Tuesday, June 14, 2005

MAME cabinet: the quest for laminate

The next step is the control panel sides. They're just five strips of plywood, 3 1/2" high, that raise the control panel up from the cabinet. That gives just enough height for all the buttons and wiring underneath, and is low enough that I can place the 3 1/2" strips upright in the mitre saw to give them the nice angled edges I wanted.

I used 1/2" long dowel pegs to attach the sides into the bottom of the control panel, and copious amounts of carpenter's glue. After that, I painted it black, using some Tremclad textured black spray paint. I wanted a dark laminate, so black sides were a pretty safe choice.

Control panel sides
Control panel sides (click to enlarge)

And now the quest for laminate began.

I work just around the corner from Floform Countertops, who do all kinds of custom countertops, and have a showroom with loads of different styles of Formica. I heard that they had a bin of leftover pieces you could pick through, so I gave them a call and told them what I was looking for... a small piece of laminate, preferably with a dark pattern. The salesperson I talked to wasn't very helpful, and every time I tried to ask about leftover pieces she just kept saying, "You'll have to buy the whole sheet." I asked how much that was: anywhere up to $4 a square foot, depending on pattern, texture and so on. Given that a sheet is 4x8, we're talking a stupid amount of money.

I gave up and went to Home Depot at lunch. They had 4x8 sheets for $25-$30 for light colours and light patterns, but anything dark with a nice pattern was in the $50 range. I asked if they sold cut sheets. No. Would they sell me a whole sheet and then cut it down for me so I could put it in my car? No. Well, all right, if you'd rather not make the sale...

I headed to McDiarmid Lumber, which is a smaller hardware store--I think they've got stores in (northern) Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I spoke to someone there, and he said all their laminate was 4x8 sheets, but he told me I could go to Floform and pick through their bin. I explained to him the reception I'd gotten, and he called someone he knew at Floform to ask... turns out they used to do that thing with the bin, but now they use virtually all of their waste material. Argh.

So as a last resort, I headed to Windsor Plywood on another lunch hour. They're a western Canada retailer of plywood and construction supplies. I looked around there for a long while, and finally, tucked off to one side, I found a little area that had a bunch of 4x2 sheets of laminate for $7. I bought the one shown below. It's not exactly what I was envisioning, but it's grown on me since I picked it up, and I now think it's pretty cool. The price was right, too. Because it's a cut sheet, there's no product information on the back anywhere, so I can't tell you what brand name it is or what the name of the pattern is.

The lucky laminate
The lucky laminate (click to enlarge)

Now I've got to get it glued onto the control panel. As I want to top-mount the joysticks underneath the laminate, I'll have to put the joysticks in place on the panel, drill holes in the right place in the laminate, apply the glue, and then stick it down very carefully, making sure I get the holes for the joystick lined up, while making sure I don't bubble the laminate anywhere. The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards mounting the joysticks from below. If I do them from below, I won't have to wreck the laminate if I ever want to replace them with a different stick. Hmmm, something to think about...

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