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Author Topic: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement  (Read 6755 times)

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Entropy42

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Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« on: November 30, 2011, 11:43:11 am »
After seeing the threads from Ixliam and ThatPurpleStuff, I've been wanting to make my own Skee Ball machine.  I wasn't real interested in the woodworking and ramp creation aspects of the project, so I tried to find a Skee Ball machine locally that I could fix up. 
Eventually, I found a pair close enough to pick up, 1 in good shape, the other not so much, neither of them working.

I paid too much for them ($600 for the pair), but finding a 14' Skee Ball machine in MI is relatively rare as far as I can tell.  Still, a far cry from the $75 Skee Ball machines I see people here talking about buying.  I figured I'd put the prices up here for other future Skee Ballers as a point of reference.

Anyway, I got them home and had to figure out some way of getting them into the basement.  The ramps on these machines are 10' long, so they couldn't make the turn to start going down my basement stairs.  We ended up opening a window in the basement and putting them in through the window.  30 minutes and some red paint on my walls later, I had all the parts for both machines in my basement.

After taking stock of what I had, I figured out everything that was missing, both nets/frames, 15 balls, one service door, 1 net clip, 2 of the circuit boards, and a whole lot of bulbs.  So I had a couple days of buyer's remorse, and then put up a WTB post here and got started on restoring the lesser of the 2 machines.  The machines weren't made by Skee Ball, but appear to be very similar in design.  They have the "Winner" marquee.

The only other machine I can find that looks like them is a 6' model rented out by (Four Seasons Amusements).  From the stickers on the PCBs, they are from 1983 at the earliest.  Given that the machines are over 25 years old, they have held up pretty well.  Finding true replacement parts for them though, probably not gonna happen.

This machine had clearly seen better days though, and was originally constructed using glue and 1" staples.  Someone had come along afterwards and driven screws into it to add a bit of stability, but it was still a mess.  Aside from one problem area, the side panels on the cab were still in pretty good shape.

(more pictures at the bottom)

So I took out all the electronics (more on that later), all the screws, all the horizontal wood pieces, and then all the staples.  The machines were made with 3/4" plywood, so I went off to Lowes and bought a 4x8" sheet of 23/32" sanded pine plywood to make replacement parts.  Turns out the stuff I bought is about 1/16-1/8" thinner than the original, but that shouldn't be a big deal for what I'm doing (plywood comes in such weird thicknesses anyway). 

Cutting everything up was pretty straightforward.  Only tricky parts were getting the 15 degree angle on the front of the top piece, and routing out the edge of this piece.  I only have a circular saw, so I made a little guide for it, set the blade at 15 degrees, and then just ran it along the edge of the piece to put the angle I needed on it.

Routing out the space for the T-molding was tricky, since it needed to be routed perpendicular to the face, which was 15 degrees off with respect to the rest of the piece.  I have a 1/16" slot cutting bit, so still should be no problem in a surface-mount router.  Don't have one of those that fits the 1/2" shank bit that I have  :angry:, so ended up just doing the cut with a table saw and a thin blade.

Is there a way to have my inline pictures be small, but clickable to expand the way the attached pictures are?  The picture sizes I have right now are a little overkill.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 01:35:42 pm by Entropy42 »

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2011, 01:45:09 pm »
Another part of the cab section that needed some love was the side panels where the target board background attaches.  As seen in one of the pictures above, most of the staples had pulled out and it was held together by one screw (which was also pulling through the face of the cabinet.  
To fix this up, I cleaned it out and filled it up with wood glue, then just held it together with some clamps to keep the wood glue from getting out.  As it soaked into the wood and dried, I would just apply more to it.  This area doesn't have to really hold any screws, and just needs to be a strong, smooth surface.


Although the original was painted red, I wanted to make the surface a lot nicer and not just slap another layer of red paint on it, so I tried stripping the paint off with Jasco paint stripper.  This was really not worthwhile.  First thing I tried was the paint stripper on the sides of the ramp section.  I bought a spray can of the stuff, not knowing how much I would need (answer: way more than a spray can).  It definitely loosened up the paint, but it still required a lot of hard work scraping the paint away.  It made the paint somewhat putty-like, but I had to put a lot of force into separating it from the wood.  For a lot of it, I was using a small planer to remove it, because my scraper blades weren't strong enough.  I ended up going over the whole thing with 80 grit sandpaper on a belt sander anyway.


I figured maybe I didn't put it on thick enough, so I went back and bought a whole can of it, for use on the cab section.  This was actually worse.  
It says to pour it out into a metal container.  I couldn't find one around my house, so I used a glazed flower pot instead.  This was a bad idea.  I think that pot was actually just painted and poly'ed.  Either that or paint stripper just eats through glaze.  Regardless, about halfway through applying it to the sides of the cab, I noticed it had stripped all the white out of my pot, leaving only the orange clay bottom.  I didn't really care about the pot, so I just kept going.
When I went to start scraping the paint off though, I found it had done almost nothing.  Even with a lot of pressure, the paint was just not separating from the wood at all.  Discouraged, I just gave up on the paint stripper and removed all the paint with the belt sander again.  Maybe the paint stripper used up all its stripping power while it was removing the paint in my flowpot, so I was just spreading inert goo onto the cab.  I'm not sure, but it was definitely not a good time.

The cab section of my Skee Ball is held up with a little wheeled cart, rather than the screw-in legs of real Skee Ball.  Unfortunately mine was missing 2 of its cross-braces and 1 wheel.  Thankfully I have another cart that was already working and assembled, so I could just measure that for the dimensions of the missing pieces.

After this was all reassembled, I drilled out some pilot holes and put everything back together, ensuring all my screws were driven in far enough to be covered up.  Covered up all the old screw holes, staple holes and gouges, as well as my new screwheads, with wood putty, sanded with 80 and 220 grit sandpaper, then did 2 coats of primer with 320 sanding in between.

The results of that are attached.

ds015882

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2011, 01:19:54 pm »
Nice Start

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2012, 03:48:15 pm »
This project is not quite as abandoned as it seems, I just haven't had the time to update with progress.  Taking tons of pictures at every step was slowing me down.  In the end, I got both machines built back up enough and put back together. 

I made a wood insert to fit where the ticket dispenser used to be, and put in 4 buttons to control the game modes. 

Originally, I hid the buttons under the steel cover, so that you couldn't see the buttons.  This looked better, but was really obnoxious when trying to play games.  The left side cover is about 18" long, so you'd have to bend over, lift this huge arm up with your left hand and then hit the buttons with your right hand.  Needless to say, it was awkward.  So for now, I've just removed the cover and the buttons are always exposed.  My current plan is to either make button holes in the steel cover and just mount the buttons there, or switch over and mount the buttons under the right side cover (coin holder), which is a lot smaller and more manageable to lift. 

My target areas are far from done, as I still need to build a frame for both of them, install a set of 100 rings I have, and relabel some of the holes. 

I'm halfway done building one of the frames.  Used 1/2" aluminum u-channel, cut and bent to make the necessary bends.  So far I'm not thrilled with it, and I'm not sure its going to be sturdy enough.  I didn't use PVC because I didn't like how much give it had, but I don't think the u-channel frame is going to be much stiffer.  I originally looked at using 1/2" steel conduit, but couldn't find the right types of connectors and was worried that it would crimp if I tried to bend it.

To control the beast, I installed a laptop where the electronics used to live.

I removed the LCD screen from the laptops casing, which gave me enough cable slack to turn the LCD around (so its effectively mounted to the underside of the laptop.  To hold the display I just have a piece of .5" plywood with a screen sized opening cut in it.  Then I routed out a .25" lip around the viewable area.  This is just wide enough for the LCD to sit on, so the back of the LCD is flush with the back of the wood panel.  A few wood panels act as clips for the LCD and spacers to keep the laptop body from touching it.  I then just screwed the laptop into the wood (upside down).  Hopefully I can get some better pictures of all of this. 

Connected it up to a KeyWiz to sent button/switch presses, and wrote some custom software in C#/WPF to run it all.  I'll throw some screenshots of the software up in the next post, where I'll probably talk mostly about the software.  Just in case I don't get around to writing about the software soon though, interested parties can find it on Google Code.  Its pretty ugly looking, especially compared to ThatPurpleStuff's Flash software, but for now I'm just focusing on getting all the game modes working (they do).

thatpurplestuff

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2012, 12:20:47 pm »
Awesome man!  Great to see a fellow Skeeballer making strides!

When you add the 100 rings are you planning on modifying the scoring mechanisms as well (I'm assuming your machine does the scoring method of adding +10 for every switch the ball hits as it goes down the ramp underneath the rings)?  From my experience making it so each hole triggers independently is great in terms of making more diverse game modes, but it did make it slightly more of a pain in the butt to maintain accurate trigger firing.  If you do plan on making the holes independent, I should be done with a preliminary version of my software within the next month or so if you want to try it out... been really busy adding new game modes and refining existing games.  Regardless, I would definitely love to see your software in action!

Also really curious to see what you come up with for your net solution (frame, net, etc) because that's the last part of my build that I'm still not 100% happy with.  Glad to see you're still working on the project!

So once again, we find that evil of the past seeps into the present like salad dressing through cheap wax paper, mixing memory and desire.

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2012, 01:55:52 pm »
Glad to see you are still around and working on your build. The lack of activity on your thread had me worried.  Your Skeeball machine is the inspiration for most of my plans for my machines.

I currently have all the switches in a row, like the stock machines, but I have some complicated timing crap in the code to filter out everything after the first switch.  Basically, if you throw a 50, as soon as the 50 triggers it adds 50 to your score and counts it as a ball thrown, then puts out a timer to ignore all switches for the next 1.5 seconds.  I use the ball counter switch only to detect gutter balls.  Now that I've got all the timings worked out, it rarely makes a mistake.

I originally was going to do what you did and mount the switches so they trigger when the ball goes through the hole, but there is actually not enough space in my machine to do it that way, the switch terminals hit the ball return trough.  When I add the 100s though, I plan to remove the return trough and just do a full width return ramp, like yours.  Then I can eliminate all the silly switch filtering.

I think once I get this net done I'm going to try one with either 1/2" PVC or 1/2" conduit.  I just don't have a good feeling about the u-channel from the work I've done so far.  I think it will look the nicest of the 3, but we'll see about the stability.  I'll be sure to post my conclusions on it though.  I expect to finish that in about 2 weeks.

And I would love to try out your software whenever you release it.  It kinda makes all the time I spent on mine pointless, since yours is a lot cooler, but maybe some of my features are things you could use as well.

I attached some screenshots of mine. 
0. Opening menu with game select.
1. Basic skeeball game.
2. Choosing a name for the high score.  It saves every name that is entered, but it also puts the most recently used names on the top, so if you are the only one playing, you just have to hit "Select" to choose your name and don't have to go find it.
3. Entering a new name.  This took a stupid amount of time for something so simple, just because I had to learn a bunch of tiny things about how to deal with strings/chars in C#.
4. Playing MultiBall, where you have to hit a certain ring to get a multiplier.  Starts with 30 as your target, then 40, then 50, then 100.  My machine has no 100s yet, so the the highest multiplier you can get is 4x.  It resets your multiplier if you throw less than a 30.
5. 1 player cricket
6. 2 player cricket
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 02:39:55 pm by Entropy42 »

Nephasth

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2012, 03:08:16 pm »
I like the dart games incorporated with your software! I've got a model H, would love to have the ability to play different games on it, but I would feel like a sinner if I modified it do so.

How's Skank as an opponent? ;D

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2012, 03:20:45 pm »
Heh, that's my brother's nickname.

If your Model H is anything like my offbrand machine, you could just modify your wire harnesses to also send the signal to a keyboard encoder/PC.  Then you could play alternate games without ruining your real machine.  You'd have to override the ball gate for some of the game modes though.  I planned to eventually wire up my ball gate, but with only 6 good balls and a ton of game modes that require more than 9 balls, I'd probably just have to hold it open all the time anyway.

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2012, 04:42:19 pm »
Good stuff!  I came really close to having player names as well... the possibilities are pretty awesome in regards to high scores, a general score history... hell you could even do detailed stats like accuracy percentages and stuff.  Love the dart games as well... Cricket (well Skricket on my machine) and 310 are two of the more popular games when people come over.  I'm super close to being done with the latest version (need to clean up some code in bowling and fix some LED issues with another game mode) so I'll post some new screenshots sometime tonight or tomorrow.

In the last few months I've added some new games and refined some existing ones, so right now the number of playable games is at 13.  I think I want to slim that number down a bit or at least come up with a cleaner interface... my game selection menu looks a bit cluttered and hard to read at a glance.  Anyway don't want to hijack, just wanted to say that things are looking good on your machine(s)!

So once again, we find that evil of the past seeps into the present like salad dressing through cheap wax paper, mixing memory and desire.

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2012, 05:18:55 pm »
Names and High Scores were something I really wanted to have, so I got that in there almost from the beginning, and it actually works great.  I've got to work on how I display the high scores in several of the game modes, and will probably change it to only display them at the Game Over screen, like most arcade games.  I will probably expand the high score lists at that point to hold 10 names.  You only enter your name if you get a high score, so if someone wants to just play the game, they can just walk up and play, no login required.

I have yet to play a full game of Cricket (literally got it working last night), but I think it will have real longevity.  For now, since I don't have 100s, hitting a 50 turns the 50 into a 100 for the next ball only.  Its the only game I have so far that is 2 player.  I was originally going to do 2P versions of lots of games, but decided it was pointless for many of them.  If 2 people want to compete, they can just play 2 games in a row.

LEDs and a Bowling game mode are both on my to-do list.  I have a LEDWiz but haven't hooked it up yet.  Other than doing something like your Flash multiplier game mode, I'm not sure what other modes I'd add.  Also need to get the sound working.  I had a set of mp3 files that would play for each hole, but it was slowing down the machine for some reason, and ruining the ball switch timing.  I don't understand why, and it doesn't do it on my real PC, only the Skeeball laptop.  So for now, no sound.

Got a big party at my house this weekend, so hopefully everything goes smoothly. 

Nephasth

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2012, 06:29:39 pm »
No 2-4 player 01 or team cricket?

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2012, 04:48:03 pm »
I'm not sure what 01 is, but I figured 2 player Cricket was enough, not sure how it differs from Team Cricket though.  I might try making the Splat game you suggested in the other Skeeball thread though.

I've added 2 new game modes that I wanted to share,
Tic Tac 3

and
Tic Tac Skee


The first is basic Tic Tac Toe, first throw determines the row, 2nd the column, if you throw a 10, 20 or gutter for either ball you basically waste your turn.
The 2nd is just a larger grid, but you have to get 4 in a row and every number has the potential to score.  Draws are surprisingly rare, unlike regular tic tac toe.

They are by far my favorite games on my machine.  Its really awesome to have a Skeeball game with actual strategy, rather than just "Throw big numbers"  Choosing whether to go for the easier 20/30 block or trying to get the win on 40/50 is always tough.  I honestly can't recommend it enough.  The only problem I've noticed is that for people who are not very good at Skeeball, the game can go on forever.  Once all the easier stuff is gone and you have to throw a 50 (or 2) to score, it can be pretty slow going. 

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2012, 05:57:25 pm »
you have to get 4 in a row

Anyone else see this and think of this blast from the past?   ;D




Scott

ds015882

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2012, 04:27:11 pm »
Wanted to give made props to Entropy42 for helping me get his software hooked up to my custom skeeball machine I've been working on...I need to get a post going on my build some to show what I've done

I picked up a SkeeToss BC game http://flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=thumbs&db=arcadedb&id=975 and built a custom ramp based on UncleT's skeeball machine....I had it all working for awhile with the original electronics...but before I could start painting it...electronics died...and were beyond repair based on my skill....so gave up on for a long time until I came across this post and got renewed hope.

I was able to get Entropy42 software running on an old Pentium 3 / 128MB RAM PC I had in storage....and works really well along with keywiz from groovygamegear.

The game modes are so much fun...now to decide how to decorate and paint...and need to add some lights


Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 12:50:45 pm »
I'm working on some more modifications to the software to make the high score stuff better, but I wanted to share my experience with trying to build a net frame.  I know that is something that has been much discussed in the other skeeball thread, and I've found a solution that works really well.

I used 1/2" EMT conduit, and copper plumbing elbows.  You can see the completed frame in the first 3 pics.  Just used a standard pipe bender to put the 45 degree bends in the frame.  Each side of the frame is 2 pieces, one for the top/front, and one for the bottom/back.  They meet with a 90 degree elbow at each corner, which is shown in the 4th pic.  To get the elbows inside the conduit, I had to sand down the outside of the elbow and the inside of the conduit just a tiny amount, enough to knock down the seam in the conduit and make the elbow a hair smaller.  I then painted them silver to match the conduit (would probably be better just paint the whole frame, but its too cold here for that right now). 
After this, they can just be tapped together with a mallet and will be tight enough that they don't need any other fasteners.  For the cross pieces I got a 1/2" wood dowel and tapped it into the end of the conduit, then drilled a hole straight through the side of the conduit and into the wood, as shown in the 5th pic.
Attaching the netting was a huge chore because I wove the top and front pipes through the netting holes, rather than using string.  The bottom is just attached to the frame with string, and the netting is very tight, the balls really spring off of it nicely.
You can also sort of see the attachment mechanism in the 2nd and 4th pics.  I just used 6 spring clips, so the framing snaps into place and removes easily if I need to break down the Skeeball machine (which I do, 1-2 times a year).

Now that I had netting to catch stray balls, I could finally install the 100 holes in my board.  Just cut them out with a hole saw, attached the rings I'd bought, and then had to create some way for the balls to return.  I'd been wanting to switch my machine over to the drop-through switches ThatPurpleStuff uses, and this was a good time to do it.  I just removed the center ball channel completely and installed a big board underneath the target area, as seen in the 8th pic.  Attached a strip of the cork to the middle, where most of the action will be, and installed some foam on the sides to cushion the rare ball that makes it into a 100 hole.  I was then able to mount all my switches on the underside of the target board (pic 7), and still have enough clearance to plug the wires in.

I've also made 100 holes for my second machine, and did quite a few things differently, so I'll try to detail that later. 
If anyone else wants a copy of my software, just send me a PM.  I'm trying to make it a little more generic so its easier to run it on other Skeeball machines. 

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2013, 09:46:23 am »
Cage turned out awesome!!!....I might need to scrap mine and do what you did....just looks so sharp....

I scored two sets of rings with 100 holes in some real wood balls from a local guy....so going to update mine now with the 100 rings but was trying to figure how the balls would be returned....I like your idea on how you are doing it....I was playing around with some half pipe tubing over the weekend I think that will work...put i like the simplicity of yours.....never thought about mounting the cherry switches on the back side of the ramp with the holes...

I'm having a friend that codes take a look at your code....would like to add a game over after the 9th ball....and change the sounds..

Keep up the good work

Entropy42

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Re: Skee Ball Restoration and Improvement
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2013, 09:57:42 am »
Yeah, I actually used half a piece of 4" PVC for the 100 ball return on my second Skeeball machine.  In hindsight though, I think my first approach (just the big board pictured here) is the easiest to implement.  In either case you end up having to cut the back of the ball tray with a jigsaw.  If you go with the big board, I'd recommend switching the switches over to the fall-through way I have them now.  I don't know how long my software will continue to support the hit-every-switch approach, and I know ThatPurpleStuff's code already doesn't support it.

Feel free to do whatever you want to the code.  The sounds I have are not my favorite either, just something I threw in there for feedback.  If you find something better I would be interested to hear them.  If you have any good ideas for sound or features, please just feel free to let me know, if I have time I'll just implement them myself.  The next version will also make it much more obvious when a game is over.