The Playfield – Topside

For repair and restoration of the topside (Figure 1.1 – 1.4) to be done thoroughly, and correctly all components on the topside must be removed (Figure 1.5 – 1.9). Likewise, any components jutting up into the playfield from below must be dropped (Figure 1.10 – 1.11). Finally, the playfield rails should also be removed (Figure 1.12)

At this point the playfield can be easily examined for defects, such as missing paint, loose, sunken, or raised lamp inserts, metal posts broken flush with playfield surface, screw holes that should not exist. I classify missing paint, and raised lamp inserts to be Major repairs, and the others minor.

Now, if the playfield does not have, any major defects it can be de-waxed, cleaned, and re-polished, or prepared for clear coat. This is the best time to clean all the through holes. These are machined holes in the playfield that allow switches, drop targets, and the like to protrude to the upper playfield. Over the years they usually become an ugly black. This is due to cleaners and wax running over the edge and down the side, then it becomes coated with carbon dust, from the high voltage switches. A damp soapy rag pulled through the hole, will clean the bulk out. This is followed with a very light sand with a rotary tool attachment. Now if the playfield is being clear coated, the wood grain will be sealed looking fresh. If the playfield is just being power polished, I seal the fresh wood grain with old school hair spray.

The playfield ready for re-polish will have one of three finishes, screened ink on wood, ink on wood with a factory applied mylar overlay, or ink on wood with a protective clear coat finish. Regardless of the existing finish, the playfield is re-polished using a powered 3-step cut, polish, finish, process (Figure 1.13). The only variation is different abrasives, &/or polishes used to match the existing finish. The following are some photos of playfields that have had existing finishes re-polished (Figure 1.14 – 1.21). Here are others that were clear coated (Figure 1.22 – 1.33).

Each pinball playfield restoration is a unique process, as there are many variables that can determine the degree of restoration required. Ideally knowing what you want helps. Some people want a showpiece, like a show car, rarely driven, usually moved on a trailer. Others want a player, where small imperfections can be overlooked, providing it looks fresh, and plays properly.

I will not go into detailed techniques of lamp insert repair, or playfield paint matching and touchups, as who wants to read through 40 pages. Sometimes a playfield can have so many issues, that once a cost analysis is done, the least expensive avenue is to install a new aftermarket replacement.

Whatever degree of restoration / repair you are after, it can become a reality here.

Now on to explaining what happens to all the parts that were removed from the upper playfield. As the playfield is stripped, all the metal parts, such as lane guides, machine screws, gates, nuts, washers, are segregated (Figure 1.34 – 1.36). They are put into a tumbler /polisher unit with a special dry medium, and run continually for about 7 days. Usually after this term all the metal parts look new (Figure 1.37), any that don’t are then hand sanded, or replaced.

The plastic parts, such as support posts, lane guides are put into another tumbler. These run in a special wet medium for about 2 days, fluid changed, then another two days. They emerge sparkling clean (Figure 1.38 – 1.39). Any cracks are now visible, and bad pieces can be replaced.

All the larger metal & plastic parts have to be polished by hand. This can be quite a process. Machines from eastern Canada, or that have been in cold storage for many years, have just ugly metal surfaces. This can be corrected with sandpaper, and power tools (Figure 1.40 – 1.45). It’s very time consuming, and for that reason only topside playfield metal will be done, unless special requests are made. Used Pinball Machine

Artwork plastics are polished on a buffing wheel, ramps by hand. Any paint touchup required to art plastics is done at this time.

Playfield edge rails (Figure 1.46) are often an overlooked item. Most are black in color. I will paint them, many times with a new color, using automotive paint with a clear coat finish; they can really make a playfield stand out.

That is about it for the reader’s digest version of upper playfield restoration, Oh! Yes, now it time to reassemble, but not until the underside is completely rebuilt.

Shopping Cart