ATARI CENTIPEDE RESTORATION – PART 1: BASIC WOODWORKING

Good day readers, here we are again, thank you for coming back. If you missed the back story as to how I came to get hold of this iconic cabinet from Atari, then please click this LINK and have a read. But without any further delay, let us commence the restoration.

As I said last time, I am intending on updating this restoration thread with smaller, more (hopefully) frequent updates, that focus on one particular area of business, with plenty of photos and details of what I did, how I did and why I did, which I hope might help you, if you are in a similar position.

Today, as you may have guessed by the title, is going to focus on some basic cabinetry.

You may recall, that this cabinet was not only missing the rear door but the other two fixed rear panels were completely smashed in, which made the cabinet very unstable, which is definitely not a good thing when it holds a very heavy, fragile monitor. Think about when you buy a flat pack wardrobe or book case, and how easy it sways from side to side, until you fix the back panel on, which immediately gives it the rigidity it needs.

And so, today’s work, will see us fixing this and strengthening the cabinet, all at the same time. Easy peasy? Let’s find out.

I decided to start with the two existing, but broken panels first, as once they were fixed and back in place, I could accurately measure up for the missing rear door.

The top panel was in a bit of a state with a huge split right down the middle, going almost all the way through.

But as it was original AND included the original foil manufacturers label and serial numbers, etc, this was not something to simply replace. It was time to get fixing.

To start with, I laid the panel down with a scrap of wood underneath the split, letting the weight of the panel on either side, pull the split open, which then allowed me to fill it with a good, strong, wood glue.

Then, I flattened the panel out, with a solid, flat, wooden panel underneath and some weights on top, checked for levels and left to dry out.

Next up, and with the glue dry, there was a shallow groove left where the vinyl had been split, which I filled with a two part wood filler. I know some people favour the ‘bondo’ P38 filler, but I’ve always used this brand and just stick to what I know. You use what you are happy using.

I always leave the filler slightly proud, no need to be too fussy here, as I then sand it back leaving only the filler that is, well, filling the gap.

Now although the glue and filler had added considerably to the strength of the panel, it would always have a weak point where the split had been and I didn’t want it to risk being broken again should it be pushed against something.

So to prevent that, I ripped a couple of wooden struts, from a decent grade birch plywood.

Then it as just a case of simply, painting the panel. I just used a bog standard tin of MDF white paint I had lying around, varnishing the struts, again using some varnish I had left over from when I re-fitted oak doors in the house, and voila.

Of course, there are two sides to every panel and we still had to look at the outer face, where initially, things are very similar. Filler applied to the gaps, this included the main split, plus the many nail holes, which were left behind when I removed the nails that were originally holding the panel in place. Atari used ‘T-nails’ which do a grand job, but usually leave a messy hole behind when extracted.

Now the intention here is just to simply paint the panel black, over the top of the already black vinyl, but the problem is the manufacturer’s label, which I don’t stand a chance of removing intact after 40years of being stuck there, and equally I didn’t want to further damage the panel, by cutting out the vinyl, so I simply masked off the label with tape.

For paint, I use blackboard paint, as recommended by fellow Atari Blogger, Mr Temple, applied with a small roller. Couple of coats and all done.

With the paint dry, and the masking tape removed, it was time to offer it back up to the cabinet. I’ll get it properly fixed with screws in due course.

One down, two to go. Next up the lower panel. This panel houses the inlet power switch and also allows the mains cable to enter the cabinet.

The whole process is basically exactly the same as above, find the splits and holes, fill them initially with glue, then filler, sanding back to a paintable surface. On the photo with the clamps, I use a really thin sheet of plastic (it’s actually the pieces you get between sheets of parma ham from the supermarket), which just stops the wood glue from sticking the scrap of wood to the panel.

This panel needed a lot more filling the the upper panel.

With the split not being so serious, and the panel itself not so tall, I didn’t think a brace was needed, however I thought it would be cool to make a mini brace that also documented my efforts here.

Then out with the paint again and we are done.

Which, for those that are counting, leaves us with just one more panel, the missing rear door. In essence, this is just a slab of wood, cut to fit the gap left between the other panels. This does not lead for an exciting montage of photographs, so I basically measured twice, cut once, which made this.

I cut out (after measuring twice) a hole for the cam lock and test fitted that. This basically is a circular hole, which is wider on the inside to accept the locking nut. To achieve this, I first drill a pilot hole right through at the centre point. Using a forstner drill bit I then drill the larger hole, deep enough to accept the nut, then turn the panel over, and drill from the other side with the smaller drill bit, sized to fit the cylindrical lock through.

Then we are back out with the paint, keeping the theme of white interior, black exterior.

Lastly, although the cam lock will hold the door secure at the top, we need to stop the bottom from simply falling out and the door dropping. To achieve this, I ripped another piece of plywood and after the varnish had dried, fixed this to the bottom of the door on the inside, extending past the bottom of the door. This then slips behind the lower panel preventing the door from falling open.

Then with both the previous panels now screwed in place, all that was left to do was offer up the rear door and hope we measured correctly.

Which of course we had.

With these panels, fixed, fabricated and fitted, the cabinet was much more stable and I was much happier moving it around, without the fear of an imminent collapse. And I think that is a good place to finish up for today.

I’ve got some further segments lined up, which will look at restoring the artwork, electronics and some more woodwork, a bit trickier than todays, so if this is of interest, then please stick around and I promise that the next update should not be too far away.

Please let me know what you think; any thoughts you have on how far to go with restoration projects; and the game itself, Centipede, surely one of Atari’s more appealing, accessible games, right?

As always, if you like what you find here, please subscribe, read through my earlier posts, hit like, and share on the social media of your choice, via the buttons below. I genuinely would love to hear what you think, good or bad, and will always reply to any comment, kind enough to be left.

Thank you for taking the time to read through, see you all soon for the next instalment.

3 thoughts on “ATARI CENTIPEDE RESTORATION – PART 1: BASIC WOODWORKING

  1. Well done Neil, always great with the planning and the writing despite what you think. I love the tips and tricks you add in as you’re working. Giving hope to us all!

    Liked by 1 person

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