So at this point I was pretty much on the home stretch. I moved it back inside and started to repopulate the playfield.
It was actually easier to put it back together (or at least faster) because the labeling takes a long time when it comes off.
I also bought new posts, screws, and rubbers.
I tried polishing the hardware but it was easier to just buy new stuff.
I did clean and finish the steel rails but I didn't go so far as to polish them to a mirror finish.
You will need to clean up any tight holes due to the clear coat but it is easy.
I also installed nice new 2SMD LEDs in Cool White (mostly) and installed my DIY stadium lighting.
I also did some minor things to the cabinet but it was in pretty good shape.
So I will finish this off this just my last thoughts.
First on Tools (what I liked, what worked, what didn't, etc):
1. Frisket - I much preferred sheets of frisket to rolls. The rolls were hard to manage. However, I did use both. Low tack for sure.
2. Airbrush - I didn't like the HF version and upgraded. Maybe you will have better luck.
3. Soldering Iron - Get a decent temperature controlled one
4. Tumbler - Kind a waste of time for me.
5. Compressor - Used a 8 gallon and didn't have any issues
6. Waterslide Decals - I used sunnyscopa (white and clear) from Amazon and it seemed fine
7. Software - Got Photoshop and it seemed fine. I am a total newb with it but managed to do what I needed
8. Scanner - Bought the HP flat scanner on Ebay but honestly just used my phone.
9. HPLV Gun - HF special and it worked fine for me
10. Paint - Createx. Stick to opaque (not wicked). It is hard to find locally for me and expensive. Way more to choose from in acrylic but I stuck with it.
11. Printer - HP Pro 400 (B/W laser), wish I had a color one. Maybe next time.
By far and away the most important tool for me was a magnifier.
This sounds silly but I used this constantly. I have gotten to the age when my eyes struggle with up close work but to do the fine detail work you really need magnification. As I said, I am not an artist but I found that if I zoomed in close enough I could manage.
In terms of painting, I definitely got a technique down by the end. Maybe the most critical was the brushes. They weren't special but I actually made my own micro-brushes. I would take the smallest brush I had and then shave off most of the bristles with an xacto. I made three by the time I was done and each was smaller than the last. I bet the smallest one only had 4-5 hairs.
My techniques was to put a tiny drop on a paper plate and then touch the brush to it. I would then roll the brush around the edge of the plate to remove any excess and then paint. This limited how long the brush would last per dip but it was impossible to control that first blob of paint without a wipe first.
I also did one thing which worked but in the back of my mind I kept thinking I shouldn't. It was difficult to fully cover an area with airbrush paint, particularly dark colors. What I ended up doing was just priming the masked area white first. I used 2X white primer in a spray can from home depot. I let it dry and then put the air brush colors on. I tried this with the white Createx and it just wasn't solid enough.
For large white and black areas (like under the GIs) I used Gloss White/black Spray paint in a can. It looked great and didn't react to my Clear Coat (I tested it first). I feel like someone is going to tell me this is a sin against the pinball gods but I don't know why.
In terms of color matching, not much to say other than I am not great at it. The advantage I had here was that I was fully replacing most areas so it just had to match itself. Also, keep your colors if you can.
I didn't mention it specifically but I also replaced a lot of inserts. That went pretty good for me (following Vids advice). The only things is that I didn't do a good job removing the old glue in one spot and the insert stuck up a tiny amount and I had to sand it down.
Things I will do next time:
1. Better Pictures
2. Label the order things come off the top of the playfield
3. Make better notes on wire positions
4. Do a better job making sure the decals are fully adhered
5. Don't F* up the playfield
Something I have been thinking a lot about but don't have a final conclusion is the order of operation. I choose to do section by section, including water slide decals. However, this was a mistake. The waterslide decals are too delicate and I had to be really careful where I masked so as not to lift off a previous one. I would do all the waterslide decals last and make sure they are adhered.
I think in theory doing one color at a time makes sense but masking off such large areas can be a pain. I am not sure if this would work well. I definitely would mix up a number of the basic colors to use again and again.
I guess the last and most important lesson learned is that the first coat of clear is critical. Once it is on, everything should be okay but the potential for it to react or fisheye is always there. I will definitely use 2PACC and try and put a fine layer down but I will be nervous as hell the next time I try it.
The other major concern I have on the next one is where to stop. I certainly wasn't happy that I messed up the playfield but I am actually happy that it is 100% new. If I had fixed just a couple of areas then it would have still been an old, faded playfield. The whites would have been dingy with a bunch of ball swirls.
One thing I found was that when you make the worst thing better then something else looks like the worst thing. If you paint one area bright, shiny new white, then all the other whites look terrible. Where do you stop? It is one thing to touch it up and then wax it. You can always readdress it some other day but if you are going to bury under clear coat you are locking in whatever issues are there. If I do this again I think I will find it hard to stop and might end up doing most or all of the playfield just to have it nice and clean before burying it under clear. I guess I will cross that bridge when I get there.
Alright that's enough. I don't know if this is helpful to anyone but I kind of just needed to get all these thoughts out of my head. If you did read it thanks for taking the time.