Thanks for popping back for part two. We left off with some decisions made and a new build to plan for, which is where we pick things up today;
If you missed Part 1, then please read Robotron Cabaret Scratch Build – Part 1. to catch up.
As with most projects these days, research begins on the ‘tinterweb’ with various searches poured over, extracting anything that might be helpful at some point, and making lots of notes as I went. One thing that was quickly quite clear, was just how little information there was on these little cabinets, further affirming just how few of these titles there are out there.
I did find some photos with measurements crudely superimposed onto the image, I found a couple of threads on the KLOV forums, where people had previously attempted a similar build, but they were sparse of the all important measurements. I had taken a lot of photos of the cab from the NERG event to cross reference with, but for a project like this you really need accurate measurements from the off, or things are very likely to quickly go wrong, once construction starts.
As luck would have it though, a friend of mine (and fellow Arcade Blogger), Tony Temple, (read his brilliant arcade articles here), acquired a ‘Streets’ cabaret cab, which is almost identical in size, design and profile as the William’s cabaret cabinet, with the company having secured a deal with Williams, back in the day, to distribute their games in the UK. Tony was good enough to confirm all the measurements I needed, which enabled me to draw up the plans that would be the basis for the build.
The first photo shows the various roughed out profiles I sent to Tony, which he returned, with the various dimensions measured. The second photo is a 1/10th scaled drawing, which was later used to transfer the measurements onto the wooden sheets.
But before we start wildly waving saws and hammers around our heads, I had a few decisions to make, which at the time, were resolved as follows; (legal small print allows me to change these at will as the build progresses…..)
Construction – MDF panels with batons; Screen – 14″ CRT colour monitor; Game – JROK board; Sticks – To Be Confirmed.
I can already hear the sharp intakes of breath, followed by the disappointed ‘tutting’ and the slow shaking of heads, at the mention of MDF, but, let me try and defend my position; It is a material that when used correctly, in the right projects, can give solid results and has a really good surface, which leads to a really good paint finish. If this was a full size cabinet build, I would use birch ply, but for a cab this size, I think MDF will be easily strong enough and give me the finish I am looking for. Oh and I already had a full size (8′ x 4′) sheet in the garage.
Which also brings me to the subject of costs, as a lot of people ask me, “wow, how much did that cost to build?”, or wonder at the comparison of building compared to buying, etc. So, to try and help with anyone, thinking just that, I’ll try to document my costs as I go. It won’t include every screw or dab of wood glue, as I simply have all the sundry stuff already, but I’ll try to list specific purchases as I go. Had I bought the MDF sheets used below, it would’ve been around £27.
Lets getting cutting!
First job was to transfer the scaled down measurements up to full size on to the MDF sheet for one of the sides. I then cut this out with a jigsaw, cutting as close to my lines as I could, then using variously sized sanding blocks, removed the excess to the line. It is important to really take your time over this step, as this is a very visible part of the cabinet, once constructed and is the piece that people will rest both their hands and eyes upon whilst waiting their turn to play. Once happy, I used this side panel, to trace the outline of the second side, which I again used a jigsaw to roughly cut out. I then clamped both the side panels together, and using a flush cutting bit in my router, trimmed the second side to exactly match the first panel. (For anyone that doesn’t have or know about routers, they are my go to piece of kit in woodwork, they are incredibly versatile, have literally hundreds of differing bits that allow them to carry out a huge number of tasks, but are also hugely lethal if used incorrectly – please, wear protection [ooer missus!], read and understand the instructions, ask for help. A router spins incredibly sharp pieces of metal at insanely fast speeds, which shred the hardest of woods to dust in milliseconds – your fingers/eyes/genitals do not stand a chance!)
Next up, with this cabinet using traditional wooden batons to secure the panels together, it was time to get these cut and fitted to the panels. This method is not the only option, metal brackets could be used for example, with each holding little advantage over the other. I am simply more of a woodwork guy, so batons it is. It is also how the original cab would’ve been made on the William’s factory line.
I bought standard batons, which look slightly too large on this cab, but they won’t be seen, and will only add to the rigidity of the build. These were all measured out on one of the side panels, referring to my plans and info scoured from the web. They were all cut by hand using a fine toothed dovetail saw, laid out on the panel to check for size, then drilled, glued, clamped in place and secured with screws from the inside, through the baton, into the MDF, being careful to use screws that stop just shy of poking through or swelling the side panel.
Once I had finished one side, I simply placed the second side panel on top, aligned it up and with a sharp pencil, transferred the positions of the batonning onto the second panel. Ensuring that both panels were an identical match to each other, which is important when you come to construct the cabinet and in keeping everything square and tight once built.
Total cost of batons bought £8
The next stage was to measure up and create a cut list for all the wooden panels that would join the two sides together. This is trickier than it sounds and requires you to be able to work out how the panels overlap each other. For example the front of the cab should have as few visible edges as possible, so the base should fit inside this panel, to ensure you cannot see the edge. I worked this out by simply drawing straight onto the side panel and going from there. Once I had the cut list, it was back to the MDF sheet and table saw. A good tip here is to cut all the wood to the required width, in this case 430mm, all at once, whilst the table saw is set up. That way you know it will all be cut to the exact same width and fit nicely. I also ripped off spare lengths (until I ran out of wood) just in case I need some extra, further into the build. Then you can change the saw settings to cut each piece to the required length.
This photo is slightly out of sync, as it shows some cutouts which I’ll cover later, but it does show all the pieces cut and ready for assembly. You can also see that some of the edges are cut with a bevel, where required.
That’s it for the build in this update, but by this point I was also starting to put some feelers out for some of the other pieces I needed. The main one being a 14″ colour CRT monitor, which after some asking around, I was offered one from a fellow collector, for free! The catch – it was a non-worker, fault unknown, but surely worth a try. So I arranged to collect it from him and ticked this one off the list. I also asked around for the coin doors that are present on the William’s cabinet. I quickly sourced a suitable top door, complete with coin buttons, from a fellow forum member, but realised that getting hold of the unique bottom door was going to be a lot harder. So I decided to simply leave this out of my build. In the original cab, the door is there to allow the operator to empty the coin buckets from the front of the machine, but mine is going to be set to freeplay, so this is not required.
I also started asking about the JROK board versus the much cheaper 19in1 jamma board. The JROK board is expensive at approximately £200 but offers the original gaming code, not emulation, running on original CPU’s but with the reliability that comes with modern components. The 19in1 PCB is sub £50, but uses emulated ROMs that can sometimes be hit and miss, especially in the sound department. Some more research was required.
Come back next time, where things will really start to take shape – quite literally – as the build progresses and I make some decisions on what sticks to use. To Wico or not to Wico……..
Thanks for reading.