Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tying up loose ends

A couple years ago I started a project to convert an old arcade machine into a multi-arcade machine running MAME. Plenty of people have done this; there is even a book written about it. However, I wanted to try to take a unique approach to the project. Rather than try to duplicate the look of an arcade machine from the 1980's, I thought of trying to make something that might be what an arcade machine would look like were it built back in the age of steam powered machines of the 1880s. So, I bought a used arcade cabinet, gutted it, put a 27" TV inside along with a PC, built a custom control panel, and then covered the whole exterior with copper sheeting and brass screws.

The only problem was I never quite finished it. As I came to learn, cutting copper sheet metal, bending it into the proper shapes and drilling holes in it for the brass screws is a very time consuming process. So, while the project was about 90% complete, there were some tricky pieces of trim that I had just run out of motivation to work on - up until today. I figured I should finish off this project and today was a good day to do it. There are torrential rains, high winds, and it is just plain nasty outside. What better day to stay indoors and bend and cut pieces of metal?

So, after a few hours of work, I am happy to say the machine is now complete. Here are some pictures from this last phase of the project.

I used a cardboard template first as a proof of concept to make sure the folding of the metal was going to work properly.

The following are the tools I used. This first picture is of a simple tool for flattening and bending metal.

A dead-blow plastic hammer (filled with lead pellets) - useful for bending metal.

Metal snips - for cutting the copper sheeting.

An improvised vise (made of C-clamps, an L shaped strip of aluminum, and a pine board) for bending long lengths of copper.

Here you can see a piece of copper sheet bent into a C shape.

This is a close-up of one of the more tricky cuts and bends - it was an odd angled junction - kinda looks like a butterfly when flattened out. I like how it finally looks with the screws.

This is a simple strip of copper used to cover the seam where two larger sheets of copper met. The brass screws were meant to give it a rivet-look.

The next three pictures show the control panel. Ideally, I'd like to replace the colored buttons with black ones. The colored ones don't really fit the old steam-age theme. Originally, I wanted to use metal buttons - I even bought some metal drawer knobs to test out, but it didn't work out very well. The arcade buttons get really hammered on when people are playing games, so I felt it was best to stick with real arcade buttons designed to take the abuse.

The control panel has controls for four players and also includes a track ball, spinner, and flight-stick for mimicking various specialized arcade games' controls (such as those used in Discs of Tron).

In the upper left of this picture, it is just barely visible that there trim is missing on an edge. The two pictures that follow show the process of adding the trim.

First, the copper strip is bend into a C-shape and fitted in place. Then, I use a metal scorer for scratching a mark so I know where to cut the proper angle and made the bend.

This shows the piece now cut and bent into the proper shape and screwed in place with brass screws. Note how shiney and new the piece of trim is compared to the rest of the copper. This is because over two years have passed since I last worked on this project. Any copper that I handled previously has tarnished due the moisture from my hands reacting with the copper.

These last two pictures show the completed machine.