Donkey Kong Bartop Scratch Build – Part 1

Hi folks. Whilst I wait for some much-needed parts to progress my Robotron Build, I thought I would take the time to look back, over another scratch build that I completed in 2015.

There are a couple of reasons for this;

One, it puts in the time until I can get the Robo build progressing again;

Two, quite a few people have asked me about the woodworking side, dismissing their ability to ever make such, without a workshop full of tools – well this one was all done with hand tools that anyone and everyone can afford/use;

Three, I think this turned out rather well.

So, this came about, at a time when I owned a couple of full size cabs – a Zaccaria – The Invaders and a Sega Scud Race. Which although my kids loved, they couldn’t reach the pedals on the racer and had to stand on tip toes on a chair to see the reflected images on the Invaders cab. So I wanted to build something that they could play on, but of course, keeping it retro.

I told the kids my plans and asked what game was their favourite, both came back, straight away, with Donkey Kong. Good taste. With the decision made I set about with my trusty pencil, toying with some ideas. It had to look like a Donkey Kong cabinet, the iconic shape and colour. It had to be of the right size for the kids to play on. The reality was that this one was going to have to have a modern screen, no room for the bulky crt.

dk full size
Donkey Kong – Full Size


Planning stage over, it was time to build a bartop style cabinet, essentially a scaled down version of the Nintendo cabinet, with the lower half removed. These certainly are not everyone’s cup of tea, but remember, this one was for the kids and was a bit of an experiment for myself, at the time still relatively new to the whole arcade scene.

DK Bartop
Bartops like these seemed quite common but this was not the shape I wanted to capture


I started of by getting some plans for the original Nintendo cabinet from the internet and transferred these, to scale, onto some graph paper. I wanted to keep the distinctive curves that the sides have around the control panel/speaker section, as that is a real part of the cabinet but then simply remove everything below that point. You can see my drawings on the photos below.


Then I scaled it up as much as a sheet of A4 would allow, then further upscaled this directly onto a piece of mdf. I spent a bit of time, using cardboard as a template, to construct a rough mock up, to get the overall finished dimensions for this first.


From here I cut this out with a jigsaw, as close to the line as I could. I really take my time here as the closer to the line I get, the less I need to sand away afterwards. Once cut, it really is just a case of getting out the sandpaper, using an offcut of mdf to act as a sanding block, I used a piece as long as the sandpaper to get a nice straight edge, and wrapped the sandpaper around an offcut of broom handle for the curved edges. This was the result.


I then got another slab of mdf, traced the finished side onto it, and again cut close to the line with my hand held jigsaw. To ensure both sides were a perfect match, at this point, I clamped the two sides together and with a flush cutting bit in my hand held router, I simply ran it around the entire edge, milling away the extra wood left from the jigsaw cut, leaving two perfectly matching bookends.


Next up was to cut the pieces that would ultimately join the two sides together. At this point it is really advantageous to have a good plan of the build, to enable you to work out what is required, as I find it easier to get everything cut at once. I also mark out all the pieces onto the inside of the mdf side panels, to ensure all the pieces sit correctly and offers a chance to double check those measurements before I start cutting. This is visible on the photo above also.

To highlight again that this build was completed without any workshop or table tools, I cut these next panels with a circular saw, leaving a couple of mm on each edge which I then shaved off using my router, a straight edge bit and a straight edge guide. The result – a nice pile of square edged panels, exact to the millimetre.


In order to be able to secure these panels to the sides, I wanted to use the traditional cabinet method of batons, so with some suitably sized batoning, I cut it all to size, using a Japanese hand saw. Laid them all out to check fitting, etc, then they are secured from the inside with screws and glue, making sure not to screw too far, through the panel, fouling the outside.


Back to the panels between the sides, and any that need cuts made into them, need to be completed now, before the cab is constructed. The main one to focus on, in keeping with the hand tool restrictions, is the front panel that houses the speaker grille. The pattern is freely available on the internet, so I printed this off, used the old school tracing/transferring with pencil lead and tracing paper, onto the panel itself. I then drilled out the end of each slot, using a hole punch first to ensure the drill didn’t move/slip, then I used a coping saw to cut out the remaining waste. A quick sand tidied it up. Yes, now, I would use my router table with a jig, but this shows that it is still easily possible without such workshop tools.

Next up I cut the t-molding slots into the two side panels, using my hand held router and a slot cutting bit. As I have said before on other projects, you need to use lots of test scrap pieces first to ensure that the slot is exactly in the middle, so that the t-molding, when fitted is also exactly central.


With all that done and some grooves cut into the ends of some other panels, it was time for the construction to really begin. This is the good part, because it is when you get to turn a pile of wooden panels and pieces into an actual three dimensional cabinet. Again, screwed and glued, with panels clamped into place and a traditional square used to keep everything, well, square.


And voila. We have ourselves a cabinet. You can see from the first photo, how the dimensions have really carried through to the scaled down version, with the only real difference being that I have (deliberately) curtailed the depth of the cabinet to more suit the new overall size. From the close-up photos you can see the grooves to receive the marquee, the bottom of the bezel, the speaker grille and also a diagonal baton which will support the monitor frame later in the build.


To the rear of the cabinet, you can see some of the other woodwork, including a circular recess for a PC style extraction fan to keep things cool inside, a hole for the cam lock, as well as a recess for the tang itself and then 4, decorative, recesses in the upper rear panel.


I also added some of the same batoning to the base of the cab, just to lift it off the actual base section of the cabinet.


I next sourced some aluminium angled strips from my local Wickes, which I would use to affix and secure the marquee and the top of the bezel. The top marquee is simply an ‘L’ shaped strip. The lower marquee and upper bezel, is made by cementing an ‘L’ shaped strip to a ‘U’ shaped strip. The bottom of the bezel, simply slots into the groove I made in the wooden panel that it sits onto.


The final stage of the woodworking is to simply tidy everything up, ahead of applying the paint. So, back out with the sandpaper, up to 600 grit, filling in the countersunk screw heads, caulking the joints and sanding away the excess.


I remember being really happy with how this had turned out at this stage, it all went together really well, a lot of which is down to having meticulously planned each stage and just taking my time to do it right.

Such was my excitement and eagerness that I printed out some mocked up graphics – just to have a sneak peek at what it may become. What do you think?


Come back next time and we shall get the paint on, work out how to fit all the gubbins needed inside and see if we can actually get it working. (This was a massive step up for me, as I had never really touched electrics/electronics previously). How will it all go…..

As always if you liked what you have just digested, please subscribe, hit like, share on whatever social media you use or choose, by smashing the buttons below.  I will always reply to any comments or questions left too.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff.  See you all next time.

11 thoughts on “Donkey Kong Bartop Scratch Build – Part 1

      1. Doh!

        I must confess, I just looked at the pretty pictures and read the last paragraph before I posted. It was only later after reading that later I realised this was an old project. Have you got part 2 to this story coming out soon?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No worries pal. But yes, all finished. I’ll be posting the second (final) part very soon, so be sure to keep popping back. I got your email too, so hopefully it will help out your pal who is starting on his own project. Best of luck.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Neil, I’ve annoyingly only just found your website. Not quite sure how I’ve missed it before. You commented previously when I posted on UK VAC about my MAME build ( but I must have missed your web url at the time. I was pretty pleased with my documenting of my build but I’m totally wowed by the quality of both your build but also your documenting. I love the photos of every stage. I wish I had known about your site when I was doing my build! I’m going back to fully read all of your previous restoration and build posts.

    I’ll be at Arcade Club on the 14th Oct so I hope to be able to say hi there.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael.

      Thanks for your comments, don’t be annoyed, you’ve found it now, so you can peruse it at your leisure.

      I remember reading your own blog a while ago and your cab build and write up are easily on par with mine, pal.

      I love the whole build process as I just love making things, especially from wood. ( even mdf!!)

      But I love playing them even more so.

      Check out my current Robotron Cabaret build and let me know what you think. It’s stalled of late, but should get going again in the next month after the UKVac meet.

      I’m there both days, so definitely catch up with you there.



      1. Yes, I’ve been looking at your Robotron build. It looks superb. Your level of detail is fantastic. My build was the first sort of thing like that I’ve ever done, but I’ve certainly got the bug to try something else. I may well try to do a replica build like your ones. Possibly Galaga.

        I’m only going for one day and not going to Play Manchester at all, so I’ll see you at Arcade Club on the Saturday.



        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, everything I have now is on the blog, but the full size plans are openly online and I just shrunk the dimensions to fit the screen that I planned to use. So really, this is all you need to do, as it much for and match the screen dimensions.
      Good luck.


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