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It’s been a L-O-N-G time coming (probably longer than you know) but I’m so happy to finally present part 1 of my arcade cabinet build! In case you haven’t seen it, be sure to watch my older video all about setting up the Raspberry Pi (using RetroPie) and the controls. If you’ve got that system all up and running, putting it in something is the next step!  I’ve been working on the plans for this system for a long time, rethinking them over and over to include all of the stuff I wanted my cabinet to have. This was especially important to me, since my wife gave me the OK for this to go in our living room. In my mind, that means that it HAD to be as practical as possible (even though it’s completely impractical by nature.)

The biggest difference in my cabinet and the vintage cabinets, is the fact that the modern electronics can literally fit in your pocket, so the majority of the cabinet is empty. I wanted to take advantage of that with my design…
I decided to keep all of the electronics in/around the controls and monitor. This left the area below the controls, and behind the monitor open, so I made them into storage. Underneath the controls is a simple bookshelf with two doors. Behind the monitor was harder to get to, so I designed the cabinet so that one side panel could actually swing open, revealing six drawers, each 24″ deep. Being able to swing open the side panel COMPLETELY changed the structure, in comparison to most cabinets, but I totally think it was worthwhile.

 

If you’re interested in buying plans to make your own cabinet like this, you can now buy those plans! Buying my plans is a great way to help support my projects and I truly appreciate it!

Buy plans for this project

In this, part 1, I’ll walk you through the majority of the woodworking aspects of this project. Part 2 will be mostly paint, trim and graphics, while part 3 will be electronics and final touches!

I printed out the layout for the side panel and started with a 4×8 sheet of plywood.

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I transferred all of the measurements to the panel measuring everything from the bottom and back sides of the side panel.

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I just used a straight edge to connect the dots and create the diagonal lines.

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The entire side panel was cut out with a circular saw. A jigsaw would also work, but the results won’t be as straight.

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 Some cuts require a plunge cut. This isn’t hard, but take your time and be careful.

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I cut as close as I could to the inside corners, then finished them off with a flush cut saw.

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It was so great to see the actual shape and height of the cabinet.

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I clamped the panel onto another sheet and traced the outline. It was cut out in the same way.

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For the main structure of the cabinet, I cut down MDF sheets into more manageable pieces.

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I cut two longer panels for the back section.

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On these panels, I drew reference lines for six pairs of drawers slides.

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I screw on the drawers slides, following the included instructions.

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Since the cabinet would be painted later, I covered the slides with tape while they were still easy to access.

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I predrilled and countersunk holes on the top and bottom panels, then screwed them on.

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These panels were also glued although it probably wasn’t necessary.

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I added a scrap piece across the  back side to help the box keep it’s shape.

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Here’s the box, test fit against the side panel.

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I cut down some more MDF, into smaller pieces for the smaller set of shelves.

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This was 1/2″ MDF, so I glued & nailed it together, instead of risking splits from using screws.

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I used a 1″ spacer to nail in the bottom shelf. This gives the bottom more thickness than the other shelves.

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I moved spacers toward the middle and nailed them in place for support.

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I ripped down some plywood for two shelves.

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I also ripped down a 2″ strip for the bottom, and some 1″ strips for the rest of the face frame.

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The entire face frame was glued and brad nailed in place.

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The 1″ strips overhung the opening, toward the inside. The outer edge needs to be flush.

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Using a speed square, I drew reference lines for the shelves. This is the safe area that I drilled holes.

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I used the speed square again to square the shelves before screwing them in.

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This smaller book shelf goes here.

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I also ripped down two panels to use as doors for the shelves.

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On the side panel, I measured in 1″ from each side and drew lines. Then I measured there lines so I knew how to cut panels later for the upper section.

 

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I clamped together back cabinet and the small bookshelf, lining up all of the edges.

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I drove in screws from inside the large cabinet to connect the two pieces.

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On the side of the cabinet that will be permanently closed, I drilled some pocket holes, spaced out around the entire cabinet.

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The pockets went all of the way down the backside as well.

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I lined up f the side panel, flush with the back of the cabinet and clamped the two together. I screwed them together using the pocket holes.

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I also drilled and screwed the lower cabinet side to the side panel using very short screws.

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I measured the upper corner where it overlapped the side panel.

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I cut that area out of a piece of plywood. This inner corner was finished with the flush cut saw.

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I fit the piece on the exposed corner.

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I traced the outline of the upper section onto this piece of wood.

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From this outline, I measured in toward the center 1 1/2″ and drew a new set of lines. I cut the smaller shape out with the circular saw.

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Facing my original cut out, I added pocket holes.

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This piece fits the corner flush with the outside face of the back cabinet.

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I drove screws into the pockets to secure this piece.

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on the fixed side, I added several scraps to act as cleats in the INSIDE of my previously drawn lines.

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Following these lines, I measured the angles of each corner.

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I used a digital angel gauge to precisely set my table saw to match the angles.

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I cut panels for the top sections with the correct miter.

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I trimmed the piece to size until it fit perfectly and the miter was correct.

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I nailed it to the cleat (left) and the extension piece (right).

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I cut a panel for the back section, but didn’t nail it in place. It stays removable for access to that top section of the cabinet.

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I measured the angle for the speaker panel the same way as before.

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I cut the piece to fit, but didn’t nail it in place yet.

 

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First, I removed the electronics from a pair of computer speakers.

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On the speaker panel, I laid out the speakers and traced their outline.

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I drew lines across the speaker outlines to find the center point where they crossed.

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I drilled a large hole for each speaker.

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I made sure they fit, without the speaker cone touching anything.

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The speaker panel then got nailed in place.

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In the marquee area, I nailed in another scrap, flush with the faces of the two panels.

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I then measured the angles on the top and bottom of the marquee.

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I cut and nailed on two strips with the matching angles.  The front face of the strip was 1″ wide.

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I trimmed some shorter pieces (with no miter) to fit in the side areas and nailed them in.

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The control box was a simple bottom piece with two sides and a front.

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I glued and nailed it together.

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This box sat on the lower bookshelf. I made sure it was pushed back and to the side, then screwed it in place.

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I cut a panel for the control board.

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I cut two small blocks of scrap to act as stops for the control board.

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These blocks were glued on to the underside of the control board. They will keep it from sliding around.

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They fit nice and tight, but the board can still lift out.

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I cut another panel for the monitor in the same way as the other panels.

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I wanted the monitor to have a retro feel, so I modeled a panel that looked similar to a CRT monitor with the curve and slope. I cut this out on my CNC, but you could easily just cut a standard opening with a saw.

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The opening turned out great and the look was worth the extra effort to me.

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While the CNC was running, I filled holes with wood putty and sanded it all smooth.

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I cut a shirt strip with the same angle as the monitor panel.

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I split the strip into three sections, then each section got a curvy line. I cut all of these lines on the bandsaw.

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I ended up with three sets of matching pieces.

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I glued one set of the pieces to the back face of the monitor panel.

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With the panel in it’s final position, I glued the matching pieces to the control board.

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With everything dry, the pieces lock together and hold the monitor panel in place, but it can slide out to “unlock”, giving you access to the monitor and the control box.

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I applied the control board template with spray adhesive, then drilled all of the holes.

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If you don’t use too much adhesive, the template will peel right off.

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I snapped off the bezel from my monitor so it would set flush against the panel.

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On the back of the panel, I found the center point of all four sides.

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I also found the center of each side of the monitor and marked it with a Sharpie.

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On those marks, I wrapped a piece of tape from the front to the back. This carries the line approximately around the monitor.

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I lined up the tape with the center line of the panel, for each side.

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I double checked center by measuring the overlap on each side.

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I taped the monitor and panel together to hold the position.

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I clamped on block below the monitor for it to rest on, as well as on each side. These side pieces were the same thickness as the monitor at those locations.

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I screwed on cross braces from block to block to force the monitor against the panel.

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I removed the tape and slid it into place!

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That’s where we’ll stop for part one! The structure is complete, and almost all of the woodwork is finished!

Be sure to come back new week for part two where we will paint, add trim and graphics and make some drawers!

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