Thursday, February 1, 2007

What I Learned

  1. Utility knives are sharp. I cut my fingers pretty badly trimming the T Moulding by drawing the knife towards me. Now kids out there reading this, don’t do what I did, always cut away.
  2. Assembling the UAII is a two person job. It was very difficult doing it myself.
  3. You can spend way too much money putting one of these together.
  4. Your end result will probably be different from what you though it was going to be.
  5. Gizmos are cool. Light guns, bigger hard drive, cathode lighting, coin doors. Be sure to see # 3 above.
  6. MDF weights way too much.
  7. When in doubt, reinforce.
  8. Tint your primer with some of your final color paint
  9. Cut you T Molding slot prior to assembly. Once put together, you wont be able to.
  10. Don’t loose sight of your goal.
  11. Don’t try to please everyone. Know what you want to play and work around that.
  12. You will spend more then you want (see #3 and 4 above).

If you are going to build from scratch, you will need the following tools

Circular Saw
Jig Saw
Palm Sander
Belt Sander
Tape Measure
Framing Square
And most importantly Patience.

Also for the electrical work you will need
Continuity tester
Soldering iron
Wire stripper / crimper

Final Results

Phoenix Rising

Why does it always seem like I am cutting MDF in the middle of July?

On a side note, notice the navy top now. This was the third color combo for my UAII.

I set off to improve my original design. I pick up a pair of plasma disks for the sides, a new florescent light for the marquee, a piece of greylight 13 for the front plexi glass, cold cathodes for the bottom lighting and a new 4 slot Happ coin door with new color coin acceptors for each slot. I also picked up a pair of Pyle speakers. To turn on the unit I picked up a smart strip power strip to turn everything on at the same time.

So I rebuild the broken cab routing out the circles for the plasma disk. Stupid MDF, I forgot how heavy it is and what a mess it makes. Cut the speaker mount, hmmm it does not quite fit right, let me trim the angle slightly.... woops trimmed it the wrong way, I can fix that, flip it over and recut. A little short but with glue and screws, it fits perfect. Install, resand the cab and repaint. Looking good!!! Hmmm the marquee is a 1/4 inch too long, no problem, a sharp knife and all better. Hmmm the marquee plexi does not fit, out with the router, all better (now if you have been reading from the beginning you should know where this is going)…

Install the coin door, marquee, plasma disks, speakers, cold cathodes, looking SWEET!!!!

Now for the tv. Hmmm thats odd, it no longer fits. Must be the speaker mount that I trimmed. That’s a shame. No problem, I will just install the original tv that I bought for the arcade. Fits like a glove, no extra space to spare. Now hook up the S-video and turn on. NADA, NOTHING, oh thats right, the S-Video jack on the TV does not work. No problem, Plug in the component and I'm good to go. SWEET!!!!


How am i now going to hook up the light guns?


and now sadly my choices are

1 purchase a new tv
2 pay to fix the s-video jack on the tv (probably the same cost as a new tv)
3 purchase new guncons and hope to get the dual guns working
4 haul the cab back out to the garage and cut the speaker mount out and put in another, then sand, and repaint, then bring it back in and re hook up everything.

PS greylite14 1/4 tempered I got price quotes of 90, 80 and 55$. I went with the 55.

Reluctantly I haul the cab back out into the garage and install a new speakeer mount.

PS again. I took the liberty of upgrading the wheels I originally installed on the cab. Apparently the crushing weight of this monster was too much for my wheels rated at 100 lbs each.

It's all gone

It is with great sadness that I must put this entry out for all to read. I moved from NY to NC. I hired professional movers to do the job. Now somewhere between NY and NC, the professional movers destroyed my MAME.

Now I took the necessary precautions, moved the computer myself. I had the movers box the control panel and wrap the UAII for protection.

However, when the control panel arrived, it was in peices, the tower was gouged as if they took a chain to it and beat it. The plexi glass for the monitor was carved very nicely and they lost the keyboard draw.


It was attached and wrapped with plastic wrap to keep it in place.

Now I had two choices, quietly burry it in my back yard or rebuild it, bigger, better, stronger.

Which do you think I did.

OS and Disk Space

I purchased the Compaq with XP Home installed. The first thing I did was to reformat the HD then install XP Pro (first mistake).

Now to use my tv I needed a graphic card with svideo output. So I purchased a Radion 9200. However I could not get it to work correctly. Apparently the Compaq did not like having two video cards installed at the same time so I uninstalled the Compaq video card. Now Compaq cuts corners by bundling the sound and video card together, so when I uninstalled the Compaq video card, I lost my sound.

Also the drivers for the Compaq were on the drive so when I did an FDisk I lost them. Going to the Compaq web site was useless. I eventually got them to send me out disks to reinstall the original XP home but by then I had MAME completely configured and did not want to start over again.

I put in an old soundblaster card I had lying around but that only put out a tiny bit of sound. I was able to amplify that sound through the TV speakers so the sound problems were solved.

Now right around this time, someone with way too much time on their hands came out with intro videos for all the roms. I must have them. So I got them. But the mixture of all the roms, chds, control panel pics, snaps, intro vides, etc. was too large for my 40 gig HD.

So what to do, remove roms and chds or upgrade....

I purchase a 200 gig external usb drive. No problem now. I have plenty of space for other games. And I used it, HOTD, HOTD2, HOTD3, The You Don’t Know Jack series, Virtual Cop, Mech Warrior, etc.

I have began to notice that the longer you have your MAME, the more money you will put into it.

Front End

Started off simple with Mame32. My kids were used to the windows interface and it was easy for them to select games.

I eventually added Mamwah. That was too dificult to configure.

I switched to MALA but had problems with the layout not working correctly.

I finally settled on Ultrastyle. I like the wheel.

I have about 375 games on the wheel right now. I am not sure if I will keep Ultrastyle and might give MALA another try.

In the above picture, you can also see my instruction card at the top of the screen. You can't see it but when dark, the card is illuminated from the marquee light.

Additional Components, Revisions

4 Way Joy Stick
I did not like the height of the 4 way ms. packman joystick. In the control panel it was not high enough to be comfortable so I ended up purchasing from slickstick a lighted ball top. However I did not like the way that felt or worked in 4 way mode. So what to do....

I replace the ms. packman stick with the stick from the ball top without any difficulty.

I do find that the feel of the stick is not excellent but way better the the lighted ball top in 4 way mode. I also swapped the bottom of the joy sticks so the slickstick wiring would not dislodge. No problems, the screws line up perfectly.

So I guess I have a hybrid 4 way joy stick at this point.

Light Guns

ACT Labs

I purchased 2 ACT Labs guns and a couple of bar code scanner holders.

I purchased a new marquee from

Proof - It's for the kids

Proof that it really was built for the kids. Here is my son playing World Class Bowling. Two things to notice here, first no control panel yet. Second, it is all black now. I got rid of the blue on the top of this cab. This was the second of 4 paint jobs on the cab. Also notice how nicely the tv fits into the cab. The SVideo jack broke shortly after and I had to swap it out with another tv I had. The new TV had 1/8 of an inch clearance.

I also have a temp marquee printed out on paper backlit by a florescent lamp.
The top pic is taken a few days later at my son's birthday party. The crowd of kids and adults around the MAME never lessened. It was a huge success.

PS You never know what is going to happen with your programming until you have a gathering of kids giving the MAME a proper shakedown. I had to tweak a few settings throughout the day.
This is one of the reasons I went with a 4 player control panel. Many kids wanting to play at the same time.

Control panel

To make the control panel, we went through many layouts. Finally we came upon a design we liked.

We first made a template to see how it would really work. After a bit more tweaking we finalized the design.

The above pic shows the finished layout. If you are going to do a control panel, do it correctly. You will need an 1 1/8 bit for drilling out the button holes as well as a jig saw to cut out for the track ball.

You also need a router with a mortis bit to recess the track ball plate. If all is done correctly you will be pleased with the result.

When I was ready to cut the holes for my plexi, I fiirst did my control panel case and top with all the holes cut out, I then placed the plexi on my control panel (keeping the protective paper on the plexi). I put a lit flashlight into the control panel and that caused the light to shine through the plexi so I knew exactly where the holes were. I used a plung router bit to put a hole into the center of each button then used a flush trim router bit to clean each hole. The results were perfect. No problems

Once that was done, I used the flush trim router bit to recess the track ball mounting plate

Now here is where my friend has his pain. His job was to do the graphic and to wire up everything. I laughed out loud when he told me of how one of the c clips on a joystick flew across the room during disasembely. It almost made swallowing all that MDF dust worth while.

The final touch was to have my graphic printed by Scott at

PICS - Half way done

Here are a few pics of assembly as well as painting.

While sitting in the garage after having finished painting them black and blue, the name just came to me. It seemed appropriate to name them this since many people are going to enjoy them.

Twins of pleasure


The plans for the UAII were thorough and the arcades went together quickly.

You need to pre drill all holes for screws so I picked up a counter sink drill bit that worked out great. I also used elmers glue to help hold it all together. If you do not pre drill, your MDF will split.

I first assembled the bases and then added the tops.
Here is where the twins start to show seperate designs. With my arcade, the entire front panel is hinged allowing for access from the front. The second arcade, will only have access via a coin door from the front.

Cutting MDF

Itching to start I break out one piece of MDF and start transposing the template onto it. It takes a while but the directions are easy to follow and soon I have one board completely ready to cut. To save time I decide to double up the MDF so I can cut both sided of the cabinet at once. That makes the thickness 1 ½ inches.

Now I am no stranger to power tools and have quite a collection. However the table saw won't work due to the many cuts that would be needed. So I break out a new craftsman circular saw. It is a bit lighter then my older circular saw.

I line up the saw and start a cutting. Quickly the blade locks up. I back it out and try again with similar results. Perhaps the saw blade is dull so I remove the existing 7 1/2 inch blade and put in a new one. Line the saw up and start a cutting… Same results. Apparently the MDF is so thick that the circular saw cannot cut through two pieces at a time.

So now I have to cut them one board at a time. I separate the MDF and start again. DUST FLYS EVERYWHERE.

Time to take the MDF outside to cut.

I bring it to the outside picnic table and continue to cut out the pieces. Most can be cut with the circular saw, some cuts need to be finished with the jig saw.

Needless to say it takes a few days to cut out the pieces since I am building two. I also took the times to label the pieces to help with assembly.

Now previously I mentioned the dust caused by MDF. When you add humidity to the dust it acts like glue and sticks to everything. I am still coughing up it to this day. Even wearing a dust mask does not help much.

¾’s of the way through the cutting I hit a snag. My new circular saw stops working. I break out the older, heavy duty one and finish the job. A post mortem on the new saw reveals that the MDF dust has coated all the bushings in the motor. Translated, the dust killed my saw.

Eventually I have a very large amount of cut pieces of MDF stacked in the garage.

Gathering the components

For the components I have decided that I want it all, that will mean building a Franken panel.

4 – 8 way ultimates
1 – 4 way ms. Pacman
1 – 3 inch Happ trackball
1 – tornado spinner
Player 1 & 2 – 6 buttons Player 3 & 4 – 4 buttons
Individual start and credit buttons for each player
2 buttons for the trackball
1 reset button and 1 pause button.
1 – IPAC
1 – Optipac
1 – USB hub
1 – Radion9200 graphic card
2 - Cup holders

A new Compaq pent 4, 40 gig hd, cd RW purchased at a midnight madness sale at compusa for $250.

An RCA 27 inch tv with svideo input

For the second panel and setup, similar except for the graphic card and 4 way joy stick choice.


For those that do not know, the UAII takes 3 pieces of 4 x 8 MDF (I also chose ¾ of an inch MDF).

Also for those that don’t know, MDF weighs a TON and since I was building two full UAIIs, that would mean I need to pick up 6 pieces of it.

So I set off for the Home Depot for the MDF. I find it and realize the weight problems with this material. I struggle to get the MDF onto the cart and leaning into the cart I push it to the checkout line. Fortunately I was able to get a Home Depot person to help me load the car (he got a tip for his effort!).

What I did not know is that 4 x 8 MDF is not 48 inches by 96 inches. It is 49 inches wide. Why do I mention this???? Because the Ford Freestar I brought to haul the MDF has a 48 inch opening.

So we struggle a bit getting it in by tipping up one end slightly. The Ford Freestar did not know what hit it. Once completely loaded, the back was riding real low.

Well I get it home and now I need to unload the MDF myself. It is a bit of struggle but I manage to get all of it into my garage.

On a side note, I started this in July so there was plenty of heat and humidity. I mention this for reference in the future blogs on MDF sawdust.

The pain has begun…

Choosing a style Cabinet

Having decided to commit to building an arcade, i start to pour through the examples at

I decided that a cocktail cab will not do and that I wanted a standup cabinet. After looking at other examples I came across Jeffs Ultimate MAME Cabinet Project.

Now thats what I want, big monitor, trackball, multiple player options. So the carboard templates are made. WOW this is going to be one big Arcade.... Perhaps a bit too big.

Eventually I decide to choose the UAII (Ultimate Arcade II) design.

The Beginning

It seems so long ago. Thinking back on it now. Cursed by coming across that damn book. "Project Arcade"

I should have run away but I am a week, week man. Once the book was open, there was no turning back.
I also hereby put a curse on my fellow co-worker who showed me this book.
As we were about to embark upon building two arcades, he would have his own pain in the near future....