Arcade Coffee Table – Plan and Parts

So if you have read my intro post to building an Arcade Coffee Table you know what I want.  If you haven’t read it yet you can find it here –  To make sure I actually meet some of my goals on this project I’m going to need a cunning plan.

I am breaking the planning stage  two parts: The Geek Stuff (i.e. electronics) and The Table Stuff (i.e. the table legs, top, frame)

The Geek Stuff

Lets start with the Geek Stuff.  So I started off with this simple block diagram to organise my thoughts and put together a list of electronics that I needed.

Block Diagram

From here I started getting my shopping list together and it looked like this:

1. Raspberry Pi 2

This is pretty self explanatory as it will by my gaming engine.  Added to this will be a Micro SD card, Micro USB to USB Cable and HDMI Cable.  If you want to know where and what to buy to get started with a raspberry Pi 2 B+ read my post here – (Once I write it – for now grab a Pi 2 B+ off element 14

Cost: $59 (Pi2 – $49, Pi2 Case, USB Cable – $5, HDMI Cable – $5)

2. Monitor

I acquired an old monitor from my mum when she upgraded to a new one with her new PC.  It’s a 27inch LG LED screen with an HDMI output.  I won’t post a pic of it here as I’m sure you have seen hundreds of these before.

Cost: Free

3. Joysticks

I want this coffee table arcade machine to feel as authentic as possible and so to do this I read through a number of reviews on arcade joysticks and settled on two to try out.

The first is a genuine Japanese Sanwa 4-8 way ball-top  arcade stick.  This is a similar stick that is found in many Sega cabinets.  They also have a reputation as being one of the better quality sticks.


The second is a cheaper Chinese knock off called a Zippy.


After receiving both Joysticks I found the Zippy to be a good copy.  The only real difference being the feel of the ball-top.  The Sanwa ball-top felt smooth with a more solid body than the Zippy.  In the end I chose the Sanwa ball-top sticks for my build.

I bought the Zippy from here (with the button pack):

And the Sanwa from here:

Cost (two Sanwas): $49.98

4. Buttons

For the buttons I stuck to my guns and ordered both Sanwa and Zippy button sets.  The Zippy buttons came  in a pack with the joysticks.


The Sanwa buttons I bought separately from a store in the US that delivered to Australia.  This store can be found here:

Unlike the joysticks the quality of the Zippy and Sanwa buttons were light years apart.  The Zippy buttons were made out of cheap plastic and felt cheap and flimsy.  The push action felt sticky and non-responsive.  The Sanwa buttons however, felt smooth, solid and responsive.  Again I went with the Sanwa buttons – seems you can’t go past paying for quality.

The Sanwa set cost twice as much as the Zippy set but it just felt so much more authentic.  So I spent the money at the cost of my $200 budget blowing out.


5. Keyboard Mapping Board

To glue the joysticks, buttons and Raspberry Pi together we need an interface board.  The easiest way achieve this is to use a I/O USB Keyboard mapper.  Luckily due to the number of DIY arcade cabinet makers these days a company has already created and marketed one for us.  The companies website here:

They come in two and four player versions.  I bought a two player version (see below) from Austin amusements (


I did find a cheaper board which would also hove done the trick but it needed a bit more time and energy to get it working.  I will probably give this a try at a later date as it’s the sorta thing I do.  This board is a At90usbkey demo board produced by Atmel to demonstrate their At90usb1287 microcontroller to developers.  You can buy them from everyone’s favourite electronics supplier Element 14 ( at a cost of $45.

To get this board up and going you are going to need to get it programmed.  I recommend you visit Franks website ( which provides a great how-to using his Generic HID (Human Interface Device) software.

Cost: $63.00

6. Auxiliary Bits and Pieces

Along with the main components I have already talked about we are going to need some other bits and bobs this project going.  This includes:

  • Power Board & IEC connector (cost: $5);
  • Cables (USB, Power & HDMI – cost: $10);
  • Instrumentation Wire(cost: $3.5); and a
  • USB Hub (cost $5).

I will provide a more in-depth post on how all the electronics are wired/connected in  a future post (there will be a link here once I write it).

The Table Stuff

Okay, now for the less complex part of the build – the table.  For the table I started out by looking at a number of coffee tables online  and in stores to see which would catch my fancy.  I’m a pretty simple guy and I like straight lines and dark wood so that’s what I went for.  These are a few of the mock-up drawings I came up with regarding the design




I’m going to CAD up some decent drawings sometime soon but, as with the electronics I’ll save that for a later post (you’ll find it here if I ever get it done).

1. The Table

I like dark woods and living in Australia we have one of the best dark woods going around in my opinion – Jarrah.  I’m pretty fortunate in this respect that I have been renovating my house and we have some left over old Jarrah from our patio removal.  I’ve popped in a picture of some of the better pieces prior to clean up.


Once its cleaned up I’ll put some pics in my later posts.  If you are fortunate enough to have access to good wood working equipment I would recommend going through some old salvage yards to get some good cheap bits of timber and then clean it up from there.  If you don’t have that sort of access your going to have to purchase pre-dressed stuff unfortunately – costly.

For the rest of the table and the table top I’m going to use some Jarrah flooring offcuts I have lying around from the reno’s.

Cost: free!!

2. The Glass Top

The last part of the build.  As this is going to be part of a table the glass I need to buy needs to be toughened.  I’m going to get this made up for me by my local glazier.  It will be made out off 9.5mm thick tinted glass.  At this time I’m not exactly sure how dark I will tint the top.  This will require a trip to my local glazier with an IPad to see which tint hue will hide the LCD screen but still ensure a good viewing brightness.

I have designed the top of my table to be split into thirds – the pic below sort of gives you an idea of what I am looking at.


We’ll see how this works out for me in my later posts.

Cost – $60

The budget

Item No Description Cost
The Electronics
1 Raspberry Pi 2 $59.00
2 LED Monitor Free
3 Joysticks 49.98
4 Buttons $54.72
5 IPAC 2 $63.00
6 Power Board & IEC $5.00
7 Cables $10.00
8 Wire $3.50
9 USB Hub $5.00
The Table
1 Wood Free
2 Glass Top $60.00
Total $310.20

For the astute reader you’ll already know that I have blown my budget by $110.20 on this project.  I could have gone for the cheaper buttons and joysticks but they just didn’t feel right.  I could have also used one of my old Raspberry Pi B+ that I have lying around but I tried both the Pi B+ and the Pi 2 B+ with the emulation station OS I want to run on the machine and the later just worked so much better.

Both these changes would have saved my $100 but if I am going to have this sitting around in my home I want to use it and this means I want to make it feel right.

In the next chapter I’ll be talking about which Pi Operating System and front end I will be choosing.  You can find it here (when I write it!)



  1. Ritika Thakkar   •  

    Your post makes it very simple to understand this stuff. I am a 4th year engineering student studying in India. I am waiting for your next post on this project. I plan to incorporate this in my upcoming Project. It would be of much help if you guided me accordingly!

    • Ray   •     Author

      Thanks Ritika – I’ll get on to a few more posts regarding this project… sorta went on the back burning because I was moving house and work was busy as. Hopefully you’ll see some new posts soon!

  2. Jono   •  

    I am not technically inclined in any way. I’m very much looking forward to your post, because it is my dream to make an arcade coffee table.

    • Ray   •     Author

      Thanks Jono, there should be some movement on this project soon again as I have finally got my new workshop set up and ready to finish off the woodwork portion of the build…..stay tuned!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *