my quest to build a replica donkey kong arcade machine

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Computer hardware

I installed the computer into the back of the cabinet. I removed as much of the computer case as I could so that the computer doesn't overheat inside the arcade cabinet. I also bought two extra fans for the computer from ebay. They're really cheap and really easy to install. I removed all unnecessary hardware from the computer to make it boot faster and run cooler. I even found a modem card in there.

The control panel buttons and the coin mechanisms are all wired to the I-Pac chip and the chip is connected to the computer by USB.

The computer, the monitor, the marquee light, and the speakers are plugged into a Smart Strip - a power strip that turns the marquee, speakers, and monitor when the computer is turned on. You can buy a Smart Strip from amazon.

You can buy the proper speaker from mike's arcade but I just used an old set of pc speakers that I had lying about. I also stapled a piece of speaker fabric to the rear of the speaker grill so that you can't see my lame pc speakers. But they sound good.

I wired a power button to the computer. This is easy enough - look behind the power button on your computer and you will notice two wires coming out of it. Just splice two wires in there and connect the other ends to an arcade button. Now you have an arcade button to power on your machine.

Notice that I have a big salad bowl in there for catching the coins. The next step is to build a coin box.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I did not enjoy installing the software. But as J.Avery said, "You do it once, and you never think about it again."

You need three pieces of software: Mame, MaLa, and Roms.

The Roms are individual zip files with all of the code to the original arcade games. You need one rom for each game you want to play.

Mame is the emulator that plays the roms.

Mala is a popular frontend that will run Mame for you in a way that looks good. When you boot your computer, Mala will open with a menu allowing you to select a game using the joystick. Mala will also shut down the computer when you are done playing.

Here's my advice: download mame, download Mala, download the Donkey Kong rom, and google everything until you figure it out.

The toughest part for me was finding a version of mame that saved high scores for Donkey Kong but this guy seemed to have figured out. People have made special diff files to modify mame but you have to compile it yourself and it's making me fall asleep just writing about it.

It sucks, but it's beautiful when it's done and it works.

Using Mala, you can design your own menu that has a list of games and everything. This guy designed a really cool menu that you can download.

I set up Mala to boot directly into the last game played when the power button is pressed. I also designed my own menu. It's a black screen with a simple message and if you move the joystick up, down, left, or right, the various game marquees appear for all of the games I have installed. When you push the jump button, the game boots.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Monitor mount bezel

When I got my monitor, I took it all apart so that I could just mount the screen in the arcade machine. I dropped the screen into the monitor mount that I built.

I spray painted the sides of the monitor mount black but it was really unnecessary. I then bought a black piece of poster board and cut out a hole just big enough for the screen. I used masking tape to mask off the visible part of the screen, I sprayed 3M adhesive on the entire thing, and then I just pressed the black poster board on to the monitor mount. I slid the entire thing into the cabinet and it looked fantastic.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Coin door assembly

I bought two coin mechanisms from Asahi Seiko. They still make the same mechanisms that were used on the original Donkey Kong machines back in 1981. I called them up and ordered two. They mailed them out to me. They were not cheap.

If you search the KLOV forums there is always someone looking to place a big order with Asahi Seiko to get a discount or something. I think the original DK machines had the 740 mechs but I bought the 730s since I like them better and it's a minor difference.

The coin mechs come with special bolts to connect them to the coin door.

I bought the lock at Home Depot. I think it was five bucks.

I didn't realize that I would need special carriage bolts to hold the coin door to the cabinet and that really pissed me off. The coin door has square holes designed to hold carriage bolts which makes sense so that nobody could unscrew the coin door from the front of the machine and steal the money. Neither Home Depot nor Lowe's had carriage bolts small enough. The proper size is probably metric since this was a Japanese piece but I ended up ordering 3/16" stainless carriage bolts from Bolt Depot and spray painting the tops black.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Admin Buttons

Last night I installed three "admin" buttons. I bought 3 Happ buttons from ebay to use as power, coin, and escape buttons. Some people also install a pause button. I drilled holes underneath the control panel so that these buttons won't be visible when you look at the cabinet but you can reach them while you're playing.

I drilled a 1 3/8 inch recess and a 1 1/8 inch hole to install the buttons. These are the standard measurements for the standard Happ buttons. When I get the computer in there, I will discuss how to hook up these buttons to the software.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I installed the t-molding this weekend. I used white 3/4 inch t-molding that I bought on ebay.

I wrapped my rubber mallet in a plastic bag to prevent black marks from the mallet scuffing up my pretty white t-molding. Then I gently pounded the t-molding into the groove. That is, if you can gently "pound" anything.

When you get to some of the corners you need to cut small pieces out of the ribs to help the molding wrap properly, but there is a lot of room for error. Just don't slip with that knife and cut the molding or you'll have to start over.

I read a million posts and articles about t-molding. It is deceptively difficult but once it's on, it looks great and really starts to have that arcade feel.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

red paint

I sanded the first coat of black paint with 600 grit sandpaper, wiped it down with a tack cloth, and put another coat on. Because I thought that the black paint was too thick, I thinned it with mineral spirits until it was about as thick as half and half.

And here's an important trick: if your masking tape has been on too long, heat it briefly with a heat gun or hair dryer before pulling it off so that it won't take the underlying paint with it.

Donkey Kong arcade cabinets came in baby blue and bright red. I won't bore you with the history. I decided to paint mine red because I like red.

The best way to get the right color red is to take your control panel to the paint store and have them match the red color. I didn't do that. I used Rustoleum bright red because I liked how smooth and shiny the black turned out. I thinned the paint with mineral spirits and applied it with a 1/4 inch nap roller. Sand and tack cloth between coats and you're on your way to a beautiful finish.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

black paint - first coat

Everyone knows that to achieve a smooth finish on any surface, you should use multiple thin coats of paint. Conventional wisdom, right?

So why did I decide to use the thickest paint I could find?

I put one coat of gloss black Rustoleum enamel on the back and insides of the cabinet. It looks like garbage. If it doesn't dry smoothly then I will sand it and try again with a different black paint.

I hate painting.