Robotron Cabaret Scratch Build – Part 5.


Welcome back everyone, it has been such a long time since my last blog entry.  I have so much to tell, but simply no time to sit down and put it all into words on here. So please accept my apologies, but sometimes, the other stuff is just more important.

But enough of all that, we are here now, so grab yourself a cuppa, refresh your memory with the last update in this project, sit comfortably and scroll down….

As we left things last time, the cabinet construction was all but done (I still have a couple of pieces to cut), I was trying to source a working monitor (I still am – although getting close), and the cabinet was ready for some paint.  So as promised, let’s get painting.  Please leave your brushes at the door.

First up, for anyone getting ready to paint anything, if you want a great finish you have to put in a great amount of effort.  90% preparation, 10% application.  Secondly, buy half decent paint and applicators.  Thirdly, do not rush any part of this, as it will show.  That said, if you follow those fairly simple guidelines, you should end up with a finish that you are more than happy with.

Let’s get started by prepping the cabinet for some primer.  Primer will show up even the most tiny defects, but it is still easier to try and sand/fill these first. So, armed with varying sizes of sanding blocks (basically chunks of mdf offcuts), a rake of differing grades of sandpaper, and some ‘good’ filler – I use a 2 part epoxy type one as they tend not to shrink – it was time to fill in all the counter-sunk screw heads, leaving certain ones on the rear panels for access if required.  A quick tip is to try and keep these as neat as possible, as there will be less to sand away later on.  Once that was done, the whole cab gets a quick sand using 600 grit dry paper to ensure I haven’t missed anywhere, then I ran some caulk around the entire cabinet, where any panels joined or met, both inside and out, as this will provide a better finish once painted.




Then we have to get the primer on.  I would never advocate painting straight onto fresh wood, as even mdf has a ‘grain’ of sorts and this will rise up and show through your paint finish.  Also the primer has the added benefits of ‘filling in’ any tiny imperfections, either in the wood or your handiwork.  For this project I have used a spray primer, bought straight of the shelf at Halfords.  As with all spray paints, you should look to apply lots of thin coats, as opposed to one or two heavy coats.  The advantages of such being that the risk of paint running is virtually eliminated and you also get a chance to inspect for flaws, etc, between each coat.  Another advantage of using spray cans is that the finish is very smooth and even (no brush strokes), the disadvantage is that the over-spray and the paint ‘dust’ can get everywhere.  To reduce this I use a pop-up spray tanning booth, bought for a fiver in Aldi, which acts like a tent, catching the majority of paint.


Once I have a decent level of coverage (2 or 3 light coats), I use 1200 grit wet paper and a fine mist water spray and go over the whole cab.  This will smooth out the primer, creating a flat even surface.  Due to the mdf being so porous, I always dry off any excess straight away.


Then it is just a case of repeating these steps until you have a really good thickness of primer that is completely flat and smooth, over the whole cab.  This process can take quite some time, so be prepared to bear with it and not expect results in the first hour.


The painting follows a similar ilk.  First up were the surfaces to be painted black, so all other surfaces (essentially the sides) needed masked off to protect them from wayward spraying and the dreaded paint dust.  I simply use masking tape and old newspaper.

For the black, I am sticking with Halfords spray cans, with lots of thin coats applied.  If you have spent the time sanding your primer correctly, there will be no need to sand the paint in between coats.  Just apply even, thin coats, allowing time to properly dry, before next coat.


As the rear door is separate to the main cabinet, I simply primed and painted this separately.


Once the rear door was painted I fitted the cam lock and vents to the back and voila! Starting to take shape.  I like these shots as you can really see the cabinet (finally) coming together.


Next up though were the sides and I struggled at first with the paint choice.  I had various photos to go off to try and match the colours and found myself, again, in the aisles at Halfords, but with the lids only being an approximation, I left, unsure.  As I then drove home, I passed an Audi in a light grey colour, pretty much exactly what I was looking for, so I turned around and after a bit of googling, I went back into Halfords and purchased the Audi paint.  Back home on a test piece of wood, I tried it out – hopeless.  You see the majority of car paints (certainly all the silver ones) in Halfords are mixed as metallic, so they have lots of flakes in them, this just looked awful when applied and completely not the finish I was after.  So it was back to the drawing board and lots of trips to various hardware, DIY and paint shops, all to no avail, nothing.

In the words of a friend – Harrumph!

But, we can’t give up there, so I kept on looking and realised that it was the fact that I was trying to find a spray can, that was hindering my progress.  Surely I could achieve a decent finish with a roller?  After all, I had decided on stencilling the artwork onto the side, so I wouldn’t be spraying that either.  And with that revelatory decision made, it was straight to B&Q, as I really like their range of Valspar paints and after much deliberation with my hands filled with fans of tester cards, walking around outside to see the colours in proper light, I had made my choices and the testers were mixed.

Now, one huge advantage with Valspar paints is that the testers come as proper mini paint cans with 300ml of paint inside, mixed to your shade, in your finish, all for just £3.00.  Complete bargain.  It took one little pot for each side (6 very thin coats).

These are the colours that I chose. The grey is called Shady Lady – I like this!!


So with paint now in hand, I used a 1″ brush to thinly apply the paint from pot to cab, then used a very short pile mini roller to smooth it out and eradicate any brush marks. I know I keep saying this, but again, lots of thin coats, please.  On the sides I did sand in between coats, just to knock out any flecks of fluff that came out of he roller.  But by sand, I mean quickly running a very fine foam sanding pad over the surface for 30 seconds.  I have also laid the cabinet on it’s side, as it makes it far easier to access the bottom section and keeps the paint from running.  As per the earlier section, I have now masked off all the other, black, panels to avoid any spray from the rolling action when painting the edges of the panels.


Obviously the second side is a carbon copy of the above, which once finished and the masking paper removed we have this, which is where the cab currently is at:


And that is roughly where I am at just now with the cabinet itself.  I have been busy with other aspects of the project though to try and ensure I have the pieces I need to keep progressing:-

I have sourced some repro stencils for the large side artwork, which I will collect at an event in October – originally bought from by a friend who is now lucky enough to own a genuine Williams Robotron Cabinet and now no longer needs them.  You can read about his adventures here.

I have hopefully (typed with fingers crossed) sourced a lovely working, burn free 14″ colour arcade monitor, from another forum buddy, which I will also collect at the October event, as I just do not like posting such things.

Another friend who owns the great Arcade Art Shop is experimenting with a new technique that will provide me with the most beautiful repro bezel and marquee solution, which should be ready in time for……. the October meet.

I have sourced the ‘guts’ of the machine, which will be via a 19in1 jamma pcb board.  I have also sourced the speaker, a switching PSU, a lighting solution for behind the marquee and all the wires and connectors that I will need to hook everything up.

So, whilst the actual cab build has slowed, falling second, to other more important stuff, I have been beavering away in the background. The next big step is to fit the monitor (once received), which will require a wooden frame/shelf cut to measure and a further wooden section to fit at the back of the monitor shelf up to the speaker shelf. Then a cardboard shaped monitor shroud, made to sit between the bezel and the monitor frame.

But these are jobs for another day.  Until then, please keep reading my ramblings, if you like what you find, please subscribe, hit like, share on social media using the buttons below.  If you take the time to leave a comment, I would be ever so grateful and I promise to have some other posts written up soon, whilst I wait for October to come.

Thanks for taking the time to read, see you all next time.


11 thoughts on “Robotron Cabaret Scratch Build – Part 5.

  1. You’re really making good progress now mate, very inspiring. I haven’t gotten past purchasing the joysticks and a table saw for my build.. The woodworking is daunting to me, I don’t have the skills that you have in that area.. If only I could find someone willing to cut my wood for a price 😉
    Looking forward to the next instalment.


    1. Thanks pal. The woodwork isn’t that bad. You could get all the straight cuts done at a diy store. Then the curves freehand with a jigsaw. Making a template from 6mm is easier and can then be used to flush cut the panel with a router? Any questions just drop me a line on twitter.


  2. Always enjoy reading your updated blog builds Neil. Great details, and seeing as I am person who seems to prefer building cabs more than playing them these days, I enjoy seeing it all come together. Inspiring stuff, it makes me want to get out in the workshop and build something else! Just in time for freezing winter spraying! 🙂 look forward to the next update

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loving your build mate first class. Im just in the planning stage myself and wondered if you could help me out with measurements for the build .


    1. Hi Ewen. All the measurements that I used are in part 2 of this build on the blog. But if I can help with anything specific, press just drop me a line.
      Good luck.
      I’ll have some more updates coming on here very shortly, too.


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