I used 3/4" particle board for my project. I knew I was going to paint the finished project instead of keeping things natural wood color, so I decided against nice 3/4" plywood. The particle board was also much more forgiving on mistakes, which could be filled with glue or other filler, then sanded and painted over later.
If you decided to try and make one of these yourself, you will need a minimum, a table saw, drill, skill saw, chop saw, belt sander, and jig saw. It also helps with any project to be able to say to that other person in your life (or to yourself), that you need a new tool to complete the project. In my case I didn't "really" need any new stuff, but a radial arm saw would have been really helpfull instead of trying to do some stuff on the table saw.
Once I got those 3 sheets of 4'x8' particle boards back to the garage it was time to dust off the high school math and go about drawing some hexagons to see just how big I wanted to build this thing. Then I started cutting.
Now, I know you will all ask, do you have plans. Nope, no plans. Hopefully from all the pictures on the site you will be able to figure out most of what you need. Part of the fun is coming up with your own stuff anyway. If you need some rough dimensions, the table hexagon is 30" from point to point, and each game station is 10" deep.
Once I got the basic top cut out and each of the 6 stations that went around it, I needed to figure out how much to tilt the stations down from the top edge. I pulled a figure out of the air of 8 degrees which seems to have worked out. I also represented about 2 3/4" scraps stacked up. The figure of 8 degrees also meant that I had to shave 4 degrees off the places where the stations and the central hexagon came together, so that it would all mesh together correctly without any weird gaps. The easiest way to do all this was with the table saw set at a 4 degree angle. A radial arm saw set at 4 degrees would have also worked (but I don't have one...yet).
Once I had all the basic pieces cut out for the top I put them all together upside down. Because of the 4 degree angles I cut this meant that the bottom of the boards were flush, while the top of the boards had a big gap (think of looking at this from the side, you would see a "V". Then we dump a bunch of glue in the "V" and prop up the ouside edges to make the "V" disappear and create a little hexagon dish looking thing. This needed to set overnight because it really wasn't structurally sound yet.
One the basic shell was created I added edges to them to start to strengthen the structure. Again, on the edges I used 4 and 8 degree angles to make everything match up. Lots of glue. Clamping was pretty much impossible and nails were out of the question at the moment because the whole thing was again not completely structurally sound. While waiting for the glue to dry on all of the top table portion I also started to build the hexagon column that the table would sit on top of.
All the guts of the system would live inside of the column. Of course I needed a way to get inside to all of the guts, so I made an opening for a little door that would be flush mount with inside hidden hinges. Home Depot proved to have many different hinge options that worked. Since the computer and other misc stuff needed to run the system would not take up very much room, I decided to use the rest of the volume of the column for speakers. Usually the arcade cabinets just had a couple of 4-6" type speakers. I decided to go all out and put 4 tweeters and 2 mid range speakers on the top of the table, then 2 mid range on the sides, and a 10" subwoofer in the center of the column. To allow for a separate enclosure space for the side mid range speakers, I added some walls in the bottom half of the column, so that the woofer had it's own enclosure area. These walls where only half as high as the column and provided a good way to put the woofer cutout piece in the middle of the column which would divide the column in half. The top part would contain the computer, power supply, hard drive, power strip, 3 way cross overs, and a mini amplifier.
Once the column was done and all the glue was dried and things were nailed up and pretty strong, I flipped the column over onto the upside down table top. Since the table top with all it's 6 sides was too wide to fit through any door, I needed to come up with a way to attach the table top to the column. Instead of using bolts or screws or anything like that, I just decided to make a sleave type setup on the table top that would allow you to just put it right on top of the column. The easiest way to build all of this was to put the column on the table and then build the rest of the structural support for the top.
Once all that was glued and nailed in a couple of places and dried overnight, I gently pulled the column off the table bottom and separated the two (actually I don't know how you do this gently because the column ended up weighing quite a bit). Then I flipped the column over the right way, placed the table on top of the column (again, the table top was pretty heavy as well), and then put the monitor on top of that to get a rough idea of what the final product was going to look like.
The next step was to put all the guts into the column. This also included building the door and getting the hinges set correctly. From the picture on the left you can see the little amplifier that powers all the speakers. It actually does an alright job for now, but in the future I might need something bigger. The picture on the right here shows the computer mounted (or what's left of the case), along with the power supply, the hard drive, the amplifier again, some speaker wiring and the cross overs (needed two 3 way for that stereo output), a powerstrip and then the subwoofer mounted in the middle. I drilled a hole in the side close to the bottom and ran a plug wire through that and spliced it into the power strip, so you only have to plug that one thing into the wall. The computer has a wireless network card, so you don't need to plug a LAN connection into the computer.
After getting all that together, it was almost time to try out some controls. Since it took so long to build the table top, I wanted to make sure I had the first control layout correct before I started drilling any holes. So I took a piece of scrap and drilled out the basic defender layout which seemed to be a pretty good generic layout that would work for most games. I then wired up the controls to the iPAC interface and played a couple of games for the first time without the keyboard. It was pretty nice, but I really sucked. It was also sort of awkward with the temporary control setup because you couldn't get pissed and smack the controls when you died without sending the whole thing to the floor. So, after making sure that "layout #1" was right, I drilled the holes in the main table and wired up the buttons and iPAC for real.
I had to make some modifications to the column so that my wires didn't get squashed when I put the table on the column. Also, this assures that there is only one way to put the table on the column correctly. I painted the old Sun monitor flat black and did some modifications to the base stand so that it would rotate all the way around (but only once), and routed the power and monitor cable through the center of the base into the "guts" area for a clean look. For the moment I still need a keyboard and mouse to get the system up and running. I have a small 10" keyboard that I plan on storing somehow in the table top, so if needed you could have quick access. For a MAME front end interface I ended up using Rob's Jubei with a few modifications to simplify the interface.
I still have a ways to go before I'm done, like building all the other control stations. I'm pretty sure I will need another iPAC interface and can hopefully chain them together if programmed correctly. The next layout I plan on doing is a four joystick Guantlet section, then maybe try and setup a track ball on another, and a 3 steering wheel setup for driving games and stuff like Super Sprint. Then, once I get them all in and installed I'll go about painting the whole thing.
As for the name, I'm still working on that. For the moment, the "Mushroom" seemed like a good temporary name as it does look like a big mushroom when you take the monitor off. If you have any other suggestions like "HexaMAME" or something let me know. I would also love to hear any other suggestions or comments you have on my ongoing project.
Pictures of this project which will help make sense of a lot of the above, can be found in the Photo Album.
Chris - firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. If you haven't been here before you might also get a kick out of some of my other projects, Chris & Ted's Gocart, and My Jeep Adventures.