How to Build a Kick-Ass MAME Arcade Cabinet from an Old PC

The Bartop

Image Credit: BYOAC Wiki


• Small size means greater portability, less intrusiveness, and cheaper materials.


• Small size also means a smaller screen, and usually less room for controls.
• With much less room to build in, significantly more planning is needed to make sure you’ll be able to fit everything inside.

As for us? We decided to go with a cocktail cabinet. We really liked the fact that you can play both vertical and horizontal games using the entire screen, as well as the camaraderie that comes from the whole office huddling around a table, watching Will humiliate Norm at Galaga .

Cabinet Construction

So, you’ve figured out what style of cabinet you’d like to build? Great! Now you’ve just got to build it.

Again, there are three options. First, you can find an old arcade machine for sale somewhere and use its cabinet as a basis for your MAME machine. Second, you can build your own out of plywood or MDF. There are plans available online for this, but be warned: it’s real easy to make a shoddy looking cabinet if you don’t have a firm grasp on carpentry, or the right tools (a router is a must).

Finally, you can do what we did: order a kit online. Sure, it costs a bit more than you would pay for parts, but it dramatically simplifies the whole construction process, and it’s the only way for a wood-working newbie to ensure that they get a great-looking cabinet.

We bought our kit from Arcade Depot , and although we had initially been tempted to try to build our own cabinet from scratch, we quickly realized that we’d made the right choice in buying a kit. Not only did the cabinet turn out much nicer than anything we could have built, Scott over at Arcade Depot was a huge help, giving us a lot of useful advice throughout the whole project. The kit’s a little trickier to put together than, say, IKEA furniture, but still well within the capabilities of any fledgling MAMEsmith.

We thought you might be interested to know what goes into building a cabinet like this, so we asked Scott to describe what it is they do over at Arcade Depot. This is what he said:

“The Arcade Depot cocktail cabinet design is the result of carefully listening to customer feedback over the course of many years. The initial thrust of the cabinet was one of offering a high-quality replacement for factory original systems whose own cabinet faltered long before the electronics within it. It later became a natural choice for customers inspired to build their own home arcade systems with PC-based arcade emulation software. In order to directly address this growing desire for in-home systems we chose grade A-1 plywood complete with a hardwood finish to transform a classic cocktail cabinet into spouse-approved furniture!

“Cabinet construction begins with the shaping of each cabinet panel using high-precision, high-speed CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) wood routers accurate to 0.001” for perfect parts and alignment features. All alignment features have been designed to make the cabinet assembly process simple and straightforward with virtually no possibility of error. Once machined, each cabinet is dry-assembled as part of our in-process quality inspection to ensure it meets our stringent standards. Our staff craftsmen complete the sanding, staining, surface sealing, and t-molding installation by hand so that active quality inspection continues throughout the entire process. Each step of the fabrication process has been optimized and refined over many years of operation to allow us to offer the highest quality, most cared for cabinet kits on the market at an unbeatable price!”

Next, we pick a monitor.