Building your own Control Panel (CP) is a great way to experience classic games on MAME.

Parts list

Defender and Joust require leaf buttons for optimal play

USB Keyboard Interface, it integrates your computer and the arcade controls



  • In the US we would call it a 1 x 10 x 3ft.  Which means a pine board 3/4 inch thick, 9-1/4 inch wide, and 3 feet long.  You will have to plan accordingly to what is available in your region.
  • The 3/4 inch thickness makes for a decent Defender joystick height, out of the short zippyy stick…. but you may prefer a thinner board, or longer joystick shaft.  It is personal preference, no right answers.

Drilling holes-

  • Minimally you need a drill and a 1-1/8th inch spade (paddle) bit.  Using a drill press is optimal, if available
  • When drilling take your time and stop at the last 1/4 inch of hole, flip the board over and drill through, to avoid ripping out the wood around the hole
  • 3/8th inch sheet metal screws will secure the joystick bases to the board
  • Note- the 1-1/8th inch diameter drill bit is crucial to proper fitting of the buttons, and also allows proper clearance for the joystick shaft movement
  • Safety tip- Depending on the torque of your drill, if that spade bit grabs it’ll yank that drill out of your hand with surprising force, potentially breaking or spraining something you don’t want.  Be safe and get help from a carpenter friend if you have any hesitation about what you are doing.


Although pricey, a 1-1/8″ hole saw makes for very clean work.

  • Drill only slightly more than halfway through wood then drill other side to avoid wood plug getting stuck in chamber
  • for drilling plexiglass. use an old soldering iron to create a hole slightly larger than the drillbit, then drill backwards to melt the hole slowly.  This avoids cracking plexiglass
  • If using plexi over wood, clamp them together and drill a small starter hole through both which will preserve exact line-up of the final holes.
  • Use dremel to clean-up edges of holes.

Designing a Layout

Choose a layout to fit YOUR own needs. Lay it out before making any holes.  Ergonomics are important for the feel of the final product, take the time to make it feel right for YOU…and the joystick bases being used….and the physical space you have available on desktop…..

Defender panel-

2014 UPDATE- This is the best/final solution I came up with for most comfortable play ergonomics


Robo-fender CP:  Robotron-Defender-Stargate specialty panel (can play any other mame games, too)

Plan for the proper distance from the reverse button to the joystick. approx. 2 inches

Putting it all together

Bottom side layed out, ready for wiring

Wiring it up- I cut wires from a $10 Jamma HarnessRobo-fender CP pictured

  • IMPORTANT- Each button and joystick switch must be connected to a ground wire!
  • You can use a daisy chain of ground wires, like found on a jamma harness, and connect to just 1 ground slot on the ipac.

Close up view of an Ultimarc Ipac VE

Trying it out- Williams games need three buttons to adjust settings, which you see on right side. (Advance/Auto-up/High Score Reset)

  • I used the last four Player 2 button slots on the ipac which allowed for the 3 setting buttons and a pause button.  But again it is personal choice on what you wish to setup.

Robo-fender panel test – Youtube

Defender Panel test – Youtube

Retrofitting original pinball style buttons-

  • Bob Roberts still sells original williams e-clip buttons in the longer version, see green button. If you have some old leaf holders they can be sanded down which removes need to route panel down. Bob also sells re-popped leaf holders in the thinner model.  NOTE- Both the holder and longer buttons can be salvaged from forgotten arcade control panels!  This is highly recommended for the heavy traffic buttons on Defender/Stargate- reverse-fire-thrust.


Getting fancy with graphics, if you want to get detailed


Dimensions taken from a real Robotron control panel (David Gomez)


300dpi example from Jim Bowley


Bootleg Control Panel-

Example from Japan-

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