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Bartop Arcade Machine

1119 opens
324 copies
Matt Slaga

Project by

Matt Slaga
Jacksonville, USA

General Information

This is a bit of a complex build, including X-Carve, table saw, router, electronics, and patience. Was really fun to build and a joy to use. (Pun intended). I think the overall cost for this was around $350 (including the monitor). It’s not perfect, but I plan to update over time.

Like this project Open in Easel®

Cut Plexi Pieces

Carve the plexi pieces workpiece. I’d recommend sanding or rounding the front of the joystick/button plexi piece.


Stay Tuned - for power switch and Pi relays

I’m currently finalizing the tasks necessary to connect the power switch for graceful shutdown/power on, as well as a relay for turning on the marquee during the retropie boot up. I’ll post these instructions in the near future.



Catch up on Galaga and Zaxxon, maybe a bit of Super Smash Bros, and of course, Double Dragon.


Retro Pie

For installing RetroPie, check YouTube, lots of great resources for doing this. It will also walk you through setting up the buttons and joysticks.


Connect USB cables and power

Connect the USB cables from the joysticks (and front panel mount if you used it) to the Raspberry Pi.

Connect up power to the Raspberry Pi and LED lights.


Mount Raspberry Pi and attach power strip

Mount the power strip and Raspberry Pi. Once again, I used short nylon spacers and small screws for the Raspberry Pi..


Install T Molding

Tap in the T-molding carefully. I was able to press almost all of it in by hand. There are tricks to cutting pieces at 45 degree angles where they meet, check youtube for ideas and tips.


Side Graphics

Attach the vinyl stickers to the sides. I added about 1/4" to each side as I cut it out. This allowed me to fold the graphic over the sides. I did have to make a few relief cuts on the sharper curves/angles.


Mount USB button board and wire up

With the button panel back out, I attached the USB button boards to the back of the button panel. I used short nylon spacers and very small screws. Then, wire up each button and the USB wire to the button controllers.


Prepping Joystick/Button Piece

Tilt the unit onto it’s back, open the bottom access panel, and slide the button panel in place from the front. I marked the left and right side along the backer strips (attached to the side panels). I then cut 2 short 3/4" pieces of MDF and glued/nailed to the bottom of the button board. This allows the button panel to be installed and held in place, but allows it to be removed in the event of disconnects or button/joystick replacement.

Once you have it in place, measure the distance from the joystick board to the top of the monitor. Carve out the monitor overlay workpiece, paint it black and trim 1/4" larger than your measurement. Then angle cut 1/4" deep to match the joystick board angle. This trims it halfway into the board and allows it to be held by the notch.


Assemble Marquee Print and Button Mount

Drop in the USB soundbar and run the wires through the hole in the back marquee board.

Sandwich your marquee print between the two pieces of plexi. This part is a bit cumbersome, but you should be able to press the piece until it slides into the dada cuts.

Sandwich the wood button piece, the overlay printout and the button plexi. Then insert the buttons to hold the pieces together. I also attached the joysticks to the wood piece from the bottom using #8 × 3/8" screws.



(1) 4×8 Sheet 1/2" MDF
(1) 18 × 24″ .08" clear acrylic sheet (Marquee and button cover)
(1) Momentary switch ( for safe power on/off Raspberry Pi 3B+
(1) Jumper wires – to connect switch to Pi3 (you don’t need this many, but I bought for other projects)
(1) Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and power supply (you don’t necessarily need the case) I used the 3 B+ as it has built in Wifi and bluetooth, didn’t have to use a USB port for a dongle
(1) Micro SD Card – recommend 32Gb or larger
(1) LED Strip Lights – white
(1) LED strip to strip connector
(1) LED strip power jumper – you don’t need 10, but only a dollar more than 1
(1) USB Mini Sound Bar
(1) 2 Player USB Controller, buttons and joysticks You can use others, but you will need to adjust hole sizes to accommodate
(1) Coin / 1P/2P buttons – I did not hook up the LEDs on these.
Extra button cables, to provide connections for the 4 coin/1P/2P buttons. I just bought another partial kit as it was only a buck or two more.
(1) HP v244a 23.8" monitor
You can use your own monitor, but you will need to adjust the width on the panels and monitor mount panel to accommodate.
(4) M4 x 20 or 25 to mount the monitor using the VESA mount to the monitor mount board.
(2) 12" piano hinges for the bottom piece button wire access and back panel access doors
(1) door handle for back panel access door (or you can add a hole to it like I did on the bottom)
(1) power strip that has mounting holes on the back (to keep it from moving around)

(1) USB Extension (to use external controllers)
you will need to drill a hole in the front piece to fit this. I drilled a hole and then used a Forstner bit so it sits flush)
(1) RetroPie pre-built card You can use your own SD and load it yourself, however this will save you some time. I am not affiliated with this seller.
(1) Slotting cutter if you don’t have one already. This is needed if you choose to use T-Molding on your machine.
~ 25ft of 1/2" T-Molding. I bought mine from
Marquee and side panel graphics Marquee height is just over 3". I bought a 4.25" marquee banner on their clearance section and cut it down slightly to fit.
My side graphics are a 49×21 mural from their clearance section, I had to edit them slightly for height. I bought from
(4) cans of flat black spray paint
(1) can of metallic silver spray paint (for behind the marquee)
(1) 24×18 photo gloss print from Staples, goes between the joystick wood carve and plexiglass (~$15). Staples PDF Proof I used is here: You will need to use their online tool to import this PDF. I only labeled start and select buttons.


Monitor Mount Board

Before you nail the monitor mount board, attach the piece to the monitor VESA holes and dry fit to find the correct location. Monitor should be touching the top of the unit. Mark the location from the back on the monitor mount board, remove the monitor, then nail in the board.


Painting, more assembly, more painting

You can move this step until after all the pieces are nailed, but I found it easier to paint the pieces now. I did not paint the inside very much, just enough to ensure only painted pieces will be seen once it is fully assembled.

Use a trim nail gun to attach the marquee back, speaker/lower marquee board. I then painted the inside marquee area with reflective silver paint (after covering the front/top/sides to catch overspray). Once this dried, I installed the LED strips that I cut to fit. I used three strips, connecting them together with the LED strip connector cables. I used a bit of hot glue about every 6 inches to make sure it stays put. The adhesive on LED strips are not the greatest. Run the power cable out the hole in the marquee back board.

Attach the bottom access panel and rear access panel using the piano hinges. I used the cheap magnet holders to keep them closed. ($.78 from big box store)


Begin assembly

Use a trim nail gun to begin attaching the bottom, back, top and lower front piece. Do not nail the joystick button overlay, at least not yet.


Dry fit and find angles for table saw trimming

Dry fit the bottom and back to the sides. Then use an angle finder to find the angles to trim these pieces on a table saw. The bottom piece will be trimmed on both sides, the back on both sides, the top only towards the back, and the vertical front lower piece (with 4 button holes) gets trimmed on both sides.


Carving more workpieces

Carve the Bottom, Marquee back workpiece, and the back and top workpiece. Some of these pieces are slightly oversized as I cut angles using a table saw so they fit nicely together.

Carve the Front, button, speaker and monitor mount workpiece.

If you plan to use T-molding, use a router and the slotting cutter to cut the front of the top piece, the front of the speaker/lower marquee piece and the front of the joystick/buttons piece.


Attach backer strips to sides

I used glue, 3/4" nails and a trim nail gun to attach the backer strips to the side panels at the points indicated on the carve.


Route with slotting cutter

If you plan to use T-molding, use a router and the slotting cutter around the entire side panels.


Cut out sides

Cut out the left and right side pieces. I have two options, one if you want to save wood, however the other has backer strips marked.


Build Steps Starts Here: Checking Button Sizes

Use the button hole test workpiece print to verify the hole size for your buttons. Once you have those noted, make adjustments to the pieces that have buttons.



There is a lot of parts and build into this, but for me it was well worth it. Playing some of my old time favorite video games has been a blast, see my kids expressions when I play some of these old games is priceless.
Each workpiece has notes in regards to the individual pieces and their use/locations.
I also opted to use 8 buttons for each controller, however you can adjust to fit your preferences. Here are some options:
I used the fourth one down.

Also, note that I built this first, made a template and marked where all the tack strips went. They may not be 100% accurate, I am planning to build a second unit in the near future for a friend. I’ll make additional updates then if necessary, and add lots more pictures of the build.

Fabio Alves
I couldn't open the project on EASEL it says it's not made public. Thanks for write up... amazing.
Fabio Alves
Matt Slaga
Oops, I thought that was enabled. I fixed it.
Matt Slaga
Antonio Garcia
I'd love to make one with an old CRT monitor for an extra-authentic experience.
Antonio Garcia
Dominick Marino
Where did you get the side graphics?
Dominick Marino
Matt Slaga
I bought them from this graphics store: It was a mural that was in their clearance section, that I had to slightly modify to fit right.
Matt Slaga
Patrick Hurley
Thank you for posting this, I've been looking for this in Easel for some time.
Patrick Hurley
Garrett Gibson
Will this scale? I want to make something smaller that will use like a 10” monitor and go down to 1/4 in MDF
Garrett Gibson
Matt Slaga
I suppose you could, can't say I've tried it. You might need to alter the joystick pattern for a single stick. I also don't think the indents I put in for where to tack on nail strips would work either.
Matt Slaga
colin buckley
Hi awesome cab what size screen is it for
colin buckley
Matt Slaga
Thanks! I made it for a 23.8" screen, the HP v244a specifically. You can find a link to it in the project description.
Matt Slaga
colin buckley
Did you also cut the slot out for the T moulding using the x carve what size slot bit did you use thanks
colin buckley
Matt Slaga
I used a router with a slotting cutter bit. I think I listed the actual one I used in the directions.
Matt Slaga
James Henry Hembree IV
I can not wait to try this out!
James Henry Hembree IV
Patrick Myers
First of all, this is awesome! If something gets disconnected on the joystick panel, is the only option to go through the back? I've been considering building a bartop and wondering if the control panel should be designed to open up for quick access. But not sure how to secure it during play.
Patrick Myers
Matt Slaga
To access the wiring on the joystick panel, there is a cut-out panel on the bottom of the unit (first item in easel). I attached this with a piano hinge.
Matt Slaga
Patrick Myers
Thanks. I caught that on my third read through, after posting the question. Brilliant approach!
Patrick Myers
Stanley Garnett
When I open this all that shows is the back panel. No other panels:(
Stanley Garnett
Stanley Garnett
Please disregard the last message. I figured it out...error on my end.
Stanley Garnett
David F.
Not a build question but will this keep high scores and let you enter names and all that? Thinking of doing this for the wife (she loved this stuff as a kid) and would be great if it held high scores, she kicks my butt in these games. Thanks!
David F.
Roger Jennings
I do not intend to build one but just had to say have impressive. Well done and thanks for sharing
Roger Jennings
Roger Jennings
That was HOW impressive
Roger Jennings
Clay Sabrowski
Where do I find the side panels in Easel, can't seem to find them anywhere
Clay Sabrowski
Matt Slaga
The side panels are Workpieces 7, 8 and 9 in Easel.
Matt Slaga
Matt Slaga
You might have to scroll the Workpieces pane to find them.
Matt Slaga
Clay Sabrowski
Thanks, got it now
Clay Sabrowski
Andrew Cour
This awesome! Planning a single joystick version and not a pi but a pcb. Can't wait to do this. Also going to skin it with aluminum.
Andrew Cour
Ryan Lucas
Great design - was my first MDF project the last few weeks. RetroPie Guy has a nice YouTube video for arcade button & joystick install guide for those looking for more info on how the controls work in step 20!
Ryan Lucas
Ryan Lucas has a nice tutorial for how to setup the power button...seems to work nicely for me
Ryan Lucas