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The Virtual Pinball Machine

Component Details | Back to Intro |  The PC

Preparing the Cabinet

Stripping the Components

I needed a pinball cabinet. I didn't need the guts. So, my first task was removing everything from my cabinet that made it a pinball machine.

I found that it's surprisingly easy to strip a pinball least in the case of this particular machine. All of the back box mechanisms (score reels, etc.) are mounted on a single board. Four bolts and the whole thing pulls right out. The hinged frame was, well, hinged--so a couple of screws and that was removed.

​After disconnecting a couple of wiring harnesses, the playfield lifted right out. It's not attached to the cabinet in any way. It just sits in there. The components on the inside of the cabinet are, like the back box components, mounted on a

single board. After cutting a couple of hard-wired connections to the coin door, I removed two bolts and lifted out everything.

After that, there were just a few miscellaneous items to remove--the bell from the inside back of the cabinet, the coin door wiring, and the leaf switches for the flippers and start button. (I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to remove the buttons themselves--guess those are going to be used on the final cabinet as flipper and start buttons!)

The final step was to clean the cabinet. There was a lot of shredded paper and birdseed in the coin box area (along with the usual collection of screws, fuses, washers, old rubber rings from the playfield, and so on), which makes me think some small critters used this machine as a condo at one point. (There was a faint smell of animal urine, too--you'll have that.) I vacuumed and scrubbed the cabinet thoroughly in preparation for the next step--sanding, priming, and painting.

I didn't need any of the components, so I ended up giving away all of the parts to John, a local repair tech who works on my pinball machines. I threw the back glass away--the artwork was flaking away to nothing.

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Sanding, Priming, and Painting

Either the paint on arcade cabinets is really durable or I'm really bad at using a power sander. Either way, I've never been able to get down to bare wood. Luckily, it's not really necessary. The main goal of sanding is to roughen the surface so that the new primer and paint will stick better. It's tough to paint on a glossy surface. I did my sanding outside. I learned from previous projects that no amount of plastic sheeting keeps this process from making a horrible mess inside. Luckily it was a nice day. If you look closely at the first picture below, the sanding revealed a bit of the pattern that was once the full side art of the machine. The blue that was there was part of the art, but for some reason the rest had been painted over at some point.


​After sanding the main cabinet and back box, I used wood

putty to fill in any gouges in the cabinet. There weren't many. I also figured I'd experiment with the putty to see if I could rebuild the smashed/rotted corner of the back box. More on that later.

After an hour, I sanded the putty spots, wiped away the dust, and got out the Kilz 2 primer. One coat is all you need. I had to tape up the flipper and start buttons, the top bar of the coin door (I removed the rest--the top bar is hard to get to) and the metal at the back of the cabinet that the glass slides into. I removed the legs, too, so I didn't have to paint around them.

I let the primer dry overnight and painted the next day. I used Lowes Valspar semi-gloss interior black. I was toying with the idea of using another color, but it seems I always come back to black when painting arcade games. As with most semi-gloss paints, it took three coats to get a nice, even coat.

With regard to the rotted/broken corner on the back box, my experiment with the wood putty worked on the minor damage of the main portion of the box. I know it looks rough in the image, but I just added some extra filler before the picture was taken. With a couple more applications and sandings, the corner was in acceptable (if not perfect) shape. That gave me hope for the frame itself. That was broken/rotted all the way through in the lower left corner (as you can see in the picture). I screwed the corner together using a flat L-bracket, and then used wood putty to build it up and make it look decent. A little sanding and painting and it was still noticeable, but not distractingly awful.

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