Building An Arcade Cabinet: About Halfway Through

So this Sunday, as Erin’s Father’s Day present to me, my daughter and I started making an arcade cabinet.  Which is intimidating; we had set up all the tools, but now we actually had to use them.

Our first issue was tracing the diagram on the board, which involved about an hour of careful measuring, and then cutting it out using our freshly-purchased jigsaw:

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We made several errors, but the biggest one was that frankly, never trust the blade that comes with the jigsaw. It was a tiny thing that left a very lopsided cut as we cut through the board on the lowest, slowest setting – which we thought was my poor skill. Once we got a better blade at Lowes, one that was recommended by another book, we discovered that hey, Erin’s a natural at this! Wait! Now I’m a natural! It worked!

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When that was all done, we completed the day with triumph:

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But I was bored and restless, since Gini wasn’t back and I didn’t feel like going out for a run – so instead, I sat down for another two hours in the workshop and made the base and monitor shelf.

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The next night, Gini helped me screw in the bases and shelves:

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Here was where I made the other major error: in trying to rush the shelf placement so as not to hurt Gini’s back (she was holding the monitor shelf at an awkward, disc-snapping angle), I rushed it and now the shelf’s a little tilted. We’ll fix that in-cabinet, but it just proves that really, you should take your time.

And last night, I had an absolute panic attack. I went shopping for food, and while getting some Omega-3 healthy eggs, I looked at the chocolate chip cookie dough. And I realized: I couldn’t have that. Ever. No more would I just have a bad evening where I could tank up on cookie dough, or Entenmann’s chocolate cake, or just Ben and Jerry’s… whole worlds of food closed off to me. And then I thought of my job’s schedule-tightening where I’m no longer free to switch my hours around, and this just all seemed so overwhelming, all the things I couldn’t do any more, and…

…wham. Panic attack.

I didn’t know what to do, aside from crying and holding Gini, so… I went out into the garage to work some more on the cabinet. And you know what? It worked. I can’t think of anything else when I’m in the workshop; I have to concentrate on something external and concrete, and if I fail to pay attention, it all collapses. So I lost myself in a good ninety minutes of drilling, cutting, and sawing, and in the end I had about half of the cabinet complete:

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That’s about twelve hours worth of work right there, for a distinctly amateur woodworker. And there’s tons of tiny flaws, but I won’t tell you about them, because you probably won’t notice them when all is said and done. Like any good craftsman, I’m learning and fixing as I go, and when it’s done it’ll look impressive to you, even as I see the hundreds of errors I could have done better.

But as a hobby, it’s a good one. It’s not like writing, where I have to go inside my head, and if I’m in a jangled or depressive mood, everything gets worse. This is physical labor, the kind that forces you to not really have emotions or side thoughts or anything, a sort of focused meditation that helps. I may develop a need for this, and I can easily see that happening; a kind of therapy.

And it’s a kind of love. When you start a woodshop, there’s tons of bills as you go and get more wood, this new drill bit, these new clamps. Gini is quietly overlooking the bills piling up at Lowes, because she knows how awesome this is.

And in the end… I’ll have a cabinet. Maybe a little off-kilter in some ways, but way better than no cabinet at all. And that’s good.

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