Tuesday, August 23, 2005

MAME cabinet: why is the work progressing so slowly...

... I hear you not asking.

What with one thing and another, putting up the fence has taken up a lot more time than I would have liked, mostly because the available time to work on it has been limited.

We had family things to go do the last weekends of July, and the first weekend of August, so that really delayed the fence building.

However, it's finally all finished now, except for putting the post caps on top of the posts to keep water from getting into the grain. I just did the gate on Sunday, so now we can just close the gate and throw the kids out of the back door. Of course, all they have to play with right now are weeds and dirt.

I have also finally started cutting bits out from the first sheet of MDF. Hooray! It cuts nicely and with a finishing blade on the circular saw, the MDF gets a really smooth, clean edge on it.

My second sheet of MDF has a bit of a crack in one corner, so I've been trying to plan out how I can cut around it. I'm already making the doors, front and back, out of left-over 5/8" plywood. It saves me buying a third sheet of MDF, and I prefer the idea of a lighter door hanging on there than I'd get with the MDF.

I was also having doubts about the weight of the TV sitting on a shelf inside the cabinet. I was worried it was going to be too heavy--more a conceptual thing though: the TV just seems so heavy when you're trying to move it. I threw a couple of 2x4 scraps on the floor and slapped a piece of plywood across them and proceeded to stand on it. It supported my weight without flexing at all. So if it can support me, it will definitely support the TV, especially if I add some bracing underneath. Thus, my TV stand in the cabinet is going to be made out of plywood. This means one less piece to cut out of the MDF, so I won't have to use the cracked portion.

So far, I've cut out the kickplates, one of the 3.5" spacers for the front of the cabinet, and the front and back halves of the bottom. I've opted to go with a 5" kickplate at the bottom (versus 3.5" on the reference plans) and reduce the door height on the front and back accordingly. I'll probably recess the floor to 1 or 2" above the bottom, but that depends on what sort of wheels I decide to go with.

I also picked up a Dremel tool from a coworker for relatively cheap, along with a Rotozip spiral saw, so those should come in handy for trimming the small fiddling detail bits on the cabinet outline, and even cutting a groove for the T-molding if I end up going that route.

It's nice to see it starting to progress, even if at a snail's pace. Once winter rolls around, there'll probably be more time to work on it, as I don't be building fences or laying sod down.

I will of course be shoveling gargantuan amounts of snow in inhumane temperatures, but that's only to be expected.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

MAME cabinet: testing the TV out

My Radeon 9250 and cheap Chaintech sound card arrived last week from Tiger Direct and I finally got around to plugging them into the old machine on Sunday evening.

I plugged in an old 20" TV that we've got lying around and set things up so that the Windows desktop would come up on the TV-OUT all the time. The desktop didn't look great, but I increased the font size so it's usable. I fired up Mamewah, and it looked pretty good.

When I launched Pacman to give that a go, I was really surprised at how much better it looked on the TV than it had on the monitor. The sharp edges of all the graphics were softened, and the end result was that it looked much more like Pacman used to look in the arcade.

The picture wasn't perfect, as it's not a very good TV, and it doesn't have S-Video in, so I'm using a homemade S-Video to RCA cable.

With the experiment considered a success, I hauled the old PC downstairs, along with the control panel. When I get a moment, I may set it up with the old 27" Sony, just to see what it will look like. If I get it set up on a table down there, then it can even be used for quick gaming sessions in between working on the cabinet. I've got to keep up my enthusiasm, naturally.

I may have to start thinking about coin doors and mechs again soon, as well as Plexiglass or Lexan for the marquee. Over at Jeff's ultimate MAME arcade machine, he used the marquee retainer PVC from Happ Controls, which looks like a pretty easy way to secure the marquee--certainly beats trying to screw it in place, which can be difficult with some of these materials, especially near the corners. Seeing I'll probably be ordering coin doors from Happ Controls anyway, it might make sense to grab some of this too. It comes in ten foot lengths, but the excess can be sold off to others... such as my brother, who's contemplating a MAME cabinet of his own.

I'm holding off on ordering from Happ Controls yet, though. I want to get nearly finished the cabinet first, because I know the minute I place the order, I'll remember something else I can only get from there.

There's wheels, mounting brackets and a host of other little hardware items that I'm going to need, but I think I'll just depend on local hardware stores for that kind of thing. I'm still not certain exactly what I want for wheels and/or leg levellers on this thing. Ideally, the wheels will be recessed under the unit so that they aren't visible, but you can still push it around easily. Not sure how I'll mount the leg levellers, or how they'll be adjusted once the unit is stationary, but I guess as long as there's enough clearance underneath to reach in with a wrench, that should be fine.

Learning to fence...

Constructing the fence has been taking up all my spare time lately.

All the runners were finished by last Thursday (the 28th), and so I was able to start putting up fence boards on Friday night and a lot of the day Saturday. I did a few more on Monday as well, but haven't managed to get out there since then. I'm roughly half-finished with the fence boards, though there are still a few areas with gaps to fill, where a full fence board wouldn't fit at the end of a section.

It's been over 30 degrees here over the last few days, so the fence was pretty hot work, with the sun beating down out of a clear blue sky. My skin has started to lose its geekly white pallor, but I've managed to avoid any burning by dousing myself liberally in sunscreen before venturing outside.

And in other pointless news, I got my second sheet of MDF hauled down the stairs, so cabinet construction should be beginning soon (fingers crossed).