Gaming Rack Design and Construction

I have collected a number of gaming systems throughout my life and there is little point in having them if they sit in a box or using them takes an annoying level of set-up time, making it fun prohibitive. I was then inspired by Perifractic Retro Recipes video where the computer museum has everything so nicely laid out. I looked at my mess and decided that I had to do something about it because my arrangement just isn’t presentable.

The Search

Started my search online and did not find anything that met my needs. I went to a few local stores, websites and found nothing that met my specifications. They were all made of particle board and not deep enough to house the consoles appropriately. Additionally, they all had closed backs which would have a negative effect on thermal ventilation of the various machines. I also didn’t like the price point on most of my options. I also didn’t want buyer’s remorse in any of this. To spend anything and be less than satisfied with it is not acceptable.

Design

I set out to design the Gaming Rack, initially on paper, then using Fusion 360, installed on my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine. I initially set out to have it exactly 24 inches wide on each shelf and about 12 inches between each shelf. With this width, I would be able to put all the machines designated on this custom piece of furniture.

I decided that the machines I wanted to house in this was my Linux Media computer, Original Xbox that was “modded” by YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer, Playstation 3, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Game Cube. Another machine that is on order that will occupy this shelf is a “The C64 Maxi” which is a modern release of the system. More information about it can be gained from The 8-bit Guy’s YouTube video on it.

My next step was to use a spreadsheet application, LibreOffice Calc, to create a BOM or Bill Of Material so I knew my material costs. This is where I discovered a flaw in the design and set out to change a few dimensions. Firstly, making each shelf 24 inches wide would mean that the top and bottom would have to be approximately 25-½ inches wide which means, I would either have to reduce the number of shelves or have additional waste. I also have to keep in mind the kerf of the blade or the width of cut produced by the blade. Each pass through a board will cut into dust about 1/8″ or about 3.2mm. Stain grade planks are not as cheap as construction lumber so in order to control costs, I reduced the width of the shelf by 1-½ inches which had no affect on usability. I also updated the CAD accordingly as that was going to be my source of truth for the construction. I also updated my bill of material accordingly.

I thought about how I wanted to use this Gaming Rack. I made it my intention to be able to easily switch between each of the game systems. I decided that the best way forward was to use HDMI switching which also meant I had to get some adapters to output HDMI for the GameCube and Nintendo 64. I found these online and ordered them.  Next I had to determine how I was going to wire this all up. The easy one was the Linux Box as I could take advantage of the SVGA input as it has been that way, the Xbox will get an “AV Input” and the rest will be on HDMI which means I needed a 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box.

I also wanted to have an auxiliary monitor so that I would have the option of utilizing two different machines at once. This can be done by getting 1-in/2-out HDMI splitters and having a 2nd 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box. What could go wrong?

Construction

I purchased the materials and got right to work. I set up my laptop, using Fusion 360 to be my source of design truth. I would create a drawing from the model but the unfortunate reality to using Fusion 360 on Linux is the inability to use the drawing module, at this time. Hopefully, one day, it will be fixed.

After cutting the planks I realized I had enough wood for an extra shelf and decided to revise the design, originally I anticipated that I would mess up and needed the “insurance policy” of extra wood. This prompted me to rework the design by adding one more shelf. Instead of all shelves being fixed, I then decided to leave one fixed near the center and make the rest adjustable by drilling blind holes, using shelf support pegs for 5 out of the 7 shelves (the bottom shelf is still a shelf).

Adjusted the lower three levels to be smaller but large enough to easily accommodate DVD sized cases so games can be stored. The bottom shelf was made to be large enough to easily house the tablets, phones and mobile gaming devices.

Laid out and drilled the blind holes in the 72″ long vertical boards to accommodate the shelf support pegs in groupings of three. Where ever the shelf was measured out, I added a set of holes above and below by 1 inch (25.4mm), to give me the option of moving a shelf up or down as needed.

I fastened together the top, bottom and middle fixed boards. Initially using finishing nails to pin the parts together and using construction screws to hold it together. All holes were pre-drilled to reduce the possibility of splitting the wood.

Once together, I test fit the assembly and placed the system on it to see if I needed to make any changes in spacing of the shelves. Discovered the bottom adjustable shelf was made with an error.

My initial thought was not to stain or polyurethane it and just put it in its place and start using it. Then I stained it thinking that I am not going to seal it. Decided, since I had the polyurethane, I would just do one coat and that’s it. After my second coat, I decided I would sand and apply a third. I let it dry for 24 hours, as the instructions recommended on the back of the can.

Employment

After moving aside the “entertainment cabinet” over by 2 feet, I placed the systems and ran the HDMI cabling, to include the 1 to 2 splitters. I used cable ties to keep things as neat I could with the level of patience I had available. The power cables were routed on the opposite side of the shelf to reduce the potential for interference with video signals. It is probably not an issue but it doesn’t hurt either.

When operating the Nintendo Switch I discovered it doesn’t seem to like having its video output split and seems to have a bit of an issue with the 5-in/1-out switch.

Still waiting on my The C64 Maxi so 4 of the 5 slots are taken and am just a bit unsure where I am going to set the system as one of the shelves is acting as a place to keep the extra USB cables and such.

Evaluation

In order to make an objective evaluation of this project, I will draw from another occupation I have and use this idea that I can evaluate this on my measures of performance, or how well I made it and measures of effectiveness, how well it actually does its job.

On the Measures of Performance, I would say I am mostly happy with it. It looks nice enough and I am glad I stained and sealed it. Does it look as nice as Perifractic’s retro museum? No, not even close. something about how his machines are presented looks far better. To evaluate my other silly furniture building, like my stand up desk, this looks much nicer and not something thrown together by a scrapper or scavenger.

To evaluate the effectiveness of this, I would say it met or exceeded expectations. It is the best setup I have seen first hand that allows for easy switching between devices. I would say, it maximizes my fun and reduces wasted time of plugging in and switching things on the TV for a little bit of entertainment.

What would I change

As far as the construction of the cabinet, I think I might have added some metal brackets to stiffen the cabinet a bit. It’s not bad but could be more ridged. Where it is positioned, it is not an issue but if it were not in a corner, it could be.

After having used this a new piece of furniture for a short while, the changes I would make would be to add another shelf, which could still be done and some sort of lighting, which also could yet be added.

I would really have liked not making the the mistake with the hole placement on the bottom adjustable shelf. It doesn’t affect my usage, it just annoys me that I made such a bone-headed mistake. I guess it makes it unique but that is a poor excuse.

Final Thoughts

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. I’m not yet sure how I am going to place The C64 Maxi when it arrives, perhaps adding one more shelf would just above the location of the Xbox would be the best location.

I have provided the CAD data and bill of material for you to use as it suits you.

I’m not going to pretend for a moment that this particular layout is universally a good design. It is 72 inches or 6 feet tall… 1830 mm tall for the rest of the world. I needed an open back design which may not be universally visually appealing.

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. It adds a little order to my chaos and gives a home to some consoles and other devices. The benefit of giving things a place does help to keep things a bit more tidy. Hopefully this inspires you to make improvements in your world.

References

Perifractic Retro Recipes YouTube Channel
The 8-Bit Guy’s YouTube Video on The C64 Maxi
8-bit Show and Tell on The C64 Maxi
Modern Vintage Gamer
https://retrogames.biz/

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