The Pinball Wizzard Restoration


On the average, a complete restoration to bring a late model pin (less then 20 years old) back to as close as it originally looked when it was removed for the original packing box takes anywhere from 35 to 75 hours depending on the present condition of the machine.  This kind of time is not what you will find from your average pinball dealers or with machines you will find for sale on places like Ebay so itís buyer beware. If itís to good to be true, it probably is. Weíve seen everything from not working at all to rigged wiring and cabinets repaired with automotive body filler. 


Itís not always possible to begin with a nice machine that is in great shape because most pins were used on vending routes, both here and abroad and were expected to produce money consistently so care and routine maintenance was not at the top of the dealers list. We first assess the condition of our patient and make an extensive list of everything to include the operation, electronics, all mechanicals and the cosmetic condition of the playfield, cabinet and backbox. All damage and any missing parts are listed.  Then we take pictures inside and out of every inch. Tons of them and in high resolution.  Now we know exactly what parts we need and how much time will be required to get this pin back to new.


Most of out machines are pre-sold and then scheduled for the restoration process. Some of the less popular pins are cleaned, re-rubbered, bulbs replaced and the electronics gone over to make sure it all works properly. These machines are sometimes wholesalers or to the Do It Yourselfers, as they do not meet our criteria of a TOP SHELF caliber machine.


The most time consuming part of the restoration process is by far the complete disassembly for the playfield both the top and bottom. What is left is a bare piece of wood with artwork on one side. If there is hole damage that has not only enlarged the original hole and damaged the artwork around it, the pain-staking task of repair starts. We hand clean the entire playfield with our special formulated chemical and also sand clean the entire underside. Any raised lens inserts are reseated to be level. If clear coat was not part of the customers requested order, buffing to a high gloss and then several coats of wax buffed until it has a mirror finish.


Hours of detail time goes into the cleaning and polishing of the all the playfield parts right down to metal post. We give all the small parts a bath in a commercial ultra-sonic cleaner and finish up with hand polishing with using a dremel tool with a buffing wheel. Broken and cracked metal parts like ramps and ball poppers are micro-welded with stainless steel and re-enforced to prevent a future failure. Broken or cracked plastics are replaced and we install clear washers on the kickers to prevent a re-occurrence. In some cases, on machines with a past track record of breakage to certain plastics, we fabricate and install custom-made stainless steel protectors to prevent future breakage. To our knowledge, we are the only restoration company to do this. 


Large parts like plastic and metal ramps are cleaned and polished. Metal ramps get a clear coating and Mylar to prevent ball tracks and keep them looking like new. Again, we donít know of anyone else doing this process. Re-used plastics are polished with Novus and a buffing wheel.  Even screws and nuts are cleaned and polished. The underside of the playfield can take all day to clean. All lamp boards are cleaned and the sockets are re-soldered. if necessary. All bulbs are replaced with  new ones as well. The lens inserts are cleaned with Q-tips until they shine. The inside of the cabinet is given a thorough vacuum cleaning and sanding if necessary to remove any stains.  Hardware including support rods, speakers, and electrical parts and wiring is also cleaned. The transformers located in the bottom of some cabinets can cause damage or a big sag in the bottom panel because of its weight. If cabinet repair is necessary, we re-glue and reinforce the bottom panel as found on some machines.  Finally, the inside of the cabinet get a new paint job and the hard the cleaned parts go back. Coin door, if in good condition, are cleaned and re-painted and buttons are removed and cleaned or replaced as necessary.  Inside the backbox get attention to detail as well and after all boards are removed, is cleaned and repainted inside. The outside of the cabinet is cleaned and any damaged is repaired. Artwork is part of the presentation and should look great so if we need to breakout the airbrush and paints, we will spend the time necessary to make it look original. And a final clear coat will assure it stays that way.


Most sellers will overlook important items like the electronics that are at the heart of a pinball machine. A pinball machine not only needs to looks good, it needs to work every time you turn it on. Keep this in mind. Some electronic components have a life expectancy of 10 years so unless the machine was manufactured in the late 90ís, these components are living on borrowed time and subject to failure at any time. We repair boards that customers send us everyday. We make modifications to improve reliability and we replace original components with heavy-duty parts to increase long-term reliability and performance. A 24-hour burn in assures reliable operation. The display is removed, inspected and cleaned as well as cleaning and polishing the speaker housing and lens.  Roms are upgraded to the latest versions.  Most dealers take the ďif it isnít broke, donít fix itĒ approach.  Restoration is so much more then cosmetic.


Now with most of the restoration process behind us, we begin the time consuming task of reassembly. All of those playfield parts we removed and cleaned now need to be reinstalled.  We start on the bottom and reinstall all sockets and lamp boards with new bulbs. Coils are reinstalled and plungers, links and springs are replaced as necessary. Subway ramps are remounted as well as all other remaining components. With all in place we now can attack the top of the playfield. All plastics, posts, new rubbers and remaining bulbs are installed.  All electronics are reinstalled in the backbox and a final check before the machine is fired up. With everything in place, we boot up and set the adjustments to freeplay. In test mode switches, optos, lamps, flashers and solenoids for proper operation.  This may all sound like a lot of work. Your right, it is. Consider this. If a machine sells for, lets say $2000 and a quality restoration takes, let say 50 hours, what should you expect to pay for this restored pinball machine? Well at just $20 an hour and not counting any supplies, parts, bench time for board repairs or bulbs and rubbers, it would add an additional $1000 to that $2000 machine. Remember, you only get what you pay for and pinball machines are no exception.  PinBall Wizzardís is dedicated to the restoration of these beautiful mechanical devices we call pinball machines. These masterpieces of engineering cannot be replaced. Just like paintings and sculptures, they are truly works of art. Helping to preserve them is PinBall Wizzardís mission.


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