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Just Do It… Yourself !!!

Don't be a sheep.

Brewing Beer in a Bag (BIAB)

Making your own beer is something special and very exciting !  You can ask any amateur brewer, a craft beer has usually a better taste than commercial beers and especially when it is your own product. You definitely feel the hop inside and you don’t have the impression of drinking donkey piss !

In the commercial world, massive beer production is owned by 3 main companies which do not have the same goal than you, they want the most flat and simple beer taste so that many people appreciate it at a wider scale and buy their cheap products. This is why craft beers are a great alternative and a niche market which starts cropping margins of the big guys. As these guys don’t like much competition or see an opportunity to increase sales, the big brewers have started to buy known craft beer sellers around the world but unfortunately changed a bit the recipes for scale economy reasons. Basically, they just killed the original taste and this is another fake crafted beer on the shelves or tap ready to fool you, shame on them !

Unless you are a real “connoisseur” and I am sure you will become more knowledgeable after some time studying the subject, stirring your own beer will become the ultimate solution to find the taste which suits you best !

Step 1 : Brewing in a Bag process

There are many ways to brew beer but one of the oldest and very effective way is to brew in a bag. This was initially considered controversial, many brewers believed it produced inferior beer to all grain methods. However, nowadays it’s use is fairly widespread and is maybe the simplest method to obtain a tasty crafted beer !

I will explain briefly below the process before going into detail later on :

Malt (all grain) is placed into a brewing bag and soaked in hot water (around 70 C).
After an hour or so the bag is removed and drained, leaving behind a sugary liquid known as wort.
The wort is then boiled again with hops that are added to contribute bitterness, aroma and taste.
After cooling, the wort is aerated and yeast is added before fermentation for 10-15 days.
The bottling process is taking place after addition of some sugar to enable carbonation during 30 days.

Step 2 : Equipment

You will need to invest in some equipment before starting to brew beer, here is a short list below :

  • 1 x 50 Litre Brewing Aluminum kettle
  • 1 x Aluminum colander (to avoid burning the grain at the bottom)
  • 1 x Burner and a propane bottle
  • 1 x 30 Litre Bucket with Lid, Grommet & Airlock.
  • 3 x Hop brewing bags (always good to have spares)
  • 1 x Wort brewing bag (for the grain)
  • 1 x Siphon
  • 1 x Hydrometer.
  • 1 x Thermometer.
  • 1 x Steriliser product.
  • 1 x Mixing Spoon/Paddle.
  • 1 x Crown capper.
  • 1 x Pack of crown caps.
  • 50 Empty pints or 100 half pint bottle / a mix is fine as well.
  • Bottle Drainer

 

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The good news is that you can easily find some brewing kits or bundles online for 50€ with most of the listed elements, count circa 150€ investment in total (quickly amortized).

 

Step 3 : Main Ingredients

You will need to gather few ingredients to brew your own beer, these are listed below :

  • Water : tap or bottle water, it is up to you but this may influence drastically the taste. I personally use water from bottles.
  • Beer kit (Grain + Hops)
  • Sugar

 

Step 4 : Brewing Tips

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Homemade Yogurts

Healthy, economical and ecological, homemade yogurts are becoming increasingly popular and they are very simple to make. I will explain you how to make them and you will notice, it is not rocket science !

Yogurt is a preparation obtained by milk fermentation, nothing more natural ! Two bacteria are responsible for the fermentation :

  • Lactobacillus Bulgaricus which provides acidity.
  • Streptococcus Thermophilus which develops flavors.

Making yogurt yourself provides a quality product without the addition of thickeners, emulsifiers, preservatives and / or other harmful artificial additives to our health.

Moreover, many yogurts are not exactly dairy specialties because they contain among other animal gelatin, which since the crisis of mad cow disease has been replaced by swine… These additions, not very clearly specified on the packaging does not really make the product as natural as expected.

Additionally, the economic aspect is significant because its produce yogurt allows a great economy on a weekly basis. This might be more relevant if you have kids who love yogurts.

Finally, another interesting point of view is the ecological one. Indeed, the fact of making its yogurt prevents the production of packaging, fuel consumption to deliver the product and controls the origin of the milk.

Now that you have read this, you should be convinced like me, we can then move to the next section.

Step 1 : Theory & Utensils.

The basic principle for success yogurt is to bring the temperature of the milk mixed with the ferment between 40°C and 45°C and allow to cure several hours.

  • Without Yogurt maker : possible but more painful process, this is why I will not develop this point.
  • With Yogurt maker : require a small investment (15-30 €) but rapidly amortized and worth it !

Below is the yogurt maker I have selected and bought in a middle range price but there are cheaper available options. This one had the good number of pots and gives you the possibility of selecting the number of hours (up to 16) which might be useful depending of the milk you use.

lagrange-439101-yaourtiere-7-tp_1367471911255364697f

Step 2 : Ingredients & Recipe.

You will need few ingredients to make your delicious homemade yogurt :

  • Milk : preferably full fat milk but you can use as well semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, however you will need to add 3 or 4 tablespoons of powdered milk so that your yogurt are stiff. Personally, I take a nice organic full fat milk.
  • Yogurt or yeast : you will need 1 natural yogurt or 1 bag of yeast (lactic acid yeast) to enable the fermentation process. Again, I prefer the natural yogurt but you can try and see how that works better for you.

Now you should have everything at hand, time to start making your homemade yogurt !

In order to avoid any mistake depending of the milk you use, I always heat the milk first to kill the germs and let it cooling down to 20-22°C before adding the yeast or yogurt. Don’t mix the natural yogurt at a higher temperature (no more than 45°C) as you may risk to kill the natural yeast inside. As well, I find it easier to mix homogeneously the yogurt when the milk is warm. This preliminary process takes approximately 30 min.

Pour the mixed milk and yeast/yogurt into the clean and dry pots, do not close them during the process, it is only when you place them in your fridge that you need the cap ! Do not make your pot full as the final product may take more space in the end or just in case you want to add fruits, honey or anything else, you need room but I suppose this is a question of experience, hence try and see !

Place your pots in the yogurt maker for 12 to 16 hours depending of the milk you have been using (usually explained in the notice with the yogurt maker). Generally, the more milk is skimmed, the more one has to add time to the program to ensure the yogurt’s firmness.

After that time, close the pots with the caps and place them in your fridge for 2 hours before serving.

Step 3 : Open & Taste it !

Below are 2 examples of yogurts I usually make, both are the same process, I just add the extra ingredients after the cooking process to ensure that the acidity is not killing the yeast.

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You have many other recipes, for instance you can try the chocolate yogurt by adding the chocolate when mixing the milk and natural yogurt. As well you can add honey, strawberries or again smashed apricots, whatever suits your desire and taste !

In any case enjoy !

Homemade Bread

As a typical French frog living abroad, I  desperately miss my fresh “baguettes” and quality bread in general. Indeed, living in another country always bring culinary novelties and new habits but also a lack of specific products. To me, tasty bread is essential and there is not many good bakeries in Dublin to be honest, especially if you are not right in the city center. Hence, I have decided to test an easy way to bake my own bread based on Jim Lahey methodology (famous baker in NYC). This technique permits you to save time and efforts because baking bread is a real tough job if you want to do it the normal way. In this approach we do not have to knead the dough, neither use any crappie bread machine or even elbow grease. So what ? Interested ?

Step 1 : Flour Selection.

The first main ingredient you want to select is the flour, different types of flour exist but what you are looking for is a tasty and quality product. Most of people would use a basic flour but it is highly recommended that you use at least the T55, T65 or T80. You can try a more complete flour, this is up to you. Below a little summary of what can be found in terms of flour :

Type Description
T45 White flour used for baking, cakes, … – avoid it for bread.
T55 White flour used for bread “white” or “current bread”.
T65 White flour used to make the country bread, or any traditional bread.
T80 “Bise flour” or “semi-complete” commonly used in organic bakeries. Used to make the semi-wholemeal bread.
T110 Semi-wholemeal flour.
T130 Wholemeal flour.
T150 Wholemeal flour. Used to make wholemeal bread “integral”.

NB : More the flour is complete, the more it contains bran and it’s in bran that is found pesticide residues, herbicides and others !!! The use of flour from organic agriculture is very highly recommended when above T55.

Another indicator related to the flour you need to pay attention is the “baker strength” represented by a (W), It represents the deformation work of the dough until it breaks and indicates the strength of the flour. Flour categories are classified according to their W: biscuit flour 100-150; artisan bakers flour 150-220; industrial bakers flour 220-280; strong flour over 280.

Below a quick summary for you to have the whole picture :

Strengh (W) Elasticity index (le) Tenacity (P) Scalability (L) Baker value
<150 <35 <40 <20 Inadequate
150-180 35-45 40-60 20-22 Average
180-220 45-55 60-80 22-24 Good
>220 >55 >80 >24 High

Two parameters are essential to define the flour: elasticity and scalability of the dough:

  • Elasticity (le): is the ability of a pulp to be stretched and to recover its initial shape.
  • Tenacity (P): Pressure.
  • Scalability (L): the ability of a pulp to stretch, and expand without tearing.
  • The P/L ratio reflects the balance of the flour.

If you select a strong flour it will take longer to lift up but the taste and digestibility do increase though.

 

Step 2 : Yeast Selection.

Regarding the yeast selection, I would suggest to buy the baker yest. Just go to a baker and ask for few grams of fresh yest, it should look like as below :

baker-s-yeast

You can also opt for dried yeast in sachet powder but I do not use it, hence I can not talk much about it… I prefer fresh stuff !

 

Step 3 : Ingredients & Preparation.

 

  • 500g of Strong White Unbleached  Flour
  • 350g of water (at room temperature)
  • 100g of liquid sourdough starter (or 25g of dehydrated sourdough starter)
  • 2g of fresh baker’s yeast (or 1g of dried yeast)
  • 10g of unrefined sea salt

 

Put the flour in a bowl and create a well in the center. Put the salt in a corner outside of the well. Take a glass and mix the fresh yeast / sourdough starter with some of the water to dilute it and pour it over in the well.

Take your favorite wooden spoon and mix all the ingredients together until the mix is homogeneous. It’s worth it to spend one or two minutes working on the dough with your wooden spoon. It will allow the ingredients to be well mixed and will give better results in the end (based on experience).

Cover with a damp cloth and leave to raise overnight in warm enough environment (19-24 degrees). I just leave it in the kitchen, just do not place it in the fridge !

 

Step 4 : Baking.

Preheat your oven at 230°C, with a clean and deep tray / dish at the bottom (tray 1).

Prepare a tray (tray 2) and put some baking parchment on it, or just spread some flour all over it (a bit more more than for the kneading step), which is what I do.

Put your dough on tray 2, sprinkle some flour on top of it and give it a few cuts with a razor blade and put it in the oven.

Just before putting tray 2 in the oven, take a half glass of water and pour it in tray 1. There should be a fair amount of steam created.

Cook for 40-45″ depending on your oven. You might need a try or 2 to know if you are more on the 40″ side or the 45″ side.

Take your bread out and put it to rest on a rack. (Make sure there’s air between the base of the bread and the worktop or the resting surface).

The results should look something like that :

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You can as well prepare baguettes the same way, you just need a special tray like below :

311205_1

Conclusion.

Just follow the process and try to improve your technique and recipe accordingly to your needs. Most importantly, enjoy a nice piece of warm bread from the oven and share it !

 

Cold Saponification

I don’t know if you like home-made stuff but I personally find it better quality or tasteful usually and it’s fun to learn something new. I have decided to make my own soap because I am starting to doubt more and more into the products sold in supermarkets with lots of chemicals which are suspicious or controversial in terms of health and well-being.

Furthermore, I am curious and interested in understanding the process of making stuff related to objects or products we use everyday. We tend to forget that everything was done manually in the past before industrialization and modern mass consumption, and I gain satisfaction from re-connection with the simpler things in life.

Step 1 : Theory and Basics.

Saponification is the chemical reaction between sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and oil to form a new element: the soap. The chemical reaction takes place until depletion of one or other of the reactive ingredients. If the oil is exhausted before the soda, it remains of sodium hydroxide and gives a caustic soap. If there is exhaustion of soda before the oil, then you are ending up with a moisturized/super fat soap (“savon surgras” in French). This is of course the second option that you want to go for.

There are several saponification techniques: cold saponification, cauldron baking and oven baking (itmhp method). In this blog we are going to use the method of cold saponification. Be aware that the most widely used technique for the commercial soaps is saponification in cauldron; advantages of the cold process are listed as below :

  • More virtues than any other soap: they are ultra-rich, and have the properties of the ingredients incorporated as preserved because “no heating” of the latter.
  • Rich oils, they are more moisturizing, gentle and nourishing than any other.
    Also, this method provides the opportunity to make soaps for all skin types, depending on the characteristics of the selected elements; soap with essential oils astringent and toning, meaning helps tighten the pores of the skin and restore tone and radiance.
  • Soap derived from this process is naturally rich in natural glycerin and is left to ensure proper protection of the epidermis.

The cold saponification process is therefore, by far the most interesting method for making soap care.
Also, from an ecological and ethical point of view, most soaps made by the cold saponification process are made with natural and biodegradable ingredients. The community of master soap makers making this type of manufacturing soap via this method are generally concerned with ecology, and uses natural and / or biological ingredients in their soaps, without palm oil. This is not a rule, so think all the same, always read the composition of soap!

Step 2 : Working Environment and Security.

Because we are using a chemical product like Sodium Hydroxide, we need to make sure the working environment is secured, here is below the check list you should follow before starting :

  • No kids or animals around.
  • Gloves adapted to chemical products.
  • Glasses.
  • Mask and good ventilation.
  • White vinegar to pour on your skin if splash of acid, this will stop the acid effect (don’t add water !)

Step 3 : Utensils.

Before starting, you need to ensure you have the good utensils . The most risky part is when you mix the sodium hydroxide (NaOH) solution with water (always NaOh in Water and not the opposite), this will provoke an exothermic reaction (around 80° C) + acid vapors (use the mask + protection glasses). Also, when you transfer the above mix to the oil(s) etc… you may have projections, hence use your gloves. Below a list of utensils you should have ready at hand :

  • A bowl or a large beaker (pyrex if possible).
  • A stick blender.
  • Whips or forks to mix your ingredients.
  • Spoons for powders.
  • Transfer containers for oils, soda and additions (avoid metallic containers).
  • A knife or wire cut.
  • A pan for water bath to melt your butter.
  • A thermometer.
  • A precision balance that works.
  • A spatula to get the best possible soap paste.
  • a mold (a cleaned and cut Tetra Pak box from milk will do the job).
  • Ph paper (to measure the ph).

Step 4 : Recipes and Online Tools.

There many recipes and multiple combinations you can try when making your own soap, you just need to understand the effects of each ingredients to achieve the desired texture, foam, solidity, odor… At this stage we don’t have much experience but there is an online tool helping you to prepare your own recipe, this is called “SoapCalc“. It gives you a summary of the properties of your future soap. Have a look at the tool and screenshot reports below.

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This will give you the basis of your soap, you now need to add the fragrance for a nice smell and a colorant (optional).

To help you to choose between the wide choice of oils, here is a little table below summarizing the specs of the most known :

Almond: Fine foam, large bubbles, slow track, but very very mild soap oxidized.
Peanut: Very hard white soap, fine mousse, slow trace allergen!
Argan: Mild soap, fine mousse, medium trace, soothing and nourishing.
Avocado Very smooth slippery moss, fine, fast track, very mild soap.
Babassu: My darling, hard soap, dense and abundant foam, fast track, smooth and strong soap.
Cocoa butter: Very hard soap, little foam, little creamy. serves essentially curative.
Shea butter: Hard soap and fine foam, fast track, soaps soft and hard.
Beeswax: Hard soap, no foam, track very fast, hardens soaps generally.
Coco: The must, hard soap, lather, fast track. desiccant (apparently) if> 30% in the recipe.
Rape: Very mild soap, fine but not abundant foam, very slow track as the ability to melt.
Wheat germs: Soft soap, fine mousse, very oxidized and risk of allergy!
Corn oil: Light foam, slow track, highly oxidized (5 to 10% max.)
Nuts oil: Fine mousse, medium trace, but no foam soap creamy, very soft. highly oxidized and allergen.
Chestnut oil: Fine mousse, medium trace, very smooth and very soft soap, allergy risk.
Jojoba: Very stable oil, hard soap, no foam, no smoothness, brings hardness (it is actually a liquid wax). use at least 5%.
Macadamia: Hard soap, very soft, but very creamy foam average. average trace.
Apricot kernels: Fine mousse, very soft and slightly aggressive soap sensible oxidation.
Olive: Trace slow, very hard soap, lather very little, very creamy and very mild soap. excellent for sensitive skin.
Webbed: Hard soap, creamy foam and very stable, very fast track, satin soap.
Grape seed: Trace mean, a lot of foam, soft soap, jelly and sweet. sensitive to oxidation.
Castor: Slow soap to dry, hard and very sweet. produces a very creamy foam at 5 to 15% in the mixture.
Sesame: Hard and very mild soap, some moss and some smooth. allergy risk.
Soy: Very hard soap, very soft, medium mousse, good lubricity, sensitive to rancidity.
Rice bran: Very mild soap, stable and fine foam, provides smoothness, hard soap. use up to 10 to 20%.
Sunflower: Soft soap, no foam, track very slow, very soft soap, creamy. average foam.

Where to find products in Dublin :

http://www.nourish.ie

https://www.amazon.com

Regarding fragrances, I am not a specialist but you have many interesting and relevant websites providing a lot of information. Hence, I invite you to browse a bit and think of your ideal perfume, make it simple at the beginning, use no more than 2-3 scents as it is usually representing half of the soap cost in the end…To direct you a little bit, here are some common, good scents and reasonably priced : Neroli, Sweet Orange, Ginger, Vanilla, Grapefruit, Lemon, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, Francincense, Cedarwood, Jasmine, Chamomile, mint, and lavender.

However, from my reading, a perfume is divided into 3 notes:

  • The top note: it is detected first, and then it dissipates. These are usually citrus, bergamot, orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin, peppermint, teatree …) and reach our sense of smell first, forming an initial first impression and then dissipating relatively quickly.
  • The middle or heart note: it is immediately perceived after the top note. These form the real “heart” of the fragrance and are commonly floral, imparting warmth and fullness. Common heart notes include: lavender, jasmine, orange flower, geranium, rose, violet leaf, melissa, myrtle rather floral scents.
  • The base note: this is the base of the perfume. Consists of heavier molecules, its aromas are more persistent. Intense base notes evolve over time and remain when all the other smells have faded. They are heady, thick, sometimes mysterious, and often derived from barks, resins, saps and grasses. Some common base notes are: Sandalwood, Vanilla, Musks, Oakmoss, Cedarwood, Francincense, Ginger, Glove, Rosewood, Clove, Patchouli. It is more woody (sandalwood, cedar, vetiver, myrrh, vanilla …

As mentioned previously, there are multiple websites giving you some blending ideas, you can go on this one for instance and use the relevant dosage in conjunction with the SoapCalc report : Aromatherapy.

Hopefully, this will help you to select the fragrance you want for your soap, this is maybe the most difficult part for me but trying and testing are the key words in here.

Step 5 : Let’s Cook !

First thing to do is secure the area and have everything you need at hands, make sure kids or animals are not in the way and can not jump up to the cooking area. Prepare and finalize your recipe on paper with the exact measures so you do not loose time and can avoid mistakes.

Start by opening the windows, wearing your protection gloves, glasses and mask before mixing NaOH and water (mineral or distilled water – up to you). Of course, you would have previously weighted the exact amount of NaOH and water before mixing them together. One piece of advice though, toss gently and respectively NaOH into the water and take care of possible splashes and vapors when mixing with a plastic spoon. At chemical level, the Sodium Hydroxide dilutes in water and then dissociates into ions (the process is exothermic). This may provoke some irritating vapors but you can control them by adding the NaOH slowly until it gets dissolved totally into the water.For the purists, here is the formula : NaOH(s) + H2O(l) => Na+ + OH- + H20 + HEAT.

You will need to wait that your solution cools downs to the ambient temperature (ideally 28° C) and then you can add it to the oil mix previously prepared (just add all the oils in one bucket). Same precaution rules applies to avoid projections, go nice and slowly when adding the basic solution into the oil mix.

Use a blender and take precautions regarding projections again, mix the whole lot until obtaining a thicker paste, add the fragrances + colorant (optional) at this time and continue to blend for 10 minutes. When finished, you should obtain a malleable paste that you can pour out into your molds, for me it will be a simple empty and cleaned Tetra Pak milk box. Tap it a bit on a plane surface to allow bubbles to escape and leave is resting 2 days before de-molding and cutting your soap shank in multiple mini soaps (choose your size/weight).

 

Step 6 : Curing the Soap

Prefer a wooden box to dry out your mini soaps for at least 30 days (between 30 to 45 days), please make sure they are out of direct light and avoid humidity (makes senses if you want dry them, right ? …). Remember, a long cure means a top quality bar of soap!

30-45 days after… here we go, we can perform the final test before using the soap on your skin directly. It is time to verify the Ph of your soap with a Ph paper, the value should be located between 8 and 10, to give you an idea and to re-ensure you in case you are skeptic person :

  • Alep soap : 10.4
  • Shea soap (Lothantique): 10.45
  • Industrial soap (Petit Marseillais) : 10.35

Your final soap should have a lower Ph because we have chosen to go for a super fat option between 5 and 7 %.

Step 7 : Cleaning

Last but not least, you need to clean up your tools and utensils. To safely clean them, I suggest you to have a bucket with water and white vinegar, just drop the items which were in contact with the soap mix, don’t use your hands but gloves and empty the bucket in your sink, it will clean up the pipes for you.

The End

I hope this tutorial helped you to make your own soap. To master your soap maker skills,  a lot of documentation is available online. Have a quick look and try to improve your recipes, shapes and colors to achieve the perfect home made soap.

Build your Arcade Machine

Hi All,

The main purpose of this post is to share my experience related to the making of an arcade machine, you will find the detailed steps but also the budget and list of materials required to achieve the project.

I am from the late 70’s and arcade machines were numerous at this time, they could have been found in cafés, bars and other commercial places. Just a coin or two and the fun could begin especially with friends. Then, the first home consoles arrived on the market and this was the end of the arcade machines. I always wanted to have one at home but first of all, it is expensive (a proper one from €1.5k up to €3.5k), you only have one game or two on it and it takes a lot of space !

Fortunately, emulators have been constantly improved in the past years in terms of compatibility and fluidity. Today, you have a good range of solutions to emulate what you loved during your childhood.
I personally found a way to address a solution to all specific issues mentioned above and here is my concept which is a bit different from what you may find online:
Concept name : Arcave machine.
Specs : arcade machine made of 2 pieces : bartop + wine cave.
Estimated cost : 500€.

Estimated time : 6 months (few hours per day after work) – (Reality : 11 months, just because you receive one piece after another one…)

Step 1 : Conception and main features.

As I said previously, the main issue was the cost but when you search a bit online you can notice that some people have managed to reduce the cost to an average of 400€ by building it themselves. This seems more like a reasonable budget compared to what you can buy on internet.

As well, you now have many reliable emulators you can download which are doing the same job as the original consoles but emulating plenty of platforms at the same time (multi-emulator); like MAME just to mention one.

Finally, the space used by an arcade machine can be optimized, hardware components can be stored in the bartop only (top part) making free space available for the bottom part. If you love wine like me, you may find a good opportunity to store it inside instead of boxes when you are living in an apartment without a real cave. Being French and living abroad, wine is one of my pleasures and a good excuse to justify the arcave machine to my wife in a corner of the living room ! Of course, some purists will always argue that nothing is better than a real cave with a proper temperature (10 to 14°C) but I believe that wine can be safely conserved if bottles are lying on the length with no light and without temperature variation. Concerning the humidity, I am living in Ireland – problem solved ! Finally for the ambient temperature, it is around 19°C and we are living in an old whiskey distillery so this is not a bad place for storing the wine.

Step 2 : Cabinet drawings and available tools.

Learning how to use a 3D modeling software was part of my objectives as well and I thought this project would be a good opportunity to explore that bit. Obviously, you do not want to spend hours learning how to use the software but you need a good result in the end as well. By discussing my project around with friends, I have been advised to use one in particular : “Sketchup”. There is a free version you can download on the following website:

https://www.sketchup.com

The interface is quite straight forward and many supporting videos are available for you to handle quickly the tool. After 1 week of creations, corrections, etc, I finally arrived to a decent result which would be the basis of my project with all the necessary details for later. You can find below the 2D export so you have an idea. Source file is available upon request if not for a commercial use.

DKabinet-beta
Sketchup design : Arcave Machine – bodbod®

When you design your own arcade cabinet, you have the choice to follow the common usage or to do whatever you want. I have chosen a hybrid version of it so it can fit my expectations without obtaining a UFO. I have tried to follow the original theme by making the extra special features of mine hidden. In terms of shape, it is a personal choice, I am very happy with the ending result and it still looks like a normal cabinet.

Here is an illustration of what I am talking about :

Worst cabinet designs

Hence, my little 2 cents : choose the cabinet theme you like which would fit in your place. Once your choice is made, try to document as much as you can the design, specs, etc and stick to it to avoid any mistakes.

Step 3 : Budget and list of Equipment.

Once you have the design, the theme and the time to start your project, the most important is to list all what you need and draft your budget.

You will find below all what I needed :

  • 2 x MDF (Ø 18mm) – size 2,440 x 1,220 [50€] link
  • 1 x motherboard – Chipset Intel 945g socket 775 – P4 HT 3.6Ghz + 2Go DDR2 – (refurbished computer) [0€]link
  • 1 x ATI 128MB Radeon X600 SE [0€]
  • 1 x 300W power supply from refurbished computer [0€]
  • 1 x TFT screen (22″) – previously own [0€]
  • 1 x plexiglass (clear acrylic with anti-glare surface) – 600 x 600 – [30€]link
  • 1 x Bluetooth keyboard with track-pad – previously own [0€]
  • 2 x Speakers – previously own [0€]
  • 1 x Amplifier mono DC12V – 7w (to solder on your own) [12€] link
  • 2 x Joysticks + 16 x buttons + 2 x player buttons + 1 x coin button + USB controller + 2 retro sound shields + wires + power supply button [96€]link
  • 1 x Marquee (based on the theme chosen) [40€] link
  • 1 x 5m Strip led white 5050 – DC12V – [13€]link
  • 1 x Wood glue + drill bits + bolts + screws + other – [40€]
  • 1 x 5L painting [13€]
  • 1 x Bezel + side stickers [72€]link
  • 1 x Socket mains power extension – previously own [0€]
  • 1 x Coin door (front only) – [17€]link
  • 1 x Piano hinge- [7€]
  • 1 x Vent grid –  [7€]
  • 16 x Ball bearing slides –  [95€]*
  • 1 x Kick plate (5 bar aluminum) –  [20€] link
  • 4 x Straight loop latches – [9€]

Total budget so far : 420€ (essentials) + 95€ (bottom part)*= 515

NB : Prices are including transportation cost and VAT.

Step 4 : Building the arcave.

The next move for you is to prepare the 2 dimension plan for cutting the different MDF pieces and build the cabinet. As you can see on the model above, I have 2 main parts :

  • The bartop containing the hardware, screen + control panel.
  • The cave to store the wine (door is missing on the draft).

Here is a very good website for you to prepare your cuttings before buying the MDF. The online tool optimizes the cuttings and gives you a comprehensive report. This way, you can provide the DIY lad with your cutting plans and he will do it in a snap :

http://decoupaidonline.elp.fr/

The website has the multi-language support and you can register for a 15 day trial which is enough for you to prepare your plans. Please find below an example of what I have obtained :

Cutting plans

As pictures are worth a thousand words, you will find a series of photos showing the current progression with comments :

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Amplifier Mono DC12V – 7w

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Final Homemade Ampli Mono
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Bartop
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Motherboard + Graphic card mounted on back panel
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Cabinet with both parts assembled
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Full cabinet
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Sound bar preparation

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Wiring thinking
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Fixing TFT screen to the transverse bar
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Front view with TFT screen in place
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Rear view with TFT screen installed

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Added side buttons for pinball games

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Kid Proof Testing 🙂
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Arcave after 3 paint layers
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Found the right place !
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Bezel missing

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Final result – Front
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Final result – Side
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88 Bottles can be stored

Step 5 : Wiring

First step I have started with is the control panel as I wanted to check ASAP if the controller I bought was working fine and verify as well if I needed any driver to make it recognized. Answer is no driver needed, Windows XP/7 installs a generic HID driver, hence everything seems to be on track. Regarding the wiring, it is quite straight forward, just make sure you are using the same approach on all buttons as shown on the picture below.

microswitch

NC is not used / NO is connected to the controller / Com = Ground (in series).

On the picture below, you  can notice 2 holes in the top corners of the panel, these are for 2 more buttons (Select & Exit) which I bought after all. I will also add in total 2 supplemental buttons on the sides of the arcade for playing Pinball games. Knowing this, you will understand why some wires are ready to be connected.

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Control panel top view
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Panel with 2 extra buttons

Step 6 : The cave

Building the bottom part consists in a closing cabinet with wine racks allowing you to store your precious liquors in a safe condition. Indeed, if game players are kind of rough with the arcade machine, the wine must be secured and prevent bottles clinking each others.

Therefore, wine racks (“clayettes” in French) must be resistant in terms of weight to support 10-11 bottles per floor but also designed to prevent any side movements. I have selected a good German ball bearing slide pack online, a bit pricey but the quality is present. You don’t want to see you wine falling down during a hardcore game !

As well, you must know that bottle diameters are different depending if it is a Bordeaux or a Burgundy, etc; hence the racks must be adaptable and space between 2 wine racks has to be determined accordingly. Finally, you may want something classy by adding a wooden banner allowing you to pull the wine rack easily and to nicely dress up the cabinet when the door opens. Now we have all the prerequisites, the wine rack design makes sense.

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Gross wine rack design
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half of the round stick are movable
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quick check if it fits the cabinet
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flooring step by step
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Wine racks installed with different spacing for bigger bottles

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banner placed quickly to have an idea

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2 first top stack are for bigger bottles like Burgundy wine…
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Litte Stash to store the extra gamepad for consoles

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Step 7 : Software

One of the main part of this project is related to the software. To emulate you have plenty of options but before going into details, I have categorized the software development in 4 sections:

  • O/S

The choice of your O/S is key if you are going to use some old hardware and less powerful configuration into your cabinet. On my side, the choice is quite simple as I want to use a front end which is developed only under Windows. I would have maybe taken the Linux/Ubuntu option but you need to think about the hardware compatibility (controller for the control panel) + other layers of software you want to add.

Hence, the choice I will have to make is between the several Windows versions (98, XP, 7, 10). As soon as your processor and memory are respectively above 1GHz & 2Go, you can go for Windows XP or 7. From what I read so far, it is advised to strip it down from its non necessary services. On top of it, you can install a software called nLite and do the necessary adjustments to make XP/7 lighter. You can also download TinyXP/7 but this is not a legal option and I have heard you may have issues as it is striped down to the very minimum. I suggest that you do some tests on your own and see whether the gain is relevant or not. In the end, I have selected Windows 7 as it is safer than XP in terms of security and because my Arcave machine will be connected to Internet.

  • Emulators

In terms of emulation, my choice went to the most famous and actively developed freeware named MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) that you can download at the following link:

Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator

The advantage of this freeware is its portability to several O/S (Windows, OSX, Linux) and emulates more than a thousand of arcade system boards.

I have added extra console emulators for the NES, SNESS, Megadrive and many others but these have to be configured within the front end and it will take time to download the roms, artworks… My suggestion is that you stick with MAME which is dedicated to arcade machines first and when you are fully confident with the settings and environment, just add one more emulator at a time and do some testing before moving to the next one. Backup is key !

  • Front End

A front end is kind of a nice dynamic interface hiding all the emulators running in the background, it needs to be configured in advance and all the media elements have to be downloaded as well (video, artworks…) Huge work, don’t under estimate that part !!!

Again, you have many choices here, I would suggest the 3 most interesting ones in terms of graphic design to me (Retro-FE / Maximus / Hyperspin). Personally, I find Retro-FE and Hyperspin nicely done and step out from the other front end software. Maximus is pretty good but you need to pay and my budget is tight. It is always a question of personal taste so have a look around and choose wisely. I have selected RetroFE because it is lighter and simpler, also you arrive to the same quality as for Hyperspin with the different themes available.

The huge piece of  work is on creating collections (full romset obtention + artwork (videos, game jacket, stories…) so that it fits well in your front end interface. If you stick to arcade games purely, then it should be straight forward but if you want to have a complete retro arcade machine with some of the latest consoles too, this may crack your head – well it’s part of the fun…

You will find some guys selling “ready to go” stuff online through forums or website, do not use this solution as this is not legal first and then it will no twork on your setup, settings are so delicates that you will end up with something not working at all. This is up to you but I strongly recommend you to do it yourself as it is free and you won’t get screwed.

With all these information above, you should be able to build a decent interface, fully customized and complete. I have been using Hyperspin at the beginning but switched quickly to RetroFE, I have few systems setup on my machine and you can have a look at the video below so you have an better idea.

Video – HD demo

Video – SD demo

  • Cave management

To manage my wine cave, I am using an online solution called YouCellar or CavusVinifera which is nothing else than the same website but in French. It is free and simple, the interface would need a good brush but you have all what you need to be honest and all my wine DB is hosted on it. It permits you to create an indexation so you can organize your bottles the way you want.

Landkite – Best Spots in Ireland

For the ones who prefer to do it on wheels, here is a selection of few spots in Ireland so that you can enjoy some “kite a roulettes”sessions as we say in France.

Please don’t hesitate to comment and add some other spots, I will add them accordingly.

 

Bull Island (Dollymount)

Beach

  • Type: Sand
  • Size: Big
  • Hazards: Rocks
  • Beach Users: July, August

The beach is 3km long, compact sand, car accessible. Rocks about 100m either side of the entrance to stop people driving the length of the beach. there is a video available at this link if you want to have an overview of the spot. Landkite and other beach activities are taking place on the north side of the strand (Dollymount) when kitesurf and water activities are allocated to the south side.

Wind

  • Best Months: March, April, May, September, October
  • Wind Type: Frontal Winds
  • Best Direction: E, ESE, SE, SSE, S, SSW, SW
  • Main Direction: SE/S

Generally no wind in August. Bigger gear for summer and smaller gear for winter. Normally onshore or side-onshore winds. Not many squalls, but can be a bit gusty. Wind 4-5 times a week from 6-30 knots.
Best directions: SE, S

Wind statistics available at this link.

 

Laytown / Bettystown

 

Beach

  • Type: Sand
  • Size: Big
  • Hazards: Rocks
  • Beach Users: July, August

Laytown beach is a long sandy tidal beach with flat to choppy and several sandbars. The tide goes far out and can change the shape of the beach and the height of the sand banks. Constant 12 knot NE wind is best. There are areas north and south of Laytown to consider if conditions are not ideal.

Bettystown area towards north has small waves breaking on sandbars but due to tides there are shallow areas with flat to choppy water. Bettystown is crowded during the summer and you should not kite by the carpark (go several hundred meters past it). There is also sewage outfall and wreck to watch out for. Better during the winter, in E winds.

Wind

  • Best Months: March, April, May, September, October
  • Wind Type: Frontal Winds
  • Best Direction: N, NNE, NE, ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE, S
  • Main Direction: N, NNE, NE, ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE, S

Wind statistics available at this link.

 

Tramore (Tra Mohr) Beach

 

Beach

  • Type: Sand
  • Size: Big
  • Hazards: Rocks
  • Beach Users: July, August

Meaning ‘Big Strand’, Tramore is one of the most aptly named towns in the region, with its famous 5km golden, sandy beach surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and one of the region’s most popular resorts. Most of the traffic coming to Tramore comes from the Waterford City direction, but the most spectacular approach to this exciting resort is the route from Annestown and the coast road to the elevated western suburbs of the town.

Wind

  • Best Months: March, April, May, September, October
  • Wind Type: Frontal Winds
  • Best Direction: ESE, SE, SSE, S, SSW, SW, WSW
  • Main Direction: SW

Wind statistics available at this link.

 

Inch

Beach

  • Type: Sand
  • Size: Big
  • Hazards: Rocks
  • Beach Users: July, August

Inch beach is a 5km long sand spit jutting into the sea between the outer Dingle Bay and inner Castlemaine Harbour overlooking magnificent Iveragh and Dingle Peninsulas. It is no surprise that this location was the film spot for Ryan’s Daughter many years ago. Inch has an easy gradient and plenty of space providing a safe environment for all types of water sports including landkiting. The beach is lifeguarded during the bathing season.

Wind

  • Best Months: March, April, May, September, October
  • Wind Type: Frontal Winds
  • Best Direction: SE, SSE, S
  • Main Direction: SW

Wind Statitstics available at this link.

Murvagh

Beach

  • Type: Sand
  • Size: Big
  • Hazards: Rocks
  • Beach Users: July, August

Very quiet long Westerly facing beach and the wind is fairly reliable, 10-30 knots. An onshore wind is a westerly wind and it is quiet common. Anything with a South in it is crossshore. Murvagh is easy to get to and is located on the main Donegal to Sligo road (N15). Travel on the N15 out of Donegal Town and look for signpost to Murvagh Beach and Golf Club. After taking this turn beach is signposted from here on.

Wind

  • Best Months: March, April, May, September, October
  • Wind Type: Frontal Winds
  • Best Direction: S, SSW, SW, WSW, W, WNW
  • Main Direction: SSW, SW, WSW, W

No wind Statitstics available.

 

Useful Links

 

Below a selection of links which may be handy when preparing your landkite sessions:

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