Here are some resources I've found helpful while building my cabinet.
Contacting the author
I encourage you to use the
for most support-type questions. The forums have
the advantage that other people might be able to answer before I see
the question, so you might get an answer more quickly. The other plus
is that the public discussion might help other people who have similar
If you don't want to post the question publicly for some reason, you
can send me a private messages (PM) on
. My ID there is
Other build guides
- Major Frenchy's Mame in a Box
offers a large set of video tutorials on building pin cabs. Its goal
is to be a comprehensive build guide like this one, including
a lot of material in video format.
- Pinball Electrical 101
by Maxxsinner. This is one of the first guides to wiring common I/O devices
in a pin cab, primarily buttons and feedback devices. This guide
is quite old and out of date at this point, and many of its ideas
have been superseded by better and more modern ways of doing things,
so I wouldn't use it as a blueprint for a new build. I'm mentioning it mostly
for historical reference, since it was highly influential in the
early days and had some great ideas that led us to where we are now.
There are a number of Web forums dedicated to virtual cab building.
These are good places to seek help with general questions on your
build, and to connect with other virtual pinball enthusiasts.
- VP Forums >
Pinball Cabinets forum. I read this one regularly and try to help
out with questions when I can (Pinscape-related and otherwise). This
is the most active of the cab-focused forums I frequent. It has a
broad membership, a fair number of whom are long-time members with a
lot of pin cab experience. Technical questions posted here usually
get prompt and helpful replies.
- VP Universe >
Cabinet Discussion. This is another good cab
builder forum. It has more of a DIY bent than VP Forums,
which you'd think would make it a better fit for my projects, but I
have to admit that I don't keep up with this one as much as VPF.
- Pinside. This is a forum site
for people who collect real pinball machines, so don't go here
for help setting up Visual Pinball or an electronic plunger. Even so,
the real pinball sites can still be interesting to visit, because
virtual cabs do have some things in common with the real ones,
particularly in the physical construction of the cabinet. Pinside can
also be a great resource if you're working on a Visual Pinball
re-creation of a particular table. It's a good bet that you can
connect there with collectors who own the table you're working on, and
they might be able to answer questions about the finer points of that
game's operation, send you closeup photos of playfield parts, etc.
Pinball cabinet bodies, pre-built and kits
- VirtuaPin sells everything from
individual replacement parts to complete, fully assembled, fully
operational virtual pinball machines. They have an especially good
selection of parts and kits for DIYers. Notably, they sell "flat
pack" cabinet kits, with all of the wood for a cab pre-cut, routed,
mitered, and ready to assemble: kind of like an Ikea bookshelf without
the ümlauts. They also offer fully assembled (empty) cabinets.
They use quality materials and computer-controlled cutting, and let
you customize the standard plans if you have something unusual in mind
(e.g., non-standard dimensions to fit a specific monitor). Their
standard cab kits are faithful replicas of the Williams/Bally
1990s cabinet design, which in my opinion is the gold standard. I used a
VirtuaPin flat pack as the basis for my own machine and couldn't be
happier with it.
Pinball cabinet artwork - design
- Stuzza on
VP Forums has long been designing custom cabinet artwork for other
forum members. You can commission a custom project through him
for a fee. He doesn't do the printing, just the
graphic design work, providing the artwork in digital form ready for
printing. He also has a large collection of past work that he makes
available for free.
- VirtuaPin offers custom graphic design
services for a fee. They also offer several ready-made themes of their own
design, as well as licensed reproductions of the original artwork from several
real pinball machines.
Pinball cabinet artwork - printing
- Brad Bowman a/k/a Lucian045 on VP Universe
offers custom decal printing for pin cabs. Brad has a unique combination of
skills for this, because he not only runs a print shop, but also happens
to be a long-time virtual cab enthusiast himself.
Brad offers special pricing to pin cab builders in his
VP Universe thread.
Brad printed the decals for my own machine; he was great to work with and
the print work was top notch. I was also greatly impressed by the
materials he uses. I read a lot of horror stories before building my cab
about how difficult it is to install decals properly, but the media that Brad
uses are easy to work with. Brad's
standard package is for the main cabinet and backbox, but he was able to do my
speaker panel and translite art as custom add-ons.
- VirtuaPin also offers custom
decal printing. VirtuaPin's standard package is for the main cabinet and
backbox art, and they have add-on options for speaker panels and
- GameOnGrafix.com offers
custom decal printing for arcade machines. They specialize mostly in
video game cabs, but they have a pinball package as well. Look for it
under the "customer designed" section.
Pinball cabinet hardware and other pinball parts
- VirtuaPin stocks most of the
essential cabinet hardware used in virtual cabs. They have some nice
bundle kits that are good deals and can save you a lot of time figuring
out which parts you need. Their selection is limited, but they have
good coverage for the most common virtual cab parts.
- Pinball Life is a parts
supplier for real pinball owners, which makes them a great place to
find authentic cabinet parts. They sell a wide range of replacement
parts for the real machines. I've ordered from them several times
(both for my real machines and my virtual cab) and have always had
good experiences. PBL's catalog is a good middle ground between
VirtuaPin's very targeted selection and Marco's almost too-big catalog.
- Marco Specialties is
another pinball parts supplier. I've ordered from Marco a few
times and recommend them. They have by far the biggest catalog of all of
the suppliers I've encountered. So big that it's almost too big!
It's so big that it can be difficult to find what you're
looking for. But by the same token, if you need something obscure,
this is often the only place to find it. Tip: if a search on
the Marco site turns up so many hits that your eyes are glazing
over scrolling through the results, try a Google search for Marco Specialties
plus what you're looking for. Google tends to be better at finding
the most relevant matches, so it might get you to the right product page
quicker. Also, if possible, search by part number, since more generic
keyword searches can turn up so many hits, and since the Marco product
listings don't always use the same keywords you're expecting.
- Planetary Pinball Supply,
yet another pinball parts vendor. PPS mostly stocks specialty parts
for machines from the 1990s and later, with better coverage for later
models. They don't seem to have nearly
the same catalog depth as Marco, but what they have in stock often
seems to be somewhat complementary to Marco: if it's a reasonably
common part and Marco doesn't have it on hand, try PPS, and vice
- SuzoHapp is a giant manufacturer
of parts for all things coin-operated, which incidentally includes
pinball machines. They're the original manufacturer for a lot of the
standard parts that Williams and Stern used. They make a lot of
the basic parts you find in common across machines, such as buttons,
trim, coin doors, and so on. The pinball suppliers above resell a lot
of SuzoHapp's pinball-related parts, but it can be worth checking
SuzoHapp's site as well, because they sometimes offer additional
variations of the parts that the pinball supplier sites don't sell.
- Bolt Depot is a great source
for fasteners. If you haven't built a pin cab before, you're probably
thinking that nuts and bolts are just an afterthought and that you can
pick up what you need at Home Depot. But pin cabs actually use a lot
of weird specialty fasteners that can be tough to find.
There's nothing pinball-specific about Bolt Depot, but I'm including
them in the Cabinet Hardware section because they turned out to be a
great source for most of the obscure nuts and bolts I couldn't find
at my local big-box stores.
- eBay is great for some things,
but it's definitely not the first place I'd look for pinball parts.
The main reason is price. There seem to be a lot of price gougers
on eBay when it comes to pinball parts. I've seen many cases where the
price for a shiny, brand-new part from Pinball Life or Marco
Specialties is less than the eBay price for the same part in a rusty,
beat-up, old used version. Even so, some virtual cab builders have
gotten lucky with great deals on eBay, so it can be worth doing some
comparison shopping there as you compile your parts lists. eBay
is a good option - sometimes the only option - for out-of-production parts that the suppliers
no longer carry. For example, chime units from the 1970s are all but
impossible to find anywhere else.
Special-purpose electronics for virtual pinball
Given how obscure a hobby this is, it's kind of amazing how many
commercial products are available for it. Here are some of the specialized
products that cab builders often find useful.
- Zeb's Boards makes a number
of electronic devices specifically for virtual pin cabs, ranging from
add-ons and accessories for DIYers (LedWiz booster board, voltage
converters) to complete turn-key solutions for input and output
(plunger kit, feedback kit). Zeb's is well regarded for great
products and excellent customer service. (I'm a delighted customer of
- VirtuaPin sells a number of specialized
pin cab devices, including a plunger kit and DMD (dot matrix display) kits.
- Groovy Game Gear makes the
LedWiz, which is probably the most widely used device in pin cabs for
connecting feedback devices. They also make a key encoder device, and
sell lots of arcade game accessories like joysticks and buttons. Their
focus is actually DIY video arcade games rather than pinballs, but there's
obviously a lot of overlap between the two.
- Ultimarc is another company that
makes products for DIY video games that can cross over to
virtual pinball. Notable Ultimarc products include the PacLed output
controller devices (similar to the LedWiz) and the i-Pac key
encoder. They also sell controls like joysticks and buttons.
- Arnoz sells a number of
fully built circuit boards based loosely on the Pinscape Expansion Boards designs.
His system is modular, so you can buy what you need and add onto it as
you go. This is a great option if you want some of the
Expansion Board features but you don't want to build the boards yourself.
TVs and other general consumer electronics
I probably don't need to mention any of these unless you
time-traveled here from 1972, but then again, maybe you did; pinball is an anachronistic
sort of hobby... Very briefly, a few places to look for your
cabinet TVs and other basic consumer electronics:
As with the consumer electronics, you probably already know the right
places to go for PC components. But for the sake of completeness:
Electronic parts and components
- Mouser Electronics is my go-to
Web retailer for electronics. Mouser is a major electronics
distributor that carries a staggering range of components. They have just
about everything electronic you could ever need, and their product
pages have excellent technical detail and links to manufacturer
data sheets and documentation. Their
prices are moderate: generally lower than buying the same thing from a
general retailer like Amazon (when you can find it there
at all), but generally higher then buying from the cheapest sellers on
eBay (again, if you can even find it there). One of Mouser's great
features is their careful packaging for loose parts: everything gets
wrapped in clearly labeled zip-lock bags, so you can easily tell the
100-ohm resistors from the 1K resistors without having to read the
color-stripe codes. Mouser's only downside is also one of their big
virtues: that their catalog is so huge. The vast number of parts they
stock can make it hard to find things, even with their excellent
parametric search system. Fortunately, you won't have
to do your own searches for most of the Pinscape parts, since we give
you exact part numbers for just about everything.
- DigiKey is another major
electronics distributor very much like Mouser. They have a similar
selection and similar prices.
- Newark is yet another
distributor. They also run the element14
community for electrical engineers and hobbyists, which has forums
and online articles related to electronics.
- eBay is a good place to find
some electronics. Anything you need in large quantities can be
a real bargain on eBay compared to buying from a regular retailer,
especially if you can find a Chinese warehouser selling it. The
downsides of eBay are (a) that eBay's search engine is just miserable
at finding generic parts like "100 ohm resistors", (b) only a very
limited selection of electronic parts are available at all, (c)
there's often no way to know the manufacturer or source of the parts,
so quality can be unpredictable, and (d) the listings don't tend to
give you the same level of detail you get on Mouser (e.g., the exact
size of the part). Despite all of those drawbacks, I've had good luck with generic parts
like MOSFETs and resistors - those can be much cheaper than buying
the equivalent name-brand parts from Mouser.
Custom circuit boards
- OSH Park is a US PCB maker that
specifically caters to hobbyists like us. They charge by square inch
of board space - as of this writing, $5/sq in, for three copies of the
board, with shipping included. That makes them a fantastic bargain
for small prototype boards. They also make it extremely easy to
order, by letting you upload an EAGLE .brd (board layout) file
directly (most of the other guys make you do some extra steps to
generate special CAD/CAM formats). And they're in the US, so if
you're also in the US, turnaround tends to be quick - you don't have
to wait for international shipping or customs clearance. The only
snag is that the per-square-inch pricing gets really expensive for
- elecrow.com is a Chinese
company that makes custom circuit boards in small batches (lots of 5
to 10 pieces) at bargain prices. Look under "Services" and "PCB
Prototyping" in their category list. I've been using them for group
orders of the Pinscape Expansion Boards, and all of the batches have
turned out well. The downside, if you're not in China, is that the
international shipping is expensive - more expensive than the
manufacturing cost in most cases. But the boards are cheap enough
that the overall price usually comes out to only about $2 to $3 per
board when ordering minimum lot sizes. Like most PCB makers, Elecrow
requires you to generate "Gerber" files (a special file format for
manufacturing use) rather than uploading the EAGLE design files
directly. That takes a little extra work and probably seems very
intimidating if you haven't done it before, but it's not actually all
that hard; the process is explained step-by-step in
Fabricating the Expansion Boards.
- PCB Shopper is a great
comparison site for PCB manufacturers. The site lets you enter
the details of your order, then provides quotes from a wide
range of vendors.
If you don't plan to buy a 3D printer at home, there are several
excellent online 3D-print services that you can send your design out
- All3DP is a shopping service for 3D
printing. Upload your design, and it'll give you price quotes from
multiple vendors for different materials and process options, with
direct ordering links. This has become the first place I check
because of the excellent price comparison engine.
- Shapeways has been my top
vendor for a long time because of their excellent materials and
reasonable prices for small jobs. I've had several items made here
with good results.
- 3D Hubs is another on-line 3D
print service. In the past, they were the "Über for 3D printing"
(connecting buyers with local sellers offering 3D printing services),
but lately (2019) they seem to have dropped that model and switched
to simply offering their own fabrication services.
The online services cost more than home printing in terms of
materials, but of course that doesn't count the cost of buying the
printer itself. Plus, the commercial vendors offer far superior
materials to what you can use in a home printer. Home printers mostly
use ABS and PLA, which are fine for prototyping, but not for
functional parts, since they're brittle and tend to disintegrate if
exposed to any friction. The commercial services offer nylon
materials (such as PA12 and PA11) that are much more durable. Many
also offer the newer MJF (multi-jet fusion) process, which seems to
produce particularly tough and durable parts. I'd highly recommend
considering MJF for any functional mechanical parts.
Custom laser cutting and CNC fabrication
- SendCutSend offers precision
laser cutting for metals, plastics, and other materials, and CNC
cutting for wood. They can also do custom bending of metal parts.
They do a really great job and their prices are
- Ponoko does custom laser
cutting of a wide range of materials, including plastics and metals. This is
a good option for custom flat plastic parts that require precision
cutting. I've used Ponoko for several projects, including the acrylic
face plate for my speaker/DMD panel, all with good results.
- TAP Plastics does laser
cutting, and they can also do straight cuts with conventional
equipment. The latter is a cheaper option for basic rectangular
pieces like a translite cover or apron cover. TAP has numerous store
locations on the west coast - if there's one in your area, you can
avoid shipping costs by visiting in person.
Software source code
Many of the core software components in a virtual pinball machine are
open source, meaning that the source code is published for anyone to
inspect, customize, and contribute to.
- Visual Pinball.
The leading open-source pinball simulator and table design tool.
- DirectOutput Framework (DOF).
System software that allows applications (Visual Pinball, PinballX)
to control feedback devices in the cabinet (lights, solenoids, etc).
- B2S Backglass.
Software that works with Visual Pinball to display animated backglass artwork,
with the animations synchronized to the game play.
- Pinscape controller.
KL25Z firmware for an all-in-one virtual pinball I/O controller, with
plunger sensing, button input, accelerometer nudge sensing, and feedback
- PinballY. A menu
system and game launcher (also known as a "front end") for virtual
pin cabs. This lets you browse your games, start games, and switch
between games using a graphical arcade-style UI rather than the
Windows desktop, to give your cab more of a finished arcade machine
feel and disguise the fact that it's a Windows PC under the covers.
In case you're wondering about some obvious omissions in the list
above, the following are not open-source: PinballX, HyperPin,
Future Pinball, and the online DOF config tool. Those are "freeware",
meaning there's no charge to use them, but their creators chose to
keep the source code secret. That might not matter to you if you
didn't want to see the source code, but I generally prefer using
open-source programs even then, because of the greater assurance that
the project can keep going if and when the original developer gets
bored of it and stops working on it.
Pinball table information
- IPDB (the Internet Pinball
Database) has detailed information on, and photos of, nearly all of
the commercial pinball machines ever made.
- vpforums has a collection of
resources useful for creating new virtual pinball tables,
such as playfield graphics, sound effect recordings, and 3D models of
playfield parts. Click "Design Resources" in the top navigation bar
for links to the various collections.