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(Topic ID: 279751)

Gottlieb North Star - a quick restoration thread

By PhilGreg

42 days ago

Topic Stats

  • 42 posts
  • 9 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 33 days ago by PhilGreg
  • Topic is favorited by 5 Pinsiders


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#1 42 days ago

Hello all,
many years back I met with my brother in law's dad who told me he had a North Star pinball machine which he'd sell to me at a fair price. I was very excited at the prospect and wasn't sure whether it was a Gottlieb North Star or either a Richelieu or Sea Breeze machine by the North Star Coin Machine company ( I was expecting the latter, since the company was based out of Trois-Rivieres, QC, within an hour from here.
In any case I was excited at the prospect since the Gottlieb one is pretty well rated as well.

So I drove down there and was quite disappointed to find a Gottlieb North Star that was painted all black and that the seller couldn't locate the backglass, but assured me it was somewhere in his barn and he'd find it eventually. I gave him 200$ CAD for the machine, which at the time (>5 years ago) was fair for a machine that doesn't run, is painted black and has no backglass.

In this thread I'll go a bit more over the story and post a few pictures I took along the way. I hadn't thought of making a thread in the first place so it's pretty thin on documentation, but at least I can take a few more "after" pictures.

In this thread you will see:
-less than perfect webbing
-LEDs in an EM (no colors though )
-the destruction of a backglass
-the use of a translite instead of a real backglass

I'm very satisfied with the result in any case or else I probably wouldn't be doing a thread in the first place.

I have almost no "before" pictures of the full machine, so let's just start with this crappy cellphone pic. Pictures will get better as we go.
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#2 42 days ago

After I took the machine home I was able to get it to work.
A few weeks later, the seller told me he had located and that I could have it when he would come to Quebec City. Once again I had my hopes up, but when I saw the backglass I was disappointed to see that it was in as bad a shape as I've ever seen.

Here are some scans I took of the front and back. As you can see it was crudely held together with tape and is flaky as it gets.

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#3 42 days ago

In any case, I installed it and now had a running, black North Star with a crappy backglass in the lineup:

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The playfield was pretty decent - the inside of the machine could have been better as some of that black spray paint had oversprayed the inside of the cabinet and electromecanics.
As you can see in the above picture, holes were also drilled in the cabinet to make the machine lower for kids I would guess. The coin door was in very good shape as were the side rails, legs and lockdown bar.

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#4 42 days ago

A side note about the North Star Coin Machine Co. There is a local pinball arcade in Montreal which is called "North Star Machines à Piastres" which is an almost direct translation of that company name, minus the "Co." part.
They have reproduced the logo for the bar:
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There is no relation between the two business entities, simply the inspiration for the name. Go check 'em out if you're ever in Montreal.
They also got their hands on an original Gottlieb sign from the factory which is proudly displayed behind the bar:

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#5 42 days ago

Another side note is that the North Star machine, pre-restoration, is featured in the video for "SDTM" by my band Damn The Luck. The song was used for a bit as the theme song for the SDTM podcast - it probably wasn't everybody's cup of tea but we were glad to hear it on the show.
We didn't know that the show would ever get as big as it got either, so kudos to Greg and Zach for their well deserved success, and thanks again to them for using the song.

#6 41 days ago

First thing I did was take the playfield out to clean and wax it, replace bumper caps and skirts, test and clean lamp sockets, replace bulbs with frosted sunlight LEDs and clean mechs. More on this later, but now I had the empty cab and few good pictures of what that looked like.

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#7 41 days ago

Man, I'm eagerly watching this one. What a great story, and thanks for saving it!

#8 40 days ago

Alright, turns out I took a bunch of pictures of the bottom panel after all.
So, here's how the cleanup went. As stated above, a bunch of black paint got on everything - I used Goof Off to get it off, then used Brasso on the metal parts.

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#9 39 days ago


#10 38 days ago

Alright, let's get into cab work now.
First I tried removing the black paint to try and get underneath, but soon enough I just decided to sand and patch the whole thing.

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#11 38 days ago

I didn't take pictures of the process, but what I did to address this kind of issue:

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is that I took a skill saw to cut off a strip the length of the split and replaced with a piece of good wood. I glued it in place and nailed it with a nailgun.
I solidified the corners using the nailgun on each side of each front corner as well, getting a nail in every inch or so.

#12 38 days ago

Once I had done all this I painted the cab slightly off white (no pics of this stage, sorry) and it was the time for the dreaded webbing.
I'd read about it and decided to go with the wire brush method. I was able to get one on Amazon - I wanted to go with the exact one that was described in posts I'd seen.
By this time I knew I still had a lot of work ahead of me and I really needed to get this complete.

I needed to make room in the shed to work on the snowblower (result: gears all broken in the gearbox, I sold it for parts after all).

#13 38 days ago

One thing you have to know is that everything is more complicated and costly in Quebec pinball-wise (an in many other regards as well).
For instance, the only place I could find the Weiler wirebrush was on the Amazon american site. It cost me 30$ to get it shipped here and took a few weeks:

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I had read that people used acrylic paint or black lacquer paint for the wirebrush technique. I couldn't find black lacquer paint anywhere, but I did have this black acrylic which I figured would be perfect:

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When I tried it however, on scrap wood - I wouldn't get webbing - I'd just get droplets. It looked to me like it was potentially too liquid, so I started reading up again on webbing recipes.
I was seeing what seemed to me like very precise mixtures, using a paint gun with precise types of glue mixed in and stuff like that. I do have a paint gun which I used for painting the machine, but I could picture myself ordering all these products and get them over the next few weeks and that wasn't working with my plan to move on with this project.
So I started experimenting with paints I had at home.

Here's a pic of the inside cab before painting to remind you what this is supposed to look like:
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don't mind the overspray, that's from the black latex paint job. But you can get an idea of what the webbing should look like.

I tried some black high temp paint which was the only thing I had on hand that actually gave me webbing. After practicing a bit, I knew this was a little thick but I figured this was my best bet to move the project along.

This is what that looked like:

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as you can see, a little too thick and I did get some "dots" as well, which aren't right. I was a bit disappointed but overall thought the whole thing looked decent, and again I figured I couldn't wait for a few more weeks to get all the right paints and glues.

The next day, I came across this while looking through stuff in my workshop:

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and thought "Ohhhh! That's what they mean by acrylic" - this paint is not liquid, it's very "pasty" for lack of a better word. Before even trying it I knew that this was probably going to give me the proper results, and sure enough it did.
I mixed it to get a dark gray and went and filled in the rest of the cab with it.

This was exactly what I wanted to achieve in the first place and I was disappointed at myself for not knowing in the first place the difference between this acrylic and the liquid one I'd tried previously.
Oh well, live and learn - I think next time I can do a much better job.

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This is a close up of the front of the cab where you see the results with the proper acrylic.

#14 37 days ago

Alright, next up with the colors!
Since this was a rather simple geometrical pattern, I decided to do my own masking with tape. Even given this simplicity it was a pretty painstaking. Again keep in mind that:
1- I'm a cheapskate
2- I kind of enjoy the DIY way usually
3- Everything is more expensive here due to our crap money and shipping

So it was barely worth the trouble to do it this way, but if it weren't for those factors, Pinball Pimp is definitely the way to go.
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You can see a bit better the "too thick" webbing effect here - I believe the rule of thumb is that at the distance I took the pic of the head it should be barely visible. Still, pretty happy with the overall look.

#15 37 days ago

Nice work on this, especially the DIY stencils and getting the webbing dialed in. Wondering if you primed the cabinet, and if so, how you did it (sprayer, roller, what type of primer?) I'm getting through the cabinet work on my 2001 and approaching the paint phase.

#16 37 days ago
Quoted from calla76759:

Nice work on this, especially the DIY stencils and getting the webbing dialed in. Wondering if you primed the cabinet, and if so, how you did it (sprayer, roller, what type of primer?) I'm getting through the cabinet work on my 2001 and approaching the paint phase.

I think the painting and clearing went very well. I'm using this gun ( link ») with unmixed paint, the same with the clear (one part, water based) and had good results. For the primer, I used Kilz, which seems to be the standard, but it went on very orange-peely so I had to sand it all flat which was pretty tedious.
I did a few passes in any case, using wood fillers on areas I'd missed in between so if I had to redo either I would roll it on then sand smooth, or use something thinner.

#17 37 days ago

This looks great - congratulations on a job well done!

#18 37 days ago
Quoted from homegameroom:

This looks great - congratulations on a job well done!

Thank you sir! Job is not done yet though (in this thread, in real life it is) - stay tuned!

#19 37 days ago

Awesome job in saving that poor machine. It looks fantastic.

Looking forward the rest of the story, especially the replacement backglass.

I am just completing my 1st machine (CCM Cinema) and was not sure I would want to write a restoration story but I think I will. I see a lot of common struggles and pains.

Like you said, my main pet peeve beside the $$$$ of importing everything, is that even simple things like a missing screw is a major headache since in Canada, most screws are using Square Robertson drive instead of the Phillips one.

Keep the story going please and take care.

#20 37 days ago
Quoted from Bele20097:

Awesome job in saving that poor machine. It looks fantastic.
Looking forward the rest of the story, especially the replacement backglass.
I am just completing my 1st machine (CCM Cinema) and was not sure I would want to write a restoration story but I think I will. I see a lot of common struggles and pains.
Like you said, my main pet peeve beside the $$$$ of importing everything, is that even simple things like a missing screw is a major headache since in Canada, most screws are using Square Robertson drive instead of the Phillips one.
Keep the story going please and take care.

Do post!
I would love to see that. One thing I try to keep in mind with restorations is that I want to improve the machine from its previous state and if I cut some corners, I don't want to make anything worse for the next person if that ever were to happen.
Also, not every restoration has to be HEP (well none of them are except for HEP of course but you get the idea). You can draw a line somewhere and accept that some screws won't be right or stuff like that... that's my perspective of it in any case.

#21 37 days ago

And here we have a completed paint job. Then I'll move on to reassembly.

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#22 37 days ago

Beautiful cabinet. Your webbing turned out great

#23 37 days ago

Thank you.
As explained earlier, I do agree that the second pass I did with the proper acrylic looks great:

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But the first pass with the high temp paint is too thick - for example that thick line at the bottom right is not correct.
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Again, as with any project sometimes you have to make compromises. In my case I needed the project to move along and I wrongly thought I'd spend a few more weekends trying to get the proper paints and I couldn't do that.

#24 36 days ago

Machine moved out of the shed, snowblower moved in, machine moved inside the house.
Opened the snowblower gearbox, broken gears, snowblower sold for parts.
Continuing with the cab hardware assembly.

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#25 36 days ago

Great thread. Enjoying every bit of it.

#26 36 days ago

Cab looks beautiful! Nice stenciling!

#27 36 days ago

Ok let's move on to the playfield now.
I didn't attempt to touch it up as I felt it was in decent shape and would have been a massive undertaking which I didn't want to get into at this time.
So what I did was:

-replace rubbers, clean and wax obviously

-replace all bulbs with LEDs (you were warned in the first thread!)- sunlight frosted for GI and experimented with color matched frosted under the inserts (remember when I said there would be no colored LEDs? I lied!). We're not there yet, but only sunlights in the backbox as well.

-flame polish and flatten the plastics
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-polished the screws and star posts
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-replaced ball guides (sorry for the dust, should have wiped it better before I took the pictures)
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-replaced the pop bumper skirts and caps:
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-cleaned up the rollovers - dirt was ground under the surface
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More PF pics at the end.

#28 35 days ago

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Ok, the backglass now.

If you look back at the beginning of the thread, the backglass was in the worst shape I'd ever seen. Kudos for the person who tried to somehow keep it together with tape and plastic film but it clearly wasn't cutting it.
I entertained getting a Shay reproduction, but with shipping and conversion it would have cost me 525$ plus any customs taxes which I guess would have been at least 50$. So that's nearly 600$.
I had it in my cart 2-3 times and could never pull the trigger. But again I wanted to get this project done so I tried one last "looking for" thread on Pinside and atari_daze contacted me about making a repro translite. I looked at examples of ones he'd produced, they looked good to me, and the price was more reasonable so I decided to go for it.

Again, keep in mind that a lot of these choices are taking into account that this isn't a Batman 66 that's worth a fortune, and again, nothing would prevent the next person or even myself from getting one eventually.

#29 35 days ago

Beautiful job on the Playfield. Looks very nice and in great chape.

May I ask what wax did you use? Any change of getting this product in Quebec?


#30 35 days ago

I'm using this:
For cleaning, I use Novus 2. I know that real Naphta seems to be commonly accepted as best thing (although I'm not sure what HEP uses, I'd do what he does...) but I haven't been able to get the real stuff here in Canada. Whatever you can get off the shelf in any store won't be real Naphta.

I like Novus 2 because it's a cream and not a liquid, and the worst thing you can do to your playfield is put liquid on it (I guess Naphta evaporates very quickly with little or no residue). Some people use alcohol (high percentage) for the same reason I believe, but I've never been able to use one that doesn't leave a white residue.
Novus 2 is an abrasive, which is why I don't think it's the best choice, but I don't play my machines all that much and don't need to clean them often so I don't think it's a big deal.

#31 34 days ago

Ok, back to the translite.

So what I did is get front and back scans of the backglass I had and sent that over to atari_daze so that he could basically redraw it. He sent me some in-progress pictures as he was going along.

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and I got him measurements, commented on some aspects and eventually we got to a point where it looked A-OK. He had it printed, added the back mask:

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he sent me a picture of the lit up translite and packaged and shipped it to me.

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#32 34 days ago

I have a friend who works for a local glass producer - he got me pinball glass in the past for a reasonable cost and likes participating so I figured I would get a new sheet of playfield glass and a backglass from him this time again.
However, due to some COVID-related situation they're currently overworked and do not take small one-off orders like mine.

In any case, I had no use for the old backglass, I don't see who else would have so I figured I would scrape the artwork off and reuse it. You've been warned in the first thread that this was coming!!
I basically had to look at it real hard and half the artwork just fell off - I scraped off the rest and the glass was pristine.

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To an extent I can say the original still somewhat lives on, as its glass is still there and its scan was used in creating the translite

#33 34 days ago

One last part I forgot to mention before we're all done - the back door. It was also painted black.
I didn't want to either get a new one done (did this before at a local HVAC shop with good results) or try to get the paint off + polish (I don't think they polish very well in any case) so I just painted over with some metallic paint.
Good 'nough - it's all the way back there...

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#34 34 days ago

Wow! Great job .

#35 34 days ago

Alright, heading out to bed - let's do a quick before and after recap, I'll bring it home tomorrow with the final gallery.

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#36 34 days ago
Quoted from PhilGreg:

I'll bring it home tomorrow with the final gallery.

Can't wait for the final reveal. Bring it on!

#37 33 days ago

Alright, all done!
I should have waited until I get the good early afternoon sunlight in the basement before I took the pictures - as you can see I had a bit of a hard time not having the lights get overexposed.
Thanks for following!

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#38 33 days ago

This looks great! You did a nice job bringing this back from black!

#39 33 days ago

Wait, wait, wait...where is the Surf Champ clock?

#40 33 days ago
Quoted from CanadianPinball:

Wait, wait, wait...where is the Surf Champ clock?

Haha! It's just outside of the picture, as a topper to one of my machines

#41 33 days ago

That is a work of art Philippe. Thanks for letting me be a very small part of that project.

Great job!

What's next?

#42 33 days ago
Quoted from Atari_Daze:

That is a work of art Philippe. Thanks for letting me be a very small part of that project.
Great job!
What's next?

Thank you - it was a pleasure working with you and I'm very happy with the results.
Well, if I look at the "main" lineup from right to left, the rightmost 3 machines have been restored, so maybe I'll move on to the Strikes n' Spares next or the King Pin.

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I have other non-related projects for now however, so I'm not getting right to it.

Here are the restore threads to the other 2 BTW:

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