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(Topic ID: 166897)

Bally Magic Circle - Semi Sympathetic Playfield Restoration

By Moonbus

4 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 57 posts
  • 11 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 3 years ago by Moonbus
  • Topic is favorited by 19 Pinsiders


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There are 57 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.
#1 4 years ago

My first proper forum post, relatively new to the site and a total pinball virgin. I have been gathering information from here so I thought I should share my experience with this project. Please excuse the backstory, without it you may find my ignorance and processes perplexing.

Me, myself and Pinball.
I’m 38, from London UK and I know nothing about pinball outside of playing a few real games 20+ years ago in sea front arcades and a few Amiga computer games back in those days. I have / had zero experience of working on or understanding a real pinball machine.

So how did I find myself with this machine ?
I have two boys aged 3.5 and 1.5 and they are obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles cartoon series. One day whilst they were watching the green mutants eat Pizza and discuss the Krang one of my boys asked what Michelangelo was playing in the background. Pinball said I, thus I tried to explain it but got nowhere.

In the end I decided the best thing was to get them a cheap pinball machine from toys-r-us and let them have a play. It was the most disappointing experience ever but it sowed a seed.

I like to think I am a practical person, I work on IT, have done the house up, invented a few novelty and practical items such as baby gates, automated fish tanks and built some furniture from scratch so I thought my next project would be to build the boys a reduced size but proper pinball machine.

Now from reading the interwebs and doing some research I soon realized that building from scratch would not be cheap. Pinball is more expensive than I thought. I put a list together of parts I would need, got a sterling total and started scouting for parts.

Whilst doing my daily ebay search I stumbled across a picture of a pinball machine with the title ‘Bally Magic Circus 1965 Pinball Machine’. I googled it and found nothing under that name. However, it had all the parts I needed, was under my price cap and the condition of it meant nothing to me as I only wanted the guts. I placed a bid.

3 days later, I picked up this…

(Playfield pic missing pop and flipper as taken a few days after I got the machine)

The wife was not happy.

At this point I should point out that I live in a small 2.5 bed semi-detached 5 miles from central London. I do not have a games room, garage, out building, so the machine is put in the boys bedroom. I reassure the boss that it wont take me long to strip it down and they will have the space back that’s needed for a bed. That was January.

Now I make what some would regard as a mistake and other would treat as a ‘thank god’ moment. Later on you are all probably going to dislike what I do at some point so don’t get your hopes up that this is going to be all happy endings.

I googled the proper name of the machine, this threw a rather large spanner in my grand plan.

580 units made between Feb and June 1965. After a few more hours of searching for info I cant find much more on the machine apart from about 5 others that are advertised as in collections.

What have I done ? I got what I thought was junk for salvage, and I have ended up with something that maybe ignorantly I think should be preserved. At this point I seriously thought about re-listing it with its correct name and seeing if someone who knew something about pinball would take it off me. I didn’t for two reasons…

Firstly if I sold this one, there is no way I would find another pinball for parts at the price I got this for.

Secondly, I made myself a promise that I would have a pinball machine for the kids for Christmas.

So to follow is the torture that my playfield has endured over the last 7 months as the novice that I am attempts to do a job that I hope I am proud of.

#2 4 years ago

First steps first.
As I’m going to use the playfield I wanted to make sure the game worked. I resisted the temptation to plug it in and got back on the internet, found some fix/restore guides for EM machines and followed the repeated advice…

Lose wires,

It took 2 weeks of after work tinkering.

First power up after the above the machine came to life, minus a few bulbs. The ball was covered in rust so I tested the game functions by manually triggering parts with a wooden tongue depressor ( I didn’t trust the grounding of the machine yet). All scared the crap out of me but all seemed ok apart from the ball eject mech, the labeled relay was working so I assumed that was something that could be fixed later.

Oh, a flipper mech decided to detach from the flipper and drop out and a pop bumper self-destructed.

In for a penny, in for a pound.
By this time I had found Vids guide as well as a few other internet and youtube guides. Not 100% sure what route to take yet but the one thing that was certain is the machine was so dirty that I wanted to strip it down and give it a good clean. Blind ignorance is a wonderful thing.

Here is the naked playfield before cleaning…

#3 4 years ago

After cleaning...

#4 4 years ago

Concerns at this stage.
Missing paint in front of kickers.

Dodgy homemade flipper bats and lose flipper mech, mixed with the dirt had been grinding the playfield away.

Chipping all over the playfield, little flecks of paint missing for no apparent reason.

It cleaned up ok considering the flipper and kicker coils seemed to have been lubed with car grease and this grease had worked its way up to be flicked all over the visible surface.

#5 4 years ago

Buy this point I was full of gusto and I got my acrylic paints out. I had watched a load of videos on playfield touchups. How hard can it be, I may not be able to paint a lifelike portrait but I can pull of a good landscape, doing this should be easy.

How wrong I was. Colour matching is a pain in the ass, I had to use the wife. Eliminating brush strokes without using chemicals that could react to the playfield proved frustrating.

Here is the full horror…


Attempt 1

Attempt 2

Attempt 3

#6 4 years ago

Ok, calm down. Once the clearcoat is applied the brush strokes will not be that obvious. It is just not good enough and how am I going to do the white text and get it to match the rest of the text on the playfield, and speaking of matching, the colours from the top half of the game don’t match the same colours on the bottom half of the game because they have not faded at the same rate.

My frustrations got the better of me and I decided to remove my attempts and look for another approach.

It was at this time that the first insert fell out, leaving half of it in the game. Closer inspection revealed they were all loose and all but one had split top from sides. My heart sank a little.

I pushed on, removed my paint and removed all the inserts. What I assumed to be a quick job was turning into much more. Now after cleaning for a second time all the paint was starting to delaminate.

At this time I’m not sure if its something I did or if all the dirt was just holding the pain on.

Here is the painted area before and after my attempts, what the picture does not show is that the remaining paint is so loosely adhered that if the cat farted more paint would fall off.


#7 4 years ago

Magic Circle is one of my favorite pins art wise,
very hard to master in play though.
Good luck on you restore project.

#8 4 years ago

Thanks Pinwiztom,

My plan is to try and keep the gypsy lady in her ‘weathered’ condition, after all she is no spring chicken anymore. The back-glass is knackered though. I think someone tried to force the replay/credit reel forwards through the cut out, in the process the image cracked and a large central chunk is missing.

Backglass hole (resized).jpg
Sorry for the darkness of the picture, its from a scanner.

The bulbs behind were too hot as well and the screening has been baked. I may get a replacement printed either as a backlit photo print on acrylic or as a poster that will then be sandwiched between two glass / acrylic sheets.

#9 4 years ago

From reading the experiences of others on here I know the solution to my paint disintegrating is to lay down a layer of clearcoat thus locking everything down. Unfortunately I cant do this. I don’t have the equipment, facilities or space, indeed at this time I had not thought about the end game I was just working through the process and tackling things as they came up.

Research led me to this product…
Polyvine (resized).JPG

It is a water based acrylic clearcoat that sets hard enough to sand.

My plan was to gently brush this on in a generous quantity so as to enable it to soak in to the playfield and encase the paint.

In the end the plan worked and the playfield didn’t seem to mind at all. I left this for a few days to cure.

Playfield 4 (resized).jpg

#10 4 years ago

This gave me time to do some more reading and work out what direction I should take. I resigned myself to doing a full repaint of the playfield as it was the only way I would get consistent results and colour from top to bottom.

Vids guide mentioned about using decals for inserts, why not use the process for the whole playfield ?

First I had to fix the issue of the missing inserts.

I searched and searched but I could not find anywhere in the UK that sold inserts or anything close to what I required so I made my own.

Working in a senior school has its bonuses, in this case a Design Technology department equipped with a laser cutter.

Measured the old inserts, ran up a template and knocked out 30 clear 5mm thick acrylic discs.

I didn’t need that many for the game but I had by now realized that nothing is given in this game so always test anything before hitting the playfield.

An order was put in for some Createx paints , I got the prime colours opaque kit, and my brother lent me a small air compressor. I bought the cheapest airbrush I could find.

Airbrush (resized).jpg

Some practice passes on the acrylic scrap from the discs to test for reactions.
Practice (resized).jpg

#11 4 years ago

I tested gluing the inserts to wood. Vid recommended using a plastic primer before using epoxy but I could not find the primer over here.

This method worked for me, apply acrylic weld glue to the edge of the disk and allow to dry. This mottled the edge and gave something the epoxy could bite onto.

After all the inserts were ‘primed’ I glued them in with epoxy making sure they were above the playfield slightly but never below. Once dry I sanded them level to the playfield. This served two purposes, the inserts were flat and level, and the surface of the inserts was ready to receive paint.

I tested backlighting the inserts and realized that either the weld glue or the epoxy on the rear of the insert caused a shadow to be cast on the playfield side. Frustrating but with the use of some 600 wet-dry on the end of a cotton bud (cotton swab) and then a buff with Novus 2, the shadows were no more.

Here is the playfield with the inserts set and sanded, you can see the four initial epoxy spots ghosting on the inserts as they had not been rectified yet, I'm leaving that for when I do the backside.
insert glued (resized).jpg

#12 4 years ago

The wife went out for the evening and left me in charge of the kids so I did what all good dads do, I dumped them with the grandparents for a few hours.

Step one, spray all the yellow.
I had read that games of this age often only used prime colours. How true that is I don’t know but it gave me the idea that I could just spray all the yellow straight out the bottle, no mixing, no fuss. Having never used an airbrush I was intending to keep things as simple as possible.

A few spot tests convinced me to go for it and as I was doing all the yellow, who would know.

Back when I ordered the paint I also got some frisket, with an empty house, I commandeered the dining room and set to work.

I used tracing paper to record the locations of detail lines that I would be spraying over and photographed all the yellow areas for later reference.
yellow 1 (resized).jpg

Frisket was then sized to each area, The stuff is expensive, I was being frugal.
Yellow 2 (resized).jpg

Once stuck and trimmed I masked the rest of the playfield of with whatever I could find. Looking back at this I was really not prepared.
Yellow 3 (resized).jpg

I shot 3 coats, drying after each one with a hairdryer. The limitation of the compressor size meant that there were a good few recharging breaks.

Masking paper removed…
Yellow 4 (resized).jpg

After the frisket was removed, the black detail lines were still visible through the new yellow but as I intended to reaply these I was not fussed as it gave me some reference points.
Yellow 5 (resized).jpg

WARNING – Do not do what I did. Having never used an airbrush I didn’t understand the ramifications of my actions.
A few days later the wife was drying her hair, son number 1 piped up and said “Mummy, why is the back of your hairdryer turning yellow ?”. I was busted. Whilst no long lasting effects that I know off, as punishment for my actions I had to clean the house from top to bottom removing the film of yellow dust that had settled everywhere. Somehow we are still finding it.

Do this outside, in a garage or make a tent.

#13 4 years ago

My project was physically put on hold after the airbrush (hairdryer) incident so I had some time to decide how I was going to finish this project off.

I went back over Vids playfield guide and others I had found on the internet, in the end I decided to paint and decal the whole playfield, it was the only way I was going to get things as consistent as I wanted them.

This gave me some freedom as well to play around with colours, whilst I was treating this as a restoration I also wanted to add some personal touches and hopefully make the game more enticing to my boys and their friends.

After some extensive googling I managed to find a few more photos of the playfield and I noticed that my playfield was quite dark compared to others. This could have been to do with the camera settings but I liked the lighter look.

My next mission was making the decals, we have laser printers at work, the enormous beasts that can print on most things so I could tick that off. Decal paper I found online. I had the tools now I needed the images.

Here I realized another mistake I made in the process. I should have scanned the playfield prior to painting the yellow, Oh well.

I don’t have the scanner many of the guides refer to and I don’t have a handheld but I do have a flatbed that you can take the lid off so I set about and scanned the whole playfield.

Work had a copy of photoshop , I later remembered that I had a copy of the cheaper PS Elements at home which is just as good for this. I imported the scans. I have never used photoshop for making images and I still think it’s a frustrating experience but google is your friend. You only need to know about 5 things and you can produce a decent result.

I printed some samples off and started doing some tests to see if I got any unwanted reactions.

Decal tests (resized).jpg

This is the test decals mounted on a scrap of wood. The wood was primed with the water based acrylic lacquer I mentioned earlier, and then sprayed (outside) with white createx paint, then the decals were set. To mount and set the decals I used a twin pack of products called Micro Set and Micro Sol. Micro Set aids the alignment and retention of the decal. Micro Sol dissolves the decal film and melts the ink image onto the surface. Once Micro Sol is used the only way to remove the decal is by sanding it off.

micro Sol (resized).jpg

Whilst doing these tests I looked into spraying the un mounted decals with something to make them more resilient whilst setting, something to protect the ink whilst my fat fingers tried to align them. I found a product called PlastiKote, its an acrylic clear sealer that has the added bonus that if applied thin enough it gives the protection I required and it seems to dissolve when the Micro Sol is applied.

plastikote (resized).JPG

#14 4 years ago

Aw hell, don't stop now. This is very interesting and entertaining. You are a funny guy. Keep this going.

#15 4 years ago

Yeah, all about this thread for sure. Favorited!

#16 4 years ago
Quoted from zr11990:

Aw hell, don't stop now. This is very interesting and entertaining. You are a funny guy. Keep this going.

Quoted from Richthofen:

Yeah, all about this thread for sure. Favorited!

Thanks both, Having to do this from memory with the help of the photo archive so there will be more.

#17 4 years ago

Its crunch time. In order to get the decals to all look the same they apparently need to be put on a white base coat, that was one of the reasons for the tests and why two of the decals are overlapped. I wanted to see if any colours were dominant, it turned out the black just neutralized everything so there was no chance of overlapping decals.

I decided on making the decal images first then I would print them on paper, size the areas and paint them white.

The playfield had been back in the cabinet for a few weeks by this point, still bare, the wire loom resting on the glass looking a mess and reminding me each time I passed to sort something out and get a move on, the boss was also making hints.

I got the playfield out and joyfully reviewed the fresh yellow, it would not be up to the standards of many on here but it made me happy to look at it so that was ok.

The car grease lube on the coils comes back to bite me, I think.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics of this next bit but this crop from after I sprayed the yellow shows the start of the problem.

peeling (resized).jpg

In the top left of the picture you can see a peeling. Initially I thought this was caused only by the frisket pulling up the acrylic clear I can put down due to poor prep work. However upon closer inspection of the rest of the playfield this issue only occurred in a few other places where the ball had worn through to bare wood. The homemade flippers had done the job down south.

I picked the peel with tweezers expecting to tear the rough edge off, that didn’t happen, instead it came up like sun burnt skin a week after you fell asleep on the beach.

The only thing I could think off that caused the lack of adhesion was something in the wood, wax was one option but going by the state of the machine I don’t think it had seen wax in a long time and I tested the effects of that with the acrylic clear before applying it.

I sanded the affected areas down and treated with acetic acid. The yellow and red skirt area under the circle was also sanded back and treated. There goes my yellow uniformity for the whole game and a new huge (by my standards) decal needs to be made.

These are the worst areas. The divots in front of the lower kickers were able to hold the ball at 6 degrees if it was placed in them.
divot 1 (resized).jpgDivot 3 (resized).jpgDivot 2 (resized).jpg

Fortunately this kicker had done little more than mess up a paint, pic prior to stripping and cleaning.
Divot 4 (resized).jpg

After the cleaning had dried I filled the divots and other playfield holes, dents, odd bits with this stuff
putty (resized).jpg

#18 4 years ago

If anyone has a weak constitution when it comes to old pinball machines being butchered, look away now.

A week or so later once I was happy that anything on the playfield was dry or inert I shot the white. After my yellow spraying disaster I decided to make a tent. The boys have both been moved into the small bedroom so I can redecorate their bigger room (yeah right), I needed the space. I had an old garden gazebo tent thing like the following pic,

gazibo (resized).jpg

By removing the middle pole from the 3 used on the long sides I had a square frame. I covered this with a dirt cheap decorators plastic dust sheet secured with clothes pegs.

White 3 (resized).jpgWhite 1 (resized).jpgWhite 2 (resized).jpg

There were more pics but you get the idea.

#19 4 years ago

Before (resized).jpg


I'm Sorry.

#20 4 years ago

Oh shit!

#21 4 years ago

I thought and felt exactly the same. Past the point of no return hey. Well unless I sand it back to base.

I think being someone from outside the American continent and therefore not growing up with pinball and not having the emotions associated with it I have ventured a path that many on this site would not.

Also, when I sprayed the yellow originally I didn’t do the bits under the rails, same with the white. I wanted a reference in case I changed my mind. With a full set of high res scans I always had the backup of making a full size overlay. I even toyed with the idea of machining a blank and doing that but decided against it due to time and that the original playfield was contaminated with something so of little value.

#22 4 years ago

No point crying, lets get out of this white wonderland.

When I shot the white I had already used the paper decals to outline the areas. My decals were close to accurate but I had overlooked an issue with the scanner I used.

The scanner is specifically for scanning film photos, it can do other stuff but if you don’t use the film holders provided you may suffer distortion. I got it to scan in shots from a plate camera my father and I were restoring. I guess this is why many of the restore guides refer to the same ‘bedless’ scanner that can fit flat on the project.

Because of this I could not rely 100% on the original keylines, some of the keylines were non existent anyhows.

On top of that the original screen printing was all over the place, alignment wise, and I wanted to square some things up so I took some liberties and fattened a few keylines on decals to give some room for movement. I’m sure there is a better way to do this but I could not think of one at the time.

One area that needed work were the keylines around the under plastic reflective areas and the external paint meets wood locations. I was not going to decal these so before I went any further I went over the playfield and touched them up with a tooth pick (cocktail stick)

before toothpick (resized).jpg

After toothpick (resized).jpg

Even though I had sanded the paint lightly at this stage the depression between the yellow and white layers of paint caused a problem when using a brush on the keyline between as it caught the edges of the existing paint. I tried Vids recommendation of using a knife blade but the paint seemed more inclined to stay on the knife.

#23 4 years ago


Oh joy, the bit I have been dreading the most. Its so hot it can melt all your work, one sniff and it will kill you and the equipment needed to spray it costs a fortune (if you only need it for one project)

I stumbled across this post on here…

Smashing, I can do that. So I don’t have a flat playfield to start with but I don’t mind doing a bit of sanding between layers.

Issue: I cant find any of the products recommended on here available in the UK.

Why am I only looking at a pinball forum for automotive clearcoat advice, go look at car forums as well you idiot.

So here is what I found that helped with brushing. If I’m wrong on any of this please shout and ill amend accordingly, I’m only repeating what others have said and I can’t enforce it as fact. Additionally some of this may only apply to the stuff available in Europe.

- 2pac in the US is 2k here.

- 2K is primarily designed to go through a spray setup.

- The two parts of 2k are ‘The product’ it has many names and ‘The Hardener’.

- Both products are temperature reliant. They will only work effectively between certain temperatures.

- The ratio of ‘Product’ to ‘Hardener’ has a relation to how hard the final mix gets once cured.

- A thinner can be added to increase flow of the mix. If the thinner is used as recommended it should not have an effect on the final outcome.

So what does this mean to me as I’m brushing it on ?

As the product is designed to be applied with a spray gun there is a degree of wastage incorporated in the product, stuff goes into the air. When applied by brush the wastage is reduced. This ‘apparently’ is why you get more bubbles when brushing it on as the stuff that would normally be airborn by now is venting from what you just brushed on.

The fix to this ‘apparently’ is to reduce the amount of hardener you mix in. I say apparently as again, this is only from other people testing it.

This leads onto the next point of how much hardener to leave out as it will determine the final strength of the product. I ended up removing a quarter of hardener from a 2 mix. So for example 200ml of ‘Product’ I used 75ml of Hardener.

When brushing don’t use thinner as this is introducing another gas producing element that produces bubbles when brushed.

Stick both tins in the fridge before using to cool them down. This will improve the life of the mix and give you more time to work. If you look at the datasheets of your product you will see its ‘active’ range. My product had a base of 5 degrees C.

I applied my initial clearcoats in a 4x6 foot shed under natural light coming through cobwebbed windows. Used the recommended respirator, goggles, hazmat suit and gloves.

Did the mixing in a paper cup and brushed on with a 2” foam brush. Five coats applied in total before I was happy to move onto the decal application.

Applied 2 initial coats
Wet sand (600 grit)
Wet sand(600 grit)
Wet sand(600 grit)
Wet sand(600 grit)

The initial 2 coats had 3 hour drying time between them. All other coats had 8 hours drying as recommended by the manufacture of my product.

I used this…
upol (resized).jpg

And final sanding gave me this. The center of the pic is rubbed back a little more then the brush marked areas but only a little.
Clearcoat (resized).jpg

#24 4 years ago

Boy you have got more balls and guts than i would ever be able to muster
to take on a project like this; but keep going, it will be all worth it in the end.
We hope.

#25 4 years ago

Thanks for the encouragement, Im on vacation at the moment, I will update in a few days.

I have not finished the playfield yet so the outcome will be as new to you as it will be to me.
Fingers crossed.

#26 4 years ago

U-Pol does have a spray can clear coat Clear #1 that does not contain isocyanates. I asked them it is 4H pencil hardness so better than varathane. Another option for folks.

I have the same crazy project planned on a Williams Gay 90s but it will probably involve less humour and more swearing.

#27 4 years ago
Quoted from dr_nybble:

U-Pol does have a spray can clear coat Clear #1 that does not contain isocyanates. I asked them it is 4H pencil hardness so better than varathane. Another option for folks.
I have the same crazy project planned on a Williams Gay 90s but it will probably involve less humour and more swearing.

I had a look at the u-pol #1. What initially put me off was the only reference I could find to it was to do with headlight restoration implying it was good at bonding to plastics. As I had replaced all the inserts with Perspex disks I was not sure how it would react.

Later on in this process I may have a need for #1.

Humor is the only way I’m surviving this project

#28 4 years ago

Printing & prepping the decals…

If you have a colour laser printer at home this next bit should be easy for you. I had to use the ones at work, this really extended the time of the project as any time that issues arose I had to wait until the next day to print afresh. If the likelihood is that you will be the only person to use the printer the following issues that I experienced will not be an issue.

First problem, Colour.
Work has 6 MFP colour laser printers that are used by about 200 people. In the time it took to print a test sheet, check the colours, be happy and send the final version, the chances are that someone has used the same machine in the meantime and changed a setting resulting in an unusable decal sheet being produced. At £1 a sheet this started getting expensive.

On top of user changes, changing toners changes colours. All printer print different.

To combat this constant variable I made some swab sheets for each colour I required that had a range of slight tone shifts. By matching the printers colours to the swab sheet, then referring back to photoshop I could adjust the RGB values accordingly.

Second problem, Jams.
Printers get paper jams for seemingly no reason. If you look deep enough you can probably find the source but most people either walk away and play dumb or yank their mangled paper out and discard it without checking they got it all out. The sensors in the printer are cleared and the jam error is cancled, printer springs back into life. Then along come I with my expensive paper, send my job to print only for that little scrap of paper left in the machine to bugger it all up.

I remember an old western where the lead character gets shot in the shoulder. Before treating the wound with gunpowder aided by whisky and cigars the victim makes sure to remove his shirt and match up the scraps removed from the wound with the hole in the shirt, thus making sure he had all the bits and the wound was clean. This is how people should be taught to deal with printer jams, whisky and cigars are optional.

Third problem: Heat
MFP’s are made to be on all the time, the fuser units (hot bit) in them are carefully regulated and adjust constantly to the paper type going through. Im not sure if our MFPs just get abused but be prepared for the machine to decide to melt your decal paper just for the fun of it.

If you survive the above I recommend the following…

Get good quality decal paper.
Use communal printers at quiet times when they are less likely to be adjusted.
Print all your decals at the same time.
Print three sets of decals. There is nothing worse than not having the one you need.

After I had them printed I sprayed them lightly with the Plastikote in the garden, the stuff stinks more than 2K.
Decal prep (resized).jpg

#29 4 years ago

Good luck! Amazing story so far. Can't wait for the ending!

#30 4 years ago

Doh, I just realized I missed a step.

Adding the white texture lines back onto the yellow.
I had to options for this, paint them or use white decal paper. There are very few places in London that can laser print white and those that do are so high end they seemed reluctant to let me use my decal paper.

I tried by hand but the results were very disappointing and cutting them out of white decal paper was frustrating.

In the end I painted them using a frisket stencil. I scanned the tracing paper sheet I made earlier into photoshop, made the image the same way you would a regular decal. The image was then imported into a CAD program that was used with a vinyl cutter to cut a sheet of frisket. It wasted a lot of frisket but it solved a big hurdle so was worth it.

This was then sprayed with white createx.
white lines 1 (resized).jpg
white line 2 (resized).jpg

#31 4 years ago

Applying the decals…
For the ones that worked this was relatively quick and simple. Soak in water, prep the area with the Micro Set, align the decal, press with a damp cloth, wait a few mins and then paint decal with Micro Sol.

Guess what, I had a few issues.

Decals shrank, lifted, fell apart and later on they did worse. All these issues were caused by a second batch of decal paper I bought that I later realized were Chinese imitations being sold under the same name as the good stuff.

To apply the decals I first cut them all out and positioned them dry on the playfield to make sure there were not any massive issues. Somehow I had managed to overlook three decal sections.

Decal app 1 (resized).jpg

Once I was happy I removed them all and set about applying them.

-I got the two blue lane switch decals at the top of the playfield around the wrong way. I didn’t realize this at the time, pulled and binned them as they didn’t align.
Decal app 2 (resized).jpg

-The numbered circles on the lower playfield were initially made as one. Due to the poor original screen print on the playfield this did not work so I remade them as two part, colour background one part and the number the other.

-Some decals shrank. I removed and reprinted some. I left others as the desired finish was achieved and I could cover the minimal shrinkage when I did the keyline and white touchup.

-Keylines. I had to fatten some keyline areas more as I was trying to use the decals to square up some screen printing issues.

-Bottom right exit lane. Decal was completely the wrong angle. This goes back to the issues with the scanner distortion mentioned earlier.
Decal app 3 (resized).jpg

I used a light behind the playfield to align the insert decals. I didn’t do this with the bonus line as the screenprint was a huge way out and it would have meant redoing the only part of the playfield I was intending to leave as original.
Decal app 4 (2) (resized).jpg

This is the playfield once all the decals were set.
Decal app 5 (resized).jpg

#32 4 years ago

I am very impressed with how good it is looking in the photos, hopefully it looks as nice in person.
Realize that it may not be perfect, but looks dang bit better than before.
Hopefully it will hold up to your protective coating, then actual play.

cheers tom

#33 4 years ago
Quoted from pinwiztom:

I am very impressed with how good it is looking in the photos, hopefully it looks as nice in person.
Realize that it may not be perfect, but looks dang bit better than before.
Hopefully it will hold up to your protective coating, then actual play.
cheers tom

Thanks again Pinwiztom,

If anything it looks better in real life. The camera and the light make the imperfections in the base clearcoat look like mountains. In truth they are minor and would only need a few passes to sand flat.

#34 4 years ago

The saga continues…

I didn’t expect things to go this smoothly so I was well chuffed. I had taken the playfield to the brink of no return and had so far got something that was beyond my expectations and original brief. I think I had managed to retain the original feel of the playfield whilst making it more presentable.

I then proceeded to make my biggest mistake and one I am still trying to fix. I touched up the keylines straight over the decals.

Why was this a mistake ?
It turns out that a combination of Micro Sol or Micro Set and maybe Naptha does something strange to createx paint. It causes it to detach from it foundations. I am saying this in hindsight, at the time of prepping the playfield for the clearcoat all seemed fine. Nothing moved, faded, reacted or flaked prior to the clear being applied.

I took the playfield outside as I wanted the sunlight to check the coverage as I brushed on the clearcoat.

This was the second error at this stage, I spent most of my time with my eyes at playfield level keeping an eye on the shine of new clearcoat over the dulled playfield. I was so focused on this that when I stood up at the end to review the work I was presented with a playfield covered in black flecks. I can tell you I swore a few times inside but had to keep it in as the kids were within earshot.

Ok, no worries, leave it now and dig them out later, you are not getting bubbles in the clear so that’s a bonus but you will have to use the same fix for the black createx agents from pinball hell.

A few hours later I went back to review the playfield and I was presented with the next problem, this…

streaks 2 (resized).jpg
streaks 1 (resized).jpg

My day is getting better and better.

Not one to sleep on stuff like this I marched on. With the help of a wood tongue depressor wrapped with wet-dry, soapy water and a scalpel I set to and sanded out the streaks and dug out the black bits. It didn’t take that long in the end, I guess if I had left the clear to cure fully the story may have been different.

The new concern was that the streaking had primarily occurred with the blue and red decals that had been printed on the imitation decal paper and this had given the main areas of the decals a washed out look that was visible when viewed from directly above. If you stood in the players position and viewed the field you could not see anything wrong. Also from digging out some black bits I had left a few tiny white spots in green and blue text areas.

Decision time, leave it or strip back.

I left it, guess I was not in the mood to undo all that had been done over the last week and once the playfield was populated there would be enough to distract the eye.

Lightly sanded the playfield and cleaned again, as I had been touchy feely with it, and started to brush on the next layer of clear. I wanted at least two layers down before I started knocking back as the layers would be thin and I didn’t want to risk catching a decal. I counted after the event but I think there were in excess of 60 decals applied so far.

About 30 seconds into the clear process this happened…
crazy 1 (resized).jpg

For all things holy, throw me a line, is everything in pinball this difficult?

What had happened, I can only guess.
It looks like the decal has reacted and melted however upon closer inspection this is not the case, the new layer of clear has reacted but only over the area of the decal, the decal is fine underneath, after all I tested all this and I know the decals and clear are good together.

I prepped the playfield as I always have and I made the clear as I always have so it must be something else.

Heat. In my frustration earlier I had left the playfield outside in the sunshine. The new mix of clear was about 8 deg C and the playfield was about 45 deg C. Remember what I said earlier about 2K (2Pac) having a temp range, I just found out what happened when you took it from the bottom end past the ceiling in a few seconds.

For some reason the decal areas were also retaining more heat than the plain paint areas.

I left it for a while and sanded it back. Here you can see that the decal is fine underneath however I was a little two aggressive and decided it would be better to re do it…
crazy 2 (resized).jpg

…as I was doing that one I thought I may as well do all the other ones that I did not like because of the streaking.

after 1 (resized).jpg
So this is where we are today. I plan on getting this as good as finished over the weekend but I’m sure the pinball gods will find another way to torture me.

#35 4 years ago

Not to jinx anything,
have you observed what the inserts will look like
once light bulbs are burning beneath?
Do you plan on using 44s or 47s or go with LEDs?

#36 4 years ago
Quoted from pinwiztom:

Not to jinx anything,
have you observed what the inserts will look like
once light bulbs are burning beneath?
Do you plan on using 44s or 47s or go with LEDs?

In short yes, I tested various materials for the inserts and tried different finishes and mounting. I will be using my own LED build in the long run.

I will have to do some masking around the insert keylines due to transparency issues.

1 week later
#37 4 years ago


Sorry for the delay in updates but work and family has been consuming my time.

I have been running some tests to try and work out what is going on with the playfield and the combination of stuff I have applied to it.
A big issue was not having the toys or facility to shoot a layer of clear over the initial paintwork to seal and neutralise providing a foundation to work from. The result is any time I clear I am expecting something to go wrong, it usually does.
Not wanting to bore you with the rinse and repeat of sanding of decals and replacing them only for the next layer of clear to nuke another I will summarize what I assume to be happening.

Step 1
I went back to my test piece and layered down some clear, I started with the recommended recoat times and then extended them.
The result was this, crackling over the decal if I used the recommended time, no crackling if I extended the time. This only happens over the Plastikote’d decal so it has to be something to do with that. I also ran the test using decals without the Plastikote and they were fine.
Conclusion – Plastikote seems to extend the drying (venting) time of the clear. Tested with 1k and 2k clears.

Test piece 2 (resized).jpg

Step 2
Replace nuked decals with untreated decals. I really didn’t want to brush over them so I used the can of Upol #1 I bought for other bits to clear the playfield prior to touching up the keylines.

Step 3
Kick the cat, shout at the kids, smash up pinball machine. I didn’t really. I bit my tongue and found a corner to sulk in trying to convince myself that the fight is worth continuing and no one died so it’s just a learning experience.
Whilst applying the Upol #1 nearly all the ‘old treated’ decals areas reacted, why, I don’t know, they were already sealed under 4 ‘knocked back’ layers of 2k (2pac). I was seriously ready to throw in the towel.

Step 4
Sand back decals replace with untreated and go again. Whilst doing this I noticed that a tinge or red was bleeding through the createx white. I can tell its from below as I added a shadow to the font on the decal and the bleed outlined the original text.

Red through (resized).jpg

Anyhows I pushed on and finally managed to get all the decals to set on the playfield and using Upol #1 along with extended drying times I have two layers of clear over them.

After 1k (resized).jpg

Next step is touch-ups and then Ill put 2k (2pac) down to protect and finish with a polishing routine.

Some other clues from playfield furniture that may help someone identify what could have been used on the playfield to cause the issues I have experienced.

The white posts have lost their shine, they look like they have powdered then plasticised. They have a rough surface but you can dig a nail in and scrape almost rubbery bits off.

The contact area between the side rails, which were either sprayed or powder coated, and the playfield had reacted with something causing the paint on the rails to plasticise. This left chunks of paint on the playfield when I removed them and the paint on the rails could be wiped off with a paper towel (just found that out), being new to this I didn’t pay any attention to it. Now it just seems odd.

The red leeching through the createx paint. I have googled this but cant find any other examples of it. Makes me think there is a catalyst of sorts aiding the process.

Flipper mech base plates were rusty on the surface facing up below the playfield indicating something had run from above.

…and the original issues of paint delaminating and the stains on the wood.

Any insight welcome, there is light at the end of the tunnel, just around the next bend, maybe…


Here is my happy pic of before and after chrome posts. All they want is to go and do their job.
Posts (resized).jpg

#38 4 years ago

keep up the great work
I admire your tenacity and dedication.
wish i had advice to offer.

1 month later
#39 4 years ago

Update time.

The nights are closing in and the temperature is dropping. As I am restricted to spraying or doing anything smelly outside the playfield work is moving along very slowly.

I’m considering getting a full tent and adding airflow and heating, something I can pop up and down as required. Anyone done anything like that?

In the meantime I have moved onto the next phase of my playfield process. A Polycarbonate protector. I am adding one of these as the machine is going to be an ongoing project and its some added protection from the lunatics, sorry kids, and the cat. Its also another skill / process I would like to try.

Not seen much documented about making these and I gather there is a love hate relationship about the use of them.
Here is the way I went about it…

Take 1 (unfinished) playfield, 1 sheet of .75mm polycarbonate, 1 sheet scrap flat ply.
1 (resized).jpg

My playfield has a slight bow in it with the rails removed so I purposely went with a sheet of ply that was thicker than the playfield. When sandwiched the playfield should be flat.
2 (resized).jpg

I used the rail holes to screw the playfield to the ply board with the ploy sheet in-between.
3 (resized).jpg

These are my weapons of choice.
tools (resized).jpg

I will be using the Dremel 3.2mm straight (router) bit.
Bit (resized).jpg

I’m using this bit as the cut is the same width as the shank, this means that I can use the shank against the playfield as a guide. Hopefully this will give me more control and reduce the risk of the tool running away.

As I’m approaching this from the back side of the playfield I taped over any insert holes to stop me getting carried away and messing them up, blue tape.
4 (resized).jpg

This whole process could probably have been done in an hour but I had to live with constant interruption and the wife getting her beauty sleep so it dragged on for two nights. For this reason I taped over ‘done’ areas with yellow tape, for the sense of achievement and to keep track.
5 (resized).jpg

The process was quite simple…
Fit the bit in the Dremel so the shank protruded below the level of the playfield rear face.
Add the Dremel flat guide.
Fire up, I used 35krpm and smoked.
Stick Dremel in hole and rotate in a clockwise direction, twice around at a steady speed. Let the tool do the work.
Make sure there are no lips.
Repeat or tape.
Rinse and repeat over whole playfield

Here are the 3 sections after the event.
6 (resized).jpg

By cutting the poly this way I managed to get clean lines and I also removed any crap that had accumulated in the playfield holes.
Once I am ready to rebuild the playfield I will drill all the post holes. I cant see them through the protective films at the moment.

Regarding the Poly covering the whole playfield and not having room to expand due to heat, im using LED’s above and below so I hope to not have to deal with pillowing.

#40 4 years ago

I played Magic Circle at the PPE7 show this week in Alameda CA.
For a deceptively simple game it is very tough to beat.
Keep up the good work.

#41 4 years ago
Quoted from pinwiztom:

I played Magic Circle at the PPE7 show this week in Alameda CA.
For a deceptively simple game it is very tough to beat.
Keep up the good work.

I envy you. Only a few weeks and I should be able to fire it up.
Any chance you could outline the rule set as all I have to go by is the playfield and backglass ink along with what I can make up from the mechs, what's left of them.

1 month later
#42 3 years ago

I won the race. Still loads to do when I have time but the kids were introduced to pinball over the Holiday period.

WP_20161204_10_35_30_Pro (resized).jpg

#43 3 years ago

PETG playfield protector continued…
After cutting out all the holes there was still the issue of the PETG sheet levitating over the shooter lane.

1 (resized).jpg

To combat this I used the following…
Scrap wood consisting of ply sheet and 2 lengths of battening.
Old snooker cue

I used the rail holes to screw on the wood battening, this was to clamp the PETG sheet to stop it moving as well as to stop the heat from the hairdryer spreading too far.

2 (resized).jpg

The ply sheet was laid over the top of the playfield and PETG sheet as extra protection.

Hairdryer was used to soften the shooter lane area until it sagged, snooker cue was then clamped into place and the whole assembly was left to cool.

3 (resized).jpg

1 week later
#44 3 years ago

The results of the shooter lane experiment,

I was in a rush to get the unit back together for the holidays and forgot to take a picture before. Started stripping her playfield again last night and took some cheeky ones. Please note that the PETG sheet still has its protective layers on as the machine was literally thrown back together to meet the deadline.

Shooterlane2 (resized).jpg
Shooterlane1 (resized).jpg

#45 3 years ago

You really took the scenic route! The polycarbonate sheet protector isn't a bad idea but you probably could've eliminated all the clearcoat work and just used the poly sheet instead. I like to clearcoat my games to protect the existing art so it's not chipping more off every time I play but the poly sheet accomplishes the same thing really. Seems like a reasonable substitute for people who aren't able to clearcoat their playfields. BTW it's called 2k here as well except for on this forum.

#46 3 years ago
Quoted from polyacanthus:

You really took the scenic route! The polycarbonate sheet protector isn't a bad idea but you probably could've eliminated all the clearcoat work and just used the poly sheet instead. I like to clearcoat my games to protect the existing art so it's not chipping more off every time I play but the poly sheet accomplishes the same thing really. Seems like a reasonable substitute for people who aren't able to clearcoat their playfields. BTW it's called 2k here as well except for on this forum.

Indeed, totally agree... I had not heard of or considered using a protective overlay sheet until I had my negative clearcoat experiences.

The project was / is my adventure into the unknown. If i attempted something and either I or my facilities proved limiting I had to find another way of getting a result.

Would i do the same again, probably not. Depending on the project and the method taken I could probably discard half the processes used above. Ultimately though I feel i have learnt a lot and i am better for it.

#47 3 years ago

Wow, what a great documentation of your restoration. I really like the idea of using decals for playfield details. Out of the box thinking. Looks like a success

2 weeks later
#48 3 years ago

200 holes filled…

After I rushed to get the game playable for Christmas I had some issues with post screws loosening over time as well as playfield mechanisms and furniture working loose.

The sensible thing would have been to fix all the screw holes prior to painting but that would have been logical and this experiment is anything but. Note to self, if you ever do anything like this again make a checklist of required steps first.

So the plan was to remove all the playfield posts and plastics topside, remove the plastic protector, fil the problem holes and rebuild.

Now referring back to a few posts ago where I outlined the method I used to mould the shooter lane into my protector sheet, you will notice that I used a sheet of ply to cover the playfield so as to act as a protective barrier from the hairdryer. This worked from above but it didn’t offer any protection from heat attacking from below by getting through playfields holes. This resulted in some pillowing on the playfield area. I zapped these areas with a hairdryer to flatten them and all seems to be ok whilst the game was assembled, however upon removing the playfield furniture the distortion to the protector sheet was evident. It had warped really badly.

warped (resized).jpg

I had a spare sheet of the PETG sheet, I decided the best option was to do a total strip of the playfield top and bottom and make a new protector sheet. This time round I would use the V method for the shooter lane. I also decided to fill in all holes top and bottom and re-drill.

After stripping I felt cold so got dressed again, I drilled all the holes to the diameter of a kebab skewer and to the same depth…

Drill (resized).jpg

I didn’t want to chop anything level on the playfield as the risk of damage was to high so I came up with the following system. Take a bit of wood and drill a hole to the same depth as the playfield holes, use a drill bit a size larger than the kebab skewer…

Block (resized).jpg

Insert the skewer and use a junior hacksaw to cut a grove around the skewer…

saw (resized).jpg

The aim is to leave a small ‘tag’ in the middle that is strong enough to push the skewer ‘lug’ into the playfield but weak enough that it can be snapped off easily enough…

cut (resized).jpg

Dip the ‘lug’ into glue…

Glue (resized).jpg

Poke into hole and break off..

Any stubborn ‘lugs’ can be pushed further in using another implement if required. Once level I dabbed with diluted PVA that soked in, hopefully this will provide some support for the skewer and stop the grain splitting when screwed into.

poke (resized).jpg

Any excess glue was wiped off and the holes re-drilled once dry.

break (resized).jpg

I filled all holes on both sides of the playfield in about 1.5 hours. Stripping, filling, making a new protector and rebuilding was completed over a weekend. The playfield part of this project is now as good as finished. Once some treatment on a small wood rail is set I will upload a pic of her re-constructed.

#49 3 years ago

The wood rail was not ready so here are some pics anyways. Still lots to finish off with the play-field furniture but I am happy with what I have achieved with the artwork and I feel like I am over the hill.
11 (resized).jpg
12 (resized).jpg
13 (resized).jpg
14 (resized).jpg
15 (resized).jpg

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