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It’s the 30th Anniversary of Robotron, the perfect time to revive a pair of cabinets. (Robotron restoration pt 1)

robotron arcade game

I’ve been hanging on to this old Robotron cabinet forever. I inherited the cab when a good friend moved out of state and didn’t want to take it with him. It was a project that I figured I’d get around to one day, well one day ended up being almost ten years, yikes! It wasn’t until another collector suggested that I restore his cabinet at the same time that I got motivated. He’d cover materials and I’d finally get the project underway, so what the heck. I prefer to restore multiples of the same cabinet anyway, it makes for efficient use of time and materials. The cool thing is that this restoration project coincides with the 30th anniversary of Eugene Jarvis’ classic Williams arcade game. I’ll have to do a good job!

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I removed all the useful parts from the cabinets for later in the restoration process and put them aside in plastic totes. The empty cabs get stacked on my rolling work horses which makes it easy to work and move them around as necessary, without lifting them off stationary horses. The plan was to repair the bottom of each cab one side at a time and then prep the cabs for a coat of primer. I had attempted to square up the bottom of my cabinet with bondo, but it wasn’t working out so well. I get better results replacing the ratty wood at the bottom and decided I would go that route with both cabs. It makes a nice solid repair. My cabinet had already been sanded down, but the other cab had been painted and converted to Tetris. Blasphemy. The paint and side art would have to go. Citri Strip works wonders and after one coat the majority of the paint and art was gone. While it may have been possible to save the original artwork, I’ve never been that lucky and I already had a couple sets of Robotron stencils ready to go.

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I lined up the cutting board and proceeded to remove the bottom edge from the converted cab with a circular saw. I then cut a new piece of birch plywood to size and used a dado blade in my table saw to create the grooves. While this worked OK, it left a lot of awkward gaps that would require bondo. I prefer to do the bondo repairs on a nice flat, open area. I opted to cut off the rabbit on the cabinet and just go with a flat surface. This would make it easier to get the biscuit cutter into place. A few biscuits, some glue and a nice new piece of plywood make a solid repair. I chamfered the edges of the new piece to make a nice slot for the bondo. I would do this on all four cabinet sides. I also wire brushed the loose wood from the front edge of the cabinet and then started the repair work. It’s easier to sand the corner area when part of the bottom is missing, so might as well get it done.

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After a little more bondo work, I did a dry test fit of the new piece and once I was satisfied, glued it in place. The big metal cylinder is to help keep the piece from drifting up as it dries. I let it dry overnight and then pulled the clamps. I had a rock solid bottom edge now. A little more bondo and it was time to move on to the next cab. I’ll prep both cabs the same way and get them ready for a coat of primer. Until next time, game on!

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