Cutting Button Holes

By: McSwindler

Buttons are a very important part of arcade cabinets. Without buttons you can’t do anything except move around. My control panel plan is to have 2 joysticks with 6 buttons each, 2 player start buttons, 3 mouse/trackball buttons, 2 MAME buttons (escape and coin), and of course the existing trackball. Lucky for me I found a local arcade owner, Tornado Terry, that also sold some parts at a good price. He even had a bundle with the exact buttons I needed!

The first step to any control panel, and the most important part, is the planning. “Measure twice, cut once” is something my robots professor said. I say measure like five times, just to be safe ;) There is nothing worse then having to start over because you made the wrong cut. My plan was to get some cardboard boxes, cut em up to the size of my console, then pencil out what buttons and where. I am also developing a web app to design your console digitally, then convert to physical. A link will magically appear here once I get it finished (it may be a while).

Cardboard Arcade Control Panel Layout
As you can see from the picture, I have laid out where all of the buttons and joysticks will go. I even cut some holes to fit the buttons in so I could get an actual feel of the setup before committing. I highly suggest doing this before cutting into the wood. I had a previous setup that turns out looked alright but didn’t feel right which I discovered after placing the buttons on the cardboard. Cardboard is cheap and easy to cut, wood is much more of a hassle.

The next step was to cut holes in the wood. A necessity for this task is the 1 1/8″ Hole Saw bit. I picked up a Makita from Amazon which works great for both wood and metal. Turns out I needed the extra strength for metal because I had to cut through some of the metal plate for the trackball. For the most part, the hole cutting went great. The first couple had some issues because the arbor came loose, but I got that fixed and the rest went flawlessly.

Player 1 Button Holes

First Player Buttons

Button Holes
I cut the holes from the top which gave a cleaner cut through the laminate. For player one, I was able to reuse 2/3 of the original holes, but for player two I couldn’t use any. :( Now, I have a few holes I need to fill in with some wood putty which shouldn’t be too difficult. Speaking of pre-cut holes, I used the plexiglass that was on top of the wood as a template for cutting the holes in line with each other. It worked out pretty nicely, except a couple of them are a wee bit off. I am overall happy about the final results. Now, I just need to route out spots with my Dremel for the joysticks and putty up some holes, then I’ll be good.

All the Buttons Laid Out

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