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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.




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






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 :(




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….




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.



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