Playfield Swaps - Considerations for New Collectors

Playfield Swaps - Considerations for New Collectors

By xTheBlackKnightx

April 05, 2017

17 days ago

This topic recently came up again, and I will share some thoughts, and fundamentals.

There were a lot of intriguing questions, but I will make it simpler. If a person is already saying to themselves while looking at this article,TL;DR, I would recommend not attempting a playfield exchange.

As a collector, not "owner" that has replaced several dozen playfields, a person should ask themselves one question:

Does an individual want how to learn how to restore games and know how they actually work?
Meaning "step up their game"?

If not, nearly every other possible question has already been answered such as "are you patient and willing to see a project through", or "evaluate the game quality as to value of the time versus effort spent restoring", as it makes no difference.

An individual is not going to enjoy the process whatsoever, and most likely quit, and if they start up later, will not remember where they were anyway, thereby increasing the chances the project will never be finished, again. It only gets worse, as the cycle repeats itself.  In essence, an owner now could have a non-working pinball machine that is worse condition than it was originally.  No third party restorer wants to be handed a "Big Box o' Parts" from an owner who never finished a project.  One, they have no idea where they were in the project.  Two, they do not know if all parts are on hand, available, or complete.  Three, some restorers will refuse even touch this type of game, meaning the owner is "#$@! out of luck".

This should make logical sense, and not be an archaic mystery.
Many that have come before their first playfield exchange might have wished someone could have helped them the FIRST time.  All high end restorers started out the same way at some point in their life, and many used the experience of those that have come before to teach them.
I will do so.

The benefits do outweigh the challenges, if a person is willing to take their time and learn.
A person will become very familiar with a title, so an individual can HELP OTHERS AND THE HOBBY IN THE FUTURE.
That is the long term intent, not just be an owner.

If not, and a person can afford it, pay a business the $1000-1500 (Bride of Pinbot in this particular example case) to do the work for them.
Enjoy the shiny game.
Nothing wrong with that approach.

Plenty of people I know feel overwhelmed even doing stencils or decals.

I have recently redirected another collector to other sources, as he only owns very high end restored games, and is not at all interested in doing the work himself, and could certainly afford to have others do the work for him, including shipping games to them exclusively for restoration to make them "perfect", but not necessarily extreme restoration.

Since most people may not prefer to read 50 page guides on pinball restoration, here is a "Reader's Digest Condensed Version".

Fundamentals to remember:
- Use game title experts to assist (they are out there, ASK, and they many NOT BE on PinSide, there are many other resources!)
- Use some sort of rotisserie (absolute requirement unless you like to feel the extra pain, add unnecessary time, and potential PF damage)
- If a person is commonly disorganized, get assistance and formulate a plan and storage, as a person is going to need help (overeaching capabilities)
- Protect the playfield surface while working (a very common error)
- Use the RIGHT tools and temporary storage for parts, including magnet trays (the most common error)
- ALWAYS keep game assemblies together (being lazy)
- Lay out parts for reassembly in a logical playfield order fashion (being lazy)
- Take an absurd number of photos, and then take even more (overestimating memory)
- Template the screw holes with a punch for alignment, using another playfield, used or new , even if a person has to borrow one, validate if it does have pilot holes, BEFORE starting the playfield exchange
- Be prepared to make new playfield adjustments with a drill based on misalignments, it makes NO DIFFERENCE if the PF is NOS or reproduction (this is just part of the process, leads to frustration, and wanting to quit), and use a depth limiting lock sleeve or tape on the drill bit
- Practice solder skills beforehand, not when "needed", or be prepared to redo work (a fundamental, not optional)
- Remove old solder as needed, do not just resolder on top of old connections, as you will have coil and switch issues (being lazy)
- Replace old GI braid on older games, as this just leads to problems, and is not that expensive (being cheap)
- Use new screws as needed, do not reuse stripped out pieces of junk (being cheap)
- Make repairs to assemblies and rebuild them BEFORE you install them (overestimating memory)
- Reference the wire schematics and learn the harness and colors from memory, print extra copies for a spiral notebook (overestimating memory)
- Repair all connectors AFTER playfield is completed, if they get cracked or damage, or preexisting damage (preventative damage)
- TEST all game boards for proper voltage levels, and recheck all fuses (shortcutting)
- PRETEST EVERYTHING before plugging playfield harnesses into PCBs (taking shortcuts, that lead to disasters)

If an owner has not done a PF swap (in this case the Bride of Pinbot), it is not going to take the average of 72 hours for this title example. More like 2-4 weeks, dependent on time availability. Much longer, if a person has less than 2 hours a day. If an owner excludes any of the items listed above, they certainly will have some sort of issues throughout their adventure.

"Playfield swaps are not game modifications, check your work, then recheck playfield assembly again, unless you like to repair PCBs."

Story photos

Uploaded by xTheBlackKnightx


1 day ago
Couldn't agree with you more, great article. I restored a Solar Ride earlier this year and the commitment has to be there or like you said, the project will never get finished. That was my first swap. Working in my Playboy 35th swap next. I'm into the hobby for two years now, and I think I enjoy working on the machines as much, if not more than playing them....and I'll be the first to admit it. Have a great day.
1 day ago
I spent a year restoring Xenon. I learnt a great deal in the process. Never going to recoup the countless hours I poured into the machine.
Every part of the process was new to me. I'm not ashamed that I've actually spent money having someone else do a swap for me now. Not because I don't know how. I'm just more respectful of the time commitment involved in swapping out a game.
1 day ago
Good article, I would add to have everything playfield related working 100% before the swap (or document non-working features). I have helped more than one person who thought they broke something on the swap to have it turn out it never could have worked.

Required reading for everyone who sells a game and says. "Playfield trashed but you only need to swap in the new included playfield and it will be collector quality".

10 hours ago
I have a weird dysfunction in that I actually enjoy playfield swaps. What's wrong with me?

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