One of the most common repairs that we have to make during the restoration process is rebuilding the control panels for various games. Time can be cruel to arcade games and between the graffiti, cigarette burns and constant wear and tear, it’s not surprising to see the control panels age faster then the rest of the game. Once you’ve rebuilt a control panel and have installed new artwork, it’s worth investing in a little bit of plexiglass, in order to protect the game.
In order to build a protective layer over the top of the control panel, you’re going to need the following materials.
-A piece of Lexan or Plexiglass that is large enough to cover the control panel
-An electric drill
-A large and small step drill
-A measuring tape
-A utility knife
-A Dremel with the lock cutting attachment
-A piece of scrap wood that you can drill into
First things, first, you need to measure your control panel, so that you can see how large of a piece of plexiglass that you’ll need to cut. We add about an 1/8th of an inch extra room, so that we can trim the plexi with our Dremmel when we’re done.
Once you’ve got your measurements you’ll want to plot them out using the sharpie. As long as you keep the plastic protective layer on the plexiglass, you should be able to peel it off when you’re done and it won’t leave any marks.
Now that you have everything plotted out, you can begin cutting the plexi. We like to place another sheet of plexi on top of the sheet we’re cutting to help guide the utility knife. When scoring the plexiglass the secret is to do it all in one light motion. You don’t want to put too much pressure on the knife or else you’ll crack it. After about 20 – 30 light swipes, you should begin to see it weaken where you’ve cut the plastic.
After you’ve scored the plexi, you want to move it over the edge of table or firm surface. You then want to give it your best karate chop so that you can snap it evenly along the seam that you’ve made. Somethings using a hammer will help if you get parts that need to be chipped off. If you haven’t scored the plexi deep enough this is the point where it can snap uneven and ruin your plexi so be careful to make sure that it’s ready before giving it a good whack.
With a little bit of luck, you’ll end up with a piece of plexi that fits. As you can see in our photos, the edges are still a little bit rough, so we’ll use our Dremmel with the lock cutting attachment to trim it smooth. Once we have the edges trimmed up, we place the plexi on top of our control panel and then use our sharpie to mark where the bolt holes and button holes line up. For the button and joystick holes we use the larger step drill. For the smaller bolt holes we use the smaller step drill. When doing the drilling it’s best to do the small holes first and then the button and joystick holes second or else the pressure of the drill can cause things to crack. You also want to clamp the plexi on top of a piece of scrap wood that you can also drill into. This helps prevent the plexi from breaking into pieces once the drill pierces it. When doing the drilling, the name of the game is patience. You don’t want to push hard or else the plexi will break. Use the drill to almost melt the plastic away.
After the holes are drilled, you can attach the plexi overlay onto your control panel and reassemble all of the buttons and joystick. Now you’re control panel looks brand new and will be protected in case someone decides to carve their name into your game and make you rebuild another plexiglass protector. This is one of those tasks that gets easier over time, so practice will make perfect even if you don’t have a lot of early success.