Gauntlet: Phase 1 Complete (Basically)

July 2nd, 2010 Posted in Gauntlet

I haven’t updated lately, but mainly because the progress I’ve been making is pretty incremental in size. I didn’t want to waste a post on one or two smaller tasks, but I’ll do my best to recap what I’ve been up to in the past two weeks.

I had twelve tasks left on my previous post, but have decided that the beverage holders belong in phase 2, so I’ve nixed that. Also, I’m going to leave the dual RCA jacks I previously hooked up, as is. That left me with ten tasks to complete, and as of today, I have completed 8 and a half of them. Of course, there were a couple tasks I forgot about when making my last task list, as well as a couple I just added while working over the past two weeks, either because they needed to be done, or I just had time to work on them:

* Mount PC power switch to back of machine.
* Setup Frontend software (Hyperspin) as well as emulators (MAME, Nestopia, Kega Fusion & Snes9x)
* Install cable holders to keep floating cables tucked away

While I wrote my last post, I was in the middle of patching the old holes that were left on the front panel (with the coin doors and start buttons). I patched them up, some of which were deeper than others, and let the wood putty dry a couple days before sanding it down.

Previously, the panel was screwed and glued to the front of the machine, but I wanted to allow this panel to be removed fairly easily next time I wanted to make a modification to the machine (plus it will lighten the machine a bit if I can remove it before moving it into my basement). So I needed to come up with a way to fasten the front panel without the use of glue.

Since there was already a small strip of wood on the bottom of the cabinet cavity that acted as a stop for the bottom of the front panel, I would just have to come up with a way to have the bottom of the panel latch on to that strip, and then I could screw in the top of the panel.  I figured this would be better than just using screws, since the way the cabinet was manufactured, there is no easy way to put screws in on the bottom of the cabinet after the fact.

I went to the hardware store to see if I could find any metal pieces that were shaped like the kind of bracket you would use to secure a door with a 2×4 (or for you video gaming geeks, the the S or Z pieces in Tetris), but smaller (approximately 1 inch in depth and no more than 2 inches in length).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything small enough, so I had an idea.  I could use just a few small L-shaped corner braces, and join two of them together with a bolt and nut, making an S piece.  None of the smaller L’s at the hardware store had two screw holes on any flat surface, so I would need to butt two of the things together to ensure that they wouldn’t spin around.

I got home, made my S’s, and fastened them to the front panel and even though they were closer to an inch deep than I wanted (I was shooting for 3/4″), it turns out the full inch was better. Because of the angle of insertion of the panel needed that 1/4″ of wiggle room.  The panel didn’t fall out when I put it into place, but I tossed some (blue painter’s) tape on it in the meantime, to just make sure it stays in place before I permanently screw it down on the top-side.

It was around this time that I received my new FrankenPC case from Newegg.  I put the components into the case and realized that the fan I had needed a longer cable in order to be mounted in the spot I needed on the case, so I snipped the fan’s wires and added about a foot of wire in the middle.  I closed the machine up, and like butter, it fit neatly into the cavity on the bottom of the machine, next to the power supply for the monitor and sound system.

The only downer is that the case was made of paper-thin metal, so I stripped out about 3 screw holes while putting it together, but for less than $20, what do you expect?  Luckily, I won’t need to open up this machine very often.

My next big task was going to be tackling the control panel.  I still had a lot to do.  First step was going to be installing the hardware to be used for the joysticks.

My plan was to bottom mount the joysticks using screw in hex insert nuts, the kind you might see on pre-fab furniture from Ikea. I mounted them onto the control panel, and so far, so good.

Next, I needed to route out a channel for the T-molding.  This couldn’t have gone easier, considering I had never used a router that wasn’t used for data transmission.  However, the slot cutting bits that are used for the T-molding channel spit out a TON of sawdust.  Make sure to do this in a well ventilated area!  The T-Molding fit right into the groove (needed to use a rubber mallet to help it in) and to my surprise, it was centered!

Now it was time for the scariest part of the project: adhering the control panel overlay I had previously purchased from Arcade Overlays onto the control panel.  I didn’t want to have to order a new one, so with the help of my wonderful wife, we slowly started at one side, adhering and pulling the backing paper as we went.  as luck would have it, everything matched up, just as intended!

I now had to cut out 22 holes for the buttons and joysticks.  The overlay material is very thick, and rather than use power tools to cut through thick, but ultimately too thin for anything more than a knife, I opted to cut them out using an X-Acto knife.  This was a painfully slow process, and even though things looked good at the end, the blister on my middle finger was not so appreciative of the method I chose. I don’t know what a better alternative would be, but be prepared for pain if you go the X-Acto route.

With the control panel overlay now installed, I needed to begin the tedious task of transferring the controls from the mockup control panel to the real thing.  Much like when I first installed the controls onto the mockup panel, this was a slow process, and was only made more complicated by the fact that the wiring, while labeled and nicely organized, just got in the way.

It took well over an hour to transfer everything, but when it was done, things were starting to look real nice.

Since I had the control panel put together, it was a good time to mount the I-PAC and J-PAC to the underside of the control panel (which will make things easier if I ever need to remove the control panel.  This was a fairly straight forward process, however, one of the holes on the J-PAC was smaller than the mounting screws that came with it, so it was a little unnerving enlarging the hole on the J-Pac with my cordless drill, but I did it, and it looks good.

I then turned my attention back to the cabinet itself, for a couple tasks that I had recently realized I needed to do.  I installed my PC power switch, an inch or two away from the Monitor/Audio power switch, and luckily the switch was just deep enough to be mounted in this fashion, as I neglected to measure anything before drilling the hole.

Next I recognized that there were a few cables for the monitor that would get in my way any time I needed to move the computer case in or out of the machine, so I used a couple small, nail-in clips to fasten the wiring to the side of the arcade cabinet, making things easier for me in the future.

…and that brings you up to date with the progress on the Gauntlet project.  I am in the middle of configuring the front end software, and I recently decided I was going to re-key the arcade locks (on my own), so I’ll let you all know how that went, very shortly!

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