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Posted on Oct 28th 2015 at 12:00:00 PM by (wildbil52)
Posted under Arcade, Control Panel

We have 5 areas to route, some Lexan to cut, a little paint to apply, and there was a slight delay with the artwork.  All in another day's work when designing a control panel.

The control panel didn't end up getting finished by the time the RFGen crew showed up for RWX.  Much progress was made, but in the end, spending time with my CP was no match for 2 young kids and an expo to prep for.  Now that the Expo is over and the wife and kids have had a little time to rest and settle, it's back to the basement to keep working on her.

When we left off, we were ready to start routing.  I used a fixed base adjustable depth router but a plunge router would be ideal for this job.  I had to route 5 areas at 3 different depths and adjusting depth on a plunge router is SUPER fast and easy.  On my fixed base router, there was a little trial and error completed on scrap wood before I took the router to the final piece.

I started with the recessed area on the underside of the CP for the joystick mount.  Why am I doing this?  My CP is 3/4" thick.  The thicker the CP, the less the joystick comes through the top of the CP.  I wanted the joystick to come up a little higher so I routed out about 1/8" to start.  I can always route a little more if I want more height. I started with the $3 joystick template I bought from Twisted Quarter to mark the mounting holes and trace out the pattern to be routed:

And here we are with the holes drilled.  I actually started with tiny pilot holes and then expanded them to 9/16".  It's an old habit that dies hard, but it makes sure your hole is totally centered to the pilot.  Once I loaded the straight cut bit into the router and set my depth, I was off to the races. 

It would have looked neater if I had used a template, but I decided that I could do a good enough job freehand.  Also, this is the underside of the CP.  Next up to be routed was the underside for the trackball:

This was also done freehand.  I took my time and adjusted the depth again and took the wood down to 1/2" here.  I really want the trackball to pop out of the panel.

I decided to put the paint on here.  Mainly because it was too late to keep using power tools and I would be able to put on the second coat in the morning before work.  This way it would be dry when I got home.  It may look black, but the color is Caviar.  It has just a hint of purple/maroon.  I never use straight up black.  It isn't as interesting.

After the second coat of paint was applied, I LIGHTLY sanded the painted surface just to smooth it out a bit.  Then, I routed the joystick dust ring areas (with the RFGen crew playing Street Fighter II and the PlayChoice 10 one room over).

You can tell from the pictures above that I have also started drilling the counter sinks for the T-Nuts.  Same approach as before, drilled tiny pilots, counter sunk with a forstner bit, and then opened up the hole with the 9/16" bit that the T-Nut requires.  I found that if I just drilled a 9/16" hole, I couldn't reliably center the forstner bit.  This way, the counter sink is totally centered.

Now that the top and bottom are totally routed, it's time to move to the scariest piece of all.  The Lexan.

Let's talk about Lexan for a minute.  Lexan is a common type of polycarbonate.  The other common plastic used on arcade machines is acrylic, also known as plexiglass.  Either one can be used on an arcade machine but here are the main differences:

Acryllic/Plexiglass is MORE brittle and MORE Scratch resistant
Polycarbonate/Lexan is LESS brittle and LESS Scratch resistant

Lexan is commonly used on arcade control panels, even though it scratches easier.  I guess the thinking is that we can deal with a little mark here and there, you just dont want it snapping if someone slams their fist down after getting schooled in NBA Jam.  My artwork is actually going to be installed on top of the plastic, so since I don't need to worry about scratches at all, I'm going with Lexan.  I bought a sheet bit enough to cut 2 CP sized pieces at Lowes for about $30 so I have this one and a spare for my next CP.

Lowes cut the plexi to size for me when I bought it, but it's up to me to drill the holes.  Drilling holes in Lexan was the most nerve-racking aspect of the entire design.  One slip up and the drill bit could grab the edge of the hole I was drilling and snap the entire piece.  After a lot of research and testing 3 or 4 different methods on a piece of scrap, I came across this jewel of advice from selfie on byoac:

"Routing is the best way to get good results with limited tools. It is as easy as that. If you take one piece of advise from this thread this is the one it should be. "

I tested on a piece of scrap and this guy wasn't kidding.  a straight cut or flush trim router bit eats through the lexan like it wasn't there and leaves an incredibly smooth edge.  Now the only problem was to drill a large enough hole to get the router bits in without cracking the lexan.  A step drill bit would have been best but I don't own one so I did it the slow way: Drilled a tiny hole, then a bigger one, then a bigger one, then a big enough one to fit my 1/4 straight router bit.  Then I opened up the hole enough to fit my flush trim bit.

Here is the Lexan with holes big enough to fit my flush trim bit:

I then clamped the lexan to the final CP so I could use the CP as a guide to trim out the button holes in the lexan.  Here is what one trimmed button hole looks like up close:

That's all for now.  I think the whole CP can be wrapped up in the next article.  The artwork I had printed out was SLIGHTLY off.  I sent exact dimensions to my art guy and he is making modifications now.  If I can get the art printed in the next few weeks and had it applied to the lexan, I can populate the CP with the controls and get it wired.  So close...

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Looking forward to the completion of this project, and it isn't even mine!  So interesting, I am learning with each word read.  Thanks for the great article!
This is coming together fantastically. I'm sad that we couldn't play it when we were there, but next time!!!
Thanks guys.  The next article is pretty much done.  I't really happy with how it turned out.
Man, you are really making me want to work on my cab again.

I looked into Lexan initially but was scared away by the warnings of the Lowes employee.  Then again the same dude wouldn't help but my plexiglass without coercian,  so there you go.  In the end I used a textured faux leather underneath the plexiglass, which is cool but I still kinda think about the lexan.  It may sound weird, but the lexan just feels better.
I'm in awe of the amount of time and work that you can sink into a project like this.  I'd love to have a dedicated cabinet one day, or even a nice MAME cab, but yowza, I will want to make sure I don't have any other "honey do" projects on my list, or I'd never accomplish anything in this realm.  Looking forward to the final product!

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