDr. I decided to try to open the tray. To my relief, tray misses the door stop lip by about 2 or 3 mm. Whew.

Menacing Little Blue Light
I have always liked how Macs have the power light that slowly just fades on and off. I decided that my cab needed a similar thing. I pulled out the ol’ RadioShack project books and started looking for a schematic. I did not find exactly what I was looking for so I set out to create my own recipe. After experimenting for a while, I finally had a good balance in fade timing. I dug through my old electronics stuff and pulled out piece of perf board and began constructing. About 3 hours later I had a working pulser. I put the circuit near the coin door as my main power button is mounted near by here too. I ran the little wall wart PS to the outlet on the smart strip that is always hot.

I love it, it sort of gently taunts you. Come here… Play me…

The On buttons switch was then wired to the motherboard power on connection. I used the connector that was originally attached to the motherboard switch as it had the header receptacle already on the wires. I soldered on an extension and attached it to the button. It was easy and it works great.

Control Panel Wiring.
This seems to be one of the most time consuming parts of the entire build. I had 32 channels of LED lighting, 2 – 49 way Joysticks, 21 buttons, , a track ball, track ball buttons, USB for all the interfaces, plus a custom lighting wiring adapter that would feed the rest of the cabinet (coin door switches, LEDS…).  I started with the LED wiring. 5 buttons will be using RGB LEDs while the rest will use Blues except for 3 reds at the top. After all the Push Buttons, Joys, TB, +Interfaces were in, I realized that there was a significant shortage of real estate available for clean wiring. But I set out to do just that. I decided to use wire looms I bought from Frys. I bought a roll of 1/4 in and got a package that contained a variety of different sizes. Every time there was any distance between source and destination, I would loom it. This way all wires would be both secure and tightly bound together.  I did the player 1 LEDs first. I tested each LED Before and after I added them because I did not want to get to the end of all the looming, heat shrinking, and soldering to find out that I had a problem somewhere. I build a little LED tester a few years ago which helped. I put heat shrinking at every solder point so there would be no shorts at some point in case something shifted. I decided to put all the resisters by the LEDWiz so I had only clean wire in the tight spaces. This seemed like a good idea, but as I soon learned, it also got very tight around the LEDWiz.

The RGB LEDs were set up with RG&B wires for easy tracing. I did all the LED and PushButton wiring in my living room while watching TV at nights. I have to say my family was very supportive in this trying time. (I sort of made a big mess). Little snippets of red, yellow, blue, green, black, and yellow wires everywhere. After Player 1, I did players 2 then the utility buttons (coin up, P1, P2, Esc, and Pause). This took several nights and mornings (before work).

Then I moved onto the push button wiring. After the LEDs, the PBs (Push Buttons) were a piece of cake. All the PBs were wired with yellow wire so they totally stand apart from the LED lines.
I talked to Randy T from Groovy Game Gear and asked if he saw any problem with me making the mouse buttons also connect to the GPWiz49s shift key. He did not see a problem. So, once in MAME, being that I would not be using the mouse buttons, the shift keys come into play. Buttons 1-5 on both P1 and P2 can all be shifted. This is great for quickly changing volume without having to leave MAME.
By the way, if you are someone who does a lot of soldering and feel that helping hands do not really help as much as one could hope for should check out the Panavise sets. I got one on e-bay for like $15. They can be like $85 at a store. But you can clamp a circuit board or LED or anything up to 9 inches and rotate it in just about any position. It is a GREAT TOOL!!!

Track Ball
I hooked up the LEDs for the Track Ball. This was not a difficult thing. Wire, wire, snip, snip, solder, solder, heat gun, know, what I mean nudge, nudge, wink, wink, snap, click, know what I mean…He asked him knowingly.

Cable Tracks
I wanted the inside of the cabinet to be absolutely clean once it was finished, so, I installed cable tracks all the way around the bottom of the cab. I also have one track going up the left (inside right) front panel (coin door panel), and one track running up the back right inside of the cabinet (near the door) which takes all wires up to the speaker board area. All wires and cables travel through these tracks. There are no loose wires wandering aimlessly around the cabinet. This has helped during times when I would need to climb in there to work on stuff.

Speaker Board Wiring
I wired up the Speaker board via DB9 connectors. The connectors connect at the back of the cab for easy repairs (if needed). Also if I have to remove the monitor ever, the wiring needs to be disconnected in order to get the monitor frame out. The DB9 connector went to +12 and Ground (From Aux power supply), Speaker L & R, and lastly line 32 from the LEDWiz and a LEDWiz Ground. In each notch below the speaker holes, I placed a red LED. My speakers have a metallic silver grey color. This makes them light up really nicely. The cool thing is that they are not so bright that they are distracting, but just subtle. I like it. After everything was wired up, I put it in the cabinet. Wow, another piece in place and another step closer to being done.

LEDWiz
At this point I could no longer stand it. I had to fire it up and try out the LEDWiz. I played with it for several hours. I programmed many sets of animations and started to get the hang of it.

Marquee Light Board

I used a piece of hard board for my light board. First I measured out where I wanted my hangers. I drilled out holes on the hardboard. I put the L brackets on and attached them through the hardboard. Then I put the hardboard in the monitor hole and marked where I needed to place my pilot holes (I had to take my speaker board down first). I drilled my pilot holes. On the hardboard I used Foil Tape to coat the surface. This way as much of the light as possible would go out the marquee, not get absorbed by the light board. I drilled wires for cold cathode to reach the inverters. May sound stupid, but I did not even want the inverters sucking up light, so I put them on the back of the light board with Velcro. I wired the inverters to the 12V feed and then the cold cathode tubes to the inverters. One thing to mention. I snipped the on off switches off of the inverters. I always wanted the marquee lights on if the cab was on. Plus I could not see unscrewing the entire sound board / light board set to turn off the Cold Cathode tubes.

The morning after I put the CCs on the marquee light board I noticed that the cheap POS foam tabs used to stick the CCs onto the light board with had fallen off in several places. I decided that this would not do, so I replaced all pads with the same heavy duty Velcro that I used for the CP top.

Marquee
I had used MAME Marquees for a few marquees in the past. Scott always did a bang up job. My only gripe is that when lit, the marquees look a little washed out. Plus you can see the paper texture through the print. Now, read this clearly, I am not saying that his products are bad. Actually, I feel quite the opposite about his stuff. I used him for my CP which I think totally ROCKS! I decided to go a little further for my Marquee. So I found a company (Megabytes Digital) which makes the translites for movie posters and restaurant menus. Actually they are the company that does all the translites for all the Chick Fil-A restaurants. This stuff is not printed on paper, but on a film type material using a milky substrate. Basically it is plastic, white on the back, color print on the front, and lit like film, so it is made to take light. So the colors are rich and very detailed when lit. I LOVE the way it turned out. It is thin, not like the old marquees, so it must be protected.

NOTE: As I understand it, MAME Marquees no longer uses just standard printing. It is apparently very similar to what I got from Megabytes.

Marquee Installation
I bought a piece of plexi for the Marquee. I cut two identical pieces so I could sandwich the marquee translite in between them. I made a holder out of 2 pieces of ¼ in. angled aluminum. First I put in the back piece so I could get it nice and straight. Then I put the 2 pieces of plexi against it and put up the second piece of aluminum and marked it. I wanted to get it as tight and close as possible. I set down the loose bits and predrilled the holes. I held up the plexi once more and screwed down the second piece of aluminum. It was a tight fit, but it was strong enough that everything held into place without the use of the marquee retainer.

At this point I had to make the leap and take the plastic off the plexi. I decided to try an experiment. When you work with electronics, sometimes you have to wear an anti static strap. This is to dissipate a static charge so you don’t fry sensitive components. I tried this in reverse. I strapped the marquee plexi to the strap then to me. My hope was that I would absorb the static charge generated by the plastic removal. I’m not sure if it really worked or not, but they were not covered with dust after I removed the plastic. I quickly placed the marquee down, put the plexi on top, trimmed the marquee, put the back plexi on and mounted it into the grove mentioned above.

I placed T-nuts across the top edge of the speaker board. These are for the marquee retainer. I got some hex screws and sprayed them black. I measured the retainer and cut it to length. I drilled the holes and installed it on the cab. I like the hex nuts as they give a little more authentic look to the retainer.

Sep 072006
 

I have really wanted to be done for a while now. I want to have a few weeks of not having to think about how to configure this or that. I am getting a little burnt out. I have put so much detail into places that folks will never see, so the places that they do see will be that much more over the top. I do not like just “good enough”. If I have to re do something again to make sure it rocks, then I will. Call it a little ADD mixed with OCD mixed with trying to be a perfectionist. I want it to be a fully polished piece upon completion. You know… quality from within and all.

Sep 062006
 

I am waiting on a marquee retainer from Arcadeshop. It should be here on Friday.

I guess once you get the cabinet inside, the build process fractures. I have been trying to get the dang thing done. I have been sitting at my desktop and am held up with the FE (Front End) issues. I have a lot of different technologies that I am trying to get talking.
Trying to get the LEDWiz working with the FE, the FE with the GPWiz49, and in some flavor of MAME. There are so many front ends and so many options. Will I use Johnny5, will I use Atomic FE, will I use Dragon King, will I use MAMEWah? I just want to make it go. My brain hurts from trying to read so much on so many different websites, and keep it straight from FE to FE. Trying to understand how to write batch files. I am trying to understand it all. There is just a lot to take in.

Jul 032006
 

I have now hauled the thing upstairs to my game room. Then I began the process of installing the guts. It seems to be a fad with builders to use your Air Hockey table as a staging area for anything and everything that gets done in the game room. Well this game room is no exception. I stacked everything I intended to put into the cab on the air hockey table. Soon enough it all made it’s way onto the floor to the point where no one could walk through there. I eventually would get so frustrated with the mess that I would stop everything and clean the whole place just to repeat the cycle again.

There are just far too many distractions. I got sucked into writing a bunch of stuff on the BYOAC WIKI which took a few weeks. Then there is church. I go to it, and am involved there. I do sound for them, and am also in a men’s bible study which takes time. Kids, and family take time (actually they have to come first). So many times, I planned to work on the cabinet and something would come up with the family. I have gotten in too much trouble for letting the cab come first. The cab became an obsession. There really is a sickness that sets in when you start to see progress. You get excited and want to work on it that much more. I have been late to work (on more than a lot of occasions) because I just wanted to finish just one more thing.

Somewhere in the flow of things I went to two arcade auctions and bought some stuff. This side tracked me because most games from auctions require some TLC. Plus, I have been repairing some machines that a friend of mine bought.

I have been totally side tracked by the front end dilemma which I suppose is part of it all, so perhaps it is not a side track. There are so many great choices, but I am trying to find the right fit based on features I want and need. Once this thing was able to produce a picture, I have been modifying and tweaking and trying to learn how to make MAMEWah, PowerMAME, PowerMAME32, Atomic FE, and Dragon King work. They all have their cool sides. Once I got my head wrapped around MAMEWah the others seemed easier to play with, but trying to understand the bugs of each…well. The pictures that you will see in a little bit are shown with AtomicFE.

I have been desperately trying to use PowerMAME because of the 49 way joystick support and the LED stuff (not to mention many other cool things). In fact I bought so much of the gear based on the idea of using PowerMAME. I also like MAMEWah because of the it could use the quickres utility which changes the resolution based on what game is being played. I have to figure out a resolution solution outside of MAMEWah. It seems that MAMEWah uses the resolution info to pass to MAME but it does not change what MAME wanted to do if it is set to auto res. When I am in PowerMAME32 I can not seem to get a good resolution setting on anything. The combination of the GGG (Groovy Game Gear) LEDWiz with the GGG ICE buttons work fantastic together. I have gotten many beautiful colors out of the RGB LEDs. They are nice and bright in a lit room, and are just over the top in a dark room (in a good way).

I still want to figure out a better way of programming animations for the LEDWiz. Being a video editor / animator, I am frustrated by the LEDWiz interface. In After Effects you have total control over all aspects of your objects. In the LEDWiz app you are fairly limited in ability. No don’t get me wrong. I love the app (as it is the only graphical way to program the thing) and I have done some very nice stuff with it. Again, I wish it was just easier to use.

I am really leaning towards Atomic Front End because Youki is adding LEDWiz and 49 way support. I still have not been successful with getting it fully running But Youki has offered fantastic support. I am getting to a point where though not totally finished, I feel I can work on the config of this thing to get it totally playable soon.

Right now in order to play it at all I am using PM32 with is nearly blinding to look at on a CGA monitor at 640 x 480. but that is the only to see everything I need to see if I go into menus n such.

Jul 022006
 

After the near demise of the cabinet, I thought that I would take things a little slower. I also decided that I would not make any posts until I reached a mile marker. This way I would not be trying to hastily make decisions I might regret later on. It may sound stupid, but there were several times that I rushed through something, just so I would have pictures to post. It is partly why I couldn’t wait for someone to help me lift the cab. I had to do it myself…right then. Having a 6 month project nearly go to splinters, right before your eyes, will adjust your thinking a little.

SIDE ART P.1
Earlier, you saw a mock up of the side art. I decided to take the CP theme and put it on the sides too. So, After the cab was mended and I put a fresh new coat of paint on it, I went to work on the side art. In the background of the CP is a blue haze that sort of clouds with black. This has sharp black lines that seem to disappear into the distance. I decided to invert this for the side art. Using 2 inch painters tape I placed the first line (at the bottom). I Measured up 2 inches and placed another strip. Then I went up 1/8th short of 2 inches, then 1/4 shorter and so on. Each line getting an 1/8th of an inch closer together than the previous line.  When I got down to a 1/8 in stripe between tape, I switched to 3/4 in painters tape. I did 3 lines at 1/8 in. Then I started expanding again at 1/8th of an inch. Being that the strips were 3/4 inch the expansion happened much faster towards the top. I did this on both sides and in the front. I then masked off the whole rest of the cab to prevent overspray. I decided to use Rust O Lium Painters Touch spray-paint because there was such a beautiful range of colors available. I used 3 colors of blue and black for the stripes. I started with an initial base of dark blue. Then moving outwards I introduced a lighter blue being careful to just gently blend the colors. Toward the edges I just faintly misted an even lighter blue. Then very sparingly I sprayed little puffs of satin black to give a sort of nebulous look.

Speaker board
I am using 5.25 in SPL speakers. I measured and started planning the speaker board. I used a compass to draw the circles as I could not find any glasses, coffee cans, soda bottles, or anything that was 5.25 in. I wanted to not see the speaker. I wanted the classic arcade slotted hole thing (look at Donkey Kong). So I measured and drew that all out. In my planning, I wanted a little cavity directly below the speaker before the slots. This is for maximum airflow for the best sound possible. I did not want the speaker banging against the MDF during heated game play.

I decided to route freehand vs. making a template. I had to do this for the trackball body hole and felt pretty comfortable doing it. So, I routed the speaker side first. The depth was 5/16, so I went roughly half way through the MDF. I started in the center and made my way outwards (learned that the hard way with the track ball hole). I left 2 notches at 45 degree angles for something I will be adding later. I flipped the board over and then did the slots. I did use a guide for the slots. After that was all done, I spray primed, and painted the speaker side of the board. The player side of the board I did a proper prime/sand and painting of.

CP Plexi.
Having clamped the plexi to the CP board, I took off the edges of the plexi using the laminate bit with the router. The little bearing at the bottom of the bit let me easily trace around the CP as it mulched away the excess plexi. I then drilled 2 holes and routed them out for 2 of the pushbuttons. This was so I could insert the pushbuttons during the rest of the drilling and routing so that it would not shift. This worked very well. I flipped the CP over so I could see the button holes. I placed a board under the plexi to reduce the chance of cracking when the drill popped out the other side. I used a big enough drill bit for the laminate bit to fit through and I drilled all the holes. I flipped the CP back over to work on the top. I shined a light up through the plexi so I could see where I was routing. This was very helpful for the trackball hole. I then used a 1/8 in round over routing bit for the edges of the CPO and trackball hole. Routing the edges does not leave it very smooth so I experimented with a number of things, but eventually I used a combination of super fine sand paper, Dremel buffing compound, novus 2, and a heck of a lot of elbow grease. Eventually I got the edge to a nice lens like surface.

CP TB Hole Bondo
There was a little void between the edge of the trackball plate, and the CP. There was only a little space, but I did not want the (CPO) Control Panel Overlay to settle into the crack. So, I made up a batch of Bondo and schlopped it in there. When I bought my Happs trackball and top plate off ebay, the seller sent one with a hammered finish, not flat black as I requested. So, I used the remaining Bondo and schmeared it across the surface of the plate. When it was hard, I sanded it all nice and smooth. I then sprayed it to a fine finish.

CPO Arrived
I finished the art for the CPO and sent it to MAME Marquees. Once again they did a wonderful job on the Print. It is very rich and the colors are spot on! There is a thrill when you design something and get it printed full sized. The CPO has a sort of spring memory which made it hard to work with during the install as it comes rolled up. I have done several CPO installs but they all get really intense as you really only get one shot. The adhesive is very sticky and once it is placed, it is incredibly hard to remove without creases or stretching it.

Side Art pt. 2
I have been watching my receipt totals increasing and increasing, so I decided against a laser cut stencil as it was going to run between $80-$100. I started thinking about what might look cool. I did want the feel of the CPO as it really sets the tone for everything else. I knew that getting the smooth curves correct would be really hard freehanded, so I decided against the center image on the CP. Anything with lines or angles could be done with masking tape as a stencil.  I decided to do the top and bottom of the cabinet in two separate stages. Starting with the top, it was tape, tape, and more tape. Then I added more tape. Then for safety I applied tons of masking paper. About 3 hours later I was ready to paint. I was kind of nervous, yet excited about this part. It was a total blast, and once I pulled off all the masking, I totally loved what I saw and decided to proceed with the bottom and front. The side and front art is free formed. I only had of end image in my mind that I was reaching for. This was great fun as so much of the build has been totally rigid and to some specification. This was really more like art creation because I could just play. Once I got one side finished, it became a little more difficult as I had to mirror it on the other side, but in the scale of difficulty, seeing some of the stuff I have done lately, it was not hard at all.

The center was a little different. I did not have something to mirror. I sat on the floor in front of it and started placing masking tape. After a while it started to take shape. I had to keep thinking this as a negative. As I was designing, it was all blue and black against a background of the tape color. Once painted, it would actually be the reverse of this. I guess the design is kind of a rocket sort of thing. One thing that struck me as odd (and a little scary), but on the front, in the center I have a hole for the cab power on button. When I was doing all the taping I made a couple of angles at the top. Then because of the side angles there was a straight line across the upper area of the triangle. I did not see this before I painted it because of the negative thing, but the triangle with the circle looks like the All Seeing Eye / Illuminati symbol.

For the paint, I used Rust-o-lium Painters Choice again. This time the colors were Sun Yellow, Real Orange, and Apple Red. I started with yellow and painted a really solid coat. While it was still wet I hit it with orange. I stood at the back of the cab and aimed forwards. This way the back got the main blast and overspray would follow forward. I moved the can forward down the line, but always kept my angle. As I got closer and closer to the front, I got further and further away from the cab. Then I repeated with red. Then I did the whole cycle over again for touch up. The yellow I just gave a blast right at the tips (This time with an angle a little ways back) so the paint would spread. I then blended with the orange and finished the stripe with the red on the other end. While spraying I kept the can spraying and moving. Not short little bursts. Bursts cause a real distinction between the colors. A constant spray was the trick. Also bursts sometimes caused big specks of paint to come out which can goof up yer paint job.

Speaker board Art
I wanted the speaker board to follow suit with the side art and CPO. So I taped up the Speaker board. I decided to keep this area much more simple. I did not want a lot of distraction reflecting into the glass while I am playing.


Things to mention…
1. This took a heck of a lot of tape.
I went through 2 rolls of the 2 in. tape, nearly 2 rolls of the 3/4 tape, almost 1 whole roll of the paper mask tape (has light adheisive on 1 side of the tape and just paper on the other 4 in wide).
2. The middle color (orange) ran out the fastest. I thought it would be the red.
3. when I used black on the sides and speaker board I went VERY sparingly.

CPO Part 2.
The overlay was on the board. I spent several days just looking at the CPO. It looked so nice. I did not want to cut into it. I just wanted to look at it. But a control panel is worthless if there are no buttons, trackball, or joysticks. Finally, I gave in and cut out all the holes. It was finally time to pull off the safety plastic from the plexi. The problem with this is that it attracts every piece of dust within a twenty mile radius. I cleaned and re-cleaned my plexi and started to put it on. Then I pulled it off and re-cleaned it again. I put on the plexi and saw all sorts of crap on it. So I cleaned it and re-cleaned it. Stupid static electricity. I eventually got the plexi clean (mostly) and placed it on the CP. I started to attach buttons (which actually holds the plexi place) and the trackball.