Retro Arcade Control Panel Build & Wiring

Jun 13, 2020Computer Improvements, Indoor Improvements

Step By Step Guide

About a year ago I started a retro style arcade cabinet in the garage. The part that needs the most thought is definitely the control panel. Your arcade control panel build options of configurations and layout are virtually unlimited. Each item or button requires placement with room to accurate that the others in an ergonomically fashion. If you don’t do your homework your build will end up on r/crapmame.

This article I will step you through the process I took. You can make your exactly how you see but feel free to study how I did my arcade control panel build for ideas, pointers or process. Let’s begin shall we?

Arcade button and joystick holes

The material I chose to use was 3/4″ MDF. Some people don’t like MDF and I understand why, it absorbs moisture easily thus shortening its life span. So I started out by going to Slagcoin’s button layout template page. Browse, print and test the layouts on your planned surface. Once you have them templates where you want them, poke something through the paper at the center point of each button and the joystick to mark it on the board.

Put your 1 1/8th inch spade bit (or hole saw) at that center point of each button and drill. I found it best to drill half way through on one side and until the tip pokes through the back and then turn it over and finish it from that hole. After you finish all the holes you’ll want to give the edges a once over with some fine sand paper.

Photo of my drill on the unfinished arcade control panel

Routing for the joystick assembly

You got to have joysticks on your arcade control panel build. Let’s take a look at them now. Take the joystick mounting assembly that you want to counter-sink and set the bit on your router to depth equal to the height of the assembly. Place the joystick mount assembly over the hole for the joystick. Trace the outline of the assembly and that is going to be your template for your router job. Place the router in the hole and being your route. Stay in your lines best you can, there will be a lot of sawdust so just do your best. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

The joystick mounting assembly in the routed area

Vinyl wrap the panel

This was a a little difficult in that I was doing it by myself and one slip you can end up with bubbles or creases. If you have a helping hand you’re going to want them now. Spray the top edge of your arcade control panel with the 3M Adhesive Spray. Get your vinyl on straight and smooth on that strip of adhesive spray. Layout your vinyl smoothly and trim with a little overhang. Pull the vinyl back up and spray the rest of the panel with the adhesive spray. Put the vinyl back down smooth and straight once again over the adhesive. Trim the remaining overhang with the X-acto Knife and then cut the button and joystick holes out too. You should easily be able to feel the edges of the holes easily.

Arcade control panel with vinyl wrap applied

Buttons and Wiring

I’ll keep this section brief. All the different types of buttons, joysticks, switches and USB boards are all going to be different so you’ll just want to follow the directions from the manufacturer. Stick to your chosen layout and make it work. See the video below to see my process for the buttons and wiring.

Wrappin’ it up

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. The hardest part of your arcade build is over. Now on to our next step of finishing the appearance and graphics and this thing is done!