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The $500 Budget Full Size Pinball Cabinet


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The answer to how many cans of black I needed was 2. That should be the end of the expenses and I can tally up the final budget to see how I did. But I think I’m going to wait until after it’s fully assembled and include that in a final post.

 

For the paint, I raided the paint shelf in my basement. I used every kind of white primer/paint I could find to lay down a base coat. I had 3 completely unused cans of silver spray paint. I don’t remember buying them for anything and neither does my wife. I wonder if they came with the house? Anyway, I used those to cover the entire exterior of the cabinet.

 

Then it was time for masking tape, stencils, and black paint. I only had a partial can of black and it was sort of a metallic black.. I used that on the inside of the cab and had to buy some new black cans for the outside.

Hoping I can reassemble tonight and tomorrow.

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Final assembly is complete! Everything went well, but I did run into one issue. Read on…

 

This is what a budget power solution looks like ;) A power strip and some mounting tape is all you really need. The 5v for the lights in the buttons and the 12v for the fans comes directly from the computer.

 

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Instead of plastic u-channel, this 1mm thick felt tape ($4 on ebay) lets the glass slide.

 

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Except… here’s where I ran into a problem. I was so pleased with myself when I came up with this tidy way of finishing off the side rails. Only I forgot I wanted to be able to slide the glass out! I have some ideas to fix it. But they involve rebuilding the lockdown bar. I’ll come back to that at a later date. For now I just have to remove the side rails to take off the glass :(

 

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I do really like the side rails. The offset aluminum angle (.75″ x 1.25″) looks really good. It doesn’t look like something from the hardware store. This was hard to find. I had to buy 3 pieces, each 46″ long ($34 on ebay from outwater-industries). So I have one left over, no idea what to do with it yet.  I made a “brushed” finish on them with sandpaper and scotch brite pads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And the grand total is….

 

$506

 

Here’s the budget.

 

The last item I added was 3 cans of spray paint, $4 each.

 

I started with:

  • 2 old computer monitors ( backglass & DMD)
  • 4 arcade buttons (flippers & magna save)
  • Some scrap 1x4s and 1/4″ mdf
  • A shelf of old spray paint

Pretty much everything else I purchased including the computer and play field TV.

 

My initial goals didn’t include a real plunger or legs and I managed to include both. Woot!

 

When I first discovered virtual pinball, I was impressed (and a little intimidated) by so many of your builds. The VP community is full of super talented people who have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.

 

I knew I couldn’t invest thousands of dollars in this project (I’ve seen those build threads and they’re amazing!) I wanted to lower the barrier to entry for folks wanting to get into this hobby with more modest budgets. I hope I did that.

Time to play some pinball!

 

Oh wait. Hey, would you look at what just arrived in the mail today.

 

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Update April 2021: Since the time this project was completed in May of 2020, the $500 pinball cabinet has seen some significant upgrades.

 

I added Surround Sound Feedback ($99) and LED strips and a rear matrix ($98). Which brought me to a $700 total and a machine that did a bang up job of replicating a real pin. Having experienced SSF, I would never consider building a virtual pinball machine without it. The LED stuff is fun and while not true to an actual pin, it brings an element of the virtual game into the real world. I think they add a lot and recommend them.

 

I then decided to pursue a 4k playfield. That required some PC upgrades. The grand total for the 4k upgrade was $263. That put me just shy of $1,000 for a fully functional 4k virtual pinball machine.

 

I don't think I'll reproduce the build documentation for those upgrades. There's not really much you could learn from them. My parts lists (including costs) are all detailed in the budget.

 

But I didn't stop there. I bought myself an Oculus Quest 2 for Christmas and I wanted to try some VR pinball. So I upgraded the PC further at a cost of $306. At this point there's nothing of the original Dell 580 left. It's all been replaced. I ultimately decided VR pinball wasn't for me, though I do play a few VR games through the pin cab. I also feel like once I crossed the $1,000 threshold, I can't really call this a budget build. Although, I have to say, $1,300 for a 4k, VR capable pinball cabinet is an accomplishment I'm pretty happy with.

 

With GPU prices what they are today, I don't know if you could replicate the $500 cab (eventually those prices will come down). But I do hope it inspires you and shows that you can enter the hobby with a relatively modest financial investment.

 

Cheers.

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