Arcade Collecting > Miscellaneous Arcade Talk

BYO... pinball?

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I have three pinball games in my basement that are in need of restoration, and while I'm at it I thought it'd be fun to try building my own pinball machine.  (well, just a simple one, to see how they work.)  Anyone else on this forum do stuff with pinball machines?  I could use a few pointers on how to get started.

I've got a Black Knight game with some of the flippers kind of going weak, and a Gorgar that has some targets that won't come back up and some knockers that don't knock, and a Bally bowling game that won't stop ringing its little xylophone inside.  That, and all of them need some work on the play surface cuz they're starting to show some wear.  I'll post some pics of them later.  We'd never owned pinball games before when we bought them, so if there's maintenance you have to do to keep them nice, we haven't been doing it.   :-[

I do have a Bally Hawaii Bingo type pin at home that I was thinking about refitting with flippers and a different playfield. Mainly because Bingo pins are about 10X more complicated than regular pins, and Hawaii was the most complicated Bingo pin ever made.

 Original Black Knights go for good money on ebay.  Id say sell it there before ripping it to smithereens... as that would just be wrong.   If it were something else like 'judge dread'... id say blow it up... as that game stunk imop.

(if the price is low enuff... and your close enuff, I might be interested in you b.kinght... email me:

 Theres a lot of sites out there on pinball restoration.  Some are very detailed.  For instance... one showed that for weak flippers, you can unwind some of the coil a bit.  (But that also may just need a new coil sleeve or genral cleaning and joint lubrication... or coil replacement...).

  If your machines have electrical issues.. theres usually places you can take them to for reapirs.  Look in the phone book.  Also... look for local pin'heads (collectors), as they usually know some great places for repairs.

  As for the playfields... these always go bad after a lot of use.  However... theres protective measures that can be taken.. and things to do to revamp them like new.

  The Black Knight 2000 I have has awefull cracks / chips / and missing graphics on the field.   I finally found a printing place that will scan and print such a thing.  My plan is to scan in my feild... then take the data home to edit and clean it up - adding in the missing works from pics from a friends machine.   Then have the scan reverse printed (with UV fade resistent inks) on clear plasic film (4mil)... and then that gets cold laminited.  This new art would then get placed over the old field -providing beauty and a brand new hyper fast surface for the ball to roll on.  Im guessing the prints will cost anywhere from 150 to 300$ with all these options + scanning.

 (Theres cheaper soluitions for people who just want something to look 'ok' and function 'ok'... like just grapping a large piece of clear mylar and overlaying it over the feild 'as is)

  Ive also seen a site that a guy made a gothic pinball from a toasted machine.  Its not a project for the non-electrical genious I tell ya.  Id say youd be better of restoring to learn how the things work mechanically before attempting to build something thats more complicated.  Also... you should know how to fix and maintain your new creation anyway least it share the same fate.

  I also do want to build my own pinball though.  My thoughts were to make it using a smaller marble sized ball thus it take up less space... and cost a lot less to build.
 Im not electronically savvy enuff to figure out the high power coil issues tho... well, that and all the rest too! (but that being the worst of it all)  

  I made a proto long ago (to avoid the 24+ volt high power situation)  that used a high speed motor with a string attached to a wooden lever.  When the ball hits the contact, it would turn the motor on for a sec thus blasting the ball across the room via the lever.  However... I think this might fail over time... and may suffer from lag or burning out the motor..ect.

 Hopefully someday someone will create a Build your own mini-pinball kit... that can use a pc as the backboard, link for multiple player games / scrore transfers..ect., and for programming the custom machines.  One could even make replicas of some machines... then possibly use modded pinmame to be the brain of your replica...  dream!

  To conclude this... a word of warning.   Pinballs take a Lot of maintaining to remain in great shape... and even then... will still degrade.   They are expensive to buy, fix, restore, and even to buy parts for.    They require good mechanical knowledge... and the desire to tinker for hours to take appart several assemblies just to clean / repair things that are 2 to 3 levels deep on the playfeilds.  

  With that said... they are great fun to play  : )

  some cool links:


Those guides are GREAT.  Those are both Solid State pins, wich in my opinion makes them much easier to work on.  If you can soldier and de-soldier you can probably fix any problem you've got with a Solid State pin.  I just got a Black Knight 2000 and was having problems with the center drop targets.  I did a little work and found some optical eyes on the drop target.  Got the manual, found the optos I needed ordered 3 new ones $3 each (I didn't think that was bad, most places wanted 6-9 for them!) and got a new chip for the thing at radio shack.  Desoldiered the old optos, put in the new  Works like a champ.  It might sound a little complicated, but imho it's not that hard to work on the electronics of a SS machine.  

As far as the playfields go, is the playfield cracked?  or work down to the wood?  You may be able to get it looking and playing great again by buying some playfield cleaner.  Clean it up and then give it a good coat of wax and it'll play great!  Or if it's all beat to hell, just bring it to my house and i'll take it off your hands.  Losing your pin will be your pennance for not taking care of it in the first place.   :P


oh, and as to building your own Pin...

When I picked up my Black Knight 2K, I started reading a bunch of interviews with Steve Richie (the guy who designed BK, BK2K and a number of other HUGELY popular games) and he said that it takes about a year to develop a good pin.  I'm guessing that's for him.  Someone who knows what they're doing.  If you're talking about building a copy of a real pinball machine, that might be more possible, but there's SO much artwork on those playfields.  Pinball is so much more beautiful than Vids.  Vids just don't have the space...not to mention, pinball is a more skilled game.  No one programmed how the ball will react.  It's more random.  No patterns to learn.  No bugs to exploit.  I dunno.  On the other hand...practice a shot for an hour or so and you shouldn't miss it very often.  :)

I'm rambling at this point.  I just wanted to post and mention that thing about Steve Richie saying that it takes a year to design a good pin.  It also sounded like they use some kind of "peg" board?  IIRC that's what it was called.  It sounded like it was a playfield with no art where they could just move stuff around pretty easily, so they didn't have to make a new playfield etc. each time they wanted to play the new design.

Jeez...I just keep thinking....
Maybe if you built your table in Visual Pinmame...or whatever that program is....maybe that would work out well...who knows.

I thought I had a great Idea a while back of building a big pin cabinet with removable playfields.  just pull the whole game.  have a computer in it that interfaced with the new playfield.  you could play any pin, as long as you had a playfield for it.  now that I think of it again...maybe it's not such a great idea.  :)



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