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(Topic ID: 186679)

Firepower restoration with a few twists


By ApplePie

3 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 112 posts
  • 36 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 7 months ago by jclocomotion
  • Topic is favorited by 48 Pinsiders

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There are 112 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 3.
#1 3 years ago

So back in the fall I ran across a Firepower that was badly in need of restoration. Based on the condition of the cab and playfield I would assume a good share of its life was spend in arcades before ending up in a suburban basement for a decade or two. I don’t think I would be going out on a limb if I were to assume that the previous owners were smokers, or that the basement could have used a dehumidifier.

When I got the pin back home to my basement I realized a couple of things:
1) Pins that smell smoky in a smoker’s house smell ten times worse in your house.
2) Pins that don’t boot up at someone else’s house won’t boot up at your house.
3) I’ve never played a game of Firepower in my life. And now I need to rebuild one before I get to play one. I’ve got a soft spot for Steve Ritchie games so something tells me I’m going to enjoy this one too.

I’ve been working off and on for the past two months on this restoration so I figured it was time to start a Pinside thread. Partly to document and share what I’m doing and partly to keep me on track to finish it! I’ve always enjoyed reading the pinball adventures of others and I’ve learned so much from all the great tech threads. Maybe someone will learn something from this one, or at least have a good chuckle along with me or maybe at my expense…

With the state of the cabinet and the head I had no reservations to pull the boards and put the cab and head under cover outside. A full restoration is in store so we will deal with all of the cab work later. The playfield was worn down to the wood in a dozen places and most of the inserts were cupped or sunken. A great candidate for a CPR replacement, which I didn’t have. And thus began my learning experience with Firepower. CPR playfields for Firepower are either a) virtually unobtainable or b) holy moly expensive if you happen to come across one. Hmmmm. Maybe I should start on the boards.

There are a couple of invaluable Vid guides on Pinside, one being the bullet proofing Williams System 3 – 7 thread. I basically ordered every socket, cap, diode, and transistor from GPE required to update the MPU, driver board and sound board. I also made a fuse block setup to fuse the bridge rectifiers. I like the way that this keeps the pin from burning my house down if the rectifiers short. Nice. I also split the GI into four individually fused lines at 5 amps each instead of the original 20 amp fuse. In order to make a little more room in the backbox I will be relocating the transformer from the backbox to the cabinet. One simple wiring harness and now the backbox has a lot more room and weighs about a quarter less as well. Works for me.

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#2 3 years ago

One more addition on the fusing front is Barakandl’s special solenoid fuse block. My driver board has a hole burned completely though at Q12 from a previous short so the evidence is right there as to how critical this upgrade really is. And easy as pie to solder together and install. Beauty.

NVRAM replacement for the battery is a no brainer given the number of these boards that have been eaten by battery corrosion over the years.

My last planned activity with the boards is replacing all the IDC connectors with molex connectors. Apart from the tedious nature of crimping more than a hundred wires it’s a pretty simple task. I would rather put the time in now while everything is on my bench than chase a loose connector and troubleshoot when the game is up and running.

So that about takes care of the boards. All going well this Firepower should be good for another generation.

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#3 3 years ago

Transformer with extended wiring harness.

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#4 3 years ago

And rest of backbox wiring harnesses all cleaned up and re pinned with molex connectors.

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#5 3 years ago

Staying with the backbox, I picked up a pinscore LED setup to replace the original displays. I've got one in my Sorcerer and love it so this one again was a no brainer.

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#6 3 years ago

I pulled the wiring harness off the playfield and separated it into its three strands. The power strand was quite simple to clean up as it really doesn’t have much other than wiring to clean. I really like a clean wiring harness so I clip and replace each of the zip ties and clean the wires individually with a shop towel and simple green spray. No more black fingers and its amazing how much nicer everything smells.
The lamp wiring harness is a lot more work. I’ve fought lamp issues on other pins before so I took the opportunity to remove each of the lamp sockets from the harness, tumble the sockets in my vibrating tumbler, scuff the inside of the socket with my dremel, replace the diode, and resolder the leads. Wow, that took me way longer than I thought it would! It was pretty much free to do it this way, but next time I might just replace the entire socket with new...

The switch harness has a pile of leaf switches that are inevitably dirty or oxidized. I removed and disassembled each switch and cleaned them with Autosol to bring back that nice shiny look. Replace the dioides and capacitors with new and the resolder the leads. I have to say I relied pretty heavily on photos to make sure that I got the switches back together properly. I’m pretty certain I’ll be relying on a lot more photos when it comes time to put all the wiring harnesses back on!

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#7 3 years ago

Stripping the playfield was quite uneventful. It pretty much looked identical to everyone else’s 35 year old pin. Black, black and more black on the underside. Worn flipper mechs hanging on by a thread. Wiring hacks here and there done by some operator a couple of decades ago to keep the pin working well enough to earn a few more quarters. A few broken plastics, crunchy dry rubbers, and grime filled posts pretty much summarize the situation. I won’t go into any more details now other than saying everything will be replaced, upgraded or modified as needed to play beautifully when I’m finished.

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#8 3 years ago

All of the underside mechs were black and grimy. Every part got disassembled, dropped in either the vibratory tumbler or the ultrasonic cleaner, and sometimes both! New diodes and sleeves on the coils plus springs etc as needed and all the mechs are now bagged and ready for reassembly when the time comes.

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#9 3 years ago

Ok, this is a pretty boring thread so far. Kind of like driving across the prairies. Surely something interesting has to happen soon doesn’t it? Time to give the wheel a hard yank … and hit the ditch.

The playfield. Yeah. That part.

So after looking for a CPR playfield for several months, and then seeing what they will actually cost if you can ever find one, I decided to take matters into my own hands. This would be a good time to state that I’m not a die hard collector who needs everything to be original. I love games that look great and play great. That’s my thing.
Looking at my playfield I pretty much ruled out trying to restore it. The gouges in the wood from decades of play were deep and prolific. Mylar had been put down over the center of the space station (is that what that is?) after it had started to wear through the paint. The same for the top area above the fire lanes. When I did the freeze spray on the mylar it lifted a lot of the loose paint along with it. Basically this playfield was worn beyond my ability or desire to restore.

Enter plan B. This artwork is actually not that complicated when you look at it and break it down into its components. Its mostly black and white with some straight red lines, a few colorful explosions, a fantastically cool spaceship and one truly crazy space station kind of thing. Oh yeah, and a crazy planet at the bottom with a strange atmosphere, apparently. Super cool, I can do this.

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#10 3 years ago

Enter the point of no return, the orbital sander! A few minutes with 150 grit and she's down to bare wood. Heat up the inserts with a heat gun and pop them all out. Dremel the old glue out of the holes and voila, we have a fresh starting point. I took extreme care not to damage the hot dog inserts since these are impossible to find in the wild anymore. Mine have some small imperfections but overall they are in really good shape and I hope to keep them that way.

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#11 3 years ago

A host of new inserts plus some five minute epoxy and the playfield reconstruction is underway. I elected to go with a few colored inserts and a few clear ones that give me more options to choose colored LEDs down the road.

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#12 3 years ago

After installing all the inserts and sanding flush with 220 then 320 grit I applied a sealing coat of polyurethane to the playfield.

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#13 3 years ago

I forgot to mention earlier that my plan for recreating the artwork on the playfield was to make a full size tracing of the original artwork and then recreate with an airbrush, relying heavily on frisket masks for the playfield details. A few pictures of the process...

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#14 3 years ago

Freaking cool.

#15 3 years ago

So along the way I managed to screw up my first attempt at creating the playfield. I ended up having a bad bond between the original airbrush paint i was using and the polyurethane layer, so the clearcoat peeled up the artwork. Chalk this up to rookie mistake. Instead of getting too frustrated I decided to try to incorporate something different into V2. I've been playing around with Lyonsden's Pinduino lighting mod on a couple of my other pins and decided to try something bold and incorporate some WS2812 led strips into the playfield under the red laser bolts headind up the playfield. If anyone gets nervous about hitting a playfield with a sander they should try using a router!

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#16 3 years ago

Back up a hundred steps. Sand everything flush, coat with two part epoxy this time, block the entire playfield deadly flat, apply worlds stickiest airbrush primer (spend an hour cleaning airbrush afterwards), apply a plethora of frisket and frogs tape in various patterns and use createx autoair paint for playfield version 2. Hopefully lessons learned in V1 pay off this time!

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#17 3 years ago

OK, apologies for some of that being out of order but i think you get the point. That pretty much brings things up to today's status. I'm hoping to move on to some of the cabinet work in the next few weeks plus the multitude of other tasks still outstanding. I've blasted through a lot of stuff pretty quickly here today so if anyone has any comments or questions on stuff i glossed over too fast, hit me up!

#18 3 years ago

Omg.

We are brothers, except for the playfield work. Can't wait to see the rest.

#19 3 years ago

looking like really great progress! wondering if that Fire Power was picked up down around High River last fall?

#20 3 years ago

Wow! What a labor of love! This is going to be great!

#21 3 years ago

Wow, that's going to look great. How will the LEDs actually be finished off on the playfield so that you have a smooth surface but the light still shines through?

#22 3 years ago
Quoted from Travish:

Omg.
We are brothers, except for the playfield work. Can't wait to see the rest.

Absolutely! I'm hoping to create a "better than new" pin when I'm finished.

#23 3 years ago
Quoted from JoshODBrown:

looking like really great progress! wondering if that Fire Power was picked up down around High River last fall?

Indeed I think it was the same one. I picked it up somewhere in Okotoks if memory serves correctly.

#24 3 years ago
Quoted from SteveNZ:

Wow, that's going to look great. How will the LEDs actually be finished off on the playfield so that you have a smooth surface but the light still shines through?

Great question. So first off I placed sticker "dots" over the new plastic strips where the strip Leds will shine through. I then airbrushed the red laser blasts with opaque red paint. Then I peeled off the dots and re sprayed the laser blasts with transparent red paint. The circles are still visible through the transparent red but you can't see through to the leds underneath so it's a decent compromise I think.

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#25 3 years ago

Killer paint job

#26 3 years ago

Applepie,
I am amazed at your airbrush skill.!! I think it looks incredable!!
How long did it take take to do the earth sphere by itself? Just wow.!
Love the lights through the red blasts, can't wait to see them in action.

Congrats to you, and and look forward to your finished Firepower, !!

#27 3 years ago
Quoted from limelime20:

Applepie,
I am amazed at your airbrush skill.!! I think it looks incredable!!
How long did it take take to do the earth sphere by itself? Just wow.!

Thanks for the kind words!

I honestly have no idea what that giant sphere is that the space ship is firing at. Some kind of space station, or a planet or a Death Star copy? No idea. I'm going with space station . The craziest part of all of this is that I had the pleasure of hand painting that sucker twice. Yep, that's what happens when you have problems with clearcoat lifting your paint! Here was the compete V1 prior to a visit from the orbital sander. I made a few changes in V2, namely to the planet at the bottom and the explosion in the shield kickback on the left.

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#28 3 years ago

This is a total labor of love. It could not be otherwise. Here, I think I am having issues with my relatively good board! Are you planning to work 2PAC and all that jazz at the end of this endeavor?

#29 3 years ago

Favoriting this thread! Incredible art skills, ApplePie. Can't wait to see this progress.

#30 3 years ago
Quoted from La_Porta:

This is a total labor of love. It could not be otherwise. Here, I think I am having issues with my relatively good board! Are you planning to work 2PAC and all that jazz at the end of this endeavor?

Oh it's a labor of love all right! I use projects like this to learn new stuff. Up until that playfield I had never used an airbrush before. So, apparently anything is possible! And yes, playfield is out for first auto clear currently. That's not something I would every try to do myself. Way too toxic to fool around with as far as I'm concerned.

After the first clear I need to add the insert decals before the second round of clear coat. Hopefully no drama during that process. I'll be following Vids guide closely for that part

#31 3 years ago
Quoted from lyonsden:

Favoriting this thread! Incredible art skills, ApplePie. Can't wait to see this progress.

Speaking of learning new stuff, I've had a ball putting your Pinduinos in my AC/DC and Spider-Man. Very very cool lighting effects there. I will incorporate another Pinduino into Firepower to control the leds embedded in the playfield as well as some other leds I have in mind. More on that at a later date when I get around to it

#32 3 years ago

This was your first time using an airbrush?! Holy hell, impressed with the outcome, and perhaps even more impressed with your dedication! I hand painted over almost all of a firepower Playfield, but the bare portions of the space Death Star I gave up quickly on matching colors and shapes and went freestyle. If all my work had pulled off the clear layer, I think I would have maybe called it a day and given up... can't imagine doing it all over. Wow!!!

#33 3 years ago
Quoted from Mbecker:

This was your first time using an airbrush?! Holy hell, impressed with the outcome, and perhaps even more impressed with your dedication! I hand painted over almost all of a firepower Playfield, but the bare portions of the space Death Star I gave up quickly on matching colors and shapes and went freestyle. If all my work had pulled off the clear layer, I think I would have maybe called it a day and given up... can't imagine doing it all over. Wow!!!

I think there are a lot of Firepower owners who have done some serious touch up jobs to their playfields. I salute all of you guys for taking on that task! I looked at that route and figured it would probably be harder for me than starting from scratch. At least I didn't have to match any colors! And yes, I might have shed a tear or two, or even created some new words to add to the English language when the first paint job peeled up. But I really want to see this project through to completion so I bellied up and started over. Adding the leds into the playfield on V2 made it feel like I wasn't just doing the exact same thing over again too.

#34 3 years ago

Amazing work. You have much more patience than me. For my Firepower, I swapped in a new CPR playfield and called it a day.

#35 3 years ago
Quoted from SunKing:

I swapped in a new CPR playfield and called it a day.

Well, if you did the swap yourself, then you have patience. I did mine, it wasn't simple. I just wasn't sure about tackling a touch up job and certainly not a full custom paint job! That is incredible if you ask me and to do it twice?! That's even crazier!

Awesome, awesome work!

#36 3 years ago

Beautiful!

#37 3 years ago

Awesome job on the playfield! Considering just how few CPRs are out there, have you considered offering to re-do playfields as a service?

Seriously, though...have you thought about doing something different to the cabinet or are you planning to go with the standard graphics? I found the attached photo a while back online on a different forum...thought it would look good to do an actual cabinet this way.

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#38 3 years ago

Amazing work. So glad that machine went to a good home! I always thought that pile of Mahjong tiles (the planet) would be a bitch to paint. You must have gone through $100 worth of Frisket painting it! Amazing work, I look forward to seeing more!

#39 3 years ago
Quoted from SunKing:

Amazing work. You have much more patience than me. For my Firepower, I swapped in a new CPR playfield and called it a day.

I tried to source a CPR but I was a little too late to the party to get one. I'm still shocked that there are so few repro playfields for the number of firepower pins made.

#40 3 years ago
Quoted from Adrift:

Awesome job on the playfield! Considering just how few CPRs are out there, have you considered offering to re-do playfields as a service?
Seriously, though...have you thought about doing something different to the cabinet or are you planning to go with the standard graphics? I found the attached photo a while back online on a different forum...thought it would look good to do an actual cabinet this way.

Ummm, there is no freaking way that I'm painting another Firepower playfield! Two is enough to last me for a long long time.

And yes, I am planning on doing something along those lines (actually very very much along those lines) for the cabinet. Here's the head mockup as it stands today. I've heard this attractive fellow referred to as "the melting man" somewhere but I have absolutely no idea why...

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#41 3 years ago

Let me throw out a few more thoughts. Feedback welcome!

1) I'm planning on red powdercoat for everything chrome. Rails, legs, coins door, etc. I think it will be a nice match with the generally black red and yellow cabinet

2) I have all the parts sourced (I think!) for the drop target mod. Fortunately I cut the slots in the drop target area ahead of time. Finally, something I only had to do once!

3) controlled playfield GI circuit with RGB leds. This will run off a pinduino that interacts with the gameplay. Same idea as the leds under the playfield.

4) undercabinet led strips that tie into gameplay. Like flashing red and blue with the fire and power flashers. Stuff like that. I've got this setup on AC/DC and spider man and I love it. Lights up the whole basement!

5) I think it was MOF who was suggesting removing the upper gate to allow for orbit shots. I'm thinking of making that gate "liftable" and controlled by the arduino. Again, reacting to gameplay achievements somehow. This is still just an idea at this stage but I'm planning the for hardware etc to accomplish this. I would really welcome any ideas here on how this might best interact with the game. I'm really running blind here since I've never played the pin before.

#42 3 years ago

Sounds cool, especially if there is a special Arduino-controlled light show during the Countdown Sequence

#43 3 years ago

Here is a sample of what I have in mind for the led strips in the playfield. This is a test setup with a spare arduino I had lying around (and for the record, don't try to power led strips through an arduino's 5v pin like this as it tends to emit blue clouds of smoke from the voltage regulator ). Throw together some quick code and here is one animations I was thinking of using. The leds at the bottom represent the space ship firing at the space station. The remainder of the leds would flow up the red laser blasts to the stand up targets and then to the explosion in the upper right. Feels a little bit retro, kind of like the rebel simulation of the Death Star exploding in the first Star Wars (anyone else remember that?). It is pretty straightforward to make these RGB strips do whatever you want so I'll add some other animations as well for sure. A really short video of my test setup.

#44 3 years ago

Favorited, looks fantastic and I like the idea of the moving gate. I wonder during multiball which would provide better gameplay open/closed? Someone who has played both setups could maybe chime in. Also would add another goal to have to 'earn' the gate somehow, but should the reward be an open gate or a closed one?

Also I know there is an enhanced rom out there with deeper rules as an option.

#45 3 years ago

The powder coating could be interesting, you'll have to let me know how it goes (and of course show pics).

I just got a buffer, and am going to make the chrome/nickel plated stuff as bright as possible on mine.

#46 3 years ago

Amazing! Orbit shots, I look forward of reading that.

#47 3 years ago

Wow, you're going all out!! Hope you enjoy the gameplay after you're done -- or someone is goIng to get a good deal on a sweet firepower! I know this scenario too well -- although fp is a fun game I quickly ran out of room and had to sell mine. My friend still has it though so not all is lost lol. Can't wait to see your finished game and mods!

#48 3 years ago

So while I was disassembling the playfield earlier I noticed that the playfield rails were in excellent shape. Especially this one. Finger jointed pine wrapped in fake wood plastic. Not really in style anymore I think.

Off to the planer, table saw and drill press to make some nice maple ones. Let's prime and paint them a nice bright red.

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#49 3 years ago

I started this week on the cabinet head. Sand down to bare wood, apply a skim coat of Bondo (thinned with about 10-20% lacquer thinner to make it spread nicely), prime heavily, sand more, fill more, prime again, and then paint black. Looking good so far I think.

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#50 3 years ago

The cabinet itself is going to take a little work. Strangely enough, when I see something like this that needs repair I don't usually reach for the staple gun...

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