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Author Topic: Project BlueShift  (Read 6061 times)

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Lexiq

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Project BlueShift
« on: June 06, 2023, 07:09:15 am »
Introduction

I started this project at the beginning of 2016 and completed it earlier this year, with a few years of inactivity in between. These forums were a frequent source of information and inspiration over that time, so I wanted to document my journey here, in case it might be useful to others.  :)







First Steps

My goal was to build a MAME cabinet with simple / classic styling. I wanted it to be fairly compact and I made the decision early on to use an LCD screen instead of a CRT. With that in mind, I went looking for plans and settled on arcadecab.com as a starting point. From these plans, I took the basic proportions and structural elements, and translated them into SketchUp. At this point, I felt confident enough to start making adjustments to get things looking closer to how I wanted.



I decided on 636mm for the width (an internal width of 600mm, plus 2x 18mm for the sides), and reduced the depth to 700mm, with an inset of 12mm all round for the panels and screen. I also wanted to use a single length of T-molding for each side, starting and ending at the control panel, so I added a radius of 30mm to all exterior and interior corners (except for the control panel shelf).

Now that I had a plan, the next step was to find some wood. After researching several options, I settled on 18mm cabinet grade birch plywood and ordered 3 2440x1220mm sheets, as well as some folding saw horses. This should be enough for the entire cabinet, with some left over to cover mistakes.

« Last Edit: June 08, 2023, 07:04:50 am by Lexiq »

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2023, 06:51:15 am »
Cutting the First Side

The sides of the cabinet are the largest individual components, so it made sense to make these first. The first step was to purchase some tools. I decided it was worth spending a bit extra to get quality tools capable of delivering accurate results. These are the tools I used to make the first side:
  • Track saw
  • Shop vac
  • Jig saw
  • Steel square
  • Stainless steel rulers
Track Saw and Shop Vac

I initially purchased a circular saw, but returned it in favour of the track saw because it had some flex in the base and, not being an experienced wood worker, I wasn't confident I'd be able to use it effectively. Set up correctly, the track saw guarantees it will cut where you want it to. It can also cut accurately at angles other than 90 degrees which will be useful later on. It has a safety mechanism that stops it from jumping of the track if you get kickback, as well as a connector for a shop vac, which works very well to redirect sawdust.

Because I'm working indoors, and not in a dedicated workshop, it was important to keep things as tidy as possible. I chose a small cordless shop vac because it was relatively inexpensive and easy to move around. It works well, the battery life is reasonably good, but beyond the bag it doesn't have any filtration, which might be worth considering.



Jig Saw, Square and Rulers

The jig saw will be used to cut the rounded corners, as well as the internal 90 degree corner for the control panel shelf. This model came with a good blade for clean straight cuts, but I also needed to buy a narrower blade for the tighter concave curves.

The high quality steel square was possibly one of the most important investments. Along with the stainless steel rulers, it made it possible to accurately transfer measurements from the plan to the surface of the plywood. Additionally, it can be used to check that a panel is square, or check that the track saw track is square. This may seem excessive for a project of this type, but small errors can compound. I wanted to be as precise as possible at all stages, and particularly early on, so I could be confident that I was building on a solid foundation.



Initial Cuts

Before making a first cut, I carefully transferred the measurements for the side onto the plywood using the square, rulers, a 0.5mm mechanical pencil, and a compass for the curves, double checking everything. Measure twice, cut once. :)

The next step was to position and clamp the track saw track with equal care, and make the straight, exterior cuts. It's a good idea to think about the order of the cuts at this point, and the size and shape of the offcuts, so as little as possible is wasted.

When using the track saw, it's important to choose a speed that's fast enough to cut cleanly, but not so fast it will burn the edge of the plywood, which can happen quite easily. Make sure the saw is up to full speed before lowering the blade to avoid kickback, and keep the saw at full speed until it's clear of the wood when finishing a cut for the same reason. While considering safety, it's a good time to note the importance of eye and ear protection, and a dust mask is also advisable. Most of the cuts can start at an edge and either end at an opposite edge, or stop before hitting an interior corner. The edge parallel to the screen is different - it starts and ends at interior corners. Fortunately, the track saw can be used to begin a cut in the middle - it's sometimes called a plunge cut saw for this reason.



Completing the First Side

For the interior angles, the track saw can be used to cut most of the length of a side approaching the corner, but the jig saw needs to be used to complete the cut. The interior curves are the most difficult and it's a good idea to practice on some scrap before attempting it on the real thing. I found it was best to go slowly (but not too slowly or the blade will bind) and try to keep the cut slightly on the offcut side of the guide line. The same applies to the exterior corners - sandpaper can be used to remove the excess. Wrap the sandpaper around a small block of wood for the exterior corners and around a cylindrical object with the correct radius for the interior corners.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2023, 12:42:06 am by Lexiq »

javeryh

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2023, 09:58:12 am »
This is an outstanding cabinet. Clean lines and an elegant theme.  :applaud:

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2023, 02:08:35 am »
This is an outstanding cabinet. Clean lines and an elegant theme.  :applaud:
Thanks javeryh - love your work!

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2023, 02:17:46 am »
Cutting the Second Side

The second side is considerably easier to cut than the first. With the first side complete, it can be used a template for the second. This technique is recommended elsewhere on these forums and it works very well.

Tracing the First Side

I started by laying the first side on top of the second, sheet of plywood, positioned so the bottom and trailing edges align with the edges of the new sheet. Now, with the sheets clamped to avoid movement, I traced a line around the outside of the first side - much faster than transferring measurements.



Rough Cutting

Once this is done, the first side can be moved out of the way for now, but it will be useful again later. The next step is to cut the side. The order of cuts should be the same as for the first side, but this time, accuracy is less important. The important thing is to cut slightly outside the line, so the second side is slightly bigger all round than the first side. It is also not necessary to tidy up the jig saw cuts as this will be taken care of in the next step.

Trimming

This next step is the most fun, and by far the most messy. It also requires a new tool - a router. I chose a smaller router also known as a laminate trimmer that came with a variety of bases, including a plunge base. Being less powerful than larger routers, I thought it might stuggle with some aspects of the build, but it proved itself to be very capable and the smaller size and weight were often beneficial. In addition to the router, a flush trim bit is required. This bit has a guide wheel the same size as the blade, meaning the blade can't cut anything outside the radius of the wheel.



Lay the first side on the saw horses, then position the second side on top such that there's a small amount of overhang all round. Clamp the two sides securely - it's important that there's no movement until the second side is complete. Using the depth setting on the plunge base, position the router bit so that when the router is sitting flat on the second side, the blade covers the entire edge of the second side and the guide wheel is aligned with the first side.



Next, select a cutting speed - check the router manual for recommended speeds for different bit sizes. On most routers, the bit will spin clockwise when looking from the top, which means you should move in an anti-clockwise direction around the outside of whatever you're cutting. Begin cutting anywhere, and cut until you reach a clamp.

Depending on how much extra material you left when rough cutting the second side, you may need to do more than one pass before the guide wheel contacts the first side and you get a flush cut. It's better to do multiple passes and keep the bit moving fast than try to cut too much at once. It's also very important that the base of the router stays flat against the second side. Prioritize this above monitoring the position of the blade - the guide wheel ensures no mistake can be made there, but if the base tilts, the top part of the blade will cut deeper into the side.

When it's time to reclamp to make room for the router, move one clamp at a time to ensure the two sides stay aligned. Once you've cut all the way around, you'll have two identical sides and a lot of sawdust on the floor. The router I used does come with a dust extractor attachment, but it's not very effective for this type of cut.

The flush cut should be fairly clean, but some additional sanding will ensure the finish is the same as on the first side. One last thing to note is due to the radius of the flush trim bit, it can't cut the 90 degree interior angle of the control panel shelf - it leaves a small curve instead. The jig saw can be used here to complete the cut.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2023, 02:20:39 am by Lexiq »

Zebidee

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2023, 10:22:01 pm »
Nice pics of your cuts, I like the details. Good that you can still find the old pics.

I recently finished my Aussie lowboy cab, after ( like you) having started about 6 years ago, but couldn't find the early pics nor could I find the original plans (drawn onto scrap cardboard).

Anyways just wanted to say "nice work" and I like the finished product - classic, non-pretentious, clean lines. You've got a multi-function control panel but not a frankenpanel. Well thought-out.
Check out my completed projects!


javeryh

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2023, 06:54:04 am »
Im sure you will get there but Id like more I for on the monitor and how you mounted it to get such a large playfield. Is it a TV? Does it turn in with everything else?

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2023, 06:08:06 pm »
Nice pics of your cuts, I like the details. Good that you can still find the old pics.

I recently finished my Aussie lowboy cab, after ( like you) having started about 6 years ago, but couldn't find the early pics nor could I find the original plans (drawn onto scrap cardboard).

Anyways just wanted to say "nice work" and I like the finished product - classic, non-pretentious, clean lines. You've got a multi-function control panel but not a frankenpanel. Well thought-out.

Thanks Zebidee - the lowboy looks great! I took a lot of photos thinking I might write it up some time - I used Google Photos and Google Drive to keep track of everything.

Regarding the panel - I was aware of the Frankenpanel trap ;D so I spent quite a bit of time trying to find that balance.

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2023, 07:46:31 pm »
Im sure you will get there but Id like more I for on the monitor and how you mounted it to get such a large playfield. Is it a TV? Does it turn in with everything else?

I was wondering if anyone would notice that ;) It could be a while before I get up to the screen, so I'll share a few details.

The monitor is an Eizo EV2730Q, which is a square monitor with a resolution of 1920x1920. I originally planned to use a 24" 16:10 monitor as it seemed like the best option that would fit at the time. I don't remember where I first read about the Eizo, but it was over a year before I pulled the trigger because it was very expensive. In the end, I decided it was worth it, considering the amount of time I'd spent on everything else, and I haven't regretted it.

It's perfect for 4:3 arcade games both horizontal and vertical as they take up the full height or width of the screen without requiring any sort of rotation. PC games like pinball also work really well because they can use the full resolution.

The mounting is fairly simple - it fits into a routed area in the bezel, secured with the standard VESA mount. The bezel is made from the same 18mm plywood as the rest of the cabinet. The small pieces of cardboard were used as temporary shims to align the monitor within the bezel while assembling.

The monitor is always connected to power and to the PC inside the cabinet, so it wakes up when the PC is powered on, and sleeps almost immediately when it stops receiving a video signal.



Since purchasing the Eizo, LG released the 28MQ780-B which is similar (although not quite square) and quite a bit cheaper, so could also be a good option.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2023, 07:48:33 pm by Lexiq »

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2023, 07:12:01 am »
Base and Shelf Slots

The slots for the base and monitor shelf are cut into each side. They help to add rigidity and ensure that the total weight of the cabinet is supported directly by the base instead of only screws or bolts. This is important because the cabinet will be sitting on casters so the sides won't be directly supported by the ground. The length of the slots should leave enough space at either end for a panel (18mm), and the inset (12mm) for a total of 30mm from the edge.

Preparation

The router is again used, but this time with a straight bit which can cut vertically as well as horizontally. The bit diameter should match the thickness of the material used for the base and shelf - in this case, the same 18mm plywood used for the sides.

Once you have an outline for the slot drawn on the side, position a straight edge such that the bit is within the lines of the slot when the router base is sitting against it. The track saw track is also very useful as a straight edge for routing.

One technique for aligning the straight edge is to use a guide made from a strip of wood the same width as the distance from the edge of the router base to the edge of the bit. When this is lined up with the edge of the slot, the straight edge can be positioned against it and clamped in place. Remove the guide and position the router against the straight edge - the bit should line up with the slot. To cut the guide, use the router with the same bit, with both the edge of the guide and the router positioned against the same straight edge.

In addition to the straight edge, a block at either end is needed so the cut stops at either end of the slot. These can just be scraps of wood clamped in place. To position them correctly, lock the router base so that the bit is just touching the surface of the wood and manually rotate the bit (making sure the router is unplugged first) so that the tip of the blade is touching the line marking the end of the slot, with the router against the straight edge. Then move the block so it touches the router base and clamp it in place.



Cutting

I used a depth of 5mm for the slots. Using the plunge base, adjust the maximum depth such that the end of the bit is 5mm below the base. The guide on the base's depth stop can be used for this, but I also like to double check by hanging the bit off the edge of the wood and lining it up with a measured mark on the side.

While keeping the router base firmly positioned against the straight edge, start cutting by pressing the bit into the surface of the wood and moving the router between the stop. Make multiple shallow passes over the entire length of the slot until the router hits the depth stop and the bit is no longer cutting anything.



Finishing

Because the bit is round, the ends of the slot are circular. To make them square, I used a hammer and chisel to remove the corners. There's no special technique to this beyond making sure the chisel blade is accurately lined up the the edges of the corners before hitting it. Once the corners are cut to the depth of the slot, it fairly easy due to the plywood layering, to again use the chisel to cut horizontally and remove them completely.




Martijn

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2023, 12:04:55 pm »
Im sure you will get there but Id like more I for on the monitor and how you mounted it to get such a large playfield. Is it a TV? Does it turn in with everything else?

I was wondering if anyone would notice that ;) It could be a while before I get up to the screen, so I'll share a few details.

The monitor is an Eizo EV2730Q, which is a square monitor with a resolution of 1920x1920. I originally planned to use a 24" 16:10 monitor as it seemed like the best option that would fit at the time. I don't remember where I first read about the Eizo, but it was over a year before I pulled the trigger because it was very expensive. In the end, I decided it was worth it, considering the amount of time I'd spent on everything else, and I haven't regretted it.

It's perfect for 4:3 arcade games both horizontal and vertical as they take up the full height or width of the screen without requiring any sort of rotation. PC games like pinball also work really well because they can use the full resolution.

The mounting is fairly simple - it fits into a routed area in the bezel, secured with the standard VESA mount. The bezel is made from the same 18mm plywood as the rest of the cabinet. The small pieces of cardboard were used as temporary shims to align the monitor within the bezel while assembling.

The monitor is always connected to power and to the PC inside the cabinet, so it wakes up when the PC is powered on, and sleeps almost immediately when it stops receiving a video signal.



Since purchasing the Eizo, LG released the 28MQ780-B which is similar (although not quite square) and quite a bit cheaper, so could also be a good option.

Ah yes, i have that lg 28MQ780 in my bartop. Great stuff indeed. I was a bit worried the high resolution would make the mame games run slow on the pc. But all is good.
Vertical games are a bit bigger then the horitzontal. its like 25" horizontal and 27" vertical
And i got it from amazon used as new for a great price.

Great clean cabinet!

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2023, 12:47:25 am »
Ah yes, i have that lg 28MQ780 in my bartop. Great stuff indeed. I was a bit worried the high resolution would make the mame games run slow on the pc. But all is good.
Vertical games are a bit bigger then the horitzontal. its like 25" horizontal and 27" vertical
And i got it from amazon used as new for a great price.

Great clean cabinet!

Thanks Martijn! The LG looks perfect for your bartop. The high resolution should in theory mean it's able to emulate scanlines more accurately too. Looks like you mounted it rotated 90 degrees, which I'd also have to do - then it would be an even better fit than the Eizo.

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2023, 04:01:14 am »
Base and Shelf Construction

The base and shelf, as well as the other panels that make up the exterior of the cabinet can be constructed from the wood left over after cutting the two sides. The third full sheet of plywood can be kept aside for now. I ended up mounting the monitor in a way that doesn't require a shelf, but it's still an important structural component, and forms a nice division between the bottom and top halves of the cabinet.

I needed some additional tools for this step:
  • Drill
  • Drill Stand
  • Drill Bits
  • Countersink Bit
  • Rubber Mallet
  • Vernier Calipers
  • Quick-Grip Bar Clamps
  • Allen Keys
Again, it's a good idea to use a good quality drill. My first purchase was intended for home use and should have been adequate, but the chuck wobbled slightly as it rotated, making precision impossible. The same applies for drill bits - it's worth paying a bit more for a good set of bits that are guaranteed to be straight, will cut well, and stay sharp for longer.

The drill stand is like a small, portable drill press - perfect if you don't have a lot of room. Unlike a drill press, it can also be used to drill holes in larger panels away from the edge, which will become very useful. I found that some drill stands have quite a bit of play, so the position of the bit moves around and you lower it. Finding one with minimal play will make everything a lot easier.

Base Panel

The width of the base panel is the interior width of the cabinet (600mm) plus 5mm either side to fit into the slots. The length is the same length as the slots. Use the square to line up the cuts, the track saw to cut, then sand the edges so they're smooth. For the edges that will fit into the slots, it can also be helpful to sand along the length of the top and bottom corners so they're slightly rounded off. This will make it easier to fit into the slot.

Now's a good time to check that the panel fits. Starting at one end, fit one corner of the panel into the slot, then rotate to lower the rest of the panel while ensuring the end is firmly against the end of the slot. It probably won't go in easily because the plywood is usually slightly thicker than advertised and can sometimes be very slightly warped. You may need to wiggle it a bit, tap it with a rubber mallet, or even sand either the panel or slot.

Castor Mounting Boards

The castor mounting boards are two pieces of plywood that run the length of the base on either side. They add extra strength to the base above the castor wheels, which will bear the weight of the cabinet. I chose a width of 100mm, and the length is the same length as the base. I used 6 countersunk stainless steel wood screws to secure each board to the base. They should be long enough that they screw a reasonable distance into the base (around 10mm is good), but not come out the other side.

Use the vernier calipers to measure the outer diameter of the wood screws (including the thread), select a matching bit, and, using the drill stand, drill the 6 holes in each mounting board. Choose the side of the board that will face the ground and use the countersink bit to cut the small indentation that will allow the screws to sit flush with the surface of the wood when fully tightened.



Ensuring the base is properly seated in the slot, align the mounting board with the base, with one edge against the cabinet side. Clamp it in place, then push a screw through each hole and into the base to mark where it will screw in. These marks tell us where we need to drill the pilot holes in the base for the screws. Wood screws are self tapping, so you may be able to screw them straight in at this point, but plywood is dense and I've found that pilot holes are usually needed.

To drill the pilot holes, again use the calipers to measure the diameter of the screw excluding the thread, and select a matching bit. Use the drill stand to drill the holes, but adjust the depth stop so you don't drill all the way through. Select a depth approximately matching the length of screw exposed when it's fully screwed in to the mounting board.



Ledger Boards

The base and shelf need to be attached to the sides of the cabinet. This is achieved with ledger boards that run the length of the panel and are securely connected to both components. I used 45mm x 19mm dressed pine. Wood screws are again used to attach the ledger board to the base (and shelf), but they will need to be longer and ideally a higher diameter for extra strength.

Similar to above, use the drill stand to drill screw-sized holes all the way through the long side of the ledger boards, at regular intervals, and alternately offset slightly from the center line. Staggering the screws this way adds strength by spreading the tension more evenly over the joined surfaces. This technique will be used throughout the cabinet. I couldn't find screws the right length to go all the way through the long side of the board with enough exposed thread, so I sunk the holes about 10mm deeper using a bit matching the diameter of the screw head. I think this looks better anyway (although it won't be visible from the outside, and is possibly slightly stronger too. Again, as above, clamp the ledger in position against the base and push screws into the holes to mark the pilot hole locations and drill the pilot holes.



Attaching the Ledgers to the Sides

This part is slightly more involved. You could again use wood screws for this and it would work fine, but I wanted to be able to easily assemble and disassemble the cabinet during construction. This means that I can test the fit of everything as I build it, but I can also pull everything apart if I need to make additions or changes. This is especially important because I don't know exactly how everything's going to work yet. I also want to be able to disassemble everything for painting and finishing before final assembly. For this reason, I opted for threaded inserts in the cabinet sides, and M6 countersunk socket screws (a type of bolt) through the ledgers. This will be very strong, easy to assemble and disassemble, and will also be invisible from outside the cabinet.

Start by marking the positions for staggered holes along the length of the ledgers, this time through the short side. Position and clamp the ledger board to the cabinet side. Drill pilot holes all the way through the ledger board and into the cabinet side. This helps to ensure that the threaded inserts will line up correctly with the holes. Because the holes in the side are far from the edges (and also because the side itself is hard to manoeuver), it is necessary to adjust the drill stand so the drill is swung off-center, allowing it to drill off the side of the base. This means that you can position the drill stand anywhere on the panel and drill straight down. I use a piece of scrap wood or cardboard under the base of the drill stand to prevent it from damaging the surface. I'm not sure if the drill stand is really designed to be used this way, but it works very well.

With the pilot holes drilled, unclamp the ledger board and countersink the holes on the upward facing side (the side that will face the interior of the cabinet). To finish the holes for the threaded inserts in the side, start by measuring the diameter of the threaded insert, excluding the external thread. They are usually slightly tapered, so measure a wider point near the top. Select a matching bit, and drill out the pilot holes. Take extra care at this stage, and while drilling the pilot holes to ensure the drill stand depth stop is set correctly so you don't drill all the way through the side.




With the holes drilled, carefully screw in the threaded inserts. These will usually have a hex (or allen key) drive. Work slowly, applying consistent downward pressure while ensuring the insert stays vertical. Once the outer thread has bitten sufficiently into the side, relax the downward pressure and screw it in the rest of the way, until the top is flat against the surface.



Test Assembly

Although the focus has been on building the base, the exact same methods are used for the shelf as well, with the only differences being that it doesn't require castor mounting boards, and the ledger boards sit below instead of above. With the base, shelf, and ledgers complete, it should now be possible to test everything together and stand the cabinet up.


« Last Edit: June 23, 2023, 10:49:19 pm by Lexiq »

Zebidee

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2023, 10:40:35 am »
Precise work  :cheers:

Regarding calipers to work out the right size drill bit for screw pilot holes - don't need to worry so much about the measures. I just line up the screw behind the bit, and hold it up against clear light. If the bit occludes most of the screw's core but leaves the screw spiral sticking out, then you are good to go.

Sometimes you need to improvise with what you have.

If I don't have the right countersink bit (in my case, they had worn out) I'll just take a larger sized bit (same diameter as the screw head) and use that *carefully* to drill a space out for the head. You will have to take extra care to not go very deep, but same outcome. This might not be as beautiful for externally visible screws, but then you shouldn't be doing any externally visible screws anyway.

Too many clamps is never enough.

Check out my completed projects!


Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2023, 08:14:05 pm »
Regarding calipers to work out the right size drill bit for screw pilot holes - don't need to worry so much about the measures. I just line up the screw behind the bit, and hold it up against clear light. If the bit occludes most of the screw's core but leaves the screw spiral sticking out, then you are good to go.

Sometimes you need to improvise with what you have.

Nice tip. I didn't think of doing it that way, but at that point I already had the calipers and wanted to use them. ;D

If I don't have the right countersink bit (in my case, they had worn out) I'll just take a larger sized bit (same diameter as the screw head) and use that *carefully* to drill a space out for the head. You will have to take extra care to not go very deep, but same outcome. This might not be as beautiful for externally visible screws, but then you shouldn't be doing any externally visible screws anyway.

Yeah, I'd have probably done this too, except I didn't have a big enough regular bit to countersink the socket screws.

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2023, 10:44:38 pm »
Castor Wheels

With the base otherwise complete, adding wheels is the next step. They'll make the cabinet easy to move around once complete, but also during construction. It's important to choose a wheel that's strong enough to bear the weight of the cabinet. The total weight of 3 2440x1220mm sheets of 18mm plywood is around 115kg. Not all the plywood will be used, and the other components are comparatively light, so something around 120kg seems like a reasonable upper estimate. I chose a 50mm castor with a 40kg load rating, multiplied by 4 wheels for 160kg total, which should be more than enough.

The size of the wheel is another factor to consider, and how far the cabinet will sit above the ground. I had already chosen wheels before cutting the slots for the base, and used their dimensions to help decide on the vertical position of the slot. I wanted the cabinet to sit very close to the ground, so the wheels aren't obvious. On carpet it will sink a bit lower and appear to be flat on the ground, while still being manoeuvrable.

A certain amount of estimation was involved, erring on the side of lower to the ground. If it turned out to be too low, I could add shims between the castors and the base. Fortunately, the estimates were close enough and this wasn't necessary.

Wheel Types

There are several options for the type of wheel (or foot):
  • Swivel Castor (with or without brake)
  • Fixed Castor
  • Levelling Foot
Different combinations of the above can be used. I considered using fixed castors on the back, with either swivelling castors, or feet on the front, but eventually decided on braked swivelling castors all round. I thought the brakes might be useful once the cabinet's in position, but in reality, they're difficult to reach once everything's assembled, and the cabinet doesn't move anyway, at least not on carpet.

Wheel Mounts

The wheels bear the weight of the cabinet, so they should be mounted securely. I decided to use the same threaded insert approach that I used to attach the ledger boards to the sides. This is both very strong, and also allows the wheels to be easily switched out. At this point I hadn't decided on exactly which style of wheel to use, and they all had the same mounting holes so were interchangeable.

The other thing to consider was the swivel radius - the circle described by the castor as it swivels. The mounting point needs to be positioned such that this circle doesn't fall outside the area of mounting board, meaning the castor won't hit any part of the assembled cabinet when it swivels.


« Last Edit: June 23, 2023, 10:49:59 pm by Lexiq »

Zebidee

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #16 on: June 25, 2023, 04:09:02 am »
Many commercial cabinets have just two fixed wheels at the back, mounted at ~45 degree angle, such that they don't engage the floor until you tilt back the cabinet.

An advantage is the cab is normally not being supported by wheels at all, so more stable during frantic play. No need for a brake.

Obviously this option/approach requires a little forethought (to put the angled back into the base), wheels rated appropriately for the weight, and must include handle/grips at top/back.

I incorporated this into my Aussie lowboy cab - you can have a look if you like

It does the job well, but could have used slightly chunkier wheels. The ones I used are sufficient, rated to 50kg each and she is a small cab, but could have gone a little higher. On the other hand, I like the colour.

Also used leveling feet at the back for added stability. Once you tip the cab backwards sufficiently, the wheels take over.
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Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2023, 07:13:38 pm »
Many commercial cabinets have just two fixed wheels at the back, mounted at ~45 degree angle, such that they don't engage the floor until you tilt back the cabinet.

An advantage is the cab is normally not being supported by wheels at all, so more stable during frantic play. No need for a brake.

Obviously this option/approach requires a little forethought (to put the angled back into the base), wheels rated appropriately for the weight, and must include handle/grips at top/back.

I incorporated this into my Aussie lowboy cab - you can have a look if you like

It does the job well, but could have used slightly chunkier wheels. The ones I used are sufficient, rated to 50kg each and she is a small cab, but could have gone a little higher. On the other hand, I like the colour.

Also used leveling feet at the back for added stability. Once you tip the cab backwards sufficiently, the wheels take over.

Looks like a good approach - and I guess the wheels are pretty close to the ground so it doesn't need to tilt much before they take the weight, meaning that it will work even if the cabinet is against a wall.

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2023, 12:07:06 am »
Back and Top Panels

These panels are constructed using the same techniques used previously, with a few differences. The two largest panels need to be removable from the outside of the cabinet to provide access to the monitor, PC, and wiring inside, and the panels at the top of the cabinet need to account for the angled section.

Central Panel

The first step was to build the panel that sits between the upper and lower sections. This panel is fairly large and provides additional horizontal rigidity that prevents the cabinet from skewing left or right.

The ledger boards are long enough to extend all the way to the base of the cabinet because they will also be used to connect the lower removable panel. They are positioned offset from the top of the panel to account for the space used by the monitor shelf ledger boards. Threaded inserts are used in these ledger boards to provide the mounting points for the removable panel.




Lower Removable Panel

This panel will provide access to the back of the cabinet where the PC is located. Dowel center points are used in the holes for the threaded inserts in the center panel ledger boards to align the holes in the removable panel. A dowel center point is a small tool that fits in an existing hole and has a point on the other end. With one of these in each mounting point hole, the removable panel is aligned correctly, then pressed down so that the points mark where the holes need to be drilled.

With the holes drilled, joint connector bolts are used to attach the removable panel. These have wide, flat hex drive heads that spread load to avoid damaging the surface, and look reasonably good. Although they are on the back of the cabinet, they are one of the few externally visible fasteners used.



Upper Removable Panel

This provides access to the monitor, speakers and light box at the top of the cabinet. The construction is very similar to the lower removable panel and is attached to ledger boards running from a small, upper rear panel to the monitor shelf.

Top Panels

These panels are more difficult to construct because they meet at angles. I chose an angle of 30 degrees from horizontal for the rear angled section of the cabinet, which makes these angles easier to measure and cut. I used the track saw, adjusting the blade angle for each cut, then positioned the panels together to check the result.

The ledger boards for these panels also needs to account for the angle. This was just done with a protractor and the track saw with the usual 90 degree blade angle to cut the lengths. With ledgers screwed to the panels, I used a sanding block to tidy up the ends and make sure everything aligned.




Speaker Panel

This is the final panel, and slightly simpler. It doesn't need to align with any other panels, so the ledger boards are square. The front facing end does need to be parallel to vertical so that the marquee can sit flat against it. This requires another angled cut. Additionally, and this also applies to the top front panel above, the ledger boards should stop well short of the front edge so they don't cast visible shadows when the marquee is lit.



At this point, I was planning to start work on the front of the cabinet, and started to think about how to integrate the keyboard drawer. I couldn't decide on an approach and took a break to consider the options. It would be five and a half years before I resumed work, but I was happy with what I'd done so far and never considered the project abandoned.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2023, 12:14:06 am by Lexiq »

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2023, 09:20:10 am »
Looks great, well done craftsmanship with clean work!  Why the dual spinners if I may ask?

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #20 on: July 08, 2023, 11:28:24 pm »
Looks great, well done craftsmanship with clean work!  Why the dual spinners if I may ask?

Thanks EvilNuff! The dual spinners I was originally thinking could be nice to have for 2 player paddle games and some driving games. They work really well with Super Off Road for example. I even bought a couple of those mini steering wheels for them - a bit silly maybe, but I thought they looked cool ;D

Apart from that, it was also an aesthetic choice. If you look at how the control panel is organized, you'll see that the player 1 and player 2 controls are identical, and that the spinners are also exactly the same distance from the center of the panel, and relative to the row of system buttons. This gives the panel symmetry and helps it look balanced.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2023, 01:02:51 am by Lexiq »

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #21 on: July 09, 2023, 01:02:17 am »
Cutting the Control Panel

5 years and 6 months later... I decided to forget the drawer for the moment, and start work on the control panel. I wanted the panel to be as small as possible while fitting the controls I wanted. I planned an initial layout in SketchUp, including models for each of the components to ensure they'd fit inside the control box. I kept everything as close as I could while allowing enough space for comfortable gameplay plus a little bit of extra wiggle room if reality didn't quite line up with the plans.

I wanted the panel to overhang the control box slightly - just enough that using the side buttons for pinball is still comfortable. I also wanted curved corners to match the cabinet sides, and also a gentle curve for the front of the panel to help break up what is otherwise a lot of straight lines.

Cutting the Curve

The front curve is the most challenging part of this step. It has a large radius so is difficult to transfer from the plans to the plywood. Instead of doing this, I decided the easiest and most fool-proof approach was to use the third, as yet untouched, sheet of plywood, and build a simple jig to guide the jig saw along the curve. With a larger work surface, it would be possible to use clamps and a smaller sheet of plywood, but without that, a full sheet means there's a secure point to attach the jig, and the two ends can't move relative to each other.

I found that the long clamp guide I already had would work perfectly for this. The clamp could be used to attach it to a pivoting block of wood at one end, and the hole at the other end could be used to attach it to the jig saw. The pivoting block of wood is attached by a screw through a sheet of scrap plywood, which is clamped to the plywood to be cut. The other end is bolted to a wooden frame made from offcuts that the jig saw sits inside. The point of attachment is in line with the saw blade rather than the center of the saw, which means the saw will rotate around the blade, preventing blade flex. The saw will now move along the arc of the curve and can't deviate. The clamp guide was actually slightly shorter than I needed to match the radius on my plan, but the difference isn't noticeable.

I used the thicker clean cut blade that came with the jig saw for this cut because the curve is so gentle, and to further minimize blade flex, which can be an issue when guiding a jig saw in this way. I also used masking tape front and back to help achieve a clean cut.




Cutting the Rest of The Panel

With the curve cut, I measured the distance to the top of the panel from the center of the curve, and cut along the width of the sheet of plywood with the track saw. The next step was to cut the panel to the required width, which also frees the curved section. The final step is to again use the jig saw to cut the corner curves, in the same way they are done for the cabinet sides. The front corner radius is 30mm like the other corners, with the centers positioned so the curve is tangential to both the panel sides and the front curve. The two back corners have a smaller 20mm radius which looks a little better than a larger radius here.

« Last Edit: July 09, 2023, 01:08:56 am by Lexiq »

Zebidee

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2023, 09:25:39 pm »
Looks like a good approach - and I guess the wheels are pretty close to the ground so it doesn't need to tilt much before they take the weight, meaning that it will work even if the cabinet is against a wall.

You do have to move it out from the wall a little to get it back onto the two wheels  - so four wheels on bottom may work better in some situations. But overall the stability is better with two.
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Zebidee

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2023, 10:03:45 pm »
Impressed with the rig you setup to cut that curve! Very precise way to do it.
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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2023, 10:59:42 am »
All I keep thinking when I see a new post here is damn OP must have some sharp tools.  All the cuts are so clean haha

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2023, 02:28:49 pm »
Impressed with the rig you setup to cut that curve! Very precise way to do it.

Yeah, On my squared control panel corners, I think I traced a round lid off a jar, jigsawed and sanded er down. That's the redneck way to do it.:applaud:
« Last Edit: July 15, 2023, 02:57:23 pm by MartyKong »

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2023, 06:23:38 pm »
Impressed with the rig you setup to cut that curve! Very precise way to do it.
Yeah, On my squared control panel corners, I think I traced a round lid off a jar, jigsawed and sanded er down. That's the redneck way to do it.:applaud:

Haha, that's pretty much what I did for all the other curves, just didn't trust myself to freehand the long one. ;D

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2023, 06:26:52 pm »
All I keep thinking when I see a new post here is damn OP must have some sharp tools.  All the cuts are so clean haha

I didn't have any woodworking tools when I started, so everything was new and sharp. Most of the photos I've posted are also after a fair bit of sanding too.

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #28 on: July 23, 2023, 02:17:13 am »
Building the Control Box

The control box sits under the control panel and houses the various controls, interface boards, and wiring. I wanted my control panel to have a slight gradient, so the front and back needed to be different heights. A height of 70mm at the front, 100mm at the back (matching the cutout on the cabinet sides), and a depth of 300mm gives an angle of just under 6 degrees, which feels about right - not flat, but not too steep.

I considered designs where the control box is attached to the cabinet and the control panel is hinged to provide easy access, but decided on a different approach in the end. The control panel and the sides of the control box will be permanently attached, and the base of the control box will be a separate structural component of the cabinet. The control panel / box assembly can then slide over the base, resting on wooden blocks mounted around the inside. This does make access to the control box less convenient, but after setting everything up, I didn't expect to need to do this often.

The advantage is that the control panel is very securely mounted to the cabinet and there is no play or movement that may be introduced by hinges. I don't know if this is actually the case, and I'm sure it's possible to build a very sturdy hinged panel, but this felt like the right way to go and it has worked very well for my cabinet. Another thing to note for this approach - the fit between the control box edges and the base must be very precise. The base has to fit perfectly into the box so there's no movement. This can be achieved by careful measurement, and by sanding the edges of the base incrementally until the fit is correct. Slightly rounding over the top edges of the base can also ease assembly.

Cutting the Sides

These are relatively simple shapes to cut and require no special techniques. I decided to use finger joints to connect the sides together, so the length of each side should match the dimension from the plans, i.e. the width of the plywood doesn't contribute the the length of any of the sides. The front and back panels need to have a slight angle to match the angle of the side panels. To get the left and right sides identical, the router and flush trim bit can be used in the same way as on the cabinet sides.



Cutting the Finger Joints

This is the most difficult step. Ideally, a router table and a jig for this purpose would be used, but at this point in the build, I didn't want to purchase any more equipment, especially not large tools that I was only likely to use once. I decided that with some careful planning, I might be able to do this with the track saw. The first step was to decide on a size for the fingers. I chose 11mm as this divided relatively evenly into both the front and back heights.

The second step was to clamp two adjoining sides together, offset by the finger width, then mark the finger cuts. This means that the gap between fingers can be cut straight across both pieces at once. These pieces, still clamped together then need to be secured in position along side the track. The saw must be carefully aligned for the beginning and ending cut for each finger gap, but precision is not required for cutting the material in between. The final point to note is that the saw must be set to a depth matching the finger length. This process needs to be repeated 4 times - one for each corner. Before I started cutting the sides, I did a trial run on some scrap pieces to check that it would work well enough.

Once cut, the fit can be tested. Some sanding and slight adjustment was required, but over all, the result was pretty good, and any imperfections can be fixed after assembly with filler and sanding. The advantage of using this type of joint is that once glued, the end result is very strong and requires no additional joins or brackets inside the box. There is also a certain amount of movement in the joins before the glue sets that means the angles can be adjusted so the box is square.




Connecting Blocks

To connect the box to the control panel, I decided to use wooden blocks at the front and back, leaving the sides clear to make more room for the controls. I chose to use blocks rather than brackets because the joining angle is not 90 degrees, and I already had offcuts with the correct angle from cutting the front and back sides. These blocks are screwed into the box side and the underside of the control panel.

The other requirement is for blocks to sit against the box base, to prevent the box from sliding down too far. At the back, the box is supported by the sides of the cabinet, but at the front and on the sides, it needs extra support. For these, I used lengths of 18mm square pine, screwed into the sides.

Button Holes

I wanted a button on each side for pinball, so needed to drill a couple of holes. I used a 1-1/8" Forstner bit from T-Molding.com for this, drilling most of the way through from one side and then finishing the hole from the other. I also drilled one more hole of the same size at the back for the wires to come out. It's much easier to drill the holes before everything is glued together.



Constructing the Base

The base is just a simple panel that sits on top of the shelf area of the sides, attached by two ledger boards, with an 18mm gap at the back to leave room for the control box to slide in. It forms a structural component of the cabinet and also isolates the control box and panel from any structural forces. As mentioned above, some care needs to be taken to ensure the base fits perfectly into the control box, but this can be left as a finishing task.

Glueing the Sides

This step is fairly straight forward. Apply an even coat of PVA wood glue to all the adjoining surfaces of the finger joints, then assemble. The joints should slide together without too much force and without being loose. Once the joints are fully engaged, and before the glue starts to set, use the square to ensure each interior angle is as close to 90 degrees as possible. Clamping while the glue is drying prevents movement and also helps to form a stronger bond. Any excess glue that is squeezed out of the joints can be wiped with a damp cloth or paper towel.



Rounding the Corners and Assembly

I wanted to minimize the number of visible sharp edges and this meant rounding off the corners of the control box. With the glue fully cured, it's a relatively easy task to use the router and a rounding over bit to do this, and finish with sanding. I chose a bit with a 13mm corner radius as it was about the right size and the largest I could find that would fit my router. The final step was to assemble all the components and test the fit.



« Last Edit: July 23, 2023, 06:52:05 pm by Lexiq »

emphatic

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #29 on: July 23, 2023, 09:04:44 am »
Beautiful.  :cheers:

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #30 on: July 30, 2023, 01:52:01 am »

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #31 on: July 30, 2023, 03:10:06 am »
Building the Drawer

It was finally time to revisit the drawer and I decided that I was overthinking the design. The drawer will contain the mouse and keyboard, and anything else that might require easy access, but is not directly related to game play. Having a permanently connected keyboard and mouse is not strictly necessary, but I've found it to be very convenient. A traditional arcade machine doesn't have a drawer, so it was important that it just looks like another panel when closed.

The design I settled on was much the same as in the original arcadecab plans - a simple panel of 18mm plywood connected to the sides by runners, with a panel on the front and another on the back to prevent the contents from falling off into the cabinet.

The Main Panel

There's plenty of room inside the cabinet so the drawer can be quite deep. More important is the width, which must be the internal width of the cabinet (600mm in this case) minus the width of the runners when attached. I chose 3 piece stainless steel runners with bearings for smooth movement, and a detent at the end of travel so the drawer stays closed. The smallest section of the runner that attaches to the drawer panel is slightly wider than the 18mm plywood, so I mounted it so the overhang was on the bottom of the drawer. In the first photo, the drawer is shown upside down so the overhang is visible.

The Front Panel

The front of the drawer is another simple panel, with the addition of a slot to attach it to the main panel. The drawer will be opened by pulling the lower edge of the front panel, so no handle is required. I found that after I tested the drawer in the cabinet that I had made a mistake with the position of the slot relative to the base of the panel, so the photos shown here aren't exactly what ended up in the finished product. I ended up reusing this panel for the back of the drawer where the location of the slot didn't matter.




Lower Panel

This panel is not part of the drawer, but it's position is important because the drawer sits directly above it, so it makes sense to include it here. For a cabinet without a door on the front, this panel could extend all the way to the ground, but I was planning to include a door, so for my cabinet it's quite short. It's mounted to the cabinet sides like any other panel - ledger boards and threaded inserts, with one small difference. The ledger board on the right needs to be longer to provide a stop for the door and a mounting point for the door locking mechanism, which will be covered later. The top of this board is close to the base of the drawer, but there is a narrow gap. This gap isn't visible from most angles outside the cabinet, and may provide some additional airflow inside the cabinet as I don't have any ventilation on the front.

Attaching the Runners

The runners fit closely between the top of the lower panel, and the ledger boards attaching the control box base, with just a few millimeters above and below. The horizontal position needs to be chosen such that the front drawer panel sits 12mm inset from the edge of the cabinet sides, the same as all the other panels.

As with everything else attached to the cabinet sides, the runners are mounted with M6 bolts to threaded inserts. In this case, the bolts are round head rather than countersunk. These are the same bolts as used to connects the castors and have just enough clearance that the runners can move without touching.



Test Assembly

It was necessary to disassemble the cabinet in order to measure and mount the runners. Now that that is complete, it's time to check that everything fits. I attached the drawer front to the main panel, but without glueing it for now. I had to trim the top of the front panel slightly so that it would clear the control box base, but otherwise everything fit well.



« Last Edit: July 30, 2023, 03:13:02 am by Lexiq »

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #32 on: September 10, 2023, 07:20:18 pm »
Cupboard Door

While the rear panels are removable, they don't provide convenient access to the lower part of the cabinet that contains the PC. Having a cupboard style door on the front provides this access, and the remaining space inside can also be used for storage. I've seen many other cabinet designs take this approach and wanted to do something similar.

Hinges

I used concealed cabinet hinges that open to just over 90 degrees. They are invisible from the outside of the cabinet and allow the door to be positioned such that it looks like any other panel. They are also relatively strong and adjustable. I chose to use 4 hinges for my cupboard, which is possibly more than is really needed, but the plywood is fairly heavy and I planned to add a coin door as well. Over-engineering is usually better than under-engineering.

The hinges are mounted with a recess in the inner surface of the door. This requires the use of an appropriately sized Forstner bit that can cut a hole part way through the door, leaving a flat surface for the hinge to sit against. Attaching the hinges to the cabinet side is simpler - the hinges sit flat against the surface and are mounted with threaded inserts for easy disassembly.





Locking Mechanism

Because the door will be mounted flush with the other panels, there's no easy way to open it. I didn't want to draw attention to it by adding a handle, but a lock is fairly subtle and serves two purposes. It can be used to pull the door open, and ensures the door stays securely closed and won't rattle.

I chose a lock with a sliding mechanism, mounted in the top right corner. As mentioned in the post above, the strike plate is mounted to the extended ledger board on the panel above, which also acts as a stop for the door. This plate should be mounted such that when the lock is engaged, the door is firmly secured with no movement.

I used a spade bit to drill the hole for the lock cylinder, which cut very easily and cleanly. I made the hole just big enough to fit the lock cylinder, which meant I needed to sand it slightly wider at the front to fit the metal collar that sits over the front of the lock. It would be easier to just make the hole slightly bigger and avoid this step.




Magnetic Catch

The lock secures the top right corner of the door, but the bottom right has nothing to keep it in place, or to prevent vibration. For this, I decided to mount a small magnet in the front of the cabinet base ledger board, and another in the inner surface of the bottom right corner of the door. It's strong enough to hold the door in place, but doesn't make the door difficult to open.



Mounting

The type of hinges I used can be separated into two halves that easily clip together. The easiest way to mount the door is to separate the hinges and attach the door halves and the cabinet halves separately. The cabinet halves shouldn't be fully tightened so they are able to move while finding the correct alignment. With the hinges in the open position, align the clipping mechanisms and push the two halves together to engage. Working from bottom to top worked well for me. Once the hinges are all clipped together, tighten the mounts on the cabinet side and adjust the hinges as required.

It can be useful to place some cardboard under the door during this process to ensure there is enough clearance. The door should open cleanly, but leave a minimal surrounding gap when closed, and the magnetic catch should also engage securely when closed. Because the door needs to open and close freely, it needs to be slightly smaller than the other panels. Deciding exactly how much smaller can be an iterative process.

Even with 4 hinges, I notice some sag caused by the weight of the door that is difficult to counter with adjustments. This means I have to lift slightly as I open the door, but it's not too bad. Another consideration is that plywood can often be slightly warped. This was true in my case, and made getting everything adjusted correct more difficult. For example, I could align the left and top edges correctly, but the magnetic catch wouldn't engage.

It is possible to correct warped plywood to some extent by bending it in the opposite direction, clamping it in place and then wetting the convex surface slightly. Leave it clamped for a couple of days and the warping should be reduced. This did work, but wasn't a perfect solution and I still ended up having to compromise slightly on the door alignment, although in reality it's very hard to notice.

Coin Door

The last step was to mount the coin door. I chose a simple 2 player door with a custom mechanism that would allow for coins or tokens to be used, mounted in the middle of the door. Cutting the hole for the coin door was fairly straight forward. I used a hole saw matching the radius of the coin door corners at each corner, then cut the sides with the jig saw. Mounting the coin door is a simple process of engaging and tightening the clips on the inside.




Kickboard

This is a small panel located at the front of the cabinet below the cupboard and fills the space between the bottom edge of the cupboard and the floor. The top of the kickboard is level with the top surface of the cabinet base, and it is attached to the base using a ledger board and screws.





Zebidee

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #33 on: September 10, 2023, 07:26:37 pm »
Neat work!
Check out my completed projects!


Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #34 on: October 01, 2023, 03:09:35 am »
Speaker Panel

For the speaker panel, I wanted a classic, understated design. The speakers should fit easily within the panel - not too large or too small, and with reasonable separation for stereo. I wanted the speakers to look balanced with respect to the rest of the cabinet, but I didn't want them to stand out too much either, so a simple black grille was preferable. Before cutting any holes, I had to decide which type of speaker to use.

Choosing a Speaker

I was originally planning to use a set of Logitech Z623 2.1 speakers mounted behind the panel, with some form of grill in front to obscure them. The benefit of this approach is that these types of speaker, designed for use with a PC are simple to connect and don't require an external amplifier. Ideally, the cabinet will be able to function as a jukebox or karaoke machine, so audio quality is important. These speakers are well reviewed and have been used successfully in other cabinets.

I ultimately decided that mounting these speakers securely, without dismantling them was going to be difficult, and adequately disguising them was going to be a problem too. Instead I chose the other popular method of using car speakers. The benefit of using car speakers is that there are a lot to choose from, they can be mounted cleanly to a panel, and they are available with tasteful grilles.

After a lot of research, I settled on a set of Focal Access 130-AC 5.25" coaxial speakers. They're a bit more expensive that some other options, but they're high quality and good value for money. They are exactly the right size and also meet the aesthetic requirements.

Cutting the Speaker Holes

With that decision made, I now needed to cut some holes. The speakers will be mounted to the front of the panel and the holes need to be big enough to fit the speaker bodies. I decided to use a large hole saw for this purpose and a diameter of 121mm turned out to be the best size based on what was available.

I have found with hole saws, that the quality (and therefore usually price) makes a big difference to the quality of the cut. A good hole saw will cut quickly, smoothly and cleanly, and a lower quality one will be much slower with a much greater risk of burning due to friction. Fortunately, the larger diameter saws tend to be higher quality anyway, and the one I chose cut very well.

I started with a test cut on a piece of scrap wood, and found that it is very important to securely clamp the drill stand and the material being cut. The large diameter saw applies a lot of torque to the surface, and without adequate clamping, things will move and the cut won't be clean.




Mounting the Speakers

The simplest way to mount the speakers is to use supplied screws and mount them directly to the panel. As it turned out, the screws were slightly too long and would have come through the back of the panel. I wanted a solution that was more in-keeping with my approach of easy disassembly anyway, so I decided to use M5 bolts and tee nuts on the back of the panel. I first drilled holes matching the bolt pattern of the speakers, then enlarged the holes on the back to fit the tee nuts.




Cutting the Marquee Bracket Slot

This step actually came later in the build, but it makes sense to include it here. I had decided that I wanted to use 90 degree angle aluminium to hold the marquee in place. The top piece can be easily attached using screws, but attaching the bottom piece to the speaker panel is more difficult. In the end, I decided that I would have to cut a slot in the leading edge of the speaker panel. This slot needs to be perpendicular to the marquee when the speaker panel is mounted, which turns out to be a particularly difficult angle for a router mounted slot cutter.

I found that by using an off-cut from cutting the marquee facing angle of the speaker panel itself, I was able to create a (small) flat surface that could be used to support the router at exactly the right angle. Actually cutting the slot was a very delicate process, working slowly, and taking care to keep the router base firmly seated. Fortunately, the slot cutter that I purchased for cutting the T-molding slots was also the perfect size to fit the angle aluminium. It also turned out that with everything assembled, the pressure fit of the aluminium in the slot was adequate and I didn't need to use any other type of fastening.



« Last Edit: October 01, 2023, 05:48:18 am by Lexiq »

Alejo I

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #35 on: October 04, 2023, 10:27:51 am »
I absolutely adore how clean everything looks. That control panel in particular is just *cheff kiss*

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #36 on: October 06, 2023, 11:17:37 pm »
I absolutely adore how clean everything looks. That control panel in particular is just *cheff kiss*
Thanks Alejo!

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #37 on: October 08, 2023, 01:49:43 am »
Subwoofer

The Focal car speakers have good bass for their size, but after a quick test, it was clear that they really need to be matched with a subwoofer. As I'm already using car speakers, I needed to find a suitable car subwoofer, and after more research, settled on the Kenwood KFC-XW800F. At 8", this is a smaller subwoofer and is a good match for the Focal speakers in terms of power requirements and impedance. The carbon fibre cone is also a good visual match and looks nice without a grille.

Positioning the Subwoofer

The next question was where to put the subwoofer? In terms of available space, somewhere in the cupboard area at the bottom of the cabinet made sense, perhaps facing downwards. The problem with that was that while this area was currently empty, there will eventually be a PC in there, with potentially vibration sensitive components, as well as all the associated wiring. Even a small woofer requires a fairly large box so I decided against this option. I didn't really want to cut a hole in the base either.

The next option, which I ended up choosing was to integrate the woofer and box with the central rear panel mentioned earlier in the thread. This panel is a solid mounting point and any structural weakness that may result from cutting a large hole in it should be compensated for by the extra thickness added by the subwoofer box and the subwoofer itself. Additionally, this panel is further from components that may be affected by vibration, and there is a large internal space behind it that would otherwise be empty. It does mean the the speaker will be facing backwards, but since bass is not directional, this shouldn't matter.

Subwoofer Box

Subwoofers don't work well if they are mounted like a normal speaker. They need an enclosure to generate pressure and to isolate the low frequencies emitted from the front and back of the speaker. The internal volume of the enclosure is important too, and each model has specific requirements. Another consideration is whether to build a ported box (with a hole) or sealed box (no hole). A ported box generally has louder bass and a sealed box has cleaner or tighter bass. A sealed box also requires more power to drive the speaker due to the higher maximum pressure inside the box. I decided to go with the ported option for louder bass, and to lower the power requirements for the amplifier. I was also worried about the effects of vibration on the rest of the cabinet and having a hole for the air to escape seemed like it might help with that.

Starting with the volume specified in the Kenwood manual, I calculated the box dimensions, accounting for the fact that it also needed to fit behind the central rear panel. Subwoofer boxes are usually made from MDF, but plywood can also be used and I had plenty of it so I used that. The box construction is fairly simple. The side panels are attached to the front panel with wood glue and screws, and are also glued to each other. The rear panel is screwed into the back edges of the sides and sealed with an EVA foam gasket. The front panel has a hole for the woofer and is attached to the back of the rear central panel with screws. The rear panel has a hole for the speaker terminals.




Cutting the Subwoofer and Port Holes

This is a significantly bigger hole than the ones in the speaker panel - much too big for a hole saw. There are hole cutting tools available that will do larger diameters, but they're generally used for softer materials used in ceilings and walls and I wasn't confident they'd work well on plywood.

My first approach was to use the jig saw and build a circular guide similar to the one I used for the control panel curve, but with a much smaller radius. This idea appeared to work well at first, but after checking the reverse side, I found that the blade had flexed significantly, resulting in a much less than circular hole. I made some adjustments and felt that I could get it right, by taking extra care, but the second attempt wasn't much better than the first.

When everything is assembled, this panel will be completely hidden, but I still wanted a better result. This time, I worked by hand, staying just inside the guide line and while it still wasn't perfect, it was much better and it was possible to tidy it up with the router later.

The hole for the port is much smaller and a hole saw can be used. The diameter of this hole needs to fit the port tube so it's a good idea to find a port first. Fortunately they were available at my local electronics store. The port is shaped and tuned so should improve the bass quality as well as provide a nice external finish.

Cutting the Central Rear Panel

This is an external panel and the hole for the subwoofer will be visible, so I wanted a clean cut. The radius also needed to be larger because it has to fit the whole speaker, not just the back of the basket. Additionally, I didn't want to cut all the way through for the larger radius. The reason for this is that it mounts the woofer flush with the surface of the panel, and has the advantage of requiring the subwoofer bolts to pass through both the panel and the box, meaning they not only hold the speaker in place, but also help to attach the box to the panel.

The first step was to cut a circular slot of the correct radius and depth using the router and an 18mm bit. Another jig was required for this and was fairly easy to construct using the accessories that came with the router.

The next step was to cut the smaller radius to match the hole in the subwoofer box. This hole would need to go all the way through, but it made sense to use the router again. I found that I couldn't adjust the router accessories enough to get the radius I needed, so I used a block of wood instead which worked well. This hole was a bit more difficult to cut than the slot. Partly because it needed to go through more material, and partly because once complete, the mounting point for the jig is no longer attached to anything and the router is free to move outside the radius.

With both holes successfully cut, it was time to check the speaker fit. Unfortunately, the larger diameter was slightly too small. This was a problem, because having cut the hole, there was no longer a mounting point in the center for a jig. I could have potentially clamped the panel to another piece of wood and used that, but I decided that I could use another router accessory and use the smaller radius as a guide for the larger radius. This worked well and the speaker now fit perfectly. At this point, I was also able to use the hole in this panel as a guide to tidy up the hole in the subwoofer box.

Again, another hole needs to be cut for the port. This time slightly larger to accomodate the extra width of the port near the external opening. My port also has fins around the top, so I also cut some small slots to accommodate them.





Attaching the Subwoofer

The subwoofer comes with mounting screws, but again I decided to use bolts (actually socket screws) and tee nuts, this time M6 instead of M5. The process is the same as for the stereo speakers, but the bolts pass through both the panel and box. I also made another gasket to sit between the speaker and the wood to form a seal and to (potentially) help isolate vibrations.

Attaching the port was simpler. I'd cut the holes such that the port will be a pressure fit. It required a little force to seat it correctly, but once in place, I didn't need to use any adhesive.





Amplifier

This is probably a good time to mention the amplifier too. I found a compact 2.1 channel amplifier made by Dayton Audio that matched my speakers' power requirements and also supported Bluetooth input as a bonus. The advantage of using this over car amplifiers is that it comes with a standard power supply and can be plugged directly into a power board. It's also has a nice design, which is important because I want the amplifier to be located in the cabinet drawer for easy access.

I'm not an audiophile, so there's probably room for improvement, but after testing all the speakers together, I was very happy with the result.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2023, 02:34:20 am by Lexiq »

javeryh

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #38 on: October 08, 2023, 02:08:56 pm »
Yo this is crazy audio!

Lexiq

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Re: Project BlueShift
« Reply #39 on: October 15, 2023, 05:54:45 am »
Monitor and Bezel

The next step was to choose a monitor and build a bezel around it. I'd made the decision early on to use an LCD instead of a CRT, and my original plan was to use a 24" 16:10 monitor. This fits nicely within my cabinet dimensions and gives a reasonably good screen size for ~4:3 aspect ratio games.

In the years since I started my build, more options had become available and I decided to rethink my plan. Monitors with higher resolutions and refresh rates were more prevalent, but they were all 16:9 aspect ratio, which meant I'd lose vertical screen size. Larger sizes were slightly too wide for my cabinet, and mounting them vertically (rotated 90) wasn't practical either.

At some point, I came across the EV2730Q by EIZO with a square aspect ratio and a resolution of 1920x1920 at 60Hz. It's not a gaming monitor, but the specifications indicated a reasonable response time, good viewing angles, and good colour accuracy. The advantage of a monitor like this is that the 4:3 screen size is much larger than a 16:9 monitor of the same width. Additionally, it will play vertically oriented games (where the screen was rotated 90 degrees in the cabinet) at full height, which is an even bigger gain compared to the 16:9 monitor. It will also play more modern games like pinball at it's native resolution, meaning the table takes up the entire play field.

In the end, I decided the size and versatility were worth the trade-off of lower resolution and refresh rate, and I haven't regretted that decision so far. One additional downside was the price. It's an expensive monitor, but I decided that I'd put enough time and energy into this project that it was worth it.

One additional note: since purchasing the EIZO, LG released the 28MQ780. This monitor isn't quite square, but pretty close, has a higher resolution, and is less expensive. I'd have to mount it rotated 90 degrees to fit it in my cabinet, but if it had been available at the time, I would have seriously considered it.

Glass Screen

A glass screen in front of the monitor and bezel gives a cabinet a really nice finish. Clear acrylic is an option too, but I decided glass would be more durable and not prone to flexing. I spent a bit of time reading about tint levels, but eventually decided on 5mm thick untinted tempered glass. I don't really need to hide anything behind a tint, and it means I can run the monitor at lower brightness.

Constructing the Bezel

The bezel will hide the monitor surrounds and the space between the monitor and the cabinet. It's front and center of the cabinet so it needs to look good. With the square monitor, my bezel needed to be quite narrow, especially at the top and bottom, and I decided that plain black was the best option.

My initial plan was to use 3mm black acrylic mounted between an 18mm plywood frame and a pane of tempered glass, all held together by slots in the cabinet sides. The monitor would be VESA mounted via a bracket connected to the frame, and the monitor's own bezel would be covered by the acrylic. This worked quite well, but I wasn't satisfied with the results. I used a very small (3mm) slot cutting bit in the router to cut the screen sized hole in the acrylic. The cut was not as clean as I hoped, and it was difficult to improve the finish with sanding. Additionally, when I tested the assembly in the cabinet, the interaction between the glossy acrylic and the glass, when squeezed together caused a type of thin film interference which resulted in very noticeable patterns.

My revised plan was to use plywood and glass only. This would mean the bezel would require some more complex routing, but wood is easier to work with (and easier to repair small mistakes) than acrylic so I was confident that this was the right approach. It would also mean that I'd need to paint the bezel, but that was a problem for later.

After cutting a correctly sized panel for the bezel, I routed a screen sized square on one side using the 3mm slot bit, to a depth of about 5mm. This process was similar to cutting the acrylic, but I didn't need to go all the way through. It was also significantly easier because plywood doesn't flex like thin acrylic. The next step was to turn the panel over and route an 18mm slot in the other side, with the outside of the slot describing an area slightly larger than the physical size of the monitor. This slot is cut to a depth of ~15mm so when it intersects the 3mm slot, the wood in the middle of the panel is freed. The result is a 3mm thick ledge for the monitor to sit against that covers the monitor's surrounds, but not the screen.

One additional slot is required in the bottom ledge. This is because the monitor has a row of buttons along it's lower frame that protrude slightly from the surface. This slot provides space for the buttons so they aren't pressed by the bezel. Because the monitor controls aren't easily accessible, it's important to configure any monitor settings before it's mounted. Most monitors will sleep when they stop receiving a video signal, so if the monitor is powered on before mounting, it will wake and sleep when the connected PC is switched on and off.




Mounting the Monitor

The simplest way to mount the monitor is to build a bracket from plywood that attaches to the monitor's VESA mount and to the back of the bezel. I used socket screws and threaded inserts (again for easy disassembly) to attach the cross member with the VESA mount to the bracket mounts. The bracket mounts are attached to the bezel with wood screws. To ensure the monitor was centered correctly during final assembly, I positioned cardboard shims around the outside of the monitor before tightening everything.




Cabinet Mounting

The bezel and glass are mounted in 18mm wide, 5mm deep slots on either side of the cabinet. This hides the edge of the bezel and glass from view and creates a nice finish around the edge of the screen. Additionally, the bezel is attached to the cabinet sides with ledger boards in the same way as other panels. To fit the bezel and the 5mm thick glass into the 18mm wide slot, it's necessary to route a 5mm inset along the back of both sides of the bezel.

A slotted footer made from plywood is used to finish the bottom edge of the bezel and is attached with wood screws. The front of the footer is angled to lie flat against the back of the control box when assembled. The top edge of the screen fits into another slot in the trailing edge of the speaker panel. My bezel design wasn't fully formed when I cut the speaker panel, so the slot is actually an inset that doesn't fully surround the glass and bezel, but it's not visible from the outside of the cabinet and doesn't make any practical difference.