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Mandalorian Bartop Pinball Cabinet

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************ This thread is a recreation/approximation of a thread originally hosted on VPinball. *****************


Well, I guess this pile of parts means I really am starting another build. I’ve kind of been in denial up to this point ;)


This started because my mother-in-law got a new PC (so technically this is her fault   ). I noticed her old one had 7.1 sound, so I took it and have been slowly forming a loose plan.


The concept for this one is a small cabinet that can sit on a table or bar.


Mostly this is to make use of the 22″ 16:10 monitor she had.


Final size will be something like 24″ x 24″x12″. It’ll be 2 screen with dmd integrated in the backglass. I plan to have a minimal SSF setup for feedback, a plunger, and always-on lighted buttons.


This will be my second build. My first was a budget friendly ($500) full size cab. More here:





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Here’s the basic shape I’m imagining for the side profile. The playfield monitor will sit flush with the top of the cab, with no glass. I realize this poses a bit of a risk, but since it’s a bartop unit, I think the risk of screen damage, of someone putting a glass or bottle on the playfield, etc. is fairly minimal. The backglass monitor will be angled back slightly to improve the viewing angle.



The goal of my first build was to lower the bar for people wanting to get into this hobby and show that you didn’t need to invest thousands of dollars to get into virtual pinball. So, for that build, I meticulously documented my budget. I won’t do that this time, but I will share how much I’m spending on most of the major components.


I’m hoping this will have a relatively modest budget, but I’ve seen plenty of great, affordable bartop build threads and I don’t think I’m doing anything unique in that regard. I’m committed to including analog nudge, SSF, and a real plunger. So if anything, I expect this to cost a little more than most budget mini-cab builds, especially the ones that, like mine, start out with a free PC.


Here’s a start on my expenses so far:

  • Computer: $Free Dell Inspiron 570 (Athlon II x4, 8GB RAM)
  • Playfield: $Free Dell 22″ 16:10 monitor
  • Backglass: $15 used 4:3 19″ monitor in portrait orientation (Craigslist)
  • GPU: $25 used MSI ATI Radeon HD 7790 (ebay)
  • Plunger: $20 (ebay)
  • Slide Pot: $7 linear 10k ohm 90mm (ebay)
  • 7 led arcade buttons: $12 (ebay)
  • KL25Z – $22 (digi-key)
  • Amps: $10 2 x 10w PAM8610 audio boards (Amazon)
  • Speakers: $Free I’m reusing the speakers I cut out of the LCD I used for my full-size playfield
  • Exciters: $10 2 x Dayton DAEX25 (Amazon)
  • Plywood: $20 4’x4′ 1/2″ ply (Lowes)

Total: $141


What’s missing:

Leaf switches for the flipper buttons – I know arcade buttons aren’t great for pinball. I have leaf switches on my full-size cab and I may upgrade this later. We’ll see.


Graphics – I’d love to do full color vinyl for this. But I think that’ll cost more than the entire rest of the project. So I’m probably going to paint and stencil it.


Subwoofer – A “nice to have” but not necessary, especially in a small build like this.


2 More Exciters – A typical SSF setup uses 4 exciters. This is a small cabinet and I think I can get away with just two. We’re a lot better at interpreting stereo sound than we are front/back. On my full-size cab, I initially had my front/rear exciters wired backwards. It took me a surprisingly long time to notice. So I think left/right exciters will get the job done for a minimal SSF setup in a small cabinet like this.

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Fitting everything inside will be a little tricky, but I think it’ll be manageable. I’ll have to remove the PC from the case and support the graphics card somehow. But I don’t think it’ll be too difficult. Here’s one possibility.


I didn’t include the audio amps because they are just two very small circuit boards. I’m planning to mount them behind the backglass with the volume knobs poking out the back panel for easy sound adjustment. But I think everything else is there. The PSU is the only piece I’m worried about. To lay it out like this I’d have to be sure the whole thing is tall enough for the flipper buttons to clear it. I guess I could also swap it with the pinscape if I had to.



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Well, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s a start.


Despite my previous confidence about fitting everything in being a piece of cake, it turned out to be much harder than I thought.


I revised my design over and over and still wasn’t confident it was going to fit. So I decided to take a hands on approach. The only things I know for sure are it’s going to be 12″ wide to match my screens and that I don’t want it longer than 26″. So I made a box.


I’m going to position all the elements and then shape the profile around it.



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Well, it’s going to be tight, but I think it’s all going to fit.


I am still a little worried about cable management and ventilation. There’s very little  room to spare in there. I’m worried about a loose cable hitting the CPU or GPU fan. But I’m hopeful I can keep them out of the way.






Here’s an approximation of what I think my new profile is going to be.




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Here’s my plunger solution. $20 for the plunger, $7 for the slider. Plus some scrap wood and a piece of 1/2″ pvc pipe.







One thing worth noting, the spring in this shooter is crazy stiff. It was making a loud percussive bang that shook the whole cab. I tried cutting the spring down, but that wasn't enough. So I ordered a lighter spring (until then I didn't know shooter springs came in different strengths). I cut the weaker spring down too and at first it felt great, but it quickly faded. The spring got weaker and the shooter wouldn't return smoothly. I ended up ordering a handful of springs to get it right. So either don't go with the lightest spring or don't cut it down.

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Made some more sawdust today. This is coming together nicely.


First, I rough cut one side with a scroll saw. Then used rasps and sandpaper to make sure the lines were straight and the curves fluid.





I then rough cut the other side, making sure it was about 1/8″ larger than the first side. Next, I taped the two together with some double sided carpet tape, clamped everything down and used a trim router with a template bit (and the first side as my template) to make sure they’re identical.


Nothing special here and that’s part of what I want to show. I don’t have a wood shop or a routing table. I’m working on an old folding Craftsman workhorse outside my basement, using a cheap trim router from Harbor Freight. I inherited my handheld Craftsman scroll saw and the folding work table from my father-in-law. Both were already well used when he passed away 23 years ago. You don’t need amazing carpentry skills, a C-n-C router, or a lot of tools to build a pinball cabinet. If I can do it, literally anyone can do it.





And here it is with the screens in place. I double checked the motherboard/gpu and power supply to make sure everything still fits. It all looks really good.


I haven’t finalized the shape of the front of the cabinet. There will not be a lockbar or apron on this, so I wanted to get the monitors in there and see exactly where the playfield ends. Those sharp corners where your hands go will get rounded off.


The same goes for the back. I’d ideally like to angle the back for aesthetic reasons. But I have to be sure everything fits first. Fortunately, I’m using pocket screws for my joinery. So it’s easy to take it apart, trim something and put it back together.


BTW, if you haven’t discovered Kreg pocket screws yet, do yourself a favor and give them a shot. I’m a pretty crappy carpenter and just about any other kind of joinery is beyond me. Pocket screws are like magic for the unskilled carpenter.





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Saturday progress.



Plenty of space in the front. But the 4 pin motherboard power cable won’t reach. So I need to extend it.




Things are a little tight in the back. I modified the PSU so the cables come out what was the top. This means I can stand the PSU up so it takes up less floor space and reduces the cable clutter.


To the left is my 12v supply for the audio amp boards. It’s taking up more space than it needs to. It’s what I have on hand, but I may replace it with a more compact wall wart sort of 12v supply.







Still to come: sound (including SSF), ventilation, graphics (including a marquee, I hope).

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I always underestimate how much time wiring takes. The left and right harnesses are built, but I haven’t terminated anything on the Pinscape end yet.









Here’s where things almost went horribly wrong.


I forgot to account for the wiring when positioning the plunger. It just barely clears. I’ll replace the washers on my plunger assembly with something with a smaller outside diameter.






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Sound and simple SSF added! I was curious how well a two exciter SSF setup would work and, at least in a small cab, the answer is quite well.





I used a Y cable to merge the rear and side outputs from my sound card. So the rear and side outputs all get routed to these two exciters.


There’s obviously no front/back action happening, but the fact that the table sounds are coming from the table and in stereo is enough to create the illusion.













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I don’t have anything exciting to show for it, but I did do quite a bit of work on this project this weekend. I put an intake fan in the floor near the front, and began to work on the back panel which will hold a large exhaust fan, IEC power outlet, the PC start button, and a couple of USB ports. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but given how tightly packed everything is, it’s taking longer than it normally would. I have to be sure everything is in just the right place and won’t interfere with anything else. That work isn’t quite done, but I’ll post some pics once there’s something worth showing.


But I wouldn’t be bothering with an update just for that. I also finished and ordered my artwork. I’ve known I wanted to do a Mandalorian theme for this from the beginning. But I wasn’t sure if I was going to do paint and stencils or vinyl. I finally decided on vinyl. Here’s the right and left sides.






I’m hoping to make the cabinet a gift for my brother-in-law and his family. This is my brother-in-law. I think you’ll understand why I chose this theme.



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******************** Well it looks like the Wayback Machine didn't index the second page of my build. I guess I'm going to have to go from memory. :( ***********************

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The back has a large exhaust fan and an IEC power outlet/switch. I decided to repurpose the front panel connectors from the Dell donor PC to provide some external USB ports.



Here's a look at the inside of that back panel.



I added a small intake fan to the bottom of the cab.




Starting to work on the marquee. I bought a piece of clear plastic and some small aluminum angle at the local big box hardware store. It's lit by some 12v led string lights connected to the same power as the audio amps.








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At this point in the project, I remember hitting a snag. I was having problems with the playfield going dark at random, sometimes blinking on and off. I thought it was a system setting, or driver issue, or a loose connection. At one point I found a bent pin the DVI cable I was using, but a new cable didn't fix it.


I was trying to avoid buying a new graphics card, but that's what eventually solved it. I switched from the ATI Radeon card to a Nvidia GTX 750ti and the problem went away.


That added $68 to the build, which in Nov. 2020 was a steal for a GTX 750ti.

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With the display bug worked out, it was back to work.


My vinyl arrived. I used a company called Best of Signs and just had them print a giant sticker. I think the vinyl cost all of $25 including shipping, which was phenomenal.




Test fitting the marquee.



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So now it was time for disassembly. I took everything apart and routed a rounded edge all along each side panel (but not along the back and bottom edge). This was to make it a little more comfortable to rest your hands near the flippers.


I filled with drywall mud, sanded, primed and painted everything white. I didn't take many pics of this phase, but here's the end result (in front of it's bigger brother).



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Now it was time to start applying the vinyl.


But wait!....


My design created a weird space where the playfield and backglass came together. I'd made a little piece of wood that would go in between and hide the gap. But I needed to nail it in from the sides, which meant it had to go on before the vinyl. So both monitors had to get installed, then I nailed the cross piece in and filled the holes. Then it was finally time to start applying the vinyl.



I have to say, the vinyl looks great.




But I almost botched the application several different ways. The giant sticker that I ordered didn't have a split back and I found that made things massively more difficult. I could either, pull the entire back off and try to handle the vinyl without letting any bit of it touch the wood until I had it in exactly the right place. Or I could try to create my own slit in the paper backing so I could start in the middle and peel and stick as I went.


I opted for the latter, but my cut in the paper backing wasn't very clean and some parts near the edge wouldn't come up.


Everything turned out OK. And given the price, I'd probably give this a try again. But I'd be much more careful cutting the paper backing. I've also learned since then that you can get away with putting a little soapy water on the surface before you apply the vinyl. That allows things to slip a bit before it sticks.


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Here's a look at my buttons and lock bar.


Paper inserts printed on my ink jet printer and fitted into the buttons.



My lock down bar is a piece of aluminum angle taped to the edge of screen with double sided gorilla tape. I used some offset angle I had left over from the big cab. It's got one leg that's taller than the other. I used it for side rails on the big cab. A small scrap was perfect for the lock bar.






Here's the front panel with the vinyl installed. You'll see a tiny little button above the shooter. That's a launch button. I tried to get ZB Launch Ball to work and it was going nowhere. I decided it was easier to add another button than figure it out.




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It's done!

I didn't keep meticulous notes, but my best guess is that the final total cost of the project after having to upgrade the video card, adding the vinyl, the lighted marquee, launch button, etc. is around $250.











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So, I had really high hopes of getting a video of my brother-in-law as a Mandalorian, playing the Mandalorian table, on a Mandalorian pinball cab. But right around Christmas when I gave this to him, he started reworking his suit. So it's going to have to wait a while.



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I'm glad you re-shared this. I came across it on VPinball and thought it was really cool. I was actually thinking just the other day that it was a shame that it was probably lost in the site shutdown. Anyway - thanks for taking the time to recreate the thread.

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  • 1 month later...

Wow, this is like a piece of art! Love the design and thought you put into it!


I would love to build something like this for my office once we are not remote anymore.


How does the pc specs work with the monitors? Everything seem to keep up performance wise?

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1 hour ago, PinJimNC said:

Wow, this is like a piece of art! Love the design and thought you put into it!


I would love to build something like this for my office once we are not remote anymore.


How does the pc specs work with the monitors? Everything seem to keep up performance wise?

Thanks! The PC spec is fine. But I noticed it seemed to be getting slower and slower. I decided to swap the HDD out for a SSD and it made a huge difference. I think the HDD that I had in there was already starting to fail and the abuse it takes in a pincab would only hasten its demise.


Table load time is a little slower than on my higher-spec cab. But still tolerable.


You don't need a high performing gaming PC to run virtual pinball. If you're going to want to play a lot of tables with PUP packs then a faster CPU would be a good idea. I should also note that my front-end of choice, PinballY, is not very resource intensive. That's part of what I like about it. I haven't tried running Popper on this machine. I suspect it might struggle.

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