Maybe the slowest start to the hobby ever

By hawknole

March 23, 2017

This story got featured & frontpaged on March 26, 2017

5 years ago

I got my first pinball machine, a Black Knight, as an anniversary present from my wife.  That was almost 20 years ago, I do not know the exact date.  Now Black Knight was always the pinball machine for me.  I remember as a 13/14 year old kid when the Black Knight was released.  Multi-level, multi-ball and the extra play for the winner.  Back then we would call it "winning darkness".  I spent far too much time in an arcade, burning through quarters from my paper route, playing arcade games  and pinball.  I remember playing Gorgar and in college I played Firepower II all the time at the school's bowling alley.  I am still a big fan of Firepower II, too bad they are hard to find.  In college we played a bunch of Chexx hockey too.  I remember lots of fun around the standup head to head football with the big roller ball to move the X's and O's. Some of my favorite arcade games were Donkey Kong, Pole Position, Crazy Climber, Missile Command, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Dragon's Lair, Arkanoid & Rastan.  But the game that I could play the heck out of was a little less mainstream, Gorf.  I thought Gorf was awesome because it was a combination of a bunch of games and I could really get my quarter's worth.  I think I played on one quarter for over a half hour on certain occasions and made it all the way to the highest rank easily, whatever that was, Space Avenger, I believe.  

Over time, we got all those arcade games on an emulator or released in some form and generally they played true to the original.  And we got virtual pinball along the way as well.  While the arcade emulators and those cool multi-cade games can be a valid replacement for those old boxes, virtual is not that way.  The physicality was lost.  Nothing new to you guys and I am guessing a topic discussed at length on the forums here.  Yeah virtual cabinets are cool, but...

I should also note that I have a United Cascade Shuffle Alley that I brought back to life with some friends help in 1991.  I am trying to sell that to make more room for pins.  There just isn't that much interest out there for those machines unfortunately and I really don't know if I could get it out of my basement as I believe we passed it through a removable window which is no longer removable.

So I played my Black Knight and kept it in working condition since I owned it.  I touched up the knight on the upper playfield because he was worn away and I just played it.  I always need a project; from doing work on my house, working on cars, building speaker boxes, restoring old iPods with flash drives, whatever.  Then recently I had a leftover speaker from a speaker project.  It was a nice new poly-cone speaker, just not a solid fit for where my speaker project was headed.  By the way, I made what I would consider to be the best sounding semi-portable bluetooth speaker system, it rocks.  Anyway, I had this speaker and I knew that my Black Knight machine had an old paper speaker in it and that it had a tear in the cone.  Well, lo and behold, my spare poly-cone was a perfect fit for my BK machine.  It fit the old screws and everything.  I just had to cut the wire off the old nasty speaker, pull it out and solder in the new speaker.  Easy upgrade and a noticable improvement in the sound.  Well, that little act opened up a can of worms.  I started touching up the knight some more, because he was far from perfect.  Then I found some other resources and realized while I had my machine the hobby had improved and grown more popular.  Sorry to say, I missed the run of playfield reproductions for Black Knight and am frantically searching for one now.

Next, I went looking for another machine.  Twilight Zone has always been on my list since I bought the Black Knight.  Twilight Zone is my favorite TV show.  As an aside, I actually lived in CA with a friend of the family the summer of '85 who was a secretary for Rod Serling at the studios.  Back when I got my Black Knight the cost of a TZ was high and now the pricing is higher still.  So a Twilight Zone is a maybe down the road.  I started playing a virtual pinball game on my iPad when I traveled.  First Black Knight, then Twilight Zone, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Teed Off and Haunted House.  While the virtual is not as good as the real thing it does at least give you a feel for the machine, especially since you can't bring a pin on an airplane to play.  The game that bubbled to the top there was Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Not a great horror movie, but in my mind a really nice theme for a pinball machine.  I am a horror movie fan and just recently rewatched the original Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, what a movie that is!  If there was an original Frankenstein pin I believe I would be searching for it.  I guess Monster Bash is the closest thing.  Again, I digress.  After playing the virtual, I wanted a Creature machine.  I started looking for one and that is when I joined pinside.  I found one on pinside but it slipped away.  'Creech' is on my list and I will get one some day.

So, after looking and still playing my virtuals while I traveled, I rekindled my liking for Haunted House too.  Now Haunted House was another one of those "Oh Wow" machines when it was released for me.  I remember seeing the triple level for the first time and thinking how cool that was.  Then I got lucky and found a nice Haunted House nearby, so I purchased it.  The guy I purchased it from had some great machines in his collection and that is when I had my "oh crap, I think I caught the bug" moment, still not sure if I can shake the habit or even want to.  I have done a little bit of work to my HH, like touching up the art around the bottom left pop bumper and the ball landing spot on the attic.  Thankfully someone put mylar on the lower playfield and that is still in great shape.  I also picked up a new spider web plastic for my lower playfield and a new green glass.  All in all that machine is a beauty and fun playing machine.  I wish it kept score over 1 million and I think I will fabricate a gate stop for that lower level hole that just pops the ball back up.

After the speaker, I have since done some more work on my Black Knight.  I had three problem inlay lights and a tempermental pop bumper light since I got the pin and pretty much just ignored them and played my machine.  A couple weeks ago I fixed all of the problem inlay lights and resoldered that pop bumper light.  I replaced the back box displays.  I cleaned all of the inlays underneath and put in LEDs.  Holy crap, some of them were filthy.  The bigger ones, like the 2X and 3X jewels had like black soot on them.  This led me to believe that the original home for my machine was a bar.  I find it strange that I want to know what bar and talk to people that may remember playing it there.  The other day I confirmed it was indeed a bar where my laughing, taunting machine got his start.  My shooter stop has had black electrical tape on the right side since I got it.  I always figured it was because the metal underneath was in bad shape.  That was until the other day when I decided to remove it.  What I discoverd underneath all that black electrical tape was piece of an old Budweiser coaster that was used like a cushion.  I can only surmise that it was put there by someone who worked at the bar to avoid the ball bouncing off the metal and back into the trough.  I am not really sure if this was a common problem with the BK's, I kind of suspect it was as even with the tape the ball would bounce back in the trough every now and then.  I may find myself adding some type of cushion back in.  To my surprise, the metal underneath the tape was nearly perfect.  Cool, one less thing to replace.  I have new plastics and new rubber rings that are waiting for that new playfield.  That one little speaker led me back to my Black Knight and started a hobby in the slowest way imaginable. 

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5 years ago

Yesterday at Allentown Pinfest I got the CPR playfield I was searching for and new backglass. Time to order up some stencils and let the restore begin.

4 years ago

My playfield swap and cabinet painting with stencils is complete. A couple months ago I picked up a Lord of the Rings machine. What a great pin it is, super software.

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