1930's playfield cleaning

(Topic ID: 186267)

1930's playfield cleaning

By popperette

1 year ago

Topic Stats

  • 17 posts
  • 7 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by popperette
  • Topic is favorited by 1 Pinsider


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    genco Double Track 1938 (resized).jpg

    #1 1 year ago


    I am trying to find a way to clean a 1930's Genco playfield without destroying it. I asked around at different sites and had many responses. Mostly saying to use a polish/cleaner such as Millwax. Others say to use Naptha. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    I have posted on here at the Genco area before asking about this but I never received any cleaning information.

    The game is a Genco Double Track and the glass was missing when I bought it. The playfield is not filthy but it will need a good cleaning. I read a few post on cleaning and as I said before they were all over the place. The paint, on the playfield, had some areas where it looks like old varnish is lifting. The paint is still intact. In the past I have used a slightly dampened paper towel with diluted Simple Green on it and that cleaned up my Bally Fleet and Bally Streamline without damaging the wood. I was told by many that any liquid other than Naptha will raise the grain of the wood. I am worried that Naptha would dissolve the varnish or paint. Again, I would appreciate any advice given.

    So the main question is what is a safe cleaner to use on 1930's pinballs?



    genco Double Track 1938 (resized).jpg

    #2 1 year ago

    Good grief, Larry, that's a beautiful game!

    I would suggest carefully using whichever product in a small spot then gradually working outwards once you figure out the reaction.

    I've used Millwax on my 1937 Genco Junior with good results. Make sure not to rub too hard or too long in one spot. I spot-tested a couple of things and nothing was as safe as Millwax. I seem to recall Naptha didn't visibly hurt it. A good spot to test is the shooter lane. Mine has that same white painted shooter lane, and it's easy to see the reaction and not heart-breaking to lose a spot of the white.

    You could also knock off the apron and test underneath, but the reaction up above is more important.

    I'd love to see a video and/or some pics once you get it up and running.


    #3 1 year ago
    Quoted from bingopodcast:

    I would suggest carefully using whichever product in a small spot then gradually working outwards once you figure out the reaction.

    Quoted from bingopodcast:

    Mine has that same white painted shooter lane, and it's easy to see the reaction and not heart-breaking to lose a spot of the white.

    Great advice. Definitely test a small area. Naptha flashes off very fast, so that solvent will not be soaking into the artwork. Use naptha in a well ventilated area as well. Be careful around any loose or lifting artwork.

    Interesting head to head game, are both points and horse movement connected? Could 1 player play both sides, by going back and forth between balls? Or does it need 2 players? It must be a fairly un-common game.

    #4 1 year ago

    It is uncommon thats why im skittish on ruining it. Not that I think its OK to ruin a common game. I take it to heart anytime I screw something up, but it especially hurts when they are rarer.

    I saw a flyer for this and you can either play one player or two. Im not sure how the one player would work? It would be boring if the other horse just sat there.

    Ive been trying to knock out a few projects before I took this one on. I just finished a Seeburg 200c-1 library console home phongraph/jukebox and a CC Sky Rider pinball. The Sky Rider was a balloon themed pinball that my sons fraternity was throwing out. The playfield is rough. A lot of paint loss, missing switches, broken wires, damaged boards, etc. I was able to fix it up but I cant do anything with that playfield. It plays nice and is fun to play. I tried to give it back but they don't want it. Anyway, the theme of this story is my projects are done so now I will have to man up and face this one. It will be a challenge. A lot of broken wires. Any schematics out there, lol. ?

    #5 1 year ago

    I had a lot of rotten wires on my game, had to rewire the whole thing. No schematics are available (generally) for anything pre-war.

    You can always try to call Steve Young to ask!

    #6 1 year ago

    I was teasing. I figured there would be no schematic to look at. On the bright side, if both games are wired the same, then hopefully what is broken on one side, isn't broken on the other.

    #7 1 year ago

    My personal recipe (which also includes testing small out of the way areas) is

    Novus 2

    if you have a REALLY dirty spot maybe a little ME

    Naptha dissolves wax but not paint or varnish whereas alcohol may.


    #8 1 year ago

    Thanks for all the advice. What's ME?

    #9 1 year ago
    Quoted from popperette:

    Thanks for all the advice. What's ME?

    Magic eraser. Melamine foam. It's just shy of being a very high grit sandpaper. Definitely abrasive.

    #10 1 year ago
    Quoted from Frax:

    Magic eraser. Melamine foam. It's just shy of being a very high grit sandpaper. Definitely abrasive.

    ME will take all the paint off.

    Novus 2 is also abrasive. Just go real slow and look after each wipe.

    The enemy of good is better!

    #11 1 year ago

    The photos on IPDB and Pinpedia are of the exact same game as the one you posted here. The lower right rebound spring is off. It is interesting that the horse theme could be changed to a race car theme, just by swapping the moving parts in the back box.

    #12 1 year ago

    Yes it is the same game and the same picture. I bought it from a guy locally and the guy I bought it from asked me if it was O.K. for him to allow IPDB to put the images on the internet. I told him that I really didn't mind what he did, he still owned it at the time, but that was nice of him to ask. It was on Ebay last year.

    I always wanted a horse pinball and thought I would take the chance on this game. I told my wife it was either the smartest thing I bought or the dumbest. It all depends on the outcome.

    I was originally looking for a Nags or a CC Derby, but this was more affordable.

    Everything seems to be there except for a spring and one of the other style of springs on the playfield. It looks like a piece of coiled spring steel. I am looking for that part if anyone has any Genco parts, I would be interested in one. Odds are I'll probably have to make one.

    Oh yeah, the one side has a chunk of wood missing from it too.

    #13 1 year ago

    This game is WAY OLDER than many people are used to dealing with based on experience commonly on this forum.
    As a result restoration conditions are different.

    Let me carefully assist, as you have a nice game, that I would like to stay this way.

    Read everything in this post.
    There was significant errors in recommendations and advice.

    Denatured alcohol, start with cotton balls in a test area far away from the center of the playfield. Light circles. I have no idea the condition of the paint, and I doubt the remaining lacquer is in superb condition. Move up to a terry cloth with light rubbing, if no paint issues.

    If you want to start "lighter" in terms of testing start with isopropyl alcohol, but it is much less effective with dirt and grime.

    Restorers DO NOT START with Millwax for cleaning of a playfield, but AFTER a playfield is cleaned. This is not a new game, and I do not know how long ago it was cleaned anyway. Operators used Millwax as the standard, but that was for different reasons and different period in history.

    Understand that naphtha is the primary component mineral spirit of paint thinner, and with old playfields can remove paint, this NOT a clear coated playfield. Denatured alcohol is a better alternative, but can remove lacquer as well, meaning you must protect the playfield surface after cleaning.

    This is IMPORTANT. Stay the complete absolute !#$@ away from Mr. Eraser in this case. Too old and delicate. Especially if you have not used the product.

    Novus 2 may be too abrasive and should be used with extreme caution.
    Novus 1 is much safer in this case for light after "spritz" cleaning.

    After you are completely satisfied with your cleaning efforts and there are no residues, you can lightly wax the game with carnauba versus Millwax (DO NOT use both), but you cannot let the wax dry fully to a "white" consistency because excessive rubbing required may result in lost paint or wax into playfield planking cracks. You must do what is called a "wet wax" and remove the wax after no more than 15 minutes while it is still drying with a terry cloth or chamois. Usually, I wipe off in less than 10 minutes if air conditions are causing to form quicker, watch the wax, just do not walk away and forget about it.

    This last part is an advantage of Millwax because there is minimal visible residue.

    Best of Fortune.

    #14 1 year ago

    Thanks for the advice. I was able to take some random shots of the playfield. It is dirtier than I remember. When I bought it, I just moved it to the basement. I couldn't get to the whole game. I just reached in and took three random shots. I'll pull it out next week and take it apart. I'll probably try to get it to work before I attempt to clean it. The paint looks pretty good. You can see a line which is probably a split in the wood/paint in two of the shots.

    IMG_3188 (1) (resized).JPG

    IMG_3189 (resized).JPG

    IMG_3187 (1) (resized).JPG

    #15 1 year ago

    For an added tip, after thorough inspection of the game including removing anything loose, shop vacuum up as much surface dirt off the playfield with a very soft hair shop brush (not metal) first before you start test cleaning with cotton balls. The importance of using a shop vacuum is if something gets sucked up wrongly by accident you can retrieve it from the container and it makes identification of surface dirt / mold / mildew versus ground in dirt easier.

    Remove every single metal part you can, so you are not spreading dirt around the playfield, into the playfield, contaminating the playfield, and simply to make your life simpler.

    There is no doubt in my mind looking at this close up playfield photos you will have to be extremely careful regarding flaking paint with any of the types of light cleaners I suggested. Even too much hard rubbing with denatured alcohol will potentially start causing damage exclusively based on age alone.

    Keep in mind Millwax as a protectant does also get in crevices and cracks, and is not visually optimal in damaged areas.

    The paint itself still looks very good at the present time in terms of color.

    Yesterday just for an experience note, I was helping someone clean a Bank Shot (GTB, 1976) are we took the cleaning nearly as far as we could with denatured alcohol to remove ball swirls and dirt cracks which is 40+ years old "younger" as a game than yours, but I had to tell them to stop, as we reached a point where although all the ball swirls were gone, we could conduct no more cleaning of this nature without risk of paint damage as some lacquer was removed.

    #16 1 year ago
    Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

    Remove every single metal part you can

    The spring bumper caps unscrew - be careful not to break them as they cannot be reproduced (beautiful marbled plastic).

    The bumpers themselves can then be removed. They make connection via a carbon ring inset in the spring bumper to a nail electrified sticking through the center of the ring. Inspect the underside of the playfield before removing the nail - I would likely leave that in place, myself.

    For reassembly, you simply reverse those steps. There is a washer between the cap and the spring. Do not lose this, and verify that it is present on every bumper.

    I agree that it currently looks very good - I think it will clean up very well.

    The flag springs need to be punched out from the bottom. This can damage the playfield. Same for the spring retention posts. Be very very cautious if doing this. I cut small pieces of cork and wedge around the post to absorb some of the shock of hammering those out. The wood can splinter in a very unsightly way when you use a punch to hammer them out. It will be very difficult to polish one of the flag springs while still attached to the game. Be aware that they are only held in along one edge (obviously) so that can break if you apply a lot of pressure to it.

    Would love to read some tips regarding removal of flag springs and spring posts as my method works, but I've hammered out a lot of spring posts and it took some trial and error to get right.

    Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

    shop vacuum up as much surface dirt off the playfield with a very soft hair shop brush (not metal)

    That's also a very good call. You can kind of sweep up some of the loose dirt that way, saving yourself some time and potential damage to the playfield.

    I think you've got this.

    #17 1 year ago

    I was able to take the playfield out and I did notice some areas where varnish is lifting. Paint is still intact. Actually, it would look nice with no varnish. What a difference in color. The flash washes it out. You can see where a few pieces lifted off of the guys cheek and fell off.

    IMG_3213 (resized).JPG

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