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Control Freak!!!

Next up, the true start on my road towards building my cab. Behold! My control panel-inator!!!

5 joysticks, 48 buttons (including side ones), 1 trackball, 1 spinner. All kinds of crazy arcade goodness.

Roughly 4′ across and almost 2′ wide with space for 5 joysticks + 48 buttons (including side ones) + 1 trackball + 1 spinner = All kinds of crazy arcade goodness.

So I order this awesome Quad Control Panel Kit and red T-molding from the good people at North Coast Customs (mameroom.com) and it is beautiful. I was crazy excited to open the big, flat box awaiting me on my porch. I went with the quad instead of the Classic Control Panel (controls for 2 players instead of 4) because I plan on only making one arcade like this so I chose to go all out and make the ultimate party machine with a 4 player set up. The kit is machine crafted to perfection meaning the holes are clean, spaced appropriately, and all were drilled at perfect 90 degree angles. Every part of the kit is covered on both sides by a nice layer of black laminate creating a very professional looking product. The price was $250, T-molding was $7, and since the whole package weighs around 40 lbs shipping came out to around $40 so the total was almost $300. I considered this money well spent.

Well, almost. When I ordered this kit from their website, I had requested it include button holes on 2 of the side panels  so I could play some emulated pinball (a common request, North Coast Customs even has a box to check for pinball holes when ordering) and was a little disappointed to get perfectly flat side panels without any button holes. I fired off a polite email the next day and got a response almost immediately with an apology and a promise the correct parts were now in the mail. They arrived a few days later. I am very pleased with North Coast Custom’s customer service and how fast they resolved my complaint. Problem solved.

Not an illusion. These panels contain no holes!

Not an illusion. These panels contain no holes!

Initial control panel assembly

Initial control panel assembly in progress

Well, almost. Taking a closer look at this panel reveals its pretty cheap plywood. It’s thick and very sturdy but its not the kind of wood I would choose to use for my cabinet because of its inability to hold screws tight. This has been circumvented with the use of liquid nails and some drilling tricks but I’m hoping and praying the screws holding the joysticks never move. That would render the control panel useless. I will cross that bridge when I get there and I will take you with me but for now, I can move on.

Well, almost. As I was looking over the instructions I noticed if I followed them, I would have a very hard time opening my control panel without removing screws. Not very convenient if someone needs to access the wires under the controls. Especially with 5 joysticks, 1 trackball, 1 spinner, and 47 light-up buttons (no middle button on the front panel, I just don’t like it) you bet I’m going to need to get inside there once in a while. Some minor adjustments to the plans adding some hinges are in order.

Well well well. Turns out it wasn’t quite what I expected, but then again I shouldn’t expect North Coast Customs to cater to my exact specs for my own cab. I mean, if they used a nicer quality of wood it would definitely cost more. They are making a solid product for a large community of arcade enthusiasts who don’t want to carve their own control panel. I’m sure many of them will be able to create an amazing control panel that they will never need to open but I will have to modify this kit in a few places. I’m still very pleased with the overall product but I think next time I might try and do it myself. I just need a drill press first, and some laminate, and some… never mind.

Behold! The semi-finished product!

Behold! The semi-finished product!

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