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2x Bartop X-Mas Gifts



  • Built a couple bartops as x-mas presents. The Star Wars themed cab will go to my brothers family while the Marvel themed one will go to my sisters two boys.

    I started designing the cabinet almost 3 years ago. It's an original design, but heavily based on all the other great designs out there as you can tell. I just really wanted a trackball in a bartop and couldn't find anything that really fit the bill.
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    There was plenty I got wrong with the initial design, or just called an audible during the build process due to time running out before x-mas.
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    Basic geometry was cut using just measurements. For more complex shapes like the sides and control panel I printed out templates from Sketchup. Sketchup is fantastic for this sort of project. If you're not familiar,I would highly recommend it. It's free.
    ![alt text](459fb284-da91-4e13-9fc6-ab57d29b9dcd-image.png image url)

    Basic cleats-based construction. Wood glue for strength and hot glue for immediate hold.
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    Basic cabs assembled. The paper residue on the side of the left one is left over from the template I pasted on there. alt text

    I wasn't really sure how most people mounted the monitors, so I came up with this system. The cleats on the sides are just a hair deeper than they should be so that horizontal wood support has to flex just a few millimeters, which provides just enough pressure to keep the monitor in place.
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    Test fit of monitors looks good. I removed the front bezel from the monitors and flipped the little control panel around so it faces the rear and is accessible from the interior of the cabinet. These particular Dells are 19" and have a setting where they'll automatically turn on once power is applied. Not sure if that's typical for monitors.
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    After lots of trial and error, I think I got the basic control layout in a good spot. The trackball is the slightly smaller version...2.25"? Something like that? I think normal trackballs are 3"? I actually spaced these controls too far to the outside and had to route out sections of the side panels so that things would fit. It's a VERY tight fit.
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    Ended up redoing the control panels because I messed up the first time around. So my plan of attack here was to just buy posters and adhere them using spray adhesive..then I'd use modge podge(decoupage) to finish them. The modge podge didn't really work out very well, so I switched over to epoxy resin...expensive but worth it. Testing out different techniques and materials for the sides and control panel were probably the most time-consuming process as I was learning as I went.
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    Same process for the sides. Epoxy resin over cheap posters. I actually sketchup to get a rough idea of how the design of the poster would fit onto my side panels so I wouldn't like...be cutting off Iron Mans head or something like that. I'd estimate that each side probably cost me about $5 in resin plus whatever the poster cost($5-12 each). I'm pretty happy with the results, even if there are a few beginner mistakes that I'll always see even though nobody else probably will.
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    Here's one area where I kinda messed up. The frame around the marquee is really thick, and blocks a good 5/8" of light around the edges. When I first installed the marquee graphic, a big portion of it is cut off and it looked like trash. So I ripped this whole marquee frame out and replaced it with two small cleats. It's not the cleanest look, but frankly..for a bunch of kids ranging from like 7-13...I'm fine with it.
    ![alt text](ceefb529-0e5c-41c5-bcb0-88cefbda5250-image.png image url)

    Marquees installed and tested. I made the right one from scratch, but then due to time limitations, just slapped the family name on the top of the Star Wars marquee. My bro is a pretty accomplished artist so I'm kinda hoping he just replaces the marquee art once his family gets this thing.
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    These are the speakers I used. $10 for 2 of 'em from Amazon. They're great. I had originally purchased some cheapos from China that took months to arrive and sounded like a chair fart. If you need 2" speakers, you can do a lot worse than these.
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    A poor shot of the amp. It's like a $5 3W+3W jobber from Amazon with a volume pot already installed. It's plenty loud, but it's designed for a panel mount, meaning my 1/2" MDF was too thick. Did a messy route job and globbed on the hot glue to hold it in place. A piece of guitar pickguard keeps everything clean on the other side. The volume is just below the main control board to the right of the trackball.
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    Felt like the USB-powered LED strip I used for the marquee wasn't bright enough, so added some regular kitchen foil to brighten it up a bit.
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    Another screwup on my part...I had some bezel graphics I found online printed out..but I accidentally had them printed on the same rigid film that I used for the marquees, so wrapping them around the bezel was a nightmare and I eventually trashed 'em and just used flat black drawer liner material. You can see some of the guts on this as well. In hindsight I would have put the Pi on the other side and did a better job of where I put the power outlet.
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    And here's the 98% complete product. I still have speaker grills on the way and want to put a small frame around the plexiglass marquee to clean that up. It's far from perfect, and I'm struggling with the software setup(mainly the trackball), but I'll keep plugging away. Thanks for reading! Glad to post more pics or answer questions if anyone is interested.
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  • @Speerdo these look absolutely phenomenal. It is a real shame about the bezels. Would have been nice to be able to use them. The resin epoxy was an awesome idea. Added a nice protective gloss to it.



  • @pimpmaul69 Thanks! Yeah, I'm considering getting some new bezels and just adhering them to the outside of the plexiglass. Just a series of basic stickers, one for each side, top, and bottom. Then I can just have them shipped to my bro(lives in another city) and he can install them himself.

    Epoxy resin is a ton of fun. It takes a lil trial and error to get good at it, but yeah...the gloss is second to none. I've already used it on a desk and a bathroom vanity as well. I might be addicted. lol



  • Very very cool..
    im trying to build retro , without the ball tho.
    i really like your way of "trouble killing"
    to little light behind the marquee---- instead of big expensive stuff------ foil , simple and cool
    amplifier , allthough its meant for panel mount just a simple cutout and hotmelt did the job
    epoxy covered sideart , ( my favorite ) cheap and scratch-resistant etc-etc ..
    i ran into the same issue with the bezel.. lol.. so skipped that one too.
    i ordered epoxy because of two reasons.

    1. i didnt want to pay big cash for side arts.
    2. and i work with resin and fiberglass daily ( not epoxy tho )
      i did a few tests , with bad result tho :-(
      how did you make sure the resin stayed on top of your print ?
      how did you prevent the print from "lifting" at the edges ?
      how did you level the resin ? with a heating gun ?


  • @Speerdo Fantastic results! I agree, Sketchup is great but I have recently moved to

    which is also free. Have a look at this thread for your trackball configs and if you get stuck, post a question in the support page. https://retropie.org.uk/docs/Spinners,-Trackballs,-Lightguns,-and-other-Mouse-Devices/



  • What a wonderful work.



  • @kalliw The resin is tricky. So here's all I can offer as far as tips and tricks that hopefully help you along the way. Keep in mind, I'm far from an expert. :-)

    I use spray adhesive to attach the poster to the piece. I made sure to get plenty of coverage around the edges to avoid peel-ups down the road, but they did happen. Masking tape just barely attached solved that issue..even with wet resin. As long as you just barely attach it, it shouldn't show too much. Also, if it does leave a lil notch or mark in the resin...you can just mix a tiny amount of resin and pour over it to cover it up. More resin is great at fixing imperfections.

    I didn't really have to level the resin..it does a good job of doing that on it's own as long as you use enough to cover the piece you're working on, and your work surface is level. I did use a heat gun, but it was more for popping air bubbles trapped in the resin.

    In hindsight, I'd say the most important things when doing resin are...

    1. get your mix as perfectly 50/50. When doing this, I find that it's easier to make micro adjustments with the hardener instead of the resin since the resin is so thick. In other words, pour the resin first, then match the thinner hardener to that volume.
    2. I didn't take the instructions seriously when they said mix for 5 minutes. My first test pour showed that was a mistake on my part. Take the time to mix. If you don't, the resin will never cure and it'll be tacky forever.
    3. Start in the middle of your piece and avoid the edges until you get good coverage everywhere else. I used a mini foam paint roller and would stay about an inch from the edges until I had the whole thing covered. Only then would I go back and inch my way up to the edge ,trying not to spill too much over the edge. I used a chisel to knock off any thick blobs that had dripped over.
    4. You can sand resin and then pour more over the top, so if you have issues with your first pour...have no fear...you can just sand it down. It'll look like crap during the sanding, but once you pour fresh resin over the top it'll get that nice glass look again.

    Good luck! Would love to see pics if you do a cab with epoxy.



  • @rbaker Nice! I used Autodesk Inventor, Solidworks and a few others back about 10 years ago in college. I really need to revisit Fusion 360. I've just gotten so used to Sketchup for home improvement projects. In your experience, what benefits does Fusion 360 bring to the table over Sketchup?



  • @Speerdo DUDE! These look fantastic! Great Christmas presents!



  • @Speerdo The ability to do curves and edit designs instantly then everything else updates itself on the screen.



  • @rbaker Right on. What's the term for that again? Parametric modelling? Sketchup does get a lil annoying when you've got geometry layered onto geometry and then you go and change one little thing and now you've got 17 other pieces you have to adjust manually. I'm gonna download it right now and give it a go.

    Thanks for all the kind words all! Will update once the kiddos get the finished products. :-)



  • @Speerdo my experience with epoxy is related to work, but 98% of the time its with resin ( polyester). and only 2% epoxy. but i know some of the "problems" with epoxy.
    not all is mixed 50/50 ( depends on the type ) BUT its important to always mix it exactly as prescribed ( mixing ratio ) and to mix very very good.. 5 minutes sounds of much , but trust me its not.
    further more if the epoxy seems "thick" a little trick is to put the bucket in hot water, this way you "thin" it a little..

    regarding the bezel.. be carefull if you use spray adhesive, i did it on my control-bord.
    i sprayed it on top of the panel ( made of wood) and put my print on top of that and made sure it was nice and smooth, then put my 5 millimeter plexiplate on top, some of the glue passed through the paper and ended on the plexi-plate, it made the plexi look blurry/sanded and the printn wasnt pretty in those areas.



  • @kalliw Excellent tip on the hot water. I've seen them do that with hide glue in guitar building. I will keep that in mind next epoxy pour.

    I hear ya on the adhesive. I actually had that happen when I was testing out the decoupage. A gal at work told me to use the decoupage as the adhesive under the poster, then also as the clear out over the top. It saturated the poster and caused it to ripple. So yeah, good point on not using too much spray adhesive. I also will let it sit there exposed to the air for a few minutes to let it get really tacky and a dry out a bit. Only problem with this is...you pretty much have to get the poster in the perfect position on the first placement as there's no removing it.

    One of those posters I originally ordered for the control panel was also some sort of weird nylon fabric mesh. I didn't realize this when I ordered it, and it didn't work out well. It curled very very easily when I came back over the epoxy with the heat gun, and when it did that it exposed unprinted white edges that just looked really really bad.

    Here's what that control panel looked like before I tossed it and started over. I loved this graphic more than the other Star Wars one, but alas I couldn't find this print on regular paper at this size. alt text

    Here's that 12-foot desk that I also used epoxy to finish. There was no way I was gonna level this with sanding or other techniques. Epoxy was a lifesaver on this project...albeit an expensive one(about $100 worth).
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  • I wanna know if the gifts was a success? :)



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