Arcade Projects >> Arcade Paradise 3

Cabinet Construction

After I was satisfied with the design blueprints, it was time to go to work on actual construction. I decided on MDF (or "KMFDM" as I like to call it) as the construction material because of its ease of use, so I bought three 4' x 8' sheets of 3/4" MDF from the local Home Depot.

The first step was to lay down the MDF sheets on sawhorses and trace out the cut lines from the blueprints on the MDF. Once all of the measurements were traced out, I cut all of the pieces using a circular saw for the majority of the cuts, and a jigsaw for the smaller cuts (especially the ones that required making any kinds of curves or turns). Sadly, the 1970s-era avocado colored groovy circular saw that I've been using for years died a little while ago, so I actually had to (GASP!) buy my own circular saw instead of using the 30 year old hand-me-down from my father-in-law. Did you know that circular saws made in the last 30 years actually have, like, safety triggers on them and stuff?? Amazing!

Once the two side panels were cut, I clamped them together and sanded the edges to make sure that they were perfectly even with each other. If you look at the plans that I used, you'll notice that the bottom side and the back side were on the edges of the MDF sheets, meaning that I didn't have to cut these sides. So since I knew that these two edges were (theoretically) straight, those are the two sides that I lined up with each other.

routing the slot for t-molding
Routing out the t-molding slot.

The next step was to use my router and cut out the t-molding slot that went all the way around the side panels. TIP: Cutting out the t-molding slot is much easier to do before you start to actually assemble the cabinet. I used a 1/16" wide 3-wing slot cutter router bit that I bought from MLCS Woodworking; specifically, I bought the complete assembly with arbor and bearing for a 1/4" shank (since 1/4" is what my router takes). It worked beautifully.

For construction of this cabinet, I didn't want to drill screws into the side panels at all, so I used 1x1s to connect everything with screws attaching from the insides. The 1x1s were set in from all edges of the side panels by 1-1/4"...since the MDF is 3/4" inches thick, this set in all of the other panels (top, front, back) by 1/2" from the edges of the sides. I measured 1-1/4" from the edges and then glued and screwed the 1x1 strips to the side panels. If you do this, make sure to pre-drill all holes in the 1x1s before you attach them to anything, since it's a lot harder to drill straight holes through the 1x1s when you have to get your drill to hug the piece of wood that the 1x1 is attached to.

sides with 1x1s
Side panel with most of the 1x1s attached.

Once the 1x1 were all glued and screwed into place I then decided to use some 2x4s as braces. This not only gave the cabinet more strength, but it made assembly of the cabinet a heck of a lot easier since I didn't have to rely on the various "connecting pieces" (like the top, the front, the back) to keep the cabinet itself together.

The way that I accomplished this was to cut a bunch of 2x4s into 26" long boards (the interior width of the cabinet is 26"), and then attach a couple of L-bracket "feet" to both ends of each 2x4. This allowed the 2x4 to stand up on end easily, and it also allowed me to connect the 2x4 to the insides of the side panels. Once the 2x4s were positioned where I wanted them, I used small (like 6-inch) pieces of 1x1 to secure the 2x4s to the side panels for added strength [figure 1].

When attaching the 2x4 crossbraces, I had the right-hand side panel laying down on sawhorses (with the interior side facing up), and I connected the 2x4 using the L-brackets so that the 2x4 were standing straight up. I connected all of the 2x4s during this step [figure 2]. Once this was done, I removed the right side panel (with the 2x4s attached to it) and set it aside, and then placed the left side panel on the sawhorses, again, with the interior side facing up. I then - with a helper - took the right side panel (remember, it's the one with the 2x4s attached to it), flipped it over so that the 2x4s were facing down, and then laid it on top of the left side panel (which, remember, was laying on the sawhorses with its interior side facing up). So basically, if you looked at it, it looked like the skeleton of a cabinet laying on its side, except that the two sides were not fastened to each other yet.

With the two side pieces now semi-assembled (but not fastened to each other), I needed to make sure that they were perfectly even with each other. I didn't have a bunch of carpenter plumbs (you know, strings with weights on them, used to make sure that surfaces are vertically level with each other), so I made a bunch of homemade plumbs by using string and just tying various objects to them in order to give them weight [figure 3]. Using these "plumbs", I made sure that the two side pieces were even with each other, and then I screwed the 2x4s to the bottom piece. And viola, I now had a cabinet "skeleton" that was able to stand on its own [figure 4].

sidescrosses feet
[figure 1]: Side panel with angle-bracket and 1x1 "feet".
[figure 2]: 2x4 crossbraces fastened to the right-hand side panel.
[figure 3]: Homemade carpenters plumbs used to make sure that both side panels are perfectly even.
[figure 4]: 2x4 crossbraces attached; cabinet skeleton can now stand on its own.

Once the cabinet "skeleton" of the two side panels joined together by 2x4s was done, the rest of the construction simply consisted of attaching all of the other various panels together: bottom, front (coin door), marquee bottom (speaker panel), marquee top, angled back piece, backside top, and backside bottom. These panels were attached by simply laying them onto the already-attached 1x1s and gluing-and-screwing them into place.

construction - back   construction - side   construction - tv mounted   construction - marquee bottom
Pictures taken during cabinet assembly. Clicky for a bigger piccy.


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