Building a Bartop Arcade Cabinet

So 3 years ago I found the forums at and started building a full-size cab to house a 27″ CRT that I had. It was really a reckless decision but I had some free time and no children or pets to worry about (read: LOTS of free time) so I began cutting.


I hadn’t planned anything. I literally measured the dimensions of the TV sitting in the garage, and started cutting. It’s especially irresponsible considering the success I had building the subwoofer. I can’t remember now which one was first, this standing cab or the sub….

At any rate, I built this frame and let it stand in use garage for a couple months.

Then a few months more.

Eventually reality set in and I realized that the frame I cut was garbage, and I really didn’t have room for a full sized cabinet anyway. I had been bitten by the arcade bug and made a snap judgment. That frame was brutally demolished and hauled off to contribute to our landfills.

Flash forward to now, 2013.


This joystick smells like success!


Mortal Kombat 9 for ps3 is out and I’ve had a lot of fun using the TE fight stick. The bug is back, but this time I’ve considered the reality of building a piece of furniture that, if done right, could be around for awhile. If I’m to stay married then I’d better put in some effort this time.

I’d considered using my jail broken Wii as the emulation machine, but it was too slow and lacked the ability to customize the interface. The only option is to build a PC to fit my needs.

Screwdrivers are great at shorting circuits. The ideal power switch!


Everyone know the saying, “All good prototypes start in cardboard boxes,” or was that “all good homes start in cardboard boxes” or something to that effect.

I actually enjoyed the cardboard box PC for awhile during the build process. Maybe someday in the future my primary PC will live in a cardboard box.

While the PC is in the box I spent a lot of time trying to decide between running some version of Linux or going the dreadful route of Windoze. The emulators exist for Linux, for the most part. And customizing the booting/launching of the system and the emulators is much more rewarding and elegant in Linux as well, but the main problem is that a lot of the fancy doodads like the LED wiz don’t have any drivers for Linux. (Yeah I keep capitalizing it like it’s a professor at Dartmouth). I probably could’ve lived without LEDs, but what ultimately forced me to go Windoze is the lack of a decent front end for Linux. Mala on Windoze is pretty basic but it allows for some decent customization, and a custom front end is crucial to what I have planned.

Custom cardboard box ordered online. Super cheap and only took 2 weeks to have designed and shipped!


Emmaculate design.


Checking to see how white buttons would look on white acrylic

The good thing about jumping into the MAME hobby these days is that so many people have tried everything already, and some companies provide very specific-use items like the LED-Wiz for driving LEDs via USB, and the iPac for taking pushbutton input to emulate key strokes.

Multiple LEDs Required!


The pioneer. The first LED is lit.

With the profile sketched out, I stack the two sides together and cut them simultaneously. BRILLIANT.

The profile has been sketched.


Great Success


For whatever reason, it’s incredibly hard to find 4×3 monitors these days, and it’s also really hard to find anything under 17″. BUY ALL THE 15″ 4×3 MONITORS NOW BEFORE THE ZOMBIES HAPPEN.


It’s finished!