"Nic's North American Pinball Tour" (aka I'm coming to fix your games!)


By NicoVolta

10 months ago


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    There are 1436 posts in topic. You are on page 29 of 29.
    #1401 29 days ago
    Quoted from Boise_D:

    Next time you disassemble a ladder, will you post some pics? There seems to be so little room to get in on those relays.

    Gottlieb relays in particular are very tight and the switch stacks require removal to hit them with the 443. In general never force the brush anywhere. Was there a specific issue you'd like to examine?

    Quoted from desertT1:

    Is there a “So you just got an EM, do these things” write up that Nic has done? I’m struggling to get the outhole to register in my Doodle Bug and I think it’s related to the score motor, but don’t know the best way to clean the switch stack. It seems to be making extra turns due to the “stop” switch not making a good connection.

    I don't have an A-Z summary as of yet. Main thing is to gently clean and polish every contact (I use alcohol w/qtips and the "magic brush")... then ensure every switch opens and closes with a little over-wiping action (contacts pushing a bit further than just touching... the wiping action makes a better connection).

    In your case, you'd need to clean and check every switch in the circuit for the outhole relay. That's what tells the hole kicker coil to fire. Sounds like you are on the right track with dirty score motor switches. Same logic applies here... gently "swab, polish, swab" every contact.

    While on tour I can't answer tech questions here very well, so fire me a PM or start a thread in the EM Hangout to (literally) get things rolling more quickly.

    #1402 29 days ago

    Thanks. I’m fairly concerned about taking apart switch stacks, but I’ll read up and do as you instruct.

    #1403 29 days ago
    Quoted from desertT1:

    Thanks. I’m fairly concerned about taking apart switch stacks, but I’ll read up and do as you instruct.

    Ok just be sure you aren't literally "taking apart" the switch stacks... nay nay. Only unscrew them enough to slip out of the relay bracket. The stacks should stay in one piece for cleaning and inspection before re-installing them.

    Watch for loose spacers ("biscuits") when handling the stacks... sometimes one will fall off... just put it back if it does.

    Some stacks are bridged together with a wire... in which case they must be removed together and re-installed together.

    I'll post a relay rebuilding video after the tour... stay tuned.

    #1405 29 days ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    I'll post a relay rebuilding video after the tour... stay tuned.

    Yay - I am looking forward to that! Thanks in advance.

    #1406 29 days ago

    Yes agree ^^^^^^!!!

    Can't wait Nic! Thanks.

    #1407 29 days ago

    Also looking forward to said video! Thanks for what you do Nic!!

    #1408 27 days ago

    Nic dropped by my place yesterday for some EM crash course and training, as well as going through some things on my Gottlieb El Dorado. He was awesome and a very knowledgeable and great teacher! Anyone who needs EM help or would like to learn more about these games should absolutely make sure they get a spot on his next tour when they can. Thank you again for the help, Nic, it was a pleasure meeting you! My brother and I played a lot of games on El Dorado in the garage last night over a few Pilsner Urquells

    #1409 27 days ago

    Thanks Herr Director... pinball is all about social time & brews. But what was the "one little thing" you worked on today?

    #1410 26 days ago

    Some original post stated you were asking about 200 bucks for a stop and shop experience for the customer you were going to. Has anyone actually given you 200 bucks?

    #1411 26 days ago

    $200 was my suggested donation amount for making a stop based upon the calculations for the original tour. It was a rough estimate which wasn't quite enough to break even but worked out regardless. I got to meet lots of cool people and see the country.

    Obviously, as a straight-up business plan for a cross-country traveling tech/trainer making all-day house calls and doing photojournalism, there is no way that figure works out after gas, maintenance, insurance, occasional hotel stays and food, etc... just not viable (might as well drive all day for LYFT instead). Which is why I turned this into more of a "sharing economy adventure" than a business.

    Going forward, I've tweaked the recipe a little because I do need to eat... but it's still quite affordable. Just doing my best to keep it fun for everyone and get the EM knowledge out there until I get settled on the west coast.

    If you are trying to gauge prices for pinball techs, in general the going rate I've seen tends to be somewhere in the $60-$100 per hour range (often with 2-hour minimums) possibly with additional mileage/trip charges and any parts incurred.

    #1412 26 days ago
    Quoted from SuperDaveOsbourn:

    Some original post stated you were asking about 200 bucks for a stop and shop experience for the customer you were going to. Has anyone actually given you 200 bucks?

    worth every bit

    #1413 23 days ago

    If Nic-da-nomadic-EM-guy does a video series, I hope its not partially or even mostly a duplicate of what is already out there on the UBoob, or done on Wiki, or Clay's TOPS/Ninja/Documents efforts, or Randy Fromms videos and books (just about the most boring on the planet), etc. Yes the fresh faced update has and is fun, but there is everything (nearly) you need to learn online to augment with a simple Google search. Agreed if a new teacher brings you more understanding, and thus more fun, its great. Thus the tour and the cost.

    #1414 23 days ago
    Quoted from Cheddar:

    worth every bit

    Amen to that. We'd schedule it again in a heartbeat !
    (Covering all identifiable expenses, too.)

    1 week later
    #1415 16 days ago

    'Lil Carolina Run visit #1 -> Encore visit with Bill Hanson in Madison, AL

    The subjects: The Wiggler, 4 Aces

    2017 ain’t over yet, folks! Tour three will be in the bag before the Thanksgiving turkey gets stuffed… so let’s get this show on the road again!

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    We begin the ‘Lil Carolina Run with another encore visit. Let us descend into the Inner Sanctum of the Silverball to recall who it is…

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    Why, it’s Bill Hanson of “Super Skill Shot Shooters” fame! I brought a bottle of Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara Winery to celebrate the occasion in the Fathom tribute room. We’ll have a better look at that fabulous mural in a moment…

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    Bill’s demonstration wall of custom shooters had grown since my original visit. Might you have seen his wares at one of your local pinball shows? His Lord of the Rings “One Ring” shooter continues to be a hot seller because it looks as good as it feels. The custom resin-coating process imparts a luxurious finish to all of his shooter rods.

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    OK. Stop. Check please. This is how every game from the “Class of ’81” deserves to be treated. Can you imagine a room with all of them themed this way? Heck yeah!

    Speaking of which, can you recall the eight games from Bally’s “Class of ‘81”? Take a moment to refresh your memory and vote on your favorite in my poll: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/poll-your-favorite-class-of-81-bally

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    Hello, Spirit of ’76… we meet again. You were the most difficult game to fix during my original tour but I’m glad to see you are still in good working order. Who is your new friend over here? Why, that would be one of Williams’ best System 11 games: Diner!

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    Naturally, Spirit of ’76 was outfitted with one of Bill’s custom shooters featuring a brassy patriotic medallion. Good choice, aye?

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    Diner had been similarly outfitted, this time with a jukebox shooter.

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    Another new acquisition beckoned from the spare bedroom around the corner. We needed only to follow the vintage 70’s arrow to the vintage 70’s splendor of…

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    Eros One! My personal favorite cocktail pinball machine. It is a simple but fun game with classic style and real chimes.

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    Some of the lamp sockets were flaky so I put Bill to work implementing the “tip solder” trick. We installed ten warm white non-ghosting LED’s under the bonus inserts. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use them everywhere because some ghosting was still present in the noisier areas of the circuit. Something which could have been solved by re-routing the wiring harness… but that is a project for another day.

    Have a look at the action in glorious 60fps (before the LED’s were installed) and don't forget to subscribe to get future updates:

    » YouTube video

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    Wiggler wasn’t wiggling, so Bill removed Bally’s trademark all-in-one glass + rails apparatus to have a look inside. BTW, if you have a Bally with this setup and want to replace the glass, order a 21” x 41.5” tempered no marks 3/16” thick piece from your local glass shop and pop it in there. Cost should be somewhere around $25-$40.

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    The problem was somewhere between Matchland and Wigglesville. Alligator clips quickly revealed the issue via process of elimination.

    I love alligator clips. Love, love, love! Have you ordered a set yet?

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    A few other tweaks wiggled Wiggler into wiggling again, so let’s move on and review a couple of basics with...

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    …4 Aces, a game with a closer resemblance to those target-shooting horse/car racing games (Nags, Flying Turns) than most typical pinball machines.

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    Let us examine the flipper bushing. It is of the older, thinner variety which tend to crack.

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    We shall replace it with the newer, thicker variety which does not tend to crack.

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    Do you have a can of Mother’s Mag Polish yet? This stuff is essential to EM pinball owners. Not only for brightening up cosmetic elements like metal ball guides and side ramps, but also for improving functionality.

    First rule of Mother’s: Polish the plungers. Flipper plungers, pop plungers, coil plungers... polish ‘em all.

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    Lo and behold, a rebuilt flipper with new bushing, polished flipper plunger, and EOS switch polished with the Magic Brush… “swab, polish, swab”.

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    But wait… why stop with plungers? That flipper shaft looks clean enough with alcohol, but…

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    …it’s gonna move a whole lot better after polishing it!

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    Speaking of flippers, have you ever wanted to raise the height to prevent flipper dragging on the playfield? M6 flat washers are the size you need. Slip one onto the flipper shaft (shiny side down facing the bushing - not as pictured which is flat side down) before reinstalling it, and voila! No more flipper drag.

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    A rebuilt stepper is a thing of beauty and ticks like a Swiss watch. Two of them is even better.

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    Before we depart, let’s discuss the other part of pinball maintenance: Keeping the maintainer fueled! Or in this case, Huel-ed!

    Huel is similar to Soylent. It’s an instant meal-in-a-bag… just add water and shake. But this is no Frankenfood. It’s actually a complete source of amino acids, vitamins, fiber, protein, and calories at a bargain $2-ish per meal.

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    After a workout, I usually treat myself to a Huel shake. 37g of plant protein on the spot and it tastes like oatmeal cookies without any added sugar (uses stevia and sucralose).

    Living as a pinball nomad often requires a good bit of flexibility and creative thinking. Cheers to the challenge… *gulp*

    Next stop -> Charlotte, NC with Chris (@paragon21), Dave (@oldskooldave), and Jim (@Dkjimbo)

    #1416 15 days ago

    Curious about those washers under the flipper bat - won't they just chew through the bushing, creating the very flipper drag you are trying to prevent?

    #1417 15 days ago
    Quoted from bingopodcast:

    Curious about those washers under the flipper bat - won't they just chew through the bushing, creating the very flipper drag you are trying to prevent?

    Haven't seen it occur as of yet. In the photo the washer is flat side down, but I recommend shiny side down (against the bushing) for smoother travel. It fits the shaft almost perfectly so there should be little difference between the metal of the shaft itself wearing down the bushing vs. the washer. Actually, the washer is smoother so it should be better than original.

    #1418 15 days ago

    That Wiggler looks curiously like the one at the Chattanooga Pinball auction this past May. The blue and orange basketball cabinet paint job gives it away. It would have been mine if I had not been tipped off that the backglass had a crack in it and I decided to pass. Glad to see it is up and running.

    #1419 15 days ago

    I would love to see a tutorial on alligator clip diagnosis. I have heard of this many times, but without knowing the principals behind it and how to put it into practice it feels like an urban pinball myth (though I know it's not)!

    #1420 15 days ago

    Beware of low cost Alligator clip sets! They are typically made of extremely thin, low strand count wire which is "attached" to the clip by simply bending the striped end back over the insulation. They make very poor connections and cannot carry the current of a playfield or stepper coil.

    Buy the heavy duty ones. And then dissect them to actually solder the wire to the clip.

    #1421 15 days ago
    Quoted from CactusJack:

    Buy the heavy duty ones. And then dissect them to actually solder the wire to the clip.

    Thanks CJ... wanna Amazon a link to a good set you'd recommend?

    #1422 15 days ago
    Quoted from CactusJack:

    Buy the heavy duty ones. And then dissect them to actually solder the wire to the clip.

    Better yet, make a test lamp!

    #1423 15 days ago
    Quoted from bingopodcast:

    Better yet, make a test lamp!

    Huh?

    #1424 15 days ago
    Quoted from pinheadpierre:

    Huh?

    Take an alligator clip and do some light soldering and taping and you can test circuits without some of the irritation of using a test lead. Putting a fuse or breaker in line helps you track down shorts (even ones you accidentally create with the probe).

    The easiest example I've seen is in the United bingo manuals. https://bingo.cdyn.com/machines/united/caravan/

    Click the manual and scroll to page 10 (according to the manual - pg 12 or 13 in the PDF. ). Couple of illustrations to give you an idea. Bingo paperwork is fantastic.

    This probe is used for testing 6V and 30V. But it can be modified, as I mention above, to test for 50V, 17V, 110V, etc.

    This is better than a continuity test as it will power the integrated lamp with the source voltage instead of 9V from a meter. Helps you quickly find a weak switch or switches.

    Hope that makes sense.

    #1425 15 days ago

    https://ibb.co/cjoynb
    https://bingo.cdyn.com/machines/united/caravan/resources/manual-caravan.pdf

    These two links may be of some use, first is just the page on how to build a test prod.
    The other is the manual with that page.

    #1426 15 days ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    Thanks CJ... wanna Amazon a link to a good set you'd recommend?

    Not sure about Amazon. Many and most descriptions are either vague or non-existent.

    Here is a pair on eBay that specifies wire guage is 16AWG (some of the cheap ones are 26AWG).

    ebay.com link » Pair Of Dual Red Black Test Leads With Alligator Clips Jumper Cable

    #1427 11 days ago

    ‘Lil Carolina Run visit #2 -> Chris (@paragon21), Dave (@oldskooldave), Jim (@Dkjimbo), and Matthew Mandarano in Charlotte, NC

    The subjects: Pro-Football, Skylab, El Dorado

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    Yo Chris! If you were hoping to hide your arcade ambitions… too late. The Ataricar reveals all in sunny Charlotte - no geek can hide from its iconic power. And who would want to anyway? Old school is still cool.

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    Inside, the subject awaits: Pro-Football. Doesn’t reset. Doesn’t start. Doesn’t track runs properly. Too many touchdowns. NO PROBLEM! I’ve got one of my own and fully rebuilt it. AS relay, prepare to be boarded!

    Also gracing the room: A ’79 Bally Star Trek and a ’49 K. C. Jones Gottlieb woodrail. Truth be told, I’m not much of a woodrail person, but the layout on KC is like an early Majorettes with reverse-flippers… and I like Majorettes and reverse-flippers.

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    Interlock relays are often an issue in Gottlieb games. Ah, those fussy Gottliebs… like the Alfa Romeos of 80’s cars. Great looking, stylish, yet always in need of a little extra finessing.

    If the start/game over latches won’t trip/lock properly, the game will never work. Sometimes the issue is the angle of the coil bracket. Too much pressure and the latch won’t release. Too little and it will never lock. Beware of any residual WD-40 too… it can gunk up the movement.

    Latches were cleaned and adjusted and all were clicking happily once more.

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    Again, we meet, oh infamous AS relay. For you, the standard one-finger salute will do.

    If your Pro-Football is not counting yards correctly or scoring too many touchdowns… the AS relay is your culprit. As always, the only prescription is to totally rebuild it.

    I will cover the AS rebuild process in a future episode. If you can rebuild these perfectly, you can do anything in EM-pinballville.

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    Well well well… as expected, the underside of the AS relay latch has that trademark half-moon indentation. Time to sand it smooth with the Dremel flapwheel to prevent sticking.

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    And just like that… Football season is on again. Joining us for the photo is fellow Pinsider Dave (@oldskooldave) but we’re not done with Charlotte yet!

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    On the other side of the city, Jim (@Dkjimbo) stands next to his non-functioning Skylab w/confounding schematic in hand. As a youngster, Jim played Skylab in his uncle’s basement and always thought it was the coolest thing ever. Now that he has procured one himself, it’s time to reconnect with the past.

    Let’s not disappoint him, shall we?

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    First, we need to examine the relay which… um… wait a minute…

    Someone repainted the bottom board. Repainted, without replacing any of the relay labels. This should be fun.

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    Hmmmm… for some reason a pair of Molex connectors were installed here. A time-consuming task which only makes things worse. Did they not realize the jones connectors were removable?

    Luckily, nothing functionally amiss here.

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    Jim’s cat nonchalantly plopped himself in my studio light bag and observed our progress. “Whatever, man… just don’t ask me to move, ‘cause I ain’t!”

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    When pop bumpers stick, they fry. Not good. Always press down along every edge of the skirt to see if there are any sticky points.

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    Underneath, we can see the reason why this is happening. Good heavens!

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    After removing the switch, we can see what is going on. The spoon switch is bent all to hell. Nope… this won’t do at all. Gotta be flat or it ain’t all that.

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    After flattening the spoon switch with the switch adjuster, it lies flat again. The spoon should have a minimal amount of downward pressure at rest. Just enough to gently snap with a finger flick.

    Next step is to gap the smaller switch on top of the spoon so that it doesn’t quite touch. After doing the “swab, polish, swab” routine with the magic brush, of course.

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    Bag Cat grew increasingly pensive about not being allowed near the machine. He unearthed Bill’s Spirit of ’76 shooter rod in protest. “You wanna see this again, you better let me play!”

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    The bonus stepper has overstepped its boundaries. As you can see the fingers are straddling two of the rivets at a time. Which won’t do at all. A bit too much Teflon lube was applied as well. It should be smooth, not smeared-on thick like Vaseline jelly.

    The bonus stepper, pops, and some suspect relays were rebuilt and adjusted…

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    …and the telltale perpetually coil-dusted finger reveals good news: Skylab is ready for launch!

    Witness our glee which is as universal as it is unselfconscious.

    This is my… what is it… fourth Skylab by now? Fifth? I think I’ll own this one someday.

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    Finally, a stop to see Matt Mandarano. Great guy with lots of terrific solid-state pins in his collection. We spent all of our time talking pinball and reviewing the basics of EM cleaning and adjustment. His El Dorado was already in good shape… it only needed one adjustment to get the game rolling.

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    One last question persisted however: What were these red arrow markings supposed to indicate? All of these lights are GI lights… they stay lit all the time. Was someone planning to make a… waterfall of lights? A pinball version of “Road To Nowhere” by Talking Heads?

    Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    Next stop -> The encore visits continue w/Orin Day (@Lobster) in Durham, NC

    #1428 9 days ago

    Thanks to the knowledge from Nic's visit I was able to turn this cold lump of copper and wood into a fun pinball machine.
    This one had a replay adjustment pin stuck in the 5 ball selector that made it very hard to troubleshoot. The wire colors were very faded making it even harder!

    Thanks again Nic!

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    #1429 9 days ago

    Good job Cheddar! Spanish Eyes is really cool once you get it dialed in. Some hate the artwork but it reminds me of being a kid in the 70's... crazy wallpaper and happy memories.

    #1430 9 days ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    Good job Cheddar! Spanish Eyes is really cool once you get it dialed in. Some hate the artwork but it reminds me of being a kid in the 70's... crazy wallpaper and happy memories.

    It's hard to pay attention to the art for all of the drop targets and spinners your not hitting. It's amazing a pin without them is so fun but that middle pop lit for 100 makes up for it!

    #1431 7 days ago

    Nic, I'm relatively new to pinball repair and have been using the (your?) alchohol-swab, Dremel polish, alchohol-swab (lightsaber) method used on this tour and it works great.

    Learning all I can from pinside lately and came across this post:

    Quoted from vid1900:

    Remember there are 2 types of switches.
    Low Voltage - clean with just a crisp $100 bill drawn between the contacts, until the bill comes out clean.
    High Voltage - like an EOS Switch, clean with a file.
    No need for any cleaning chemicals.

    For me, so much black crud is removed from the alchohol swabbing, I just don't get why vid, who expertly advocates such detailed use of so many chems in such detailed ways, would be against some alcohol when cleaning switch contacts.

    What are your thoughts on this other approach? (Not trying to be controversial just for the sake of it but rather to understand differing viewpoints - thanks). What have you heard others in the other camp say say about dremelsaber approach?

    #1432 7 days ago

    Not speaking for Vid, but the only exposed portion of the switch that carries any current is the contact face. Weather or not the Blade is nice and shinny really doesn't matter other than esthetics. However, one could argue that by leaving the crud that was already there, and the new crud produced by filing the points, this crud can migrate and foul the contact face again.

    Vid's comment may also be directed at those that think using Contact Cleaner (a chemical), is necessary. The fact is, it should never be used on a Pinball machine!

    #1433 7 days ago
    Quoted from spinal:

    What have you heard others in the other camp say say about dremelsaber approach?

    Generally, the longer a person has been a pinball tech and the longer they've used files/sandpaper on switch contacts... the more likely they will not like the Dremelsaber "swab, polish, swab" approach because it isn't what they're used to doing.

    Granted, once they see the technique in person and/or give it a try themselves, most tend to get hooked on it. Most, but not all.

    I like the Dremel 443 "magic brush" polishing method because it is part of a larger "methodical method" of taking everything apart and putting it back together as well as can be. However, the tradeoff is time. It is quicker to zip a piece of abrasive material in and out of there and be done with it.

    Some would argue that disassembling a relay, polishing the contacts, sanding the plate smooth, introducing switch bias and regapping everything et cetera has the potential to make things worse and isn't necessary. Perhaps. But my rationale is that these machines are 40-50 years old and need the odometer reset to zero. The best way to do this (and learn everything as you go) is to methodically rebuild everything yourself. Repetition and practice is what transforms beginners into experts... which is the main point behind all of this.

    So, "swab, polish, swab" isn't merely a technique... it is a "way". A sort of mindfulness via pinball. The vibration of the Dremel, the gleaming contacts left behind, the manual process of assembly/disassembly... all of it part of a process I find to be quite enjoyable and effective.

    A good portion of EM knowledge is "touch knowledge", which isn't something Google will give you. You must learn what a switch with the correct rebound tension should feel like, the correct spring tension -not too much not too little-, all of those little clickety-clacks and what they are aiming to do. All of this is hands-on stuff... so do a little every day and eventually you won't need to ask "is the spring tension good?". You'll just know. And you'll know how to make it right if it isn't. And the best way to get it done. And then perhaps even a better way that no one else had thought of yet...

    #1434 6 days ago

    Bottom line is clean on, all surfaces, and around, and at the base of a switch contact. The games came from factory set, and if they were out of adjustment the notice given to new owner/operator was simply (go through game and adjust). If time has played a roll, then clean and adjust to factory specifications. Shipping is a bitch, so is time, and so is time/plays. Get it back by taking the entire game apart and doing it all back to factory, and believe it or not you will likely have a game in your game room with love playing for decades.

    #1435 6 days ago
    Quoted from SuperDaveOsbourn:

    Bottom line is clean on, all surfaces, and around, and at the base of a switch contact.

    Agree. Techniques can vary but the core advice is to ensure connectivity. Nic's method is more invasive but harkens to a specific 'zen'. Vid's is less invasive. Both have merits.

    I'd also add that each is targeted a bit more to a different audience. Vid's advice is sound for a very wide range of experience because its not likely to produce damage if done wrong and maintenance focused. Nicks advice is more holistic and about a strategy to rehabilitate a machine.

    I think each can share a place in any one person's arsenal. A contact can only has so much surface area to sacrifice before it looses integrity. On the flip side, getting it clean and removing grit that can transfer from other parts also has long term value.

    Pinball people are resourceful. By the time we polish out the last button contact away technology and new ingenuity will come along to extend these machines even further.

    1 week later
    #1436 7 hours ago

    I still have some really cool updates to post from the 'Lil Carolina Run... but have been busy making a smaller "maintenance run" to Milwaukee over the past few days. I am an insane road warrior... and love it!

    Last night I stopped in Kansas City to visit Dennis and Tony of Eclectic Gamers Podcast. We had a mike to share... so we turned it into an EM-pinball rap session. Have a listen here: https://soundcloud.com/user-465086826/episode-49

    #1437 14 minutes ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    Last night I stopped in Kansas City to visit Dennis and Tony of Eclectic Gamers Podcast. We had a mike to share... so we turned it into an EM-pinball rap session.

    Possible summary of the discussion?

    NazgulGottlieb (resized).jpg

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    Lighting - Other
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    Playfield - Other
    Multigame
    $ 229.99
    $ 69.99
    Playfield - Toys/Add-ons
    Lighted Pinball Mods
    $ 239.99
    $ 60.00
    $ 24.99
    Lighting - Led
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