So this is not a security-related post, but what the heck.
Every quarter or so here at RSM, we hold an Innovation Day. We get to dedicate a full day’s worth of time to personal projects that will benefit the company in some way. We’ve had some really cool projects come out of the Innovation Days of the past which have included the WMD (a Pi-based device for tracking down Rogue APs), vulnerable network training lab headed up by malarkey, and our initial KingPhisher release from steiner.
Around this time last year, I built myself an old school, stand-up arcade unit for my birthday. That’s a picture of it off on the left. At the time, I took a ton of pictures but neglected to actually document anything for future reference. So, when RSM gave the opportunity last week to start a new build from scratch, I made sure to take some notes!
This post will be the first in a series stepping through the entire build process in as much detail as possible. There will be pictures, plans, and lessons-learned.
Full disclosure: I am not a professional carpenter, so please do not treat these as best practices. Please use caution when using power tools, and always measure twice before you cut. This is a more-than-one person build (MDF is some heavy stuff), so you’ll definitely want at least one other person to help position boards.
First and foremost in the cabinet build process is the plan. I very much winged it the first time around, and while I was happy with the results, having a plan on paper beforehand this time very much simplified stenciling and cutting. Below is a copy of the measurements of the system. The “shelf” on the left hand side of the drawing is where our control panel will eventually sit. My cabinet makes use of an X-Arcade Tankstick. For first time builds, I highly recommend going this route. X-Arcade provides high quality products and great support. My team and I are planning on constructing a four player control panel eventually, but that will have to wait until post three or four in this series.
Materials and Tools
Note: This is just a parts list for the initial build of the cabinet. Parts lists will be updated in each sequential posting.
- 3X Medium Density Fiberboard (0.75-in x 48-in x 96-in)
- 3X Kiln-Dried Whitewood (2-in x 4-in x 10-ft)
- Misc. 2-in wood screws
- Misc. 1.75-in wood screws
Total Approximate Cost: $120
Here is a list of tools required for this part of the build (this list will also change post-to-post):
- Medium Phillips Head screwdriver
- Circular Saw
- Straight edge (preferably a T-Square)
- Saw horses (or folding tables…)
You’re going to want to at least have your monitor selected at this point (if it isn’t already on-hand), as that will determine the width of the cabinet.
All About That Base
Definitely start with the base. It’s a good warm-up and difficult to really screw up!
Note: MDF is very dusty. Avoid cutting it indoors unless you want a layer of dust that will cover everything else in the room for weeks. You may even want to wear a mask if you have respiratory problems.
Cut your four 2x4s to the appropriate lengths (in our case, 2x 26-in and 2x 31.75-in). The short boards should be placed on the ground, parallel to one another, with the longer boards placed on top of both to create a rectangle. The base needs to be deep enough for the side panels with enough space in the front to accommodate the kickplate. Use two 2-in screws in each corner (one near the inner angle, one near the outer angle) to keep everything together.
Measure up and cut a piece of MDF to sit on top to complete the base. Don’t be a hero. Get a hand lifting the MDF onto your saw horses…or folding tables. The edges of the MDF piece should sit flush with the front and sides of the base. Any extra will interfere with the side panels and kickplate.
Your finished product should, more or less, resemble the shots below:
The First Cut is the Deepest
Use your pencil and T-Square to draw out the first side. You want the line dark enough to stand out while you’re cutting. I tend to use the jigsaw more often than I should because I like the level of control it gives me. That being said, save yourself some time and use the circular saw whenever possible.
Use your first cut side as a stencil for the second, and then cut side number two. I highly recommend, after the second side is cut, putting the two on top of each other, clamping them down (or throwing a bunch of heavy items on top of the stack if you don’t have clamps), and taking your jigsaw to the edges to even them out as much as possible. This is particularly important at the top and along the shelf where cross pieces will need to be level.
Putting it Together
Once you have the two sides and base cut out, it’s time to start the assembly process. All screws from this point are 1.75 inches in length.
Place the first side on a level surface, and align the rear of the base with the rear edge of the side and make sure everything is flush at the bottom. This should leave you with space at the front for the kick plate (plus a little more for an edged look). This will also mean that the back will be open. So, if you want to include a back plate, adjust the dimensions of the base accordingly. You’ll want it to stick off the edge of your flat surface just slightly so you’ll be able to screw the side plate into the base.
I used two screws (one near each corner) to secure the side plate to the base. You may want more. Make sure to predrill all of your screw holes to avoid splitting the 2x4s. Whether you choose to paint the sides, put up vinyl artwork, or even leave them blank, everything will look a lot better with the screw heads as flush as possible to the surface, so keep that in mind.
Once the first side is secure, cut three 2x4s of length equal to the front of the base. Secure these to the first side with two screws at the following points:
- Rear edge at the top-most corner
- Rear edge just below the level of the shelf
- Center of the side below the level of the shelf
Ensure that supports 2 and 3 are level with one another. They will be used to create a platform upon which the monitor will eventually sit. Be sure to measure twice before you secure them!
Once the supports are secure, place Side 2 on top and take time to carefully align everything. Secure it to the supports and base in the same fashion as Side 1 (pre-drill all of your holes). The finished product will look something like this:
Feel free to add more supports if you wish. Just remember that the MDF makes it really heavy to start, and every extra bit of wood adds that much more weight to the final product.
In Episode II, we’ll finish assembling the shell and start to layer on the paint. Since this project is being done in our spare time at the office, the timing of subsequent posts may be a little sporadic. Just be sure to keep an eye on the front page, and we’ll try not to disappoint!