I've been making my own leaf switches for years now, and thought it might be helpful to some to start a thread about making leaf switches. I was surprised to learn years ago that the Pinball Resource sells all the parts you need to make new leaf switches, or when possible re-build the existing ones when needed. I recommend buying switch leaves of any thicknesses you may need, additional spacers of varying thicknesses--especially if rebuilding an old stack, and plenty of contacts: gold (low voltage) and tungsten (high voltage). All the parts they carry are listed here: http://www.pbresource.com/pfswitch.htm#common
***EDIT: For anyone looking to re-use the existing switch leaves and replace only the contacts, I've written another guide further down the comments section here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/building-re-building-leaf-switches#post-4844717
In this example I'm documenting, I decided to make some new switch leaves for the cabinet flipper switches on my HS2: The Getaway. This is kind of an odd example because it's one of the only games Williams made with gold-plated cabinet flipper switch contacts. Regardless, the same procedures apply for rebuilding a leaf switch for any game from EM's to the latest Sterns. Note this is an approach I've been using for years with good results. If anyone has any suggestions to improve the method I'm using (or a different approach entirely!) I'd love to start a discussion.
While I've seen some use a press to install the contacts onto switch leaves/blades (as manufacturers did and still do), I opt to solder the switch contacts to the switch leaves. I don't have a press and already have more tools than I need as it is. It's worked well enough for me that I decided to share this for others it may help. Without further adieu:
The old leaf switch:
Better view of worn contact from old leaf switch (note how it's pitted in the center):
First step is to disassemble the old switch. Luckily, this switch was already replaced at some point and was much easier to pry apart than older switch "stacks" (spacers and switch leaves etc that comprise the switch). I often find using some combination of small flat-blade screwdrivers, prying tools, and channel lock pliers is typically enough to get the stacks to come apart. I usually lay out the pieces of the switch stack for easy reassembly. Arrows are pointing to the switch leaves I will be replacing:
Here are a couple new gold-plated contacts. These type of contacts are used for low-voltage/cpu-controlled switches. These types of switches should *not* be filed, as it can damage the gold plating and make the switches work intermittently, or stop working entirely. Use isopropyl alcohol (I apply with a q-tip) for cleaning gold-plated switches, and gently pull a clean piece of paper (a crisp $100 bill works best, in my experience) pinched between the switch contacts in order to clean them.
Tungsten switch contacts are typically used for flipper cabinet/button switches and end of stroke switches, and all throughout many EM games. Those *can* be filed for cleaning. Pictured below are some tungsten contacts on the left, and gold contacts on the right:
Now to make the new switch leaves. I'm using heavy gauge switch leaves for these since they're flipper cabinet switches. They are a bit more rigid (they're the thickest of the 3 switch leaves aka "blades" The Pinball Resource offers), and have stronger spring to them. Heavy is also recommended for EOS (End-Of-Stroke) switches, I think. Medium gauge is for general-use switches, and have less tension/thickness than heavy, and light gauge (even thinner) is for relay switch leaves (typically on EM games). When making a pair of switch leaves, I will place 2 contacts face-down, then take the 2 switch leaves and position them on the nubs on the backside of the contacts like so--see #2 below. (Note you want to insert the contact into the correct hole for each leaf, depending on the length of the switch. There's typically 6-7 holes on the replacement leaves to make longer or shorter switches. Compare with old switch leaf for sizing) :
Once I place the contact into the slot on the leaf I'm soldering it to, it doesn't sit perfectly flush...so in order to keep the switch leaf fairly level while soldering the contact to it, I will use a thin switch stack spacer that was pulled off the switch stack I'm working on and slide it under the side of the leaf with the 2 screw holes (arrow #1 above). To ensure a good bond for the solder between the leaf and the contact, I will then add a little bit of paste flux to the nub on the backside of the contact and on the region of the leaf surrounding the contact nub (#2 above). Solder typically has flux in it, and some of the better solders I've used (which indeed contained flux) worked well enough that this added extra flux isn't necessary. YMMV. Anyways, the contact can now be soldered on. Note you want the solder tabs at the ends of the switch leaves (#3 above) to sit away from each other when you reassemble the switch! I always set up both leaves with the solder tabs in the same orientation when soldering the contacts. One leaf will be flipped when you put it back together, and doing it this way ensures the tabs will be sitting far apart from each other when you do. If you don't pay attention to the way those are aligned, you can wind up with both tabs on one side, which is difficult to work with when soldering the wires back on, and could cause trouble once installed. Avoid at all costs! It's an easy mistake to make, and I only point this out because I've made the mistake too many times. Forgive my sense of humour, but Drake knows what I'm talking about:
Contacts soldered on. Maybe not the prettiest work, but the contact will not be going anywhere, and it will function perfectly fine. Once they cool down, take some 99% isopropyl alcohol and clean off the remaining flux (flux cleaned off lower leaf in pic, the amber-looking sticky residue still present on the upper leaf around the soldered area). Note that the solder is clearly attached to the metal switch leaf *and* the contact. If you don't use enough heat, you might just have solder ball up on top of the contact--which might even be enough to hold the contact in place. Don't leave it that way, make sure the solder has pooled around the contact and has essentially welded the contact to the switch leaf like in the pic. A 30-40 watt iron should be sufficient, but I use my 100w solder gun because it's fast and easy and does a good job (though I'll be the first to admit it's overkill):
Finished pair of switch leaves. (top one is face-up, bottom one is face-down) Note the solder tabs will be as far away from each other as possible once mounted back on the stack. Take this opportunity to clean off any remaining flux residue and also the face of the contact with alcohol:
First leaf reinstalled:
Installing other leaf. Remember to install any tension leaves (leaves with no contacts that help stabilize leaves sandwiched next to them) and spacers the same way it was taken apart:
Finally, the finished product. Next stop is back in the cabinet where it will be soldered back in and hopefully resolve my intermittent flipper issues.
Note it's also possible to remove the old contact from the existing switch leaf and install a new one as well. I've had mixed luck going that route, but I have made it work numerous times. It's really a matter of trying not to damage the leaf in the process of extracting the old contact. Sometimes a good sharp pair of side-cutters is capable of cutting off the nub on the back of the contact, which will allow the other side of the contact to fall right out of the leaf if you're lucky (or skilled). I don't have a drill press, but I imagine that would be another method of extraction that could work well.
Hopefully this helps some folks out there. I've spent many hours searching for part numbers for switches on my games, and this has really saved me a lot of time and money. I'm also the type of person that *can't wait* for new parts to arrive, especially when troubleshooting/repairing, so it's also nice to have these parts on hand for that reason too. Again, if anyone has anything to add or different approaches/ideas to recommend, please chime in!