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Arcade Cabinet - Woodworking

by Lorenz Prem
published on September 13 2009 10:33 pm

The woodworking starts with building the cabinet.

Cabinet Sides

The two sides of the cabinet are identical. Ideally cut them both at once.

The angled cuts near the monitor cannot be done on the tablesaw. Start the cuts with a circular saw. Stop short of the line and finish with a jigsaw.

The edges of the panels can be finished with either T-molding or veneer. If you choose to go with the T-molding, route a 1/16" slot with a slot cutter on the center line.

Top and Bottom

The top and bottom are rectangular pieces. Cut them from a panel using a tablesaw.


The back piece can either be a cutout, or a glue-up from 4 strips of wood.

Speaker panel

The speaker panel has two openings for speakers. Make sure you have enough room to fit the magnet part of the driver into the cabinet without hitting the top.

Make sure your speakers have a screw flange. If you are using a cover or your speaker has writing on the cone, align them with the sides of the cabinet. Crooked writing would mess up an otherwise great build.

Lower Front-Panel

The lower front panel has a cutout for the coin door.

The coin door can be purchased from arcade shops either as a working version or as a non-operational fake. Either one is mounted using clips. Mark the size and location of the opening on the carcass and cut it out using a jig saw. Test fit the coin door.

Various Front Strips

The only thing left to cut are various rectangular strip for the front of the cabinet.

Monitor Bezel

The screen surround, called the screen bezel, is a custom job for each monitor. It needs to fit directly around the monitor you are using.

Begin by building a frame that fits inside of the arcade cabinet and is just large enough to fit around your monitor. Pocket hole screws are a good option for connecting the corners. Make sure the screws are not in the way of the channels you need to route in the next step.

In most cases them material used to make the bezel will be too tick to allow for easy viewing. You need to route a groove around the edge of the bezel that will accept the monitor. It should be deep enough such that the monitor will be located 1/4" below the front of the bezel.

Wooden clips hold the monitor in place from behind. The size and location of these clips depend entirely on the shape of the monitor. There is no need to over-engineer them. Just get within 1/8 of the final thickness and wedge a piece of folded paper in the gap. This is actually the best way of securing the monitor, since the monitor can be easily removed.

Do not glue the bezel to the cabinet. Use screws or pin nails. Chances are the cabinet will live longer than the monitor. The bezel will probably need to be replaced along with the monitor. Do not make it hard for whoever has to do that job.

Corner Blocks to reinforce Joints

The joints of the cabinet use corner blocks for strength. A strip of 1x1" lumber is glued into each each corner. Screws are driven through each side into the blocks. Once the glue dries this type of joint is very strong. The blocks also make assembly much easier.

Cut the blocks from 2x4" dimensional lumber. Several passes on the table saw and planer produces two strips from every 2x4".

Install the Blocking on the Sides

The blocks are installed on the sides. Each block must be held back from the edge of the panel to allow the mating panel's thickness and the desired offset.

The blocks do not have to be continuous along every edge of the cabinet. Support at least half the length of each corner with blocks. Start the blocks within 2" inches of each corner. The result will only be marginally weaker than a continuous block.

Install all the required blocks using glue and screws. Drive the screws from the outside through the panel into the blocking. Countersinks and pilot holes are highly recommended.


In my experience the best order for assembly is to lay one side flat on the bench with the blocks facing up. Glue and screw down the top and bottom. Lift the other side piece into position and clamp it in place.

Next install the lower front panel with the coin door.. This will square up the the sides. Check for square, just to be sure. Screw everything in place.

Install as many of the front and back pieces as you can. At some point the cabinet will become structurally rigid. Let the glue dry.

Tilt the cabinet up and finish installing the remaining pieces. Leaving any pieces with angle cuts, like the monitor and speaker panels, until this stage makes assembly easier.

Access Doors

On the back of the cabinet there are two access doors: one for the monitor, and one for the computer. The openings are formed by three panels and four vertical connection pieces. Pocket screws and through screws into the blocking hold everything together.

The doors are made from MDF and overlap the openings by 1/4" on all sides. Use cup hinges with face frame brackets to install the door. The hinge guide explains how this is done in detail. Rounded over the edges on the doors and drilled holes for a lock.

Casters and fixing Defects

Install the 4 casters in the bottom panel using through bolts, washers, and nuts. Flip the cabinet upright. Fill all screw holes with wood putty. Let it try and sand the surface smooth.

In my experience it takes at least 3 layers for wood putty for the surface to become smooth. Don't hurry here. You are putting too much work into this project for screws to show in the finish.

Keyboard Drawer

the keyboard drawer is an add-on feature for the cabinet. It's very useful, if you plan on using the cabinet for PC gaming.

The drawer is flush mounted just below the control panel. To blend in the front is made of the same material as the body of the cabinet. The gap between the bottom of the drawer and the cabinet is hidden with a decorative strip. The top gap is hidden by the control panel.

The drawer itself is just that, a drawer. Construct it to your liking. I prefer a shallow drawer. This makes it easier to type on the keyboard.

The drawer slides need to extend beyond the cabinet. Otherwise most of the drawer will be obscured by the control panel. Make sure to order drawer slides that extend beyond 100% of the drawer's depth.


At this point the cabinet is finished. The corner blocks make the carcass very durable, even in a commercial setting.

Related - Arcade Cabinet Series

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."