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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Building an Arcade Cabinet, Part 4: Side Panels

I bought the board to really start making the cabinet!

I bought 3 melamine boards, $50 a piece from Menards

Two of the boards in my "building room/vegetable store"!

This Stuff is HEAVY

When I was in the parking lot, I had three of the large particle boards, 4 foot by 8 foot, that I had to load into the truck. I had an employee help me load them into the cart at the store. But in the parking lot, I was by myself. It was an overcast day, and wasn’t supposed to rain quite yet, but was getting misty. The water would destroy the boards, so I was worried. I worked for a while to line the truck bed with a tarp, and then was preparing how to drape it across the top of the boards. It was even difficult adjusting the tarp as it was a large 15x30’ tarp (just the best one we had) and it took some wrangling to lay it out nice in the truck and get ready to lay the boards over it and then cover them up because of the mist.

I was standing next to the truck, sliding around a board, trying to get my head around the best approach for how to lift this heavy thing into the bed of the truck AND not tear up all the corners on it.

As I was standing there, an older man got out of a large delivery truck and started walking to the store. But he stopped and asked if I needed help! I was so grateful. It was even still a pain for the two of us to get all three boards into the back of the truck. I’m sure without his help it would have taken me much longer, and I would have make a big mess of the boards trying to get them in there. So thank you nameless, kind gentleman! You helped me make this cabinet.

Why Melamine? 


Melamine is particle board with a special paint coating

Melamine is a type of particle board. Particle board is different than plywood. Plywood board is made from very thin shavings of wood that are glued together. There is still strength from the grain of the wood. In particle board, there is no strength from natural grain, though particle board is still plenty strong. It's wood dust that is ground up and glued together. It's homogeneous, not slices of wood. Particle board is very heavy.  It is tough, but it can break differently than plywood. It's often cheaper than high end plywood I would use for a cabinet.

You would use much finer grain plywood than this for a cabinet (cabinet plywood) but here you can see the wood pieces of plywood.

A 3/4" melamine board that is 4x8 foot, weighs around 88 pounds. The same size plywood piece may weigh around 66 pounds. My cabinet is heavier because it's made from particle board instead of plywood. That's kind of bad!

I made it this way because if you use plywood, you have to paint it. And painting plywood and getting a great arcade cabinet-style finish is a lot of work and takes special tools. 

I watched a lot of videos and read a lot about it, but the issue is like this: Plywood is real wood which has fibers. Painting it is tricky. You paint a primer layer, and now the fibers in the plywood soak up paint, and rise up (very tiny fibers) but it feels and looks rough. So then you sand it down, over and over. Now you paint it your black color, and the same thing happens again. You have to sand it more! And if you want to do two, three, or 4 layers to make it look amazing, you have to paint a sand so much! Youtuber Way of the Wrench has an amazing video on painting his cabinet.

"How to paint an arcade cabinet!" Credit: Way of the Wrench
New jigsaw blades were worth getting to make sure they were sharp.

Notice all the 140 tiny teeth. This is not a standard blade like I use for cutting simple 2x4s!