Vid’s Pinball Maintenance Guides
Basic pinball maintenance is a crucial skill for any pinball collector. Fixing flippers and most switch problems are simple tasks that will keep your games running well. PAPA appreciates the hard work of others in the hobby who have already produced the following technical resources. We offer the information below as a way to help the original authors reach a wider audience.
If you have a complicated problem or would just like to peruse the inner-workings of a pinball machine, we recommend you visit the Pinwiki or the PinRepair Guides.
The following guide was originally located on Pinside and has been reproduced here with permission of the original author, vid1900. The Pinside forum has proven to be an influential and helpful resource for the pinball community, and PAPA recommends all new players sign up in the forum to join in the conversation with other like-minded pinball fans.
The original guide can be found here.
As written by vid1900 : So lately we have all been seeing these terrible restored playfields. Decals lifting under the clear coat, dirt sealed into the shooter lane, too thick coats of clear, water based clear coats with clouding starting to appear, inserts buckling under the clear, no restoration under ramps or slingshots, faded decals under the clear; simply awful work done by some so-called experts that seem to be spamming the forums constantly.
When I mentioned that I was going to publish a “real” guide to playfield restoration, a few of the playfield restorers that I respect asked me not to do it. They worried about the income loss if people start doing their own work, and they worried that some of the hacks that spam the forums would step their game up.
My logic is that the little information out there is more dangerous than if people were fully informed. All these game owners who get a bit of info here and a bit there, are ruining a bunch of playfields because they are following too many leads, rather than having a single resource.
Also, I would be happy if the spammy pro restorers DID step up their game. They are going to continue to get orders because nobody checks up on their work and they price their work cheap, so they might as well learn to do it right.
Consider what you are doing!
First, not all playfields “need” to be restored. If the game is a player’s machine, if the game has a single small wear spot, if you are simply not artistically inclined…..just leave it. No shame at all having games that show their age.
You can practice the examples on some plywood and see if you have what it takes, without jeopardizing a genuine playfield.
Assessing the Damage : Now with the adhesive gone, you will see your playfield in the harsh light of day. You will need to assess its needs but usually you will have :
PAINT LIFTED FROM INSERTS – the paint has a harder time sticking to the plastic than to the wood, so often the Mylar lifts off the paint too.
GHOSTED INSERTS – the paint AND clear coat have partially lifted from the insert leaving an air gap between themselves.
RAISED/SUNKEN INSERTS – the plastic has expanded at a different rate than the wood and is now proud or below the playfield surface.
CUPPED INSERT – especially on old Ballys, the thin face of the insert has become cupped from age and heat from the bulbs. Inserts without the reinforcing facets on the backside seem much more susceptible to cupping.
FADED INSERTS – UV from the bulb and other light sources like sunlight, have removed the color from the inserts.
CRACKED INSERTS – Damage to plastic from air balls or trying to level raised inserts with a hammer and wood.
WORN PAINT – The paint on the playfield or inserts have worn off.
PLANKING – The paint has checked along the surface of the wood. This can happen to any game, but you see it especially when a game is stored in an unheated garage.
Removing Mylar :
At least once a month somebody asks if they can clear coat over the Mylar. Usually the clear lifts off after a year, so lets just say no to that idea.
There are about 100 internet guides to removing Mylar, but the system that works best for me is to freeze it with canned air (just turn a can of Dust Buster or Maxell upside down). The propellent will freeze the adhesive causing it to separate from the Mylar film. Carefully peel the film back a section at a time.
If the film lifts off the playfield paint, or even the top layer of wood, the playfield is not a good restoration candidate. Sometimes a game was stored in an unheated garage and went through many freeze / thaw cycles.
There is some risk, and there is often no way to know until you start. Take a deep breath and remind yourself, not every game needs to be restored.
After you get the Mylar off, use Goo Gone (never Goof Off!) and remove the left over adhesive. Keep the Goo Gone on the painted parts of the playfield and try not to let it drain down the holes. It will have to soak for 20 minutes or so, then scrape it up with a plastic razor blade or a credit card.
If the Goo Gone is evaporating too fast, cover it with plastic food wrap.
Inserts : Light up inserts from the front with a flashlight and check each one for damage. You want to look from the back because there will be less to distract your eye.
You can sometimes reinforce a broken insert with epoxy and chopped glass fibers, but if you are putting a lot of work into a machine, you probably want to order new inserts from Gene at Illinois Pinball.
Insert Removal Step 1 : Before we pull an insert out from the playfield, we want to be sure it does not lift any of the surrounding artwork.
Most Williams games have no, or almost no clear coat (whenever someone talks about wanting Stern to have “Williams quality”, all the ops laugh).
Just to be safe, run a brand new Xacto blade around the parameter.
If it’s a new Stern game, or if it has been clear coated, REALLY make sure you have cut the insert free of the surrounding clear coat.
Insert Removal Step 2 : Next after cutting through any clear coat, it is time to remove the damaged/faded insert.
1. Find a wrench socket that just fits into the insert hole on the bottom of the playfield. On strange inserts like the chevron arrowhead insert pictured, I use a small nut driver.
2. Take a hair dryer, set it on high and warm both sides of the insert. (I use a heat gun, but I don’t want any beginners thinking that this is a good way to learn – too risky until you have a feel for this stuff).
3. While keeping your hand on the face of insert to control its release, push the insert out from the bottom of the playfield. It does not take much pressure at all. On Williams games, you might get the feeling that the insert “wants” to come out – its that easy.
Look how faded this insert is. Note that the playfield itself, nor the cab art had any fading. All this fading can only be attributed to crappy plastic and UV light from the bulb for 20 years.
Special Note : Keep in mind that you can use a LED to help make a faded insert look better, but it will still look terrible when the game is off – and if you are going through this much work to restore a playfield, you might as well do the job right.
Preparing Inserts for Installation : Many people don’t know how playfields are manufactured, so they don’t understand that you can’t just put a new insert in the holes without working them first.
The sheet of plywood is CNC routed with all the holes.
Then the inserts are glued in by a Pick N Place machine.
Then the entire playfield gets run through a drum sander. The drum sander sands the wood and the inserts all down to one level.
Finally the wood is coated with sealer and it goes to the silk screen to print the graphics.
Special Note : Brand new inserts are not flat. They don’t have to be, because they get SANDED flat after installation in the playfield.
We don’t have the luxury of sanding the entire playfield (unless we are installing a printed overlay over the entire surface), so we have to flatten the inserts first.
Preparing Inserts for Installation Step 2 :
To get the inserts flat, you start with 100 grit sandpaper.
Place the sandpaper face up on your table saw (or any other really flat surface), and move the insert around in a circular motion. Apply even pressure, checking your work often.
You don’t want to take too much off, because thin inserts are more likely to crack.
Next sand with 220 grit.
And finally 300 or 400 grit. Do not polish further. You will see why in the clear coating section of this guide (if the insert is opaque or prismed, you can even leave it at 220 it will give the clear coat some extra tooth).
Video of Whitewater inserts being installed.
Preparing Inserts for Installation Step 3 : As you have probably noticed, even brand new playfields have problems with inserts lifting up.
Wood contracts and expands at different rates than does the plastic insert.
We sure don’t want to spend all this time restoring a playfield and have the inserts rise up again and ruin our clear coat.
We want to glue in the new insert (or reseat an old one) and never have to do it again. That means we have to do a better job than the manufacturer did.
If you have ever put a glob of epoxy on an insert, you have noticed that you can chip it off after it has dried. Obviously, this is not an acceptable bond for something we never want to do again.
We need to give the epoxy some “tooth”, so we sand the edge of the insert with 100 grit sandpaper.
Preparing Inserts for Installation Step 4 : This is where you start to separate the boys from the men in playfield restoration.
Even sanding the edge of the insert is not enough.
The final step is to prime the plastic with 3M Plastic Primer.
It goes on thin like water and dries in a few seconds.
Now when you apply the epoxy, you can’t chip it off.
Preparing Playfield for New Inserts Step 1 : The old playfield glue can be epoxy or a sticky mastic of some sort.
You want to clean it all out so the wood can accept the new glue.
The sticky mastic stuff does not readily take to other glues, so be extra careful if you encounter it.
Preparing Playfield for New Inserts Step 2 : If the soft mastic is hard to remove, use the Burr tool with your Dremel.
Don’t enlarge the hole by removing wood, just spin out the mastic.
Installing Playfield Inserts Step 1 : Clear two-part epoxy is the glue of choice here.
We know it sticks to our primed plastic, we know it sticks to wood.
Any glue you can easily chip off of an old sacrifice insert like wood glue, Gorilla Glue or silicone is obviously not going to give us the permanent bond we require.
I use Two Heads epoxy, but you can use just about any brand. One of my favorite restorers has been using the Harbor Freight $1.50 stuff (http://www.harborfreight.com/super-strong-quick-drying-epoxy-92665.html ) for years with perfect results.
Pick a brand with honey-like consistency, you don’t want a big mess dripping out the bottom of the playfield.
Always apply the glue from the bottom of the playfield. This way you won’t drip on the painted surface and the “squeeze out” will head towards the underside.
Never apply glue to the insert itself, or the squeeze out will all be on top of the playfield.
If you do somehow get glue on the playfield surface, wipe quickly with a rag lightly dampened with Acetone.
Use an “acid brush” to apply the glue. Epoxy dries quickly, so you will throw a bunch away as you work. Don’t bother trying to clean or save them.
If you are a beginner, glue up maybe 2 inserts at a time. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, once the glue hits its “work time” it starts to set up fast!
Special Note : Acid Brushes are disposable brushes used to apply flux on copper plumbing.
You get a big bag of them for $5 at any plumbing or tool store like Harbor Freight.
Installing Inserts Step 2 : Sometimes you find that an insert has “a mind of its own” and won’t stay down for the epoxy to set.
There could be some tension in the wood (maybe the reason the insert popped out in the first place).
To fix this, we use a 12″ C-clamp ($9 at Harbor Freight) to hold it from rising above the playfield surface.
Knock the edges off of 2 blocks of good quality (flat) plywood, and clamp with 2 pieces of wax paper (in case any glue squeezes out). Don’t forget the wax paper, you won’t be happy if you glue a piece of wood to the playfield….
Installing Playfield Inserts Step 3 :
Sometimes you hear someone tell you to just use a piece of wood with a hammer and bash the inserts back down level with the playfiield. Often they say “go ahead, you won’t hurt them”.
The problem is that although they will stay down for awhile, whatever forces that were in the wood that ejected them in the first place are still there, and they tend to pop up again.
You can heat inserts with a heat gun and press them down with the 12″ C-clamp – this tends to last longer than just hitting them, but still they tend to pop back up.
Once you have a nice clear coat on the playfield, you don’t want to ever mess with the inserts again, so just reglue them the correct way.
There of course will be inserts that you will not need to replace or reseat.
After 20 or so years, you would think that if they were going to move, they would have already moved. And certainly there is some truth to this.
But a new clear coat is going to put new tension on the playfield that was never there before, so usually you will want to apply some glue to the back lip of those inserts.
I know, it’s not as good as roughing them up and using plastic primer, but it is better than a surprise 6 months down the road.
Insert Ghosting : Insert Ghosting is where the clear coat has pulled away from the plastic and now you see the air gap between the back of the clear coat and the face of the insert.
(LED Ghosting is where small amounts of current that would never illuminate an incandescent bulb, actually causes a LED to become lit when it should be dark. So the “Special when Lit” always appears lit, or dimly lit.
LED Strobbing is where the GI LEDs rapidly flash and make the bulb look like its moving through a disco. )
Insert Ghosting Removal Step 1 : The theory of fixing Insert Ghosting is that we need to “glue” the flap of clear coat back down to the insert face. There is going to be no place for a lot of solvent evaporation, so we need a “glue” that will cure without direct exposure to air. We also want this glue to have some flexibility to it so something brittle like epoxy is out. Pro restorers have found that Isocynate Clear coat is the perfect solution.
Lately, I’ve been using Diamond Plate for my top coats (I restored a game for a Dupont engineer who brought me a rather generous 5 gallons of the stuff), but it seems to be too “hot” for this kind of repair.
What does work nicely is PPG Shop Line JC661 clear. You mix it in 2 : 1 ratio with a fast topcoat hardener and it cures before it eats the old clear coat. Still, you should make a scan of that area of the playfield in case disaster strikes. You can then use the scan to make a decal (directions for this process are coming up later in this guide).
You need to neatly apply the clear under the flap, and for this you will need a syringe. The JC661 is too thick to be drawn up into an Insulin syringe, so you will have to get a big horse syringe.
Using an absolutely brand new Xacto blade, cut a slit around the damage, following the edge of the insert itself.
Insert Ghosting Removal Step 2 :
Be extra careful because the clear contains Cyanide, so you don’t want to go injecting yourself with that.
Fill the gap under the flap with the clear.
Have a rag moistened with Acetone ready to clean up any spills. Use less than you think you need, it takes very little.
Press down the flap to push out any extra clear or air bubbles into the rag. Cover area with waxed paper.
Insert Ghosting Removal Step 3 : On top of the wax paper, place a hard rubber block.
Under the playfield hold a piece of plywood.
Clamp together tightly overnight with a 12″ C-clamp.
Insert Ghosting Removal Step 4 : The next day, unclamp the rubber block.
CAREFULLY remove the wax paper in the same direction as the flap you cut.
If any bubbles got trapped under the flap, just open them with your Xacto and fill with a drop of clear when you spray your clear coat over the entire playfield.
Painting a Playfield : I’m going to break up the logical order of things because I got a few emails about paint and Frisket over the weekend. Rather than email everyone separately, I’ll cover them here….
Let’s start with paint for playfield restoration.
We NEVER use Sharpie pen, Paint Pen, or those little bottles of Testors enamel that you have left over from your Dungeons & Dragons days – EVER.
All of the above will run into the final Clear Coat, making a smeary mess (for you or the poor sucker that buys the game after you and tries to have it restored).
We don’t want to use those cheap $1 acrylics from the craft store, because they fade so quickly, making our repairs more apparent over the years.
We don’t want to use cheap paints because they don’t contain enough pigment to cover in a single coat (especially expensive pigments like Red). Add a little thinner so you can run it through the airbrush, and you find there is almost nothing there.
We don’t want paints that dry darker than they look when wet.
We don’t want paints that become darker when they are clear coated.
We don’t want a paint that permanently sets until heated. This gives us an “out” if we spill, mix the wrong color, or simply make a mistake.
So what paint can we use? Createx air brush colors.
1. It’s already good to go in your airbrush, no thinning is necessary (unless you are doing shading)
2. It covers in a single coat.
3. No waiting for it to dry. If you like your work, you hit it with a heat gun (use a hair dryer if this is your first time – safer), and go on to the next color. Tape will not lift it. This saves you hours of time.
4. It does not react with auto clear coat.
5. It dries the color you mixed it.
6. It is almost the exact same shade when clearcoated.
7. The colors mix properly. Many cheap paints just turn brown when mixed (blue + yellow = brown).
8. It’s fade resistant.
9. It sets so fast with heat that even when using white, old colors do not telegraph through the new paint.
Yes, it’s $4 a bottle, not .99 cents, but once you try it, you won’t ever go back to cheap paint again.
Airbrushing Basics : Now I just said the word that scares the beginners – Air Brush.
Don’t worry, you can get a perfectly serviceable brush for $12 at Harbor Freight.
You could try to thin out paint and manually brush it on, then try to sand it flat to remove the brush strokes, then touch it up again – but you are not going to do that. Your time and your playfield is more valuable than that.
You have spent $200 on LED lights for your game, you can certainly buy yourself an airbrush.
Now if you “get good” at this airbrush stuff, you can certainly buy a $200 Iwata brush, but I’m telling you that there is no playfield I could not restore with the HF one. I sometimes have 4 HF brushes filled with different colors at once, so I can keep my pace up. Spray, heat set, and on to the next color – that is how he pros do it.
You can use a regular shop air compressor (like a Pancake or 120 gallon garage monster), a dedicated “air brush” compressor, or even just canned airbrush air.
If you use a regular shop air compressor, put a simple water separator on the front of the air line to catch the moisture.
Don’t ever drip oil into the hose you are going to use for painting. If you have already done this for your other air tools, buy a dedicated painting air hose.
On sale all the time for $12.
Matching Paint Color Step 1 : You always read somebody asking “What color paint matches the blue on XXXXX game?”.
And the real answer is “The one you mix yourself”.
Even if you had a can of the actual Williams paint, your playfield has faded in the last 30 years.
Even if you knew what the color mix was at the time, those colors were mixed by eye at the silkscreener, and thus varied from batch to batch.
Even if someone found a match “Blood Moon #666” for their XXXXX game, it would not match yours, because different games have seen different amounts of UV light.
Now many people have tried to mix their own paint and found it did not create the color they thought it would, or it just turned brown. That is because cheap paints don’t have the pure pigments and binders that mix well with others.
Good quality paints mix beautifully, creating the results you expect.
Mix paint in a clear container that you can set on the playfield to match it up. Try to use natural light, not a yellow incandescent lamp. Use a flat container, so you are not looking down the neck of a bottle.
Women have much better color vision than men. Don’t be afraid to ask your wife to match colors for you. It will involve her in your hobby and make her feel important that she has a skill you don’t. Let her do the actual mixing, don’t just ask if a sample is a match.
Matching Paint Color Step 2 : Mix up a little more paint than you think you need.
You will lose some in the air brush or you may have an unexpected touch up latter.
Store small amounts in contact lens cases (5 for $1 at the dollar store), or little “artists” jars.
Step by step matching :
1. Take a drop of your mixed paint and put it on the playfield and see where you are at. Adjust lighter, darker, greener, whatever and place another drop.
2. If drop looks good, spread it out a little and let it air dry. Still the right color? Excellent. No good? Wash off with damp cloth (remember, it’s not permanent until you heat set it).
3. Once you have a good dry match, take some Naphtha on a rag and wipe it over the playfield and the paint sample. Does the color still match while wet with Naphtha? If yes, you are ready to paint! If not, adjust slightly until you get it right. The Naphtha give us a temporary “clear coat” to check our work.
Matching Paint Color Step 3 : The two hardest colors to match are Bright Orange and Gray.
On many Bally games, use standard orange and add a few drops of florescent orange. It’s amazing how a tiny amount of the florescent fixes it.
On Williams game with hard to match Gray, a drop of yellow or purple will usually make a frustrating match suddenly lock on.
Practice while seated. If you get frustrated, wrap it up for the evening. “Fresh eyes” tomorrow will often get it on the first try.
If you were out in bright sunlight, give your eyes 20 minutes to adapt to the color tone indoors.
Frisket : What the hell is a Frisket?
If you are not from an art or auto background, it probably sounds like something you should have tried before you got married. But nothing is more important in restoring playfields than your roll of Frisket.
Frisket is a roll of masking plastic :
1. It cuts super cleanly, so you don’t get raggity paint lines.
2. It is clear, so you can see what you are cutting (It is available in opaque, for what reason, I don’t know).
3. It is self adhesive yet does not leave any glue behind.
4. Although it is “low tack” and normally does not lift paint, it totally keeps paint from seeping under the edge. Much better than blue painter’s tape or green “frog” tape in that regard.
5. It withstands heat well enough to not shrink when we are setting a layer of paint.
If you can use tracing paper, you can use Frisket.
Installing Frisket : Cut a section of Frisket and lay it over the area to be airbrushed.
Run you finger along the outline where you will be cutting. You don’t have to really press the rest of the frisket down.
Using a BRAND NEW Xacto blade, trace the outline of your soon to be painted areas. Don’t press too hard, you should not be feeling the surface of the playfield as you work.
Use a metal straightedge to guide you along straight lines – giant time saver.
If you are cutting a circle for Keylining, you can use a circle template to again save time.
Cut exactly on your line. You don’t have to worry about bleed.
Lift the Frisket film from any place you want to get painted. See how cleanly it lifts? Press any air bubbles out that forms as you remove the pieces.
I used “oil paper” here for masking, but you can use Kraft paper or whatever you have.
Make up a bunch of masking papers with one leading edge with masking tape applied.
You will be reusing them as you move to the next area of the playfield, so make them large enough for the biggest section.
Starting to Paint : Now lay down your color.
Practice by shooting a little on the masking paper. If you set the gun down without the cap over the nozzle for more than a few minutes, it may throw a glob out, known as a “booger”.
Don’t wait for the booger to dry and then sand it out, just wipe the area clean with a rag and spray the entire area again. You are going to like using Createx paint, believe me.
Shooting on the paper lets you be sure that if any boogers are going to fly, it won’t be into your work.
Catch the light on the wet paint and make sure your coat is even. If it all looks good, hit it with the heat gun and set the paint.
Now you can change colors, or even put another layer of the same color without waiting around.
Note in this picture how the Frisket that was pressed down onto the playfield has stayed perfectly attached without shrinking from the heat gun- while the area not pressed down has wrinkled. It’s good stuff!
Airbrushing Tips : Although there are times when you are blending different colors at once, normally it only makes sense to do all the same color at the same time.
Cut out all your Frisket at the same time.
Then move your masking papers around in an orderly fashion, from zone to zone.
Don’t waste time masking off the whole playfield with little windows and miles of tape. Just move your masking scraps around. Once the paint is heat set, you don’t have to worry about the tape or Frisket lifting the paint.
Do all your colors from light to dark, but save white until the end so it does not get dirty. The Createx paint is flat finish, so the white can soil easily.
Often, once you think you are done, you will find black areas that still need touch up. Be careful you don’t get the black on the new white paint!
Restoring White Paint : Most playfields have lots of reflective white areas that are lit by the General Illumination circuits.
Even though you often don’t directly see these areas, it’s important to repaint them bright white.
My light meter says that by repainting these sections, you are gaining 30-40% reflectance – that’s a lot.
Not only are you getting a brighter reflection, you are getting a pure reflection, rather than one tinted beige or yellow.
The old paint has yellowed, the old Lacquer on top of it has yellowed, but at some point these areas were indeed a nice white.
These areas are mostly out of sight of the player, so you can do them without a bunch of leveling and patching. Because you can do them so quickly, there is no reason not to do them.
Sometimes these areas are just clear wood on one version of the playfield and screened white on another, latter production run. It’s a judgement call if you want the extra light reflection (and color purity) by painting the clear wood white. Some purists frown upon it, many customers insist on it.
Don’t get paint in the light sockets, or try to put balls of foam or tape in them. Just put some old bulbs in the sockets and paint around them.
Painting Fine Lines Step 1 : PAINTING VERY FINE LINES :
Sometimes you have a fine line to repair. If you have a bunch of fine lines, make a water slide decal; but for just one line here is a big time saver.
Don’t make this kind of fix over rough wood. Be sure you have a solid foundation, or your first clear coat down.
Here is where the ball has worn through the line.
It is in a very noticeable place from the player’s point of view. It needs to be repaired.
Painting Fine Lines Step 2 : The line is thinner than a 000 brush, so how can you paint it without making a mess?
First we gently cut a path with a Xacto knife. Use a fresh blade, of course.
Painting Fine Lines Step 3 : Now load the tip of the Xacto with your paint.
Use a little less than you think you need.
Painting Fine Lines Step 4 : Make a pass in the guide you cut. Notice how the pre-cut guide perfectly takes the paint.
Make as many passes as you need to match the thickness of the original line. Most thin lines need 2 passes.
You could not do this freehand with a brush.
Once you have mastered this technique, you will be quickly fixing playfield details you never though were possible.
Repairing Playfield Planking : Using Magic Eraser dampened with 99% isopropyl , I cleaned out all the planking (those little cracks in the clear/paint that run parallel to the length of the playfield). Under magnification the cracks looked clean, so I shot my first coat of clear to fill in the cracks and lock down the existing paint.
Many times, the planking fills with clear and no further painting is necessary. This was not one of those times.
The light color of the area (yellow) and the fact that this section is right under the player’s nose meant that the planking stood out like a sore thumb.
Sorry about the blurry pic, I took a few shots for safety, but they all were out of focus…
Repairing Playfield Planking Step 1 : I color matched the paint by eye, put a drop down on the original yellow paint, dried it with a heat gun and then wiped over the area with Naphtha. My second try matched the color exactly; so I was ready to mask the area off.
Using Frisket, I masked over all the surrounding yellow. Don’t try to “spot” repair, it will stand out if the two paints fade at a different rates in the future. Paint all the way to the edge of the art.
I used a Xacto knife and a metal straightedge to quickly cut out the masked areas.
There was no worry about the Frisket lifting the playfield paint upon removal because the playfield already had a layer of clear on it.
Repairing Playfield Planking Step 2 : Here I shot my first coat of yellow.
Because this is Createx opaque yellow, note how much coverage I got from a single coat. You would not see results like that with the cheap, $1 acrylic paint from the craft store, especially on a light color like yellow.
I set the paint with a heat gun and laid down a second, final coat.
Don’t sit around waiting for cheap paint to dry. Always use paint that you can heat set. Your time is certainly worth more than a $1 bottle of paint.
Repairing Playfield Planking Step 3 : After heat setting, I pulled the Frisket off.
I, of course, noted that there is an edge you can feel between the playfield and the new paint.
Using some 500 grit sandpaper, I gently knocked down the painted edges so the threshold was much smoother. This will make the next coat of clear “flow” over the edges rather than causing them to stand proud.
Because I used paint I could heat set, I had no worries about sanding 5 minute old paint. Again, you can’t do that with the cheap stuff….
Creating Graphics Step 1 : Sometimes you have a area of the playfield that can’t be cleaned up with the Magic Eraser.
Normally, the ME and 99% alcohol cleans out the cracks, leaving the cracks behind, but because they are clean, they fill nicely with the clear coat.
If you have to clean too much with the ME, the actual paint will wear away. Or sometimes there is too much printing to clean around. Or sometimes the cracked area is close to the flippers and draws the eye to the cracks, where higher on the playfield it would go completely noticed.
First scan the area with a hand scanner or one of those HP 4670 scanners.
Sand any keylining off of the insert, and leave it roughed up to 500 grit. We want that rough area so the clear coat has some “tooth” to hold on to.
Shoot a thin coat of clear over the playfield to lock down any loose pant and seal the surface.
Lightly sand it back to flatten out the cracks that telegraph through the clear.
In this example : Note the planked surface, note that the ME could not get it clean without removing the black printing, note the poor “kiss” of where the red meets the other paints.
Creating Graphics Step 2 :
While your clear coat is hardening, open your favorite photo program and examine your scan.
Using the “Channels” function, kill off any color other than the black and white and make a .jpg of the font.
Go to http://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/ and upload the .jpg of the font.
“What The Font” will tell you what font is it. If your .jpg is crappy, it may ask you to clarify a few characters.
Download the font and open it in your photo program.
Creating Graphics Step 3 : Overlay the new font letters on top of the playfield scan in a new layer.
If the letters are arched like this example, you can Rotate each letter or use the “Warp Text” function.
Remember that font size can be fractional, so your font might be 28.6 size rather than just plain old 28. Take your time a get it exactly right.
This font was identified as : Omnibus.
Next, draw the Keyline that goes around the lighted insert. Hold the SHIFT key down as you use the circle tool and overlap the outside of the original circle (this makes a “perfect” circle). Then hit the Subtract button and draw the inner circle. This “cuts out” the center of the first circle.
Unview the background image and check your work.
If it’s your first time, the above will take you 20 minutes. If you’ve used photo programs in the past, it will be less than 5 minutes of work.
Creating Graphics Step 4 :
Next, you have to print your art.
You need Clear Water Slide film, and a Laser Printer. Get the thinnest film they have, if offered a choice.
Ink Jet printer inks quickly fade, don’t even think of using them.
Most high end hobby shops have really good decal printers that can print opaque white, and gold / silver metallic. If you need those kind of decals, don’t be afraid to use their services.
Trim off the excess film around the printing, leaving clear tabs to connect the keyline to the letters.
Painting Behind Graphics : Using Frisket film, lay it over the sanded clear coat area to be repainted.
Cut out the Frisket any place that will be painted white (in this example).
Clean up anywhere that the colors don’t “kiss” correctly.
Installing Graphics :
Pull the Frisket off and clear over the paint (maybe the whole playfield if you are efficient).
Remember, we never want to apply a waterslide decal to the bare paint, or directly to a plastic insert.
The reason is that you don’t want the tension of the clear coat to be different on the topside of the decal than it is underneath.
You run the risk of ghosting if you just stick the decal to the insert plastic.
I’ve never had an insert decal ghost that has been applied on top of clear coat, then coated over.
Don’t take a shortcut here – do it right.
Fixing Holes Step 1 : You can use Epoxy, 2part Auto Clear, or Bondo.
Here, I’m replacing the crappy System 6 flipper mechs and coils with the much superior Williams 1990s style.
The Sys6 flippers connect through 3 fin screws that run through the top of the playfield.
After removing the screws, the holes and chips must be repaired.
Fixing Holes Step 2 : The screws left not only a hole, but a depression around the holes and lifted some paint too.
I taped over the back of the holes and filled them almost to the top with 5 minute Epoxy.
I dewaxed the surrounding area with Acetone, then I topped the depression off with Bondo.
Why not just use Epoxy all the way? Because Epoxy is harder than the playfield, so you won’t get a nice feathering around the fill. You will sand off lots of paint before you ever get the edge even with the playfield.
Bondo sands and feathers easily.
I gave the Bondo a half hour to dry and then feathered it into the surrounding playfield.
You can color blend the area in with an airbrush, or mask off and spray to the edges – depending on the complexity of the surrounding graphics.
Special Note : If you have smaller chips, and you are going to clear coat anyway, drip the clear coat into the chips with an eyedropper and level them off. Sand lightly, repair any paint loss and proceed with clear coating the entire table.
Restoring the Shooter Lane Step 1 : The Shooter Lane is a special case in restoration.
Because each layer of plywood changes direction, each layer wears in a different way. Dirt gets pounded in and end grain wear in the wood can leave soft fibers exposed.
Get a dowel or a piece of pipe of suitable circumference. If you do a lot of playfields, you will have a few sizes around the shop.
Cushion the sandpaper with an old rag so that your pipe has some “give” like a sanding block has.
If the lane looks bad, you might start with 120 grit sandpaper and see if you can clean it up.
Don’t remove too much material or the groove can become too wide.
Step down to 220 grit and see what it looks like.
Restoring the Shooter Lane Step 2 : After the 220 grit, run you finger along and see if you have it smooth. See if you have a bunch of spongy wood fibers.
Restoring the Shooter Lane Step 3 : There is a little bit of sanding skill and a little bit of fudge factor involved. Take your time, it either will be nice, or a pile of crap.
If you think you got it nice, take some Naphtha on a rag and wipe down your work.
This gives you a preview of what the clear coat will look like.
Sometimes it looks great dry, but looks terrible when Naphtha-ed.
Other times it looks dicey and grey, but comes out perfect when wet.
If the damage is too bad to sand out, don’t despair.
Patch any soft wood fibers with wood filler, sand smooth, mask with tape and simply paint in the “layers” of plywood.
I know this sounds flaky, but I’ve done it 100s of times and 95% of the time the customer never notices – but if I did not paint it, they’d notice for sure.