As a child of the 80's, I've always had a place in my heart for these arcade games that I spent countless hours and quarters on. Some of my fondest memories include my generous dad taking me and my younger brother to the arcade, giving us a bunch of tokens, hanging out with us despite not really caring about video games, hanging out at the local liquor store playing karate champ and later the original big buttoned street fighter with other kids, and pretty much fainting when we first saw the number of machines at the Disneyland arcade back in the day. So for the past few years, I've totally wanted to build my own arcade cabinet but unfortunately my wife and I love the modern clean lines of the Ikea aesthetic as our small house is pretty much an Ikea showroom. When I approached her a few months ago about this, it was a quick "Heck no! Where would it fit in here? It would totally look out of place even if we had the room for it."
I convinced her to allow me to build and put an arcade cabinet in our living room if I could hide it inside a really slim 11.5" deep Ikea billy bookcase that we had upstairs. I started working on the design using Autodesk Inventor. I figured that I would divide it up into two parts and put them on drawer slides so that they would extend out and make it look like a real arcade cabinet. The marquee and the monitor would make up the top part and the control panel would make up the bottom part.
It was at this point where I decided that I would play up the Ikea aesthetic using their blue and yellow color scheme and even the graphics that they used in their instruction manuals. Our black Ikea Billy bookcase is pretty nondescript from the outside and I wanted to contrast that with the hidden arcade machine that is bright, brash and perhaps even obnoxious with its lights and colors. And thus the Ikeakade was born.
Starting the build...
My woodworking skills were rather poor and I lacked a table saw and a router. I borrowed a miter and jig saw from my brother and designed the cabinet on the computer in advance so that I could construct it with the fewest number of cuts. I had bought a multitool and a drill earlier in the year and I went ahead making the cuts. It was here that I learned about the wonders of the sanding attachment tool. I clamped the differently cut two side pieces together and started sanding away until they completely identical to each other. You literally can't tell how horrible my jig sawing abilities are. Another lesson that I learned was that despite the hardware store telling you that the a plank is 10" wide, it is actually only 9.25" wide. I counter sunk my screws using a slightly larger drill bit and filled them with wood putty.
Once I received my buttons, joysticks, and controller from Paradise Arcade, I built a test control panel quickly so I could figure out what bits and how big things actually are and to make sure all of the lights worked out. I also ordered a cheap 2" trackball from Sparkfun. Because it didn't come with any mounting materials, I took some ideas from the way that DaOldMan mounted his in his control panel. I highly recommend this because if you are doing an cabinet for the first time, its a lot easier getting the mistakes out of the way on the practice control panel. I also wanted two spinners on my control panel for games like Ivan Stewart's OffRoad or SuperSprint and after seeing the prices on them I went the DIY route.
Here's the contraption I build to mount the trackball.
You can see the DIY LED light fixture I built to light up the trackball through a hole in the bottom of the trackball mount.
I used some 5/16" threaded rod and fed them through a skateboard bearing that was sandwiched between two washers. I JB welded it all together. The washers allow the center part of the skateboard bearing to spin freely. I then used a fostner bit to route out a hole on the bottom side of the control panel, big enough for the washer in diameter but not enough for its depth so it sticks out a little bit. I then drilled a hole in the center of that for the threaded rod. I had to make sure that it was big enough for the center part of the skateboard bearing to spin freely. I then took a mending plate that was holes in it, bent it into a L, drilled a hole big enough for the threaded rod and screwed the mending into the bottom of the control panel. The mending plate bends a little and keeps the washer bearing sandwich in place. I used nuts, plastic washers, and metal washers to hold the threaded rod in place and give the rod some momentum when spun. For the top, I found a 1-1/2" PVC cap (who knew it is actually over 2" in diameter), JB welded a coupling nut in the middle of it, painted it yellow, and screwed it in to the top. The hard part was making sure the coupling nut was lined up in the center. I wasn't able to get it perfectly lined up so when I spin it, it wobbles a bit. Maybe I'll try again in the future. After reading online, I noticed everybody was using rollerball mice in their DIY setups. I wondered if I could go the optical route, so I flipped the mouse over and had the laser pointed at the nut and noticed that the computer was able to translate this data into a certain axis. I then used a piece of wood to mount the mouse pcb, hot glued the clear plastic piece that the laser shoots through, and adjusted where the laser was pointing at on the spinning nut at the bottom until I got some smooth motion on the computer.
Here's a quickly drawn out sketch of this crazy contraption
Here's the newly painted PVC cap
Here's what the skate bearing and washer sandwich looks like. My first usage of JB Weld! Just make sure it doesn't get on the spinning part in the middle.
Besides the slight wobble when it spins, the only other issue is that is spins too good and if you accidentally bump it, it will spin for a bit.
I then took my Lexan, borrowed a bunch of clamps from work, printed out my control panel layout, taped that on real good, and then got some 1", 1-1/8" and 1-3/8" forstner bits to cut the holes for the buttons. Unfortunately, I didn't have a hole saw with the right diameter for the trackball so I had to cut the hole using the next largest size. It works fine, but there is a 1/8" space between the ball and the sides of the hole. It bugs me a little bit, but I think I've gotten over it as I get closer to the end of the project. I then made a printout from Costco using their poster making services and put that under the Lexan with the holes drilled out. I used a sharp xacto knife that my wife uses for her scrapbooking to cut out the holes on the printout. Make sure you tape it up good with some painters tape so that nothing moves. For my control panel graphics, I found a website that would "Ikea-ify" words and put the names of video games that I grew up with e.g. Donkey Kong became Dankki Kanng, Space Invaders became Spass Insvadders etc.
Here's a picture of the control panel graphics
Because I didn't have router, I used my multitool with a plunge cutter to cut the slots for the T moulding. I simply drew a line of where the slot needed to be and with the correct thickness and then proceeded to cut it as straight as I could. I cut off a piece of the T moulding and tested as I went along. I'm glad I did that because some of my slots were too thin and required some extra cutting. In the end, its not perfectly straight but I thought it was a pretty decent job.
I then covered the front faces of the control panel with Lexan that had been spray painted blue on the other side. Once you removed the protective tape on the other side, you get a nice glossy look that looked really professional. I sprayed painted some screws and then mounted the Lexan onto the control panel.
Here's the final version. Next time, I need to remember that the T molding has a tough time making 90 degree turns. Some of it doesn't fit totally flush around that bend.
Yikes! After lurking on these forums for a while, I had the choice between spraying it and hand rolling it. Since I didn't have a compressor or sprayer, I thought that having to buy a bunch of spray paint cans would be very costly. I ended up ordering some Kansas Jayhawk blue laytex Gliden paint from Home Depot. I put down some Kliz primer and then sanded and sanded some more. I then put down some paint using some 1/4 nap rollers thinking it would give me a smooth finish. No matter how many coats I put on, and how much I sanded I could never get the brushless consistency that I wanted. I even bought the expensive microfiber rollers thinking that would solve my problems. I tried wetsanding with latex but I just couldn't get it to look right. I used a wide variety of different grit sandpaper as suggested by people on the forums but to no avail. Luckily for me, most of the painted areas are hidden by the Ikea bookcase so my poor paint job wouldn't be too noticeable. The next time I do this, I think I'm gonna bite the bullet and just go down the spray paint can route.
The marquee is attached using some aluminum L brackets that are sprayed painted yellow. I then took some metal sheet screws, sprayed painted their heads yellow, and screwed them into the L bracket. The marquee is a poster print (which I think is on photo paper) from Costco. The nice thing about it is that the back of the photo paper doesn't have anything printed on it so you don't get any dark blotches when you shine light through them. It is sandwiched between 2 acrylic panels. I then got a 5 meter strand of led strips, attached them to a thin piece of mounting board (the one with all those little holes) and hooked it up to the 12V of the power supply. I learned that the sticky tape doesn't hold up well to the mounting board and it kept coming off. I've got my fingers crossed about the large amount of hot glue I layed down to keeping the strips from coming off. I attached some small L brackets on the light board and screwed in some metal mending strips in the cabinet and put one of those ridiculously strong magnets in between. This allowed me to play with how far the light strip board was from the marquee so that you don't get those hot spots from the individual leds and also lets me quickly take out the light strip board and access the computer that is behind it.
Here's the marquee and the painted top cabinet. I put the front "glass" just to make sure it fits.
Here's a picture of how the light strip board is mounted.
I then used my hole saw to cut 3" holes for the speakers I took from a pair of computer speakers. My poor 12V drill would overheat so it took forever to cut these two holes. They didn't have any holes for mounting so I simply hot glued them to the cabinet. I then bought on ebay some metal speaker covers and I sprayed painted them yellow and attached them on the bottom. While browsing ebay, I came on some yellow EL wire that seemed reasonably priced and it came with a box that flashes the wire when detects sound. I wrapped the EL wire in several loops and stuck them above the speaker. It makes the speakers flash as sound is being played through them. I also installed a door pull I got from Home Depot so I could pull the top cabinet forward and extend it out of the cabinet.
I installed the computer motherboard using some mounting standoffs that I screwed and hot glued into the wood. I installed a smaller powersupply that I had left over my HTPC. Luckly it had some places where you could put a screw through so that I could affix it to the cabinet. With the hard drive I used some industrial strength velcro to affix it to the powersupply. Plastic tie downs everywhere to somewhat organize the cabling!
Here's the computer installed
Here's the drawer pull and speaker covers installed
After painting and installing the drawer slides, I put them in and the control panel and monitor piece seemed to slide in and out find. However, I quickly noticed that the special "lock in and lock out" drawer slides I searched high and low for weren't up to the task of steadying the control panel during play. I ended up using those cabinet door magnets to help lock each of pieces in places whether they are out or in.
Here's a picture of the drawer slide and the magnet on the side of the top monitor cabinet.
It also reinforced the top drawer slide with some extra pieces of wood. Hope it gonna be able to hold up everything.
The next thing I did was to install the monitor. I was orginally going to use the 4:3 17" lcd monitor that I had laying around but after really looking at it, I thought it was much too small for proper gaming. Luckily the week I searched ebay, I found a 21" 4:3 monitor that would fit the cabinet and for a reasonable $60 shipped. It had VESA mounts on the back so I took a board, drilled some holes for metric bolts, and then mounted it to the top unit at an angle. I then used some metal tie downs to keep the gigantic power brick in place.
Look at that ginormous power brick for the monitor circa 2005
My improvised monitor mount. For a monitor this big and heavy, you would think the screws would be bigger! Its been holding up so far!
Plastic or glass...
After looking at online prices of Lexan and Acrylic and also at Home Depot and Lowes, I decided that the online route even with shipping was pretty comparative. I eventually ordered from Tap plastics and had them cut the pieces to size. I ended up ordering 1/8" sized Acrylic for everything except fot the control panel in which I ordered 1/8" Lexan. I read all the horror stories of cutting Acrylic so I figured the extra scratchabilty aspect of Lexan was worth it for the control panel. One thing that I was glad to read somewhere on this site was that there was an arcade buidler that sandwiched 1/8" clear with 1/8" solar grey acrylic for the front "glass." I spray painted the back of the solar grey black for the "bezel" and then I was able to slide in between an instruction card for a professional look. So I highly recommend Tap Plastic, their prices are online and reasonable, the order was quickly fulfilled and shipped out to my workplace (for some reason shipping to business rather than residential is cheaper). As many of the builders on the site attest, the smoked glass with the spray painted bezel makes a big difference especially to make that screen seem like its floating in midair and to hide the monitor when its off. The only thing about acrylic that everybody complains about that is completely true is that it is a dust magnet. I looked for a place to get smoked glass cut around where I live but it was to no avail. The one place that a lot of builders use, www.onedayglass.com
was a little pricer than the acrylic to get it shipped to my location.
Instruction card. Printed at Costco for cheap again. Not sure why its doubled up in the photo...
So far so good with the project. The only hiccup was my attempt to make this build automated by having the control panel and monitor cabinet slide out by themselves. I only had to make the top monitor cabinet slide out 4 inches and the control panel 11 inches. Doesn't sound too bad right. However, because I might need to take the control panel and the monitor cabinet out eventually if we ever moved the arcade cabinet, I needed a solution that could be detached and reattached quickly or that was all in one self contained unit. I also only have an 1/2" between the sides of the bookshelf and the control panel and monitor cabinet due to them being on the drawer rails. So that eliminated the pulley and wheel option. I looked into buying or making a linear actuator. Besides the cost, linear actuators are rather slow and that to move something 11 inches, the linear actuator would be much greater than 11 inches, which is greater than the depth of the Ikea bookshelf that I'm working with. So I ended up using the turning wheel idea that a lot of you have used for the rotating monitor. I mounted a wheel and motor to the screen door hinge and then mounted inside the top monitor cabinet horizontally. So as the wheel turned it would push against the inside of the Ikea cabinet, and thus move the monitor cabinet forward and back on the drawer slide. The problem was that I was never able to get enough traction for the wheel and it kept spinning not always pulling. I ever put some really grippy traction tape under it but I was never able to get smooth, consistent movement with it. So for now, I'm resigned to the idea of having to pull the top monitor cabinet and control panel out by hand.
I've spent the last few days, extending all the wires and making sure that there is enough slack but not too much slack so that when the parts move in and out that they get caught in something. I've thought about using a server rack arm but I don't have enough room in the bookshelf to put one of those in there. The solution that I ended up with was to use those retractable key chains that I bought at the dollar store. So when the control panel goes out, the key chain will extend out and when it goes back in, the key chain will make sure the cable goes back to the right spot so it doesn't get caught in anything.
I bought myself one of those Smart Strips and they work great after turning the adjustment dial a little. My power button is wired up to the motherboard. When I turn on the computer, the marquee that is wired directly to the 12V of the power supply turns on, and the USB computer speakers turn on. Then the strip will power on the monitor and the lights of the control panel. So big thanks to the forum for this idea.
I then cut the end of the Smart Strip and wired it to the back end of a power plug that allows access from the outside of the bookshelf. I still need to find a solution to make sure our kid when getting something out of the bookshelf doesn't accidentally detach the wiring from the insulated crimps and hurt himself.
The home stretch...
This is a photo of the empty Ikea bookshelf with the administrative control panel that has the power button, USB ports and speaker volume, mic jack and power button.
I'm about to put everything into the bookself but I'm still thinking about how to make it automated.
The Gameex front end is done so all of the software is ready to go. I've hidden Windows XP and the system flies with my 2GB i3 540 system. I'll post some of my experiences regarding this soon. I know this was a long post, but I hope somebody enjoys reading it as much as I've enjoyed reading all of this sites' posts regarding your builds. Now I gotta get back to work!