An awesome custom marquee can really make your arcade stand out from the rest of the pack, especially if you do something unique and outside the standard marquee styles. In this article I’m going to go over the steps you need to take in order to create your own custom arcade marquee, and some tips on making it look awesome.
What you need
X-acto knife, spray adhesive, painter’s tape. I got my marquee at these guys and cut out A LIST ARCADE MARQUEES to replace it with my own text. It fits pretty tightly on there so you don’t need a ton of modding skills. You can also get your own custom one made from here . You will also want to find some sort of case for your marquee or just set it up in your game room somewhere. You can get them here or if you have a local electronics store nearby they might have some as well. If not, eBay is always a good option as well! A few notes: The arcade marquee is going to be what really sets your cabinet apart from others that are just using a generic JAMMA harness like most cabinets use today.
Cut the wood
To make your own Custom Marquee, you’ll need a thin piece of plywood or hardboard at least two feet wide. You can find these at most big-box hardware stores, and they should run less than $10. Just be sure to pick up plenty of extra; cutting marquees is easier if you have plenty of material to work with. Then, grab a set of woodworking tools—you don’t need anything fancy here—and get ready to cut. (For more detailed instructions on how to cut your own wood marquees, check out our guide.) The sign: After you’ve got your base sorted out, it’s time to put together your final design. This will depend on what type of arcade machine you want to build a marquee for. If it uses an LCD monitor like modern arcade games do, then all you really need is some printer paper and cardstock that are colored black so that they match your monitor.
Stain your wood
To make your own Custom Marquee, you’ll need a tabletop surface and wood of your choosing. Some arcade builders prefer real mahogany while others opt for plywood made of birch or beech. Once you’ve selected your wood, grab a bucket and apply Minwax stain. Wipe off excess stain with a damp rag, then let it dry overnight. The next day, sand down your wood until smooth. The more time you take sanding down your wood, the smoother and better-looking your final product will be. If desired, add a few coats of polyurethane to give your marquee that nice glossy look that most arcade cabinets have on them. If you plan on adding any LED lights (and why wouldn’t you?), cut out holes in which they can fit into place before moving onto step #5!
Attach the wood boards
Attach a couple of wood boards (about 1/4 inch thick) onto your arcade marquee. These will be your handles and will be used in order to transport it. They can be square or rectangular, but should always measure around 5 inches by 2 inches. Drill holes into them so you can screw them onto your marquee. This should also help stabilize it while you’re using it on location if necessary. Use at least four screws per handle—the more, the better. You don’t want these coming off! 1) Cut two pieces of 3/4-inch plywood or MDF board to fit inside your Custom Marquee frame with at least 1-inch clearance from all sides and corners. Measure twice before cutting once! Use these as handles when transporting your cabinet.
You’ll need three items: a multi-game marquee, as many arcade buttons and joysticks as you’d like, and a computer. All of these will be available at various retailers online, or at gaming and hobby stores near you. After you get your gear home, unscrew and detach everything from their original housing—you won’t need it anymore. Then, mount all of your new controls in whatever way works best for you. For example, if using a multicade marquee with built-in USB ports, plug in all of your controls (joystick on one port, button on another) before mounting them to your case. If not using a multi-game unit, make sure you have enough USB ports on your computer before purchasing additional hardware; otherwise, buy an expansion card that fits into one of its PCI slots.
Install light fixtures
In order to make your marquee shine, you’ll need some lights. This can get a little tricky if you’re not comfortable with a soldering iron, but it’s not rocket science. Installing lighting is more art than science: You can either wire them directly into your circuit or install them in wall sockets so they plug into a power strip. Either way, you’ll want to be sure there are no exposed wires and that all of your connections are secure. If you have any doubts about doing electrical work yourself, consult a professional before proceeding.
Cut panels for graphics
If you’re going with a shorter Custom Marquee, you can probably get away with a little less work. Simply cut two pieces of 1/4 medium density fiberboard (MDF) board at 47 3/4 x 19 5/16 and two more pieces at 38 3/8 x 19 5/16. These will be your base panels. Then, cut one piece of MDF at 34 1/2 x 18 13/16—this is your top panel. Cut another piece of MDF at 35 7/8 x 17 7/8—this is your bottom panel.