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Street Fighter IV Arcade Machine Project

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Written by DM on Thursday, March 12 2009

Once you decide on the company that is going to make your arcade parts, you need to decide how many buttons you are going to use, and what layout. Personally, I wanted to use every button available, with the exception of the analog stick push-in buttons. This means 11 buttons per side, which includes 8 for play and start, select, and the guide button for Xbox360/PS3. Once you have figure out how many buttons you are going to use, you need to pick the best layout for you. There is a website which has many layouts you can print out and use for a template, like the one in the pictures. Check out http://www.slagcoin.com. This website has just about every bit of info you will need to select and make your own joystick panel or arcade stick. We used part of the cluster3.jpg layout on SlagCoin, on the Panel Layouts page. Except we made the last set of buttons on the same line as the middle two. We also moved the joystick away from the buttons a bit more. Really, since you are going to be using it, make it however you like, even if you have 3 fingers and a q-tip for a thumb.

To make the holes used for the buttons and joystick, we bought a circular drill bit. For Happ parts, you need a 1 and 1/8th inch bit. If you are using MDF, this is going to be a bit of a chore, mind you. You see, MDF basically turns into wet cardboard when it breaks apart, so when you are using the circle hole drill bit, you will have to clean it out after every hole. By the end of the hole, you will have to press hard to make it all the way through. The drill bit must be metal or something stronger, because it will melt if it is not. In fact, on most of our button holes, you can see the black char on the inside from where the MDF was burned by the spinning of the drill. Just keep pulling it out and pressing it back in, you will eventually make it through. Another thing to note is that we used 3/4th inch thick MDF all around. Most US arcade joystick panels are only ½ inch thick, and even custom arcade stick makers use ½ inch. For your first project you might want to get ½ inch for the top of the joystick console. Otherwise, you will have to do what we did and basically remove 1/4th inch of MDF material from beneath the place where the joystick mounts in order to make sure it sticks out enough.

As for the wiring part, you just need to be competent with a soldering iron, and wire stripper. You can get a special ready-made circuit board for PS3 and PC, but Xbox360 does not license many non-MS controllers, so you will have to gut an Xbox360 pad in order to solder wires to it. Again, SlagCoin has a list of pads to use and a diagram of how to wire them.

Once you have everything ready to wire, I suggest you wire it all up and give it a test run to make sure all the buttons work on all consoles. If it does, then remove the buttons and circuit boards you made and set it aside. Now you can take the final steps, sanding and painting.

If your project is uneven or off in any way, do not fret. All you need to do is grab a 50 or so grit sandpaper belt for a belt sander or hand sand paper. You can even off any sides or edged using this, and it will look professional once it is done. You can then paint. Some people like to use different sandpaper grains, getting finer and finer, until the wood is super smooth. Since we used covering and molding to go over the wood, this was not necessary for us.

We used a primer paint called Killz, which is a white color sealer that is made to go on wood before paint. All the paints we used were spray paints, just FYI. Once you apply a coat of primer to seal the MDF, you can apply a coat of paint. We used semi-gloss black, you can use whatever color you fancy. What is nice about black, though, is that instead of using multiple coats of paint and lacquer, we used two coats of the black paint, and then used black lacquer to finish it up with another two coats. This made life easy, we only had to do two coats and two coats, instead of four coats of both. I also said you can use wood filler if you like to fill any screw holes or blemishes, but since we were covering our project in vinyl, we only needed minimal filler. It dries overnight, and then you sand it and paint over it just like wood.

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