Cocktail Arcade Cabinet Build: Part 7 - Applying the Vinyl

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Close up of the sticky-back vinyl Another close up of the sticky-back vinyl A single piece of sticky-back vinyl installed

Applying the sticky-back vinyl covering to the cabinet was very simple but time consuming process. We spray-painted the cabinet around all the edges just in case the particleboard was visible anywhere between the vinyl and the t-molding.

All we had to do was clean the surface, peel off part of the backing, and press it down onto the surface. We slowly peeled off the backing as we were applying more and more of the vinyl from one end of the surface to the other while being careful not to create any bubbles or creases.

After each piece was glued into place, we had to trim around the edges with a razor blade. You have to make sure that the vinyl is flush with the edge of the board. If there is any overhanging vinyl, it will be very obvious once the t-molding is put in place.

How Does it Look?

It looks very good. At this point I think it was well worth the time, effort, and money to go with the vinyl. It looks right and it feels like it belongs in an arcade.

Poor Planning

I didn’t order quite enough vinyl… I’m pretty sure I forgot that we had to vinyl both sides of the board on the outsides of the cabinet. My poor planning actually forced us to improve the looks of the cabinet quite a bit. We decided to cover the back wall of each control panel with a piece of blackened plexiglas. The plexiglas looks much, much better back there than the vinyl would. It has a lot more depth back there now; you can see the reflection of the buttons and joystick on the back wall now.

Alternatives to Vinyl

I really like the way the cabinet looks with the vinyl and I am glad we used it. We’ve been trying to think up a good alternative. The vinyl is expensive, partly because of the high shipping costs. The vinyl alone was probably almost 20% of the cost of the entire cabinet. Applying the vinyl to the cabinet was a pretty time-consuming process. I’m pretty sure it took us more than two full evenings to finish. That’s probably over 6 hours.

The best alternative we’ve come up with so far is melamine board from Home Depot.

We used two 4’x8’ sheets of 5/8” particleboard to build the cabinet at a cost of about $17 per sheet. It took about $90 worth of vinyl, including the cost of shipping, to cover the cabinet. If we wanted a white cabinet we could have saved about $50 and 6 hours.

Melamine is a plastic. I recently used vinyl dye to color my LCD monitor stand and laptop rack, and I would expect vinyl dye to cover melamine just as fully and easily as it covers PVC pipe.

Vinyl dye costs about $6 per can. I’m pretty certain we could dye an entire melamine cocktail cabinet with less than two cans of spray paint, and I am absolutely certain it would take way less than 6 hours.