Donkey Kong Bartop Scratch Build – Part 2

Hi everyone. Thanks for popping back, I hope you will like where we end up by the bottom of the page – no scrolling ahead though!! In case you missed my last entry, or just want to catch up or refresh your memory, please click here to bring yourself up to speed with this build.

In essence though, we are building, from scratch, a mini arcade cabinet, for my kids (honest ma’am), based on the outrageously iconic, full size Nintendo Donkey Kong cabinet. This is a two part write up of a project that I completed a couple of years ago.

Right then, let’s get cracked on. Get yourself a cuppa and some biscuits and get comfortable as we are going to be covering quite a lot, to get the basic wooden cabinet we ended with last time, into a fully finished cabinet, ready to play.  Will we make it?….

The next big part of this build is to get the cabinet painted, however before starting this I wanted to ensure that things fitted correctly, where they should, in case any alterations were required.

Here you can see the monitor in situ, as you can see this is a bog standard Dell PC monitor, which I got for free from Freecycle (excellent resource for old computer stuff). It looks off centre in the photo due to the casing around the screen, but trust me the actual screen is dead centre.


In the next photos you can see the bezel and marquee brackets holding the acrylic in place, as well as the acrylic top for the control panel also in place.

I had also started planning the control panel layout. I wanted to keep it as close to the real layout of a DK CPO as possible, whilst still being able to accommodate the stick, 1P, 2P and jump buttons.

Here is a roughly printed out paper CPO taken from a scaled down print of the real DK CPO, on top of which I have laid onto and spaced out where I intended the buttons to go. This let me get the correct measurements for the overlay graphic.


I had already decided upon putting a 60in1 multi-game jamma pcb inside the cabinet and a lot of the other games available on this board require 2 action buttons and although I intended to mainly play DK, it would be a shame not to be able to play some of the other classic games on the board too. So I decided to utilise the player 2 start button as the secondary fire button. The spacing of the buttons were all close enough to enable this button layout to work in this way, whilst still maintaining, through the colours of the buttons, an authentic Donkey Kong layout.

The next photo shows the 60in1 board connected up to the switching power supply unit, the monitor, speaker, fan and controls, so that I could check it all worked as it should. I figured it would be far easier to troubleshoot with all the parts spread out, than when they were all crammed into the body of the cabinet. That’s a lot of stuff to fit in a tiny cabinet…..


With all that sorted, it was time to get the painting started. For this I had decided to use spray paints and having used them for other projects before, I returned to my local Halfords store, where after a bit of research online, I chose the following combination.


As with any painting project, the rules are fairly simple;

  1. It really is 90% preparation, 10% application.
  2. To do it properly takes time.
  3. Lots of light coats are always better than one heavy coat.
  4. Sandpaper goes up to 1200 grit (and beyond) for a reason.

I am not going to belabour the art of painting here, I’ll let the photos do the talking. But please check out my current project, a scratch build of a relatively rare William’s Robotron cabaret cabinet, where I cover the techniques used in more detail.

First up though and it’s out with the primer. All surfaces get primed, so no need for any masking. Wet sanding with 1200 grit wet and dry sand paper in between coats. Keep going until you have a nice, thick, completely flat surface. The wet sanding will ‘move’ the primer around, almost self-levelling the compound.

Once the primer was all applied, it was time for some paint. I started with the black, so any cabinet parts that were to be in blue, needed masked off first.


Then the paint can start to be applied. Same principles as the primer, lots of light coats, but there should be no need to sand in between coats if your primed surface was completely smooth.


As the back panels to the cab were to be fitted, after the electrical components were installed, I painted these separately and here they are all finished.


Also to be painted black are the metal brackets, etc, which were all primed and painted in the same manner.


And with the devil certainly to be found in the detail, the wood screws to be used to affix the top and bottom rear panels, also had their heads painted black.


With the black painting finished, it was time to get out the main colour, but first all the now black sections needed to be masked off first. It was great to see the difference putting the colour onto the cab made. It really made it stand up and sing out!!

Some more masking off, of other parts of the cab and the colour can be applied to the sides also. You will notice that the shade of blue changes considerably in these photos, dependent on the amount of light, sunlight versus daylight, etc, but I spent a considerable amount of time researching the exact true shade and actually got a forum friend to send a sample of the actual true Donkey Kong blue colour to me in the post which I then matched against the paint I used. It’s obviously not exact, but it’s damn close!

And after a lot of light coats, some finish sanding and a final coat, the cabinet was painted and looked like this

Back to the devilish details though. I had some very fine mesh, cut to match the approximate size of the speaker grille at the front of the cab (mainly to stop the kids poking things through), so that also got painted black.


I had also factored in some other buttons that I would need to utilise adding a credit and entering the test and service menus on the jamma board. For these I bought some standard mini sized buttons, disassembled them, removing the white push button, then painted the collars in blue, before reassembling.

These then fitted to the underside of the front section, completely out of sight when standing in front of the cabinet, yet easily reached when playing.


I then glued some little felt pads to the base, to prevent it scratching MrsM’s finest oak furniture.


In the last photo below, you can see a standard PC cooling fan and the cam lock fitted to the rear door.


So, with the paint cans put to one side, it was now time to really start putting the cabinet together. I was excited, but a little apprehensive to boot, as I hadn’t really messed around with any electrical components before, but my fears were mainly unfounded, as with a little reading up, some sensible precautions taken, it all went together very well and with no explosions!!

From the front you can see the led lighting strip that I used to illuminate the marquee, this was straight off the shelf at Wilko’s and cost just a few pound. I also cut a simple monitor shroud from black card, to hide everything except the screen.


The lighting strip already had a mains adaptor and the computer monitor obviously had a mains cable affixed to it. So to that end I decided to simply wire up a 4 way adaptor to the mains in, then simply power the PSU, monitor and marquee lighting from that. Starting to put it all inside.


Once I had everything in, there was actually more space that I thought there would be. It helps with the 60in1 boards being so small. There is no way you would ever fit a full size pcb inside a cab this small.


Turning our attention back to the outside of the cabinet, it was time to fit the t-molding. I really like this part as it makes a huge visual difference to the cabinet. There are lots of really good guides on the tinterweb about how to fit this stuff correctly and videos showing it on Youtube, etc. So just a light touch here, when I fit the molding to my Robotron project, I’ll cover it in a bit more detail.

That said, notch the inside curves and remove little triangle on the outside curves, and on the really tight corners or where the groove might be a little loose, a dab of hot glue will help keep the molding tight to the edges.

Take your time, using a non-marking mallet (or wrap your usual rubber mallet in a sock whose colour matches your molding) and you should be fine. The white molding I used really stands out against the blue.


Next it was time to construct the control panel itself. I had already commissioned the artwork, tweaked to fit my button layout, and had printed out a draft copy which I then used to punch the hole centres onto the mdf slab. Then it was just a case of drilling the holes. I tested a few differing techniques for drilling the mdf itself and also the acrylic top. The challenges were in making sure that the holes in both pieces aligned exactly and also the acrylic has a tendency to melt or distort, especially around the edges of the hole. To get around both of these I essentially made a sandwich consisting of a piece of scrap mdf, then the acrylic, topped with the mdf control panel. I clamped these tightly together and drill right through.


The sandwich construction ensured that the holes were perfectly aligned and also prevented the acrylic from distorting during the process. Perfect.


To fit the stick I didn’t want any bolt heads visible on the top of the CPO as with the graphics being so close together, I didn’t want the heads obscuring any of the overlay, but I still wanted the stick to be accessible and removable, should the need arise. So, I found some blind fixing nuts online, but the 12mm mdf that I had made the control panel from was not thick enough to receive the nuts, so I simply made a plinth to fit underneath the panel, which increased the thickness sufficiently.


I also wanted to fit matching t-molding along the front edge of the control panel so a slot was routed into the front edge. Now, as I said, the mdf for the control panel was 12mm, the t-molding was for 18mm (actually ¾ inch, but close enough). So 18mm halved gives you 9mm each side of the centre, I had 6mm on the mdf panel. But I had used 3mm acrylic, boosting the top to the required 9mm thickness. I then simply ran a sharp blade along the underside, held flat to the mdf to trim the excess from the bottom. This cross section photo shows what I mean. It also shows the very fine screws I was using to secure the acrylic to the panel – they are actually guitar head tuning screws.


Next up, was to populate the panel with the stick (I really like Seimitsu LS-32, but I uprate the spring for a sanwa to make it a bit stiffer) and buttons, screw in type to fit with the wooden panel. All nicely cabled tied up to keep things neat and tidy.


Getting close now. I had ordered all my vinyl artwork from Olly Cotton through his website and again he did a sterling job, sending out the control panel overlay, the side art (sized to fit the sides of my build), the coin graphic (of which he sent a few sizes so that I could fit the one that looked the best), the instruction strip and even mocked up the Nintendo serial number plaque for the rear of the cab.


Squeegee and masking tape at hand, I spent a long time, getting the side art, both exactly where I wanted it and also the same on both sides. Then off with the backing and on it goes. No bubbles allowed. Tip: please ensure that the surface is completely clean and dust free, or else it will show throw the vinyl and if you do get an air bubble trapped that you cannot get out to an edge, just use a sharp pin and give it a wee prick (ooer missus) to let the air escape, then press it flat.


And with that folks, the build was complete. I thoroughly enjoyed making this cabinet. It started off with the plan to just knock together something quick and simple for the kids to play on, but soon evolved into what we seen take shape here, a fitting homage to one of Nintendo’s iconic cabinets, with care taken to ensure the trademark features of the cabinet still resonate out. Those familiar with the real cabinet should hopefully appreciate the planning and care taken to get this build from paper plans to the photos below. But enough waffling, thanks for reading through these two posts, now have a look at the finished cabinet.



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’d love to hear what you think and will always reply to any comments or questions left too.

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


7 thoughts on “Donkey Kong Bartop Scratch Build – Part 2

  1. Hallo
    Can you maybe send me the Details via email i want to love to build also theses wonderfull DK…
    Greetings from Germany


  2. Neil
    What an absolute top class build.
    I have just completed a full size replica DK cabinet.
    I would love to add one of these along side it.
    Would you be kind enough to send Your attention to detail and cataloguing the build is by far the best ive seen.


      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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