Around 2007, Ilda spotted an busted up arcade cabinet which had been dumped outside our building in Cape Town. I got very excited, ran downstairs in my pajamas and hauled it into our garage, fixed it up as best I could and turned it into a MAME arcade.
In our new place, the machine sits in the guest bedroom, and I was not too happy about how it looked. It was cool, but it was essentially a big black hulk that looked unfinished. I wanted to make it match the room a little better, so it looked less like a refugee. The three things I wanted to do were putting a clean frame around the monitor, fitting a neater control board, and removing an annoying tendency for the control board to bend inwards when you leaned on it while playing.
First thing to to was disassemble the old machine, which was easy. The main problem was that in those Cape Town days I had no proper electric tools or even a soldering iron, so everything was loose and falling apart anyway.
I did a little testing on an American material called MDF – which is a sort of composite sawdust-resin type stuff sold in 5mm thick boards. It is very hard, but sucks up water like no-one’s business, so I would have to paint/seal all the bits carefully. It only costs $5 for a huge piece, so I did some tests and found it would work great (with a little reinforcement). I cut a frame and control board and fitted it for a test.
The control board was most of the work – drilling the holes and gluing a cross-beam to stiffen it (go get rid of the annoying give when pushed). I had a piece of pine fence picket left over from the new bunny hutch, so I used that. Worked out pretty well.
Then came the soldering of all the contacts. That took a while, but it guarantees that no matter how crazy the gaming session gets, no cables will come loose. I also screwed the Ipac board to the picket to make sure it was nice and sturdy.
Finally the paint job. I decided to use normal spray paint, as it is cheap and I had used it in a couple of side projects around the house and know how it behaves (plus it is a little waterproof in case of spills). I decided to go for dark red, because the guest bedroom has a red/white color scheme. I decided to paint the edges of the MDF using Tamiya acrylics instead of spray paint because I was worried that spraying the edges would leave bubbles or blobs of paint. So I did those first with a little brush, and then hit the faces with the spray can (I think I did four coats on each, on the final coat I raised to can far off the surface to end with a dusty texture). Once it was done I thought it looked a little bland, so I masked two chevrons and sprayed those in back.
And presto! It looks good in the room, plays better thanks to the more rigid control board, and will last longer (no more disassembling half the cabinet each time a cable gets loose…). It is ready to be tested extensively with Miss Pacman when Ilda and Luisa arrive.