(Topic ID: 286253)

Guide: build fish tales topper from scratch

By Riefepeters

1 year ago


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  • Latest reply 1 year ago by jawjaw
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#1 1 year ago

This thread will offer a complete guide to building a brand new fish tales pinball topper from scratch from readily available replacement parts (~$300) and a little bit of sweat equity

We’ll provide a complete list of all parts needed including prices and sources, and we’ll show you how to make every part that you can’t buy...all in one place.

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#2 1 year ago

TIME TO BUILD: 3-6 HOURS.
COST TO BUILD: $300-400

Step 1 - Get the parts you can. $300 + tax/shipping will get you there, and the most expensive item is a nice brand new acrylic dome topper...that you would have had to replace and buy anyway if you bought a used topper from someone on ebay for $600+...so think about it. You may not want to spend more than $200 on a used topper if the dome is busted, otherwise you can just build one in about 3-6 hours depending on how handy you are.

PlanetaryPinball.com
+Fish - PPS-A-15713 - $51.00
+Seashell Decals - PPS-31-1682-6-SP - $7.50
+Topper Dome - PPS-03-8653 - $114.00
Total: $172.50 + tax/shipping
NOTE: dome may also be sourced from StarshipFantasy for $114, but shipping is more

PinballLife.com
+Kicker Assembly - A-14525 - $40 (note: this is an in-stock alternative to A-15304)
(2) mini wedge sockets - 077-5026-01 - $1.10/ea = $2.20
(2) bayonet base with short mounting bracket - a-11905 - $1.95/ea = $3.90
(4) cable clamps 1/2" - 03-7655-8 - $0.26/ea = $1.04
(4) unslotted hex head screws #8-32 (1 1/4" up to 1 3/4" based on whats in stock) - 4008-01113-28 - $0.25/ea = $1.00
(1) unslotted hex head screws #8-32 x 1/2" - 4008-01113-08 - $0.19
(10) #8 washers - $.05/ea = $0.50
(4) #8-32 tee nuts - $0.15/ea = $0.60
(1) #8-32 black nylon lock nut - 240-5102-00B - $0.25
(11) #6x1/2" black wood screw with built in washer - 4106-01022-08B - $0.22/ea = $2.42
Total: $52.10 + tax/shipping

PosterBurner.com
screen translite 31-1692 - you'll need to order this custom, and posterburner is one place you can order online easily
+8"x24" custom wall mural - $14
Use one of these awesome photos from this post:
https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/fish-tales-casters-club/page/16#post-3237093
which will direct you to a dropbox for full res files:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nziaqcoowhuglbc/AAAQ06AsIZF_6ukAS-ABzjyMa?dl=0
Grab the .psd file as I assume it's the best quality image, and posterburner will accept photoshop files
thank you Pinballgeek
Total: $14 + tax/shipping

Amazon.com
+wire for the harness: 18 Gauge Wire - 6 Colors of Tinned Copper Wires Silicone Rubber Insulated from Plusivo - amazon.com link » - $15
+Molex .062" 2 pin connector - amazon.com link » - $7
+Molex .093" 4 pin connector - amazon.com link » - $15
Total: $37 + tax/shipping
NOTE: you can probably get these at pinball shop online too, but these full sets on amazon just seemed easy to me and popped up first

Optional mod lighting from CometPinball to replace light strip in front of fish
+ Matrix 6smd lighting pads (for GI below fish - choose your color!) $3/ea = $15
+ Matrix 10smd lighting strip (to splash some light on the back wall - choose color! - this goes behind topper, includes matrix wedge adaptor which is needed) $4
+ matrix 2 way splitter - $0.50
+ (2) matrix 3 way splitter - $0.60/ea = $1.20
+ (3) 6" or 12" matrix extension - $0.60/ea = $1.80
Total: $22.50 + tax/shipping

Total Raw costs: $298.10 + tax/shipping

On top of this, you will need a piece of wood, a pair of black L brackets (home depot/lowes), a lure of your choice, 2 bayonet GI bulbs, and a wedge flasher to complete your ensemble.

Let's start building!

#3 1 year ago

Step 2 - wire the 4 - pin harness

Hand measure and approximate the length you need to run from the top into the back box with some slack. Cut 4 wires and try to color code.

Two Purple wires in the existing harness connector in back box will go to the coil kicker.

Red and blue wires in the existing harness connector in back box will go to a wedge socket for the flasher.

It’s that simple.

make a dry connection and test out your wiring before soldering.

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#4 1 year ago

Step 3 - test the harness. Solder upon satisfaction!

Hook up your harness to the connector in the back box.

Go into test mode on the game.

The flasher is T5 25 Reel - when you get there your flasher should be flashing!

The kicker is T4 08 back box fish - when you get their your coil should be popping.

Solder up!

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#5 1 year ago

Step 4 - assemble the fish

Use (4) #8-32 screws and washers and get em hooked.

On the tail, use the #8 x 1/2” long screw with a washer to come through the fish, then use a washer and the black lock nut. This nut will be kicked by the kicker and it replaces the out of stock fish protect plate #a-15585. But if you can get that part somewhere...sweet. I couldn’t.

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#6 1 year ago

Step 5 - make the backboard.

Use a 1x8 board (Lowe’s, Home Depot) which is actually 7 1/4” wide. Cut it to 23 3/4” long.

Paint it. Make sure front is sanded smooth after paint where decal will be applied. I painted my front white and back black so I could layout my fish and trace on the front.

Lay fish on board. Just find a spot you like. Trace the general shape. Mark on the board where this 4 screws hit the board - drill holes for screws. Fit the fish on the board. Now Mark where the tail nut hits the board and drill a larger hole as this is where the plunger will be coming through to kick your fish’s tail. Position the kicker behind the board so it’s in place. Since you’re likely using the optional kicker assembly I noted above, you just need a small block of wood on the back to attach to the bracket. You can see in my picture I used three screws to attach the block to the backboard. I probably went overkill but with all that flapping I wanted to ensure that bracket was affixed for good.

Now Mark where the eye is on the board and drill a hole for a bayonet GI socket

At this point, I’d find a lure you intend to use. Sure you could make one out of plexi with a decal like the original, but why not upgrade to a nice translucent legit lure from Cabellas for $8? It’s cheaper. And looks cooler. And a hook can dangle in your fish’s mouth. Just do it.

Mark where your lure lands. Drill two larger holes behind it: one for the flasher bulb and one for the bayonet GI.

At this point, all your drilling and hole making is done.

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#7 1 year ago

Step 6 - assemble back of board

Let’s start screwing some stuff down. Kicker and flasher wedge. 2 bayonet sockets wedge socket on bottom which will be used for our matrix leds from comet. Connect the GI wiring (yellow here) and make the 2 pin harness. Add those 4 cable clamps wherever you think you need them. You may as well attach the black brackets on the back too. These pics should get you the details you need...

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#8 1 year ago

Step 7 - finish front of board

Let’s get the custom decal applied to the front. You ordered it 8” x 24” so you have a little bit of overhang on all four sides that you can trim off. Much easier to apply.

Then get the bayonet gi bulbs in. Then attach your fish. Heck, might as well attach your lure too.

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#10 1 year ago

I don’t have a Fishtales but appreciate the time and education you have given on building the topper. Very thorough WITH parts listings.

#11 1 year ago

Step 8 - get the light bar rocking on top of the box (or in this case, the matrix led pads from comet)

I put the shell decals on the topper dome, then used the spacing of those shells to determine where to place each of the 5 led pads. But for you guys, I also took pics with a tape measure so you can cheat.

Once you have the 5 down, start connecting with the matrix splitters and extensions as necessary. Remember, these are driven by the bottom wedge socket on the bottom of the backboard and the first two way splitter will connect to that adapter.

If you want to light up the wall behind the machine, this is also a good time to put that matrix led 10smd strip on the back of your backboard at the top.

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#12 1 year ago

Step 9 - put the backboard with the fish on top!

Connect the matrix leds. Clean up your matrix wires into the cable clamps. Put on the topper dome and screw down.

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#13 1 year ago

step 10 - play a game. Step back and admire your work. Pat yourself on the back for building a topper for $300 within 3-6 hours...and tell your spouse you saved $700 by not getting suckered into paying $1,000 for a busted old topper on eBay.

I should note — the final touch is the eyeball decal. I can’t find one. My plan is to simply take a clear sticker, cut it into a circle, then use a black sharpie to draw the eye. I’ll get an eyeball decal pic up here at some point so you can see what it looks like.

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#14 1 year ago

I am going to say it again, really nice work. I passed on a fish tales a month or so back because it did not have a topper. Wish I would have grabbed it now.

#15 1 year ago

I'm posting a new wanted ad for a FT without topper so I can build this

3 weeks later
#16 1 year ago

Amazing work and thank you so much for taking the time to put together this wonderful documentation!

1 month later
#17 1 year ago

Works great! Finished mine today.

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2 weeks later
#18 1 year ago

Fullhouse nice job! I’m glad you were able to join the sweat equity topper club. That lure looks cool too!

#19 1 year ago

Since no decal of the eye was posted, here's a picture from my topper.

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#20 1 year ago
Quoted from Roamin:

Since no decal of the eye was posted, here's a picture from my topper.
[quoted image]

Wow , I never noticed it was just a black circle with a little white oval .
You could simply make one with a bit of black paper and some liquid paper .
Edit - if you got a good picture I'm sure you could take it to the printers and they could print you up a sticker .
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#21 1 year ago

Great post, will save a lot of games. I've had two toppers I've sold here, both over $400 and had a line of people interested in both of them.

1 month later
#22 1 year ago

These are great instructions Riefepeters. Thanks for taking the time to post them. I am slowly building the topper, but instead of fastening everything to the back box on my newly restored Fish Tales I am adding a piece of Birch plywood to use as a base. My plan is to make the topper a self-contained module so it is easier to remove for both travel and maintenance. The fish flapping doesn't create a lot of vibration so I am thinking about using 2 4x6 patches of industrial Velcro to attach the module to the head. Do you think that will be enough to hold it securely?

#23 1 year ago
Quoted from Roamin:

Since no decal of the eye was posted, here's a picture from my topper.
[quoted image]

Thanks for posting the picture Roamin! I printed this picture onto transparent inkjet sticker paper and cut out the eye. I darkened the black part of the eye with a sharpie and used a dab of white out to complete it. It doesn't look half bad.

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#24 1 year ago
Quoted from minishark:

Thanks for posting the picture Roamin! I printed this picture onto transparent inkjet sticker paper and cut out the eye. I darkened the black part of the eye with a sharpie and used a dab of white out to complete it. It doesn't look half bad. [quoted image]

Looks good!

Quoted from minishark:

These are great instructions Riefepeters. Thanks for taking the time to post them. I am slowly building the topper, but instead of fastening everything to the back box on my newly restored Fish Tales I am adding a piece of Birch plywood to use as a base. My plan is to make the topper a self-contained module so it is easier to remove for both travel and maintenance. The fish flapping doesn't create a lot of vibration so I am thinking about using 2 4x6 patches of industrial Velcro to attach the module to the head. Do you think that will be enough to hold it securely?

It should probably hold it. Not that it vibrates that much as you said, but I like that I can feel the topper shaking in my hands as I play. I guess Velcro won't transfer as much, but the sound should be pretty much the same and make the same racket .

#25 1 year ago
Quoted from Roamin:

Looks good!

It should probably hold it. Not that it vibrates that much as you said, but I like that I can feel the topper shaking in my hands as I play. I guess Velcro won't transfer as much, but the sound should be pretty much the same and make the same racket .

I am conflicted about the loss of the vibration which is part of the toppers charm, Roamin, but having just had the machine restored with new playfields and Radcals I just can't bring myself to drill into it.

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#26 1 year ago

I like the idea of using a base as the topper. You could easily born it in and make it look good. I think velcro of substantial size would hold just fine and I also think that if it’s holding…you’re also going to feel the shaking!! Go for it!

#27 1 year ago

I just finished the topper. I used industrial 3M Velcro to hold the module, it is really strong and I had trouble adjusting it when I first put it on a bit crooked so I am fairly confident it is solidly mounted. I think it looks pretty good and am pleased with it.
There's actually little or no loss of vibration when the tail gets flapping. The LED shell lights are a bit bright, so I may order one of those Matrix Brightness Adjusters from Comet Pinball along with my next bulb order.

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1 month later
#28 1 year ago

Planetary Pinball is out of stock on the fish. Does anyone know of any other venders that may have it in stock?

#29 1 year ago

One thing to add is that you can add a few rubber rings to the coil plunger to soften the fish flapping and make it not bang so loud.

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