Finishing your MAME project

MAME setup with tools and other junk on it

Functional, but not presentable

In a previous post, I went over making your MAME controller functional using an encoder from Groovy Game Gear.  This setup wasn’t quite finished though, as it had no back cover, the USB cord wasn’t properly secured, and the outside was simply bare wood.  Hopefully this post can show you how to turn your project into something that will not only function, but also look presentable.

back plate being installed on "MAME box"

A fourth side was installed

The first thing needed was to put a back cover on the box.  I had built a cornhole set using 1/2 inch plywood, so while at Home Depot, I had a strip cut to the height of the box (around 3 1/2 inches).  Cutting the long side to length of the box (around 23 3/4 inches), I had a piece that could be simply screwed on and taken off if maintenance was needed.  For these #8 wood screws, I used a 1/8 inch pilot bit to drill through the cover and the plywood it would screw into.  I then used a countersink bit so these screws would sit flush with the wood.  This wasn’t absolutely necessary as they tend to countersink themselves, but in the interest of getting it absolutely flush without over tightening, I used a countersink bit on it.  Even though it would be removed later, I screwed everything in to make sure it would fit correctly.

mame box finished, wood still unfinished

Almost finished

With the box totally enclosed, I needed a way for the USB connection to get out of the box.  I used a 3/4 inch paddle bit on the side so that it would come into the box and connect to the encoder without turning.  Once everything is in place, you can use a cable fastener to keep the USB cable in place.  I used two of these between the hole and the encoder which kept everything secure.

The joysticks needed to be securely fastened to the polycarbonate base, so I decided to use the #8 countersunk wood screws to attach them.  The joystick that I got with my “arcade bundle” from X-arcade came with several mounting screws.  Lining these up, I used a 9/64 inch bit to create pilot holes and screwed everything in.  Originally I used a 1/8 inch pilot bit which worked nicely for wood, but the screws tended to break off in polycarbonate (it’s extremely strong).

contact paper being applied on MAME box

contact paper being applied

The final step would be to make the outside of the wood look somewhat finished.  Most old video games have either some sort of printed graphics or a wood-grain veneer look.  I decided to go for the wood look and had seen somewhere that you could use contact paper to cover your cabinet.  I finally found this at home depot in the section with curtains and stuff like that for around seven dollars.  You may have to buy a lot more that you’ll need.

3 main sides covered in contact paper

main part covered in contact paper. Bend the top edges over as shown.

hole for USB connector

Hole for USB cord

I applied the paper in two sections, one around the 3 main sides, and one around the removable back cover.  Just cut the right width using a straightedge and a razor knife or box cutter.  I didn’t have a straight edge, so I used a level.  Wrap it around as shown and bend the edges over.  Smooth the bubbles out and you’re almost done.  You may have to use some super glue to get the edges to stick well depending on the stickiness of your paper.  I used “medium” stickiness paper, but something more sticky might have worked better.

USB cable through rubber grommet

thread the USB cable through the grommet before plugging it in the box

Lastly, I slotted the area over the hole (like a pizza) with my razor knife for the USB cord to go through.  I then bent the edges in and plugged a rubber grommet into this hole to keep everything in place after putting the USB cable through it.  I just happened to have one of these among my spare parts, but the plumbing section of your local hardware store may have something that would work.

Below are a couple pictures of how it looked when I got “finished” with it.

finished MAME box on tool chest


my MAME setup playing SFII

Finally finished and usable for SFII with an encoder

One final thought is that you should make your 1 and 2 player start button face forward before you screw everything together and you take pictures for your blog.  As you can see I didn’t do this.

Regardless, that’s it for the MAME project for the moment.  I’m sure I’ll think of something else to do with it at some point (like turn the start buttons forward).

About Jeremy S Cook

Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!
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