Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Setting up for the big finish

So I figured a quick "Previously on..." was in order, thanks to the big gap in posts.

The aim was to build a M.A.M.E. Bartop arcade cabinet for less than £50. The cabinet, the computer, the screen; the works.

I already had wood glue, the paint for the final finish, an array of tools, various screws and fixings, and a cool led power button donated by my mate Dave.

When it came to major components I then - through Freegle, fortune, and foraging - had managed to get the 14" CRT screen, a pile of MDF scraps, and an old PC at no further cost whatsoever.
With my £50 budget still not touched I still had to acquire a set of controls, some sort of audio system, undercoat for the paint, and anything else unexpected that might come up.

My theoretical costs broke down like this:
  • £15 for a Joystick and Button pack from Ultracabs.
  • £10 for a USB encoder for the Joystick and Button from eBay
  • £8 for amplified speakers
  • £10 for hard finishing filler
  • £7 F-factor

But in actuality the budget has ended up looking like this:
  • £11.99 Joystick/Buttons
  • £6.99 Amp
  • £1.19 single button
  • £10.18 for a USB encoder for the Joystick and Button from eBay
  • £4.17 amp from eBay
  • £5.50 total shipping

The hard finishing filler wasn't needed following the acquisition of the MDF and there are two amps because I blew the first one up. The rest of the sound system I put together from an old speaker I had kicking around and a pair of PC speakers that came as a bonus with one of the 4 CRT screens I sourced through Freegle.

And so we come to now, as the project wheezes back to life after a 3 year gap I still have just under a tenner to play with.

The first thing I need to add to that is primer. I'm not sure if I  mentioned it in previous posts or not but since a couple of the component parts already had a coat of this applied I must have bought it before 'the gap'. The open tin is also evidence of this.

I know I picked it up locally and checking online it's available in B&Q for £5.10 - so that's the number going into the budget.
That's £45.17 spent so far.

With the sunny spring evenings being one of the main drivers to restarting the project I began small.
I worked on the marquee section, the control deck, and the front panel.
I pulled the three sections of the marquee apart as I wasn't happy with the existing join. I re-glued an and left them clamped in my workbench overnight then sanded the join down the next day.

All the parts were first covered in glue-size to seal the MDF then I gave them a good coat of primer. When the primer was fully dry I sanded it back smooth with some 240g sandpaper.

It was nearly 10pm when I finished

Having researched what was required I was fully aware that an ultra-smooth mirror finish to my paint work was beyond both my budget and my skills - but I was very keen to have a quality finish.
I'd be using the remnants of a tin 'Slate' coloured paint that I had leftover from previous projects on some DVD racks and a posture chair. 
Experience has taught me that consistency is the key to making anything look well designed so I decided to roller the paint on - this would ensure the same finish all over and eliminate any opportunity for ugly brush marks.

After a couple of quotes I'm very pleased with the results, roller fluff was a bit of a problem but not a big one and the colour - once fully dry - is a pretty stylish dark grey.

The marquee, front panel, and control deck drying amongst the chaos of my shed

Next up, a little sub-section assembly.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Setting the scene...

This is the first entry I've made to this blog in just short of 3 full years.

It began as a way for me to document a project to build myself a 'bartop' style M.A.M.E. Arcade Cabinet with the self imposed constraint of a £50 budget.

That's the cabinet, the controls, the computer - the whole thing for under fifty quid.

There were a few bumps in the road, I had long delays waiting for MDF and then waiting for a PC - then I was forced to move house at short notice.

I filled a lot of these gaps in progress by writing about obscure - but excellent - games I found while curating a collection to go in the finished machine. It was this part of the blog that seemed most popular with readers.

The two parts of the blog ran on, supporting each other, until early August 2014.

And then, for reasons I honestly can't fathom, it all stopped.
A year ago I moved house again - but there's still a two year space prior to that where I did absolutely nothing to a cabinet that was well on it's way to completion.

Since moving the majority of my time and money has gone into the house and garden. As things have gradually become more organised around the place the in laws decided, a month or so ago, that it was high time we relieved them of the last few of our possessions they had cluttering up their garage.
This included my partially build cabinet.
It, among other things from the purge, was piled at the back of the spare room waiting for the loft-conversion to be completed.

Earlier this month I had a couple of friends to stay for the weekend, the spare room clutter was temporarily hidden in the main bedroom and the M.A.M.E cabinet found itself squeezed between my wardrobe and the bed.
The guests came and went but the cabinet stayed where it was - completely in the way - obstructing my morning routine by it's very existence.

I was at a loose end on a sunny evening recently and found myself looking at a small section from the top of cabinet and noticing that the speaker holes I'd made were not in line with each other.
I took it outside and soon enough I was digging a piece of MDF out of my wood store (an old outside toilet) and remaking the section.
Even as raw MDF it looked good, simple but effective.
I found somewhere online that provided a small free sample of speaker fabric and temporarily attached them inside.
It looked very good... I wonder what it would look like painted...
For the next few sunny evenings I found myself sitting in the garden, painting, sanding, re-painting various components of the cabinet just to be doing something outside.

Curiously, organically, the £50 M.A.M.E. cabinet project had come back to life!