Ultimate Arcade Cabinet and Control Panel Plans
Review by Kevin Steele, August 2003.
(Update 8/25: Scott Glazer of CyberTech Design sent me a new "Details Supplement" document that will be included with the Ultimate Arcade Plans. This document greatly clarifies the template drawings and measurements used in the plans. I've updated the review to reflect this new document)
So, you've decided that you want...no, you need a MAME cabinet. You've got several choices: you can buy a new cabinet (such as the DIY cabinets from SlikStik or Hanaho), you can find an old cabinet and refit it for MAME use, or you can build your own cabinet.
Each approach has its plusses and minuses, but if you do decide to "roll your own," you still need to have a plan of attack, or more accurately, a set of plans (This isn't the sort of project you can just whip out a circular saw and start cutting!)
CyberTech Design (MAMERoom.com) has a number of different arcade cabinet and control panel plans available, for everything from a monster-sized 4-player cab down to a cocktail cabinet, and even a sit-down cockpit design. Their plans include dimensions, detailed step-by-step instructions, even "mini-tutorials" on things such as wiring micro switches. They even offer full-size templates to further simplify the job!
I received two sets of plans for this review, the Ultimate Arcade II cabinet, and the Ultimate Arcade 4-player control panel.
The level of detail in the Ultimate Arcade plans is impressive, even anticipating problems outside of just building the cabinet, such as this gem on the front page:
"It is highly recommended that you measure all doorways and stairways leading to where your Ultimate Arcade cabinet will be placed."
The plans include a detailed list of the tools that will be required, a full materials list (including part numbers where appropriate), and some nice overview drawings that detail all of the sections that comprise the cabinet, their measurements, and where they're supposed to go. There's even a separate 10-page “Details Supplement” document included which includes very clear high-resolution images of the various cabinet pieces and their measurements.
Before the cabinet plans go into the step-by-step details of building the cabinet, you're first presented with some nice tutorials on how to countersink holes and how to properly apply laminate. As these are skills that not every "handyman" may have, I was impressed that the procedures were included here.
The level of detail in these plans continues right into the construction section of the plan. Full step-by step instructions are provided, taking you through every facet of the assembly of your Ultimate Arcade cabinet.
Each step is clearly illustrated and explained. From cutting the cabinet panels to installing the coin door, each step is presented with detailed illustrations and concise, well-written directions.
The cabinet and control panel designs are well thought-out, especially for home construction. All of the panels fit nicely onto standard-sized sheets of MDF or particle board, and the sectional design allows you to assemble the cabinet in upper and lower halves.
When building anything, you soon realize it's the little things that you forget that can lead to disaster. With the Ultimate Arcade plans, there a lots of notes throughout the plans to highlight things that you should be careful with, things to watch out for, and even warnings about when you should have someone else helping you.
The Devil is in the Details
Building an arcade cabinet is a fairly large undertaking, and there is a lot that goes into the construction. Plans are a must. What makes these plans unique is the level of detail, and the well thought-out procedure for creating the cab.
As any arcade cab builder can tell you, it's the little details, the extra finishing touches that quite often make the difference between a mediocre cab and a great one. The Ultimate Arcade plans are very much like that: all of the extra details, such as having both US and metric measurements, mini-tutorials, clear illustrations, and well-written instructions, all combine to make these plans a great resource for the cabinet builder.
The plans cost $29.99 for the cabinet plans alone, or $39.99 if the control panel plans are included. If you wish to add full-size templates, the cost is $69.99 and $79.99, respectively.
As a technical writer, I have to say that I am genuinely impressed with these plans. They have a logical organization, are clearly written, well-illustrated, and cover the procedures in exacting detail. If you're planning on building your own arcade cabinet, these plans are a great place to start.