(Topic ID: 229093)

Firepower Hardtop Restoration

By waveman

6 months ago

Topic Stats

  • 34 posts
  • 5 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 51 days ago by waveman
  • Topic is favorited by 19 Pinsiders


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#1 6 months ago

I enjoy doing minor repairs on my pins. I never thought I’d restore a playfield as that is way beyond my skill level. But my Firepower playfield was pretty trashed, and so I couldn’t resist when outside edge released a hardtop for it (https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/hardtop-playfield-new-product-announcement-poll-included)

Vid wrote an excellent guide on installing a hardtop on his Comet here (thank you Vid!): https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/vids-guide-hardtop-restoration-comet

My restoration took a few different twists and turns so I thought I’d document it here. This is not meant to be a guide but rather a log of the things I encountered while working on this project.

One thing that attracted me to the hardtop was that it shouldn’t be necessary to clear coat the playfield before installing it, so I didn't. I believe it came out quite nice, although sanding and polishing the inserts was nerve wracking.

I also decided to replace all the inserts as the old ones were cupped quite badly as shown in the picture below. I am glad I did, because in retrospect, sanding down the playfield to remove the cupping would have been a major pain in the you-know-what.

I ended up doing the whole project without removing the playfield from the cabinet. Some of you will consider that foolish, but it saved me a lot of time and hassle.
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#2 6 months ago

First though, my playfield was bowing badly. The middle (along the white bonus lights) was raised over a quarter inch higher than the sides. I considered sanding the playfield flat, but decided that I didn’t have the tools to take off ~1/4 inch evenly across a large area.

Instead, I found a place to install a metal bar under the playfield to straighten it out. It worked surprisingly well!
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#3 6 months ago

Next, I completely stripped the top side of the playfield. I’m not going to post detailed pictures, but I recommend labeling parts and taking lots of photos to help with the re-assembly.

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#4 6 months ago

Now that the playfield is fully stripped, I lay down the hardtop to make sure it fits. It’s important to take the time and make sure the windows for the inserts line up properly! This is the most important thing. It’s not a big deal if some of the pre-drilled holes don’t quite line up -- I can dremel holes as needed.

If the artwork and the inserts don’t line up, then the hardtop may not be a fit for the machine. The next steps will destroy the artwork on the playfield, so this is a point of no return.

Luckily, everything looks good and the project can proceed.
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#5 6 months ago

Now that I am satisfied that the hardtop fits my playfield, I go ahead and remove the mylar around the slingshots and the pop bumpers. Thankfully my machine did not have a fully mylared playfield and there is hardly any glue residue. Otherwise, follow Vids guide here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/vids-guide-hardtop-restoration-comet#post-4468684

I also decided to replace all inserts. I followed Vid’s playfield restoration guide on replacing inserts here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/vids-guide-to-ultimate-playfield-restoration#post-548585

Getting the inserts out is done easily by heating them up. I use the Harbor Freight heat gun (https://www.harborfreight.com/1500-watt-dual-temperature-heat-gun-5721112-62340.html) that is regularly on sale for 9 bucks. The great thing about the hardtop is that I don’t have to worry about saving the existing artwork. See how I accidentally overheated the area around the white insert below? Oops.

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#6 6 months ago

Next, I removed any glue residue from the holes with a dremel. I found that this high-speed cutter worked best as the glue would not stick to it: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Dremel-5-16-in-Oval-Shaped-High-Speed-Cutter-for-Wood-Plastic-and-Soft-Metals-2-Pack-115/203672169

Be careful not to widen the insert holes too much! Inserts should fit snug, ideally requiring a little bit of force to go into the playfield.

I extended some of the triangle insert holes too much, which made it difficult to epoxy the new inserts. They kept tilting and sinking in too deep.
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#7 6 months ago

I continue to follow Vid’s guide on replacing inserts: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/vids-guide-to-ultimate-playfield-restoration#post-551302

Sanded the top of the insert with 200 grit until flat. This may not be absolutely necessary as I will sand them again after glueing them in, but it ensures that they are installed as flush as possible into the playfield.

Sanded the edges of inserts with 100 grit sandpaper so the epoxy has something to hold on to.

Applied plastic primer to the edges of the inserts. I used 3M Scotch-Weld 62728 Instant Adhesive Primer AC77, e.g. from Amazon: amazon.com link »

I used Harbor Freights clear two-part epoxy: https://www.harborfreight.com/super-strong-quick-drying-epoxy-92665.html

And acid brushes: https://www.harborfreight.com/36-pc-12-in-horsehair-bristle-acid-shop-brushes-61880.html
I started with a single insert and quickly figured out that I can do three at a time before the epoxy sets.

I couldn’t quite follow Vid’s guide here
as I didn’t have access from below. The playfield is in the cabinet and the lamps are still installed and in the way. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about the artwork, so I just applied the glue carefully from above.

I used a flat wooden piece with parchment paper and a hammer to push the inserts flush into the playfield.
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#8 6 months ago

Be careful not to get epoxy anywhere but on the edge of the hole and the edge of the insert!

This seems obvious, but in the heat of the moment, things can go wrong. The insert below was giving me trouble as the hole was a bit wide and it was sinking too deep. I ended up getting a dot of epoxy on the bottom while pushing it back up
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#9 6 months ago

The original inserts are plain (no ribs on the underside). I decided to replace the colored inserts with more modern looking starburst inserts. I’m very happy with this choice and think the starburst adds to the look of the machine. Purists may prefer the original look.

Here is a list of all inserts needed. I couldn’t find the blue hot dog insert, so the two hot dogs are the only ones that I didn’t replace. Everything else could be ordered from Marco (https://www.marcospecialties.com/control/keywordsearch?SEARCH_STRING=round+insert) and Pinball Life (https://www.pinballlife.com/search.html?Search=round%20insert).

Round 3/4 inch:
9 white
1 red

Round 1 inch:
8 green
5 blue
3 red
1 white
1 orange

Round 1-3/16 inch:
1 white
1 orange
1 red

Round star rollover insert 1 3/16 inch:
2 red insert with white star (C-900901)

Triangle 1-1/2 x 5/8 inch:
7 orange
3 green
1 red

Hot Dog / Crescent 3-9/16 inch:
1 red (https://www.marcospecialties.com/pinball-parts/03-7570-9)
1 blue (unobtainium?)

I found that the new inserts look more transparent, less color saturated than the original ones. I ended up using some color LEDs to get richer colors for the blues and greens.

Here’s the playfield with all new inserts. Note that the two star rollover inserts must be installed after the hardtop has been applied to ensure that they are flush with the hardtop surface.
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#10 6 months ago

Thanks for documenting your experience. It is fun to see others work. looks great so far. I couldn't see a lot of damage to your original playfield (at least compared to mine), but the cupped inserts can be pretty frustrating. I think there is always a balance between keeping original and making something fully functional. I agree that modern inserts are probably the better choice.

#11 6 months ago
Quoted from canoncitypb:

I couldn't see a lot of damage to your original playfield (at least compared to mine), but the cupped inserts can be pretty frustrating.

Thanks and that's fair -- the playfield was in OK shape, but the cupped inserts really impacted gameplay. I would have never considered just replacing the inserts without the security of the hardtop

#12 6 months ago

Now things get really scary. Sanding the playfield to create a fully flat surface that the hardtop can mount onto.

My focus was sanding down the inserts until they are flush and polished. I barely took the paint off. Any more and I’d have to worry about creating an uneven surface. I started with 200 grit, then 400, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, 3000.

I was careful not to sand bare wood areas that will show through the hardtop. If you do, you will need to clear them.
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#13 6 months ago

Throughout the whole sanding process, I was worried that I wouldn’t get a good shine on the inserts. Maybe clear coating would have been the better choice?!

I shouldn’t have worried. After applying Novus 3 followed by Novus 2 to polish the inserts they became nice and shiny.
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#14 6 months ago

At this point, I sanded and spot painted the shooter lane to get a cleaner look. I didn’t take a good after picture, so the one used here was taken after the hardtop was installed. My shooter lane had this black mark that I thought was a burn mark. It turned out to be a knot from a branch.
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#15 6 months ago

Time to lay the hardtop down again and check the fit. It's important to clean the playfield from any dust before doing so. I used a vacuum cleaner, followed by wiping it down and finally using a tack cloth (https://www.homedepot.com/p/HDX-18-in-x-36-in-Tack-Cloths-3-Pack-HDTC-3PK/300242008).

Now that some of the artwork has been removed, the wood may show through in some places, especially around inserts or cutouts for switches, etc. I painted these areas black (or matched surrounding colors) to blend them in better, using paint pens (http://pinrestore.com/PaintPens.html).
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#16 6 months ago

Playfield prep is finally done and I am getting ready to install the hardtop. One thing I noticed on mine is that the transparent areas for the inserts had some smudges on them. No doubt because of me laying it on the playfield many times to check the fit. I used Novus 1 to carefully clean all exposed areas on the underside of the hardtop.
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#17 6 months ago

Finally, everything is ready for the hardtop installation! I cleaned the playfield one more time. Any dust or dirt will get locked in between the playfield and the hardtop. The tack cloth (https://www.homedepot.com/p/HDX-18-in-x-36-in-Tack-Cloths-3-Pack-HDTC-3PK/300242008) was awesome to get everything clean.

If you are doing this yourself, make sure to read Vid’s instructions for this step! https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/vids-guide-hardtop-restoration-comet#post-4470075

I put the hardtop on the playfield and kept adjusting it until the fit was right, focusing on aligning the inserts properly. Some of the pre-drilled holes didn’t match my playfield, but that was later easily fixed with a dremel.

Once I was happy with the position of the hardtop, I clamped it securely in place at the bottom of the playfield.
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#18 6 months ago

One of the truly great things about this hardtop is that there is no glue at the bottom section. It is therefore possible to lift up the secured hardtop, remove the paperbacking and then glue it down in one go. I was able to do this alone without any assistance.
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#19 6 months ago

I ran my camera during the installation and it came out alright. Here’s the video. Do I look too serious? This is a one-shot deal and I was scared I’d screw it up! It only took six minutes to do the full install. Most of the time was spent removing the paper backing. It ripped several times and I had a few small pieces left behind that I carefully removed. This is mostly not that important as the glue backing is behind the artwork, except for the shooter lane strip, which is transparent.

#20 6 months ago

The hardtop is glued down. Everything looks good. The alignment didn’t shift.
Big sigh of relief
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#21 6 months ago
Quoted from waveman:

Do I look too serious? This is a one-shot deal and I was scared I’d screw it up!

I'd be pretty scared too. Looks great!

1 week later
#22 6 months ago
Quoted from canoncitypb:

I'd be pretty scared too. Looks great!

Thanks! I'm amazed that it looks like a brand new playfield with a nice shine. Once populated, you'll have to look closely to realize that it's a hardtop. I'd bet most people won't be able to tell the difference.

#23 6 months ago

Now that the hardtop is down, I need to install the two star rollovers. The hardtop has a small hole precut that needs to be enlarged with a dremel until it fits the rollover insert exactly. The goal is to epoxy the insert so that it is level with the hardtop. I took the white star out and sanded the insert until it was flat and had a decent shine. Installing it without the star also makes it easier to level it.
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3 weeks later
#24 5 months ago

I thought it might be helpful to add my Firepower Hardtop experience to this thread.
First I thought the process would go pretty much how you did it here, but then I made a detour.

After looking closely at the playfield in my complete Firepower, I could not bring myself to sand off the artwork.
There inserts were cupped, but the only artwork that needs touched up is pretty much all blacks.
So, I will not sand this one, I found a donor playfield that was beyond restoration.

Now this simple Hardtop install turns into a full playfield swap.
I do not think that really adds too much work since I always take off all the mechs and refurb those anyway.

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This is the Donor playfield, thanks to SNYPER2009

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First I stripped everything off even the Mylar.

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#25 5 months ago

Next I sanded the back side.

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I decided to keep the old inserts, lots of cleaning and sanding.

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Now the artwork is all sanded off.

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Next I glued the inserts back in.

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#26 5 months ago

After sanding down to 320 grit I sprayed Rustoleum 2X gloss clear on the inserts for a nice shine.
I also blacked around the roll over switch slots since they show after the Hardtop is on.

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Now is the time to clamp the Hardtop down and stick it.
(2nd set of hands thanks to my wife for holding the Hardtop up while I pealed off the backing)

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It is done, the Hardtop went down and the inserts are aligned. (inserts are all that really matters)

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Next was the routing out of the Star roll overs, slowly and carefully.
Then a quick coat of wax.

10 Rollovers and Wax (resized).JPG

Now on to the playfield swap.
I will have a pretty nice restore-able Firepower playfield left over when this is done.

This is my version of the Firepower Hardtop experience, I am feeling really good about it.
I still have a ways to go before I can play it.

#27 5 months ago
Quoted from Budwin:

I thought it might be helpful to add my Firepower Hardtop experience to this thread.
First I thought the process would go pretty much how you did it here, but then I made a detour.

Awesome! Thanks for adding your experience here. Your restored playfield looks great!

Super interesting that you removed the inserts but later glued them back in. I pretty much destroyed mine while heating them with the heat gun. How did you manage to get them out without deforming?

#28 5 months ago

I just followed Vids guide, not much heat required on my inserts.

I did not want to order new and wait for them to arrive, I am impatient.

They all seemed clean and undamaged.

2 months later
#29 3 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to document and share. Picking up a Firepower tomorrow and already have my hardtop on order.

#30 88 days ago

I’m all in now. 0E72A312-527A-4B94-843F-48635AAA667B (resized).jpeg

#31 87 days ago

Damn the torpedos!
Keep calm and carry on.
Don't worry be happy.
Any every other cliché that encourages keeping going.

1 month later
#33 51 days ago
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#34 51 days ago

TaylorVA that looks great!

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