Monday, 5 June 2017

Setting up the controls... for realsies!

 As I said last time; the next part of the construction was to assemble the control deck proper.

I’d had the majority of the buttons attached to a random lump of timber I had kicking around from way back when they were first delivered – this had allowed me to test out some games and better understand what I wanted from the button layout.

Check out this old post for more on that: http://mybudgetmame.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/setting-up-test-rig.html

Now, with the paint fully dry on new deck, it was time to remove them from the prototype and into position on the real deal.

I’m not going to lie: This felt like a big moment.



I don’t think I could possibly be happier with the way it looks. The red looks class against the dark grey mid-sheen finish and it just in general looks the real deal.

Some initial concerns about cramped connection were allayed by pointing the terminals of the back row though the gaps of those in the front.



I’m fairly sure I don’t have them connected up in the same order as before but that’s a simple fix in the MAME configuration when it comes to it. Need to screw that pcb to the case somewhere too but that's no problem either.

So only one thing left to do - put the pieces I have together...


Now that's proper progress right there!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Setting up a guide-jig...


With the three smaller sections of the front of cabinet all painted up and finished I gave the same treatment (Sand > Seal > Prime > Sand > Paint > Paint) to the main frame.
Considering it had been in a bulky, part-built state in the in-laws garage for 3 years it was remarkably free of damage.



The two layers of MDF I had glued together to use for sides were coming apart very slightly in a couple of places but nothing that didn’t disappear under three coats of paint.
This left just the main speaker and housing unfinished and, truth be told, generally in a bit of a mess.
 
Previously I had mounted the speaker into a piece of MDF and given it a coat of primer.
It looked pretty tatty but worse still it seemed as though the paint that had been in holes of the mesh had fallen through and dried solid – give it a shake and it sounded like it was half full of rice – not good.
 
I made the rather drastic decision to open up the speaker front and shake the bits out – I started with a drill hole but struggled to get much joy. So I resorted to the tin-snips.



Obviously this meant I had to do something about the new mess I’d made. The free sample of speaker cloth I got for the smaller speakers was quite a course weave, so to match it I cut a square from a hessian shopping bag and attacked it with the some leftover black paint I found in a tester pot tucked away in one the better half’s craft drawers.
 
Finally, I needed to create a new, neat front plate.
At some point in the preceding three years the remainder of my MDF stash has taken some water damage. Luckily I found a couple of pieces that were big enough but, at only 5mm thick, I was presented with a new problem when it came to routing a neat finish as the routing bit guide wheel is 3mm on its own.
I tried cutting a square out, clamping extra MDF as a guide underneath, and routing around both -  but there was too much movement and the result was a total disaster.

Plan B was to build a guide jig using two scraps of MDF and my workmate.


 
With the piece of MDF for the panel clamped firmly on top of this I drilled a hole big enough for the router bit through the centre and then ran the router out to the edge and followed the guide-jig around.
It was quick, easy, and worked perfectly.
 
After the usual prep and paint it was simple case of assembling the pieces and standing back and admiring the results.
The whole affair felt like a victory – just the sort of win I need to keep me moving forward.
 



Next up – getting that control deck together.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Setting up for the big finish

So I figured a quick "Previously on..." was in order, thanks to the big gap in posts.

The aim was to build a M.A.M.E. Bartop arcade cabinet for less than £50. The cabinet, the computer, the screen; the works.

I already had wood glue, the paint for the final finish, an array of tools, various screws and fixings, and a cool led power button donated by my mate Dave.

When it came to major components I then - through Freegle, fortune, and foraging - had managed to get the 14" CRT screen, a pile of MDF scraps, and an old PC at no further cost whatsoever.
With my £50 budget still not touched I still had to acquire a set of controls, some sort of audio system, undercoat for the paint, and anything else unexpected that might come up.


My theoretical costs broke down like this:
  • £15 for a Joystick and Button pack from Ultracabs.
  • £10 for a USB encoder for the Joystick and Button from eBay
  • £8 for amplified speakers
  • £10 for hard finishing filler
  • £7 F-factor

But in actuality the budget has ended up looking like this:
  • £11.99 Joystick/Buttons
  • £6.99 Amp
  • £1.19 single button
  • £10.18 for a USB encoder for the Joystick and Button from eBay
  • £4.17 amp from eBay
  • £5.50 total shipping

The hard finishing filler wasn't needed following the acquisition of the MDF and there are two amps because I blew the first one up. The rest of the sound system I put together from an old speaker I had kicking around and a pair of PC speakers that came as a bonus with one of the 4 CRT screens I sourced through Freegle.


And so we come to now, as the project wheezes back to life after a 3 year gap I still have just under a tenner to play with.

The first thing I need to add to that is primer. I'm not sure if I  mentioned it in previous posts or not but since a couple of the component parts already had a coat of this applied I must have bought it before 'the gap'. The open tin is also evidence of this.

I know I picked it up locally and checking online it's available in B&Q for £5.10 - so that's the number going into the budget.
That's £45.17 spent so far.

With the sunny spring evenings being one of the main drivers to restarting the project I began small.
I worked on the marquee section, the control deck, and the front panel.
I pulled the three sections of the marquee apart as I wasn't happy with the existing join. I re-glued an and left them clamped in my workbench overnight then sanded the join down the next day.

All the parts were first covered in glue-size to seal the MDF then I gave them a good coat of primer. When the primer was fully dry I sanded it back smooth with some 240g sandpaper.


It was nearly 10pm when I finished


Having researched what was required I was fully aware that an ultra-smooth mirror finish to my paint work was beyond both my budget and my skills - but I was very keen to have a quality finish.
I'd be using the remnants of a tin 'Slate' coloured paint that I had leftover from previous projects on some DVD racks and a posture chair. 
Experience has taught me that consistency is the key to making anything look well designed so I decided to roller the paint on - this would ensure the same finish all over and eliminate any opportunity for ugly brush marks.

After a couple of quotes I'm very pleased with the results, roller fluff was a bit of a problem but not a big one and the colour - once fully dry - is a pretty stylish dark grey.

The marquee, front panel, and control deck drying amongst the chaos of my shed

Next up, a little sub-section assembly.



Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Setting the scene...

This is the first entry I've made to this blog in just short of 3 full years.

It began as a way for me to document a project to build myself a 'bartop' style M.A.M.E. Arcade Cabinet with the self imposed constraint of a £50 budget.

That's the cabinet, the controls, the computer - the whole thing for under fifty quid.

There were a few bumps in the road, I had long delays waiting for MDF and then waiting for a PC - then I was forced to move house at short notice.

I filled a lot of these gaps in progress by writing about obscure - but excellent - games I found while curating a collection to go in the finished machine. It was this part of the blog that seemed most popular with readers.

The two parts of the blog ran on, supporting each other, until early August 2014.

And then, for reasons I honestly can't fathom, it all stopped.
A year ago I moved house again - but there's still a two year space prior to that where I did absolutely nothing to a cabinet that was well on it's way to completion.



Since moving the majority of my time and money has gone into the house and garden. As things have gradually become more organised around the place the in laws decided, a month or so ago, that it was high time we relieved them of the last few of our possessions they had cluttering up their garage.
This included my partially build cabinet.
It, among other things from the purge, was piled at the back of the spare room waiting for the loft-conversion to be completed.

Earlier this month I had a couple of friends to stay for the weekend, the spare room clutter was temporarily hidden in the main bedroom and the M.A.M.E cabinet found itself squeezed between my wardrobe and the bed.
The guests came and went but the cabinet stayed where it was - completely in the way - obstructing my morning routine by it's very existence.

I was at a loose end on a sunny evening recently and found myself looking at a small section from the top of cabinet and noticing that the speaker holes I'd made were not in line with each other.
I took it outside and soon enough I was digging a piece of MDF out of my wood store (an old outside toilet) and remaking the section.
Even as raw MDF it looked good, simple but effective.
I found somewhere online that provided a small free sample of speaker fabric and temporarily attached them inside.
It looked very good... I wonder what it would look like painted...
For the next few sunny evenings I found myself sitting in the garden, painting, sanding, re-painting various components of the cabinet just to be doing something outside.

Curiously, organically, the £50 M.A.M.E. cabinet project had come back to life!