(Topic ID: 179489)

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

By NicoVolta

4 years ago

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  • Latest reply 1 year ago by pinwiztom
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    #301 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    "sticky topics" on Pinside

    Quoted from pinwiztom:

    i think that is controlled by robin


    #302 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    "sticky topics" on Pinside

    Done! You're doing great, Nico. Keep it up!

    #304 4 years ago

    I feel like there's a reality TV show that could come of this. Like Rick Steeve's meets Wheeler Dealers with a dash of Love it or List it.

    Nic realizes he's making game worse, camera pans to Bill's face grimacing --- CUT TO COMMERCIAL FOR STERN AEROSMITH.

    #305 4 years ago

    OK you can fix EMs. Now I find out you can fix SS tooooo. And nobody can beat you on there own turf!
    You must be the Yoda of pinball.

    pasted_image (resized).png

    #306 4 years ago

    Congrats. You are sticky worthy!

    #307 4 years ago
    Quoted from GRUMPY:

    You must be the Yoda of pinball.

    Thanks! But honestly that title should be reserved for CactusJack, Pinwiztom, Vid, Dirtflipper, and so many others here who helped me build my skill set. I have yet to memorize the entire Gottlieb/Bally/Williams start sequences and develop the muscle memory to twitch the right motor switch without even looking at the schematic. But... I'll get there... we'll revisit again at the 10-year mark.

    And... uh... things changed today... update soon...

    #308 4 years ago

    He took his first L today!

    #309 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    And... uh... things changed today... update soon...

    Quoted from djreddog:

    He took his first L today!

    It sounds that way, but hey he is still batting way over .500?!

    #310 4 years ago

    I've got a 1959 Williams Pinch Hitter that could use some love. I'm in Mississauga Ontario. ( a suburb of Toronto) . Any day of the week except for Sunday is good. Hope you can make it. Safe travels!

    #311 4 years ago

    Visit #6 – Randy West (wildwest3163) in Lake City, FL

    The subject: Captain Fantastic

    The route to Lake City offered two options: Southward through Tallahassee, or an eastward zig-zag through Atlanta. In order to shave 45 minutes from the commute, I took the latter option. Along the Atlanta outskirts, I began to pass numerous cars being ticketed for speeding, others making perilous lane changes at slot-car racing speeds, and the longest, meanest, dark-red-line-on-Google-maps-traffic-jam I can ever recall seeing in person (fortunately heading in the other direction). It suffices to say that if you drive in Atlanta on a regular basis, you are a braver soul than I!

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    Randy and I began the day with breakfast at Shirley’s, a local diner which time seems to have forgotten. It featured oak walls decorated with dangling rows of vintage license plates, chatty locals and waitstaff, and the best biscuits n’ gravy I've had in quite a while. No intrusive TV’s, pop music, or slick corporate menus… ahhhhh. Just right. And the prices couldn’t be beat! I ate like a king for about $7. Unfortunately, they were closed on Sundays so no encore visit the next morning.

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    Again, the shadow of The Unfixable Game crossed my path in the form of a Captain Fantastic… a now familiar sight. Randy had assembled it from several donor machines including the repurposed head of a Strikes and Spares. The backbox was a near barn-find in terms of rust, bent jones connector pins, and overall functionality. Upon game start-up, the game did nothing other than (barely) light up. Hoo boy. No time to lose.

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    With only a single day to fix everything, we began with score reel class. We only had time to do the player 1 reels together (Randy would rebuild the rest after learning the process). A bit of painters tape prevented the switch stack biscuits from falling off. Note the amount of rust on the shafts. Cleaning them with alcohol and buffing with Mother's Mag Polish left them smooth and clean. Finally, the sliding tracks within the reel bracket were given a good smoothing with the wire brush.

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    Next, we rebuilt a stepper unit. The player unit (selects who is up for play) was completely frozen and lacked tension on the main spring. Once done, the match unit was then disassembled and circuit boards polished sparkly clean. After popping in a new coil sleeve… it was time to plug in and start a game.

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    Uh oh. The score motor wasn’t turning at all. I checked the fuses and 25v rail… power was being supplied to the other coils. I could turn the motor by hand which would run out the game functions correctly, so at least it appeared to be configured correctly. Then I tested voltage to the motor itself with the index stack activated (which should cause it to turn) and it was receiving power, but no movement. What gives?

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    A clue what came next...

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    Yes indeed, the motor itself was gunked up with WD40. Luckily, the gear compartment was turning freely, so all that was needed was disassembly and cleaning of the magnet portion. Added a tiny bit of 3-in-1 on the spindle, and bam, the motor was engaging and spinning again.

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    Randy has a large garage workshop filled with arcade cabinets, at least 30 pins, and a back room full of playfields and circuit boards. He used to have a collection near 100 but has pared it down over the years. It can be difficult to let go of beloved games, but managing time and space is always a challenge for devoted pinballers like us.

    We covered schematics 101 and reassembled another stepper unit.

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    Randy’s son, Bradley, returned from work and dropped in on a few lessons (after bringing a six pack of Stella which was much appreciated!). It was getting late but we stopped for a moment to outfit the Captain’s posts with some nickel hex caps. Not every game is suited for this particular “pinball jewelry” tweak, but it looked nice here.

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    Then the Cap’n got the stealth LED treatment in the backbox and pops.

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    By now it was 11pm. The game was technically playable at this point, so victory was declared. Huzzah! But the usual “shop out” work remained to be done… reattaching the shooter (note: shooting the ball with my finger in the photo), cleaning the drop targets, adjusting flippers, etc. A bit too much to complete in a single day. Since this was the only EM in the stable, we weren’t able to do the best 2-out-of-3 challenge.

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    So, just for fun, I squared off against Bradley on two Bally SS classics, Harlem Globetrotters and Paragon. I think both of these games along with Future Spa are among the very best of Bally’s pre-“Class of ‘81” period. Inline drop targets are one of my favorite game features.

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    Once again, I managed to uphold the record by a narrow margin... this time avoiding a nasty fate in Paragon’s Beast Lair. We’ll keep the record at 5-0 because if it didn't happen on an EM, it ain’t going on the books.

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    Randy is now eager and ready to tackle the world of EM’s. Have fun & keep ‘em rolling, my friend!

    Next stop -> Port Richey, FL

    #312 4 years ago

    Assuming the player one on Capt Fan was fully functional for complete game
    you could have played single player games in succession
    to continue the EM matchup challenge.

    #313 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    He has also come up with a creative way to beat the summer heat: Spelunking! Apparently there are “thousands” of explore-able caves in the area with temperatures in the 60’s. Literally, a cool idea.

    In that case, I strongly suggest that you never watch "The Descent" (parts 1 *or* 2), which turn up on cable frequently.

    #314 4 years ago
    Quoted from pinwiztom:

    Assuming the player one on Capt Fan was fully functional for complete game
    you could have played single player games in succession
    to continue the EM matchup challenge.

    Right on, but the main issue was the number of little refinements left to do... drop targets were sticky, pop spoons needed adjusting, generally too many shop-out tasks left to do considering how late it was. Main thing was getting the major fixes, game function, and training sessions done... barely in time!

    #315 4 years ago

    Well glad you were not "defeated" by the machine,
    just did not have enough time
    to get it 100%.
    Got to leave some of the fun for the owner to take care of,
    in time, now that he is educated.

    #316 4 years ago

    I've been receiving a few questions about the nickel post caps. Here's the scoop:

    On some later EM's (and subsequent SS games) the post screws are threaded and can use decorative nickel hex caps. Some games might look better with them versus the white plastic or rubber tips... try 'em and see. They're cheap and look great.

    The part number is HDW-6-32ACORN and can be found here:


    #317 4 years ago

    They are cheap, but they are hard to remove, even with the tool sometimes! That, or I have the bad luck to stomp on 1/5 of my metal post caps.

    I use a nut driver to remove them now rather than ruin my fingers.

    *Edit* You're talking about the non-Gottlieb ones. I take that back.

    #318 4 years ago
    Quoted from bingopodcast:

    They are cheap, but they are hard to remove, even with the tool sometimes! That, or I have the bad luck to stomp on 1/5 of my metal post caps.
    I use a nut driver to remove them now rather than ruin my fingers.

    No, the hard ones are the acorn nuts which must be forced onto the posts. The nickel caps are threaded... easy on, easy off... but they can only be used on later games with threaded posts.

    #319 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    No, the hard ones are the acorn nuts which must be forced onto the posts. The nickel caps are threaded... easy on, easy off... but they can only be used on later games with threaded posts.

    Simultaneously edited and posted. Keep up the good work.

    #320 4 years ago

    Visit #7 – Lee Ratay (Svendtube) in Port Richey, FL

    The subjects: Universe, Solar City

    Instead of driving the main interstate I75 south to Port Richey, I opted for the scenic route closer to the coastline. Plenty of greenery and trees decorated with Spanish moss to be seen until I reached Weeki Wachee, a renowned destination for river-fed natural springs and kayaking. Lee warned me to detour once the roads changed to 19 south, because… “That portion is one of the ugliest drives in Florida; a state which believes it can solve all of its traffic problems with stop lights.”

    Stubbornness won out, and I was rewarded with the bounty of 19 south: A near-endless procession of stop-and-go traffic flanked by billboards and strip malls. If you’ve ever driven into Houston, you might recall the feeling of driving for what feels like hours through suburban blight before ever seeing the city. Now imagine it with a traffic light every 1000 feet… ugh. A soul-draining churn.

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    Lee and his wife Claudia are an interesting pair. He, an ex-corporate fragrance chemist and “professional nose” of Unilever; she, a figure skater and early adopter of web tech and site building. No kids, a plethora of diverse interests between them, and a savvy financial strategy. By choosing to live in an unincorporated portion of the city, their annual property tax is below $500. And the sushi we are eating? All you can eat, everything on the menu, $10.99 per person. I kid you not.

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    Check out those sushi rows! We feasted like royalty at Koizi Endless Hibachi & Sushi Eatery. I asked Lee how the restaurant could possibly sustain this business model, and he replied “most of the other locals come here with their families and order things like fried dough and french fries, so I guess it evens out”. Dude! He waved away my disbelief with a grin, acknowledging that Florida is a state where many bizarre conundrums exist.

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    Before the work began, we detoured into the Replay Museum, the largest pinball arcade in the Tampa Bay and surrounding area (and in a great location, no less). They had a nice selection of modern pins, early SS, EM’s, and a Hercules. However I was dismayed to learn their lead tech had recently experienced a serious health issue, and thus some of the games were beginning to fall into disrepair. Overall there were enough games to keep us amused, though alas, the EM’s were the ones needing the most attention. I would have lent a hand but the schedule was too tight to stay for long.

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    During the past three years, I have exhaustively combed the entire IPDB (Internet Pinball Database) twice to build my own personal database and study which games had the most appealing artwork, geometry, and so forth in my opinion. Paul Bunyan didn’t make my list and playing it in person confirmed why. Despite featuring an interesting number of flippers (three pairs, much like some of the old woodrails such as Humpty Dumpty), the layout is segmented into smaller mini-games of pinball rather than a unified whole.

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    The sideways-facing gate at the top is interesting but doesn’t remain in play for long. The middle portions trap the ball into small unsatisfying shot chambers. And the bottom area (the “main thing”) is constrained to a tiny rebound-and-drain-zone common to many Gottliebs.

    You can't always judge a pinball machine from pictures alone, but Bunyan played exactly like it looked. Not my kind of layout. I gotta have more flow across the playfield.

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    It broke my heart to see this Assault cabinet w/broken stick. Augh! Really like this one a lot. It was an extraordinary game back in the day and still offers a unique challenge I’ve not found in any other tank-shooter since.

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    Captain Fantastic returned again to haunt me. I’m beginning to wonder if I should enroll in a stalker protection program?

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    We returned to Lee’s home to begin the fixin’s. He has a nice collection of uncommon EM’s… Trade Winds, Black Jack, Teacher’s Pet, Moulin Rouge, Big Deal, Slick Chick, and perhaps a dozen others stashed here and there. Including an Ice Revue which was bought to honor his wife’s avocation… awwww! But the priority was getting his Gottlieb Universe woodrail and a Solar City running. With barely one day remaining there was no time to lose.

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    Gottlieb’s Universe is one of the best-looking woodrails ever produced. It is certainly in my top three for artwork. This one would not start correctly, the 10’s digit was spinning endlessly, the advance relay was stuck on, the match unit wasn’t spinning, and a number of wires appeared to be incorrectly placed on the reset bank. Whoo boy. At least the mechs in general looked to be in good condition.

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    I removed the playfield and checked the relay bank. To my horror, the wires were snapping off with a light tug… a symptom of cold solder joints. This should never happen. Solder joints should always be strong. I always tug on them as I work through a machine to ensure they are solid. In this case, so many of them were popping off that I had no choice but to carefully work my way through the entire bank and resolder most of the tabs. Then I checked and adjusted all of the switches, some of which were misaligned. I found more misaligned switches on the score motor, 10-point relay, and a few other places.

    After making the corrections, the 10’s and advance relays quieted down and everything appeared to be behaving correctly except the game was stuck in startup mode (endless motor) even with the reels at zero. I suspected the customized wiring of the reset bar might have something to do with it… but with time waning and another game to fix… we made the decision to switch gears and work on Solar City.

    Rats. First game not fully fixed.

    If you happen to own a Gottlieb Universe, please take a couple of zoomed-in photos of the switch wiring on the reset bar and post it here. Lee needs to confirm his configuration.

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    By now, I was noticing the presence of the Kitten Kingdom. The seven furbeasts were watching my every move, and when they weren’t, their ceramic avatars were only too happy to oblige. Luckily I am not the allergic type, or else I’d be in the ER by now. *kachoo*

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    Solar City… lots of things going on here. Game not starting. Player logic incorrect. All sorts of weirdness. I removed the motherboard to examine my old friend, the AX relay, and its happy counterparts. Cleaned, gapped, latched, adjusted spring tension, and set them all as right as possible.

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    One of the relays didn’t have enough travel and was thus not pulling the switches far enough to make a solid connection. I found a thin coil washer underneath and removed it to increase the stroke length… worked like a charm. These washers are extra-thin and useful to save for those dreaded AS relays to prevent double-clutching. Just the right width to raise the coil height by a hair.

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    Next, I examined the player cam unit in the backbox. It had been disassembled and not put back in sequence properly nor photographed… *gasp*. This is where raw experience saved my ass. I know the correct click sequence by memory and where the wiper disk should hover with each step. Lots of switch stacks were loose and/or misaligned, so I removed them all, cleaned, gapped, set proper tension on the stacks, and rotated the wiper disk to the correct position. So far, so good.

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    The game was now starting up, resetting the reels, and illuminating the correct lights as it went. Hooray! However, the bonus unit wasn’t setting up properly. I found a missing switch lifter on the underside and had to borrow one from a pile of parts. Carefully used an X-acto knife to trim the overhang while preserving the stem and then melted it into place on the new stack with the soldering iron. Adjusted the switches and everything was triggering correctly again.

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    At this point, the only issue remaining was the ball drain kickout. The coil kept pop-pop-popping weakly without actually lifting the ball into the trough. Our time had completely run out at this point, so I told Lee to remove, clean, and gap the “O” relay after I left (didn't appear to be getting enough voltage across the switches). He did, and it fixed the issue. Was very glad to hear Solar City made the cut… if only just! *shakes fist*

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    I feared Lee would pick Trade Winds as his game of choice… and he did. It is totally a nudger’s game and he is a champion nudger whereas I am more of a shooter. Since we both have long hair and would be playing a nautical-themed game in Florida, I suggested we have a “battle of the beach hippies” and play without our ponytails to let the “trade winds” determine our fate.

    Well… it might as well have been "Break Winds" because I was soundly beaten, no third round necessary. Both of Lee’s scores hovered in the 1200 range whereas the best I could do was 800-ish. Nicely done, Lee! The streak has been broken and I am now 5-1 on the EM home challenge.

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    Good times. Those Williams reverse-wedgeheads are TUFF! And so cool.

    BTW, did you know that Trade Winds was the first reverse-wedgehead ever produced? Here's the complete list in chronological order:

    Trade Winds
    Friendship 7
    King Pin
    4 Roses
    Big Deal
    Swing Time
    Skill Pool
    Big Daddy
    Beat the Clock
    Heat Wave
    River Boat
    Wing Ding
    Zig Zag

    Several great titles in there... and with bells, no less! Line 'em up next to your Gottlieb wedgeheads and they'll fit together like puzzle pieces.

    Next stop -> Silverball Museum and Vintage Pinball in Delray Beach, FL

    #321 4 years ago


    Funny you should take a washer out, I just put one in!

    I was working on a Gottlieb Gridiron at the Banning Museum. Problem was, not starting reliably every time (often sat there running the score motor until the final relay kicked over to allow the ball to be served). Problem sent me to the HOLD relay. In working with it, I determined it was not "fully" releasing. It would let go, and the switch actuator (ladder) would move out, but not always enough to change the necessary state of the switches. I discovered that someone has adjusted the dynamic blades (longer blade that is moved by the armature) with too much downward tension which was keeping the armature from going fully outward. It would kind of just float to wherever it decided it wanted to be that time. Never wanting to alter the armature spring in any way (some would simply increase tension by cutting a loop or two), I ended up re-adjusting the dynamic blades to stop fighting the spring tension and problem solved.

    But new problem created. With the relay coil having a bit more fight now, the armature was buzzing. Buzzing a lot!! As I removed the coil to see whether there was something that could be done to reposition it to lessen the buzz, I ended up adding a thin washer between the coil slug and the bracket. Buzzing was gone, but so was the large amount of travel to the armature. A little fine tuning of the switch blades and all was fine.

    We will have to see how it holds up now.......

    Its interesting about those wires breaking off of the trip bank lugs as your photo shows. It seems its not really a cold solder but rather the original platting on the switch blades is de-bonding from the base metal (at least, that's what I have found). Like you said, full down-the-line resoldering is often required.

    #322 4 years ago

    I hear ya, CJ. Interesting story & I hadn't encountered that yet but I can imagine it clearly from your description.

    I teach a pre-emptive technique in my classes to hopefully eliminate situations like that before they develop... I call it "switch bias". Which is to bend the long switch blades at a slight tilt in the direction of the lifting spring... helping it out a little. This has two benefits: 1) Ensures full travel of the relay without having to shorten the spring for extra pulling strength and 2) maintains a consistent (and more reliable) switch gap by eliminating the wiggle room within the slot itself.

    #323 4 years ago

    Great road trip!

    Saw your troubles with Universe.

    The worst relay bank I have ever had was 1960 Spot A Card - they were all dropping off. Tons of dry solder joints.

    My games pre 1955 have all been pretty good.

    Wonder if around 1959/60 Gottlieb used solder that wasn't quite as good? Guess we will never know but I know of another Universe that had same issue.

    And then getting the S relay to work correctly is tough.

    #324 4 years ago

    Just started reading the trip from the beginning. I was surprised to see people I've met. David Yopp and Richard, stops two and three I met at Grand Ole Gameroom Expo.

    Very fun thread. When will you be in northern OH or IN? I might try to visit with you if possible.

    #325 4 years ago
    Quoted from Shapeshifter:

    Wonder if around 1959/60 Gottlieb used solder that wasn't quite as good? Guess we will never know but I know of another Universe that had same issue.

    I'd bet on it! My Flipper Fair ('61 wedgehead) had so many cold joints I plan to resolder the whole damn machine top to bottom.

    A VECTOR project also came in with the exact same issue. Wanna guess which year it was? '61 Flipper Parade.

    I'm thinking something was amiss on the assembly line around that time. If you have a game from that period, tug the joints! Otherwise those invisible intermittent issues will haunt your game for all time...

    #326 4 years ago
    Quoted from dmbjunky:

    When will you be in northern OH or IN? I might try to visit with you if possible.

    It'll be tight, but I've got a brief stop in Cleveland around mid-May before hanging out with this thread's artiste-in-residence, Ryan Claytor (Michigan). From there it's all Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota before the big, long, longgg Canada trek.

    Not sure if the schedule will work for a get-together... but at this rate an encore tour seems to be in order for the inland states (including Indiana).

    #327 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    this thread's artiste-in-residence, Ryan Claytor

    You called?

    Hey, guess what...

    IMG_20170411_105756 (resized).jpg

    ...I picked up the shirts from the printers this week, and...

    IMG_20170411_104728 (resized).jpg

    ...they turned-out great!

    They're even wearable:

    IMG_20170411_195121 (resized).jpg

    As an added bonus...

    IMG_20170414_233529 (resized).jpg

    ...they're also packed and ready to ship.

    Go, Nic, go!

    #328 4 years ago
    Quoted from RyanClaytor:

    I picked up the shirts from the printers...

    Quoted from RyanClaytor:

    ...they're also packed and ready to ship.

    Revision: Make that SHIPPED!!!

    All orders should arrive next week. Happy Easter Eve!

    P.S. One Unisex Small and One Ladies Large remain. If anyone is interested, send me a PM.

    #329 4 years ago

    I didn't read the whole thread yet, but any stops in boise, idaho? And do you work with DMD machines at all?

    #330 4 years ago
    Quoted from paynemic:

    I didn't read the whole thread yet, but any stops in boise, idaho? And do you work with DMD machines at all?

    This is an EM-focused tour, so I'm not scheduling any SS/DMD machines this time. Not passing through Boise this time but a second tour is potentially in the works... stay tuned!

    #331 4 years ago

    So cool!

    I know they're not pinballs, but I have several antique Pachinkos I'd like to get up and running so I can list them on Craigslist. They're electrotechnical. I'm not looking to hangout too much and bother you, I just don't have time to do the work myself. It would also be really neat to install some LEDs to light them up. Is this something you'd be interested in doing while you're in the Midwest?

    #332 4 years ago

    Heya D... we get a pachinko now and then at the VECTOR workspace in Dallas, but I haven't worked on one personally. Might be interesting to investigate but I won't have the time on this tour... already booked solid through Seattle.

    #333 4 years ago

    Dang. I haven't had any luck finding anyone that will work on these buggers. Well, good luck on tour!

    #334 4 years ago
    Quoted from D_Graunch:

    Dang. I haven't had any luck finding anyone that will work on these buggers. Well, good luck on tour!

    There was one of the older makes they used to refer to as "Jam Balls". And for good reason. Unless they are the newer LCD style units, they usually sell for less than what it would cost to get them repaired.

    #335 4 years ago
    Quoted from RyanClaytor:

    You called?
    Hey, guess what...

    ...I picked up the shirts from the printers this week, and...

    ...they turned-out great!
    They're even wearable:

    As an added bonus...

    ...they're also packed and ready to ship.
    Go, Nic, go!

    Yeah! Hope I had a shirt in that pile...

    #336 4 years ago

    How did the classes go last weekend?

    #338 4 years ago
    Quoted from NicoVolta:

    Updates are a-comin'!

    We had a Rocket... Er... rockin' time!

    #339 4 years ago
    Quoted from MeNaCeFiRe:

    We had a Rocket... Er... rockin' time!

    Dude, you were up here and didn't stop by?

    #340 4 years ago
    Quoted from John_I:

    Dude, you were up here and didn't stop by?

    I got home close to midnight (4 hr trip). I'll give you the heads up next time

    #341 4 years ago

    Just got home and had my T-Shirt waiting for me!

    Pin-Tour (resized).jpgTee (resized).jpg Many Thanks Ryan!

    #342 4 years ago
    Quoted from CactusJack:

    There was one of the older makes they used to refer to as "Jam Balls". And for good reason. Unless they are the newer LCD style units, they usually sell for less than what it would cost to get them repaired.

    Yes, but I have several and hate throwing out antiquities. Of the 7 I have, I'd like to keep just the one. It's very unique and has some lovely hummingbird artwork on it. Dusty as Barnabus Collins' house, though! I may just clean that one up, hang it & donate the rest to St. Vincent DePaul's.

    #343 4 years ago
    Quoted from dyopp21:

    Hope I had a shirt in that pile...

    Hi David. You sure did not have a shirt in that pile. Just triple-checked my email and paypal account and I never received a pre-order payment. If you feel like this is a mistake, please PM me.

    Quoted from girloveswaffles:

    Just got home and had my T-Shirt waiting for me!

    Wow! That was crazy-fast! Sent from MI on Saturday and arrived in CA on Monday(!??!). Unbelievable. Also, thanks for the kind feedback, Gir!

    #344 4 years ago

    REGION 2 - East/Northeast Coast is now underway! Note: The map does not indicate every stop along this route... there are MANY more. Oy vey, what have I gotten myself into?

    region 2 (resized).jpg

    I'm happy to report 100% completion rate for all scheduled visits along REGION 1. Stay tuned... updates coming ASAP for the last couple of stops.

    #345 4 years ago

    April 10-14

    IMG_0498 (resized).JPG

    Break time. I spent four days on the beach in St. Petersburg drinking margaritas, staring at clouds, and planning the next phase of the trip. I’ve been working non-stop since well before, during, and after the Texas Pinball Festival (TPF) without a recharge. Beach therapy was just what I needed.

    IMG_0510 (resized).JPG


    I departed St. Pete via the scenic skyway bridge and stopped in Naples for a salmon teriyaki bento box lunch. Then drove eastward across the Everglades to Delray Beach to visit two pinball venues: Vintage Pinball and the Silverball Museum. One of which was to be a very short trip.

    I called ahead to Vintage Pinball: “Hello? The pinball? Yes, we’re open today until 4pm. I think my daughter is upstairs on the porch. She can let you in if she’s there.”

    I thought… only 4pm? On a Friday?

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    Google Maps led me into a tight cluster of shops. All of which appeared to have once been part of a single sprawling large house. Only three parking spaces were available in front, all full. The sign read: Tarot cards, psychic advisor, discount cigars, pet spa, tiki-hut sandwich and smoothie shop, yoga “fusion” (?), and… vintage pinball.

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    I suddenly felt a distinct sadness for pinball.

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    My destination awaited beyond the smoothie hut and umbrellas. But I’d have to hurry. It was already 3pm.

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    A doorbell chimed upon my entry but no one was inside. All of the pinball machines were powered off, with an array of various things around them: pinball legs, a loading dolly, cargo blankets, bongo drums, and an open bathroom stacked with pinball heads.

    I peeked around a rear doorway and called out, “Hello? Is anybody here?”

    A female voice answered from somewhere down the hall (I could barely see the edge of her face)…

    “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here. There are dangerous tools everywhere. Did you see the tools all over the place?”

    (I did not see any dangerous tools… but kept it friendly)

    “Hello… I’m here to check out the pinball machines. I called earlier and the owner said his daughter might be here to let me in. Are you his daughter?”

    No reply, and that was that.

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    I thus found myself standing in a dead-silent room of lifeless EM’s, in an odd building, with odd people, uncertain if I was about to be towed away for parking at the clinic next door or perhaps even arrested for trespassing by "mystery hallway girl". I could have switched on a game, shrugged off the weirdness, and started flipping away. But, knowing the Silverball Museum was waiting just around the corner, I decided to snap a few photos and GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE...

    ...at which point, an old favorite immediately came to mind:

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    Over the past several years I’ve visited quite a few pinball museums, private collections, and arcade conventions. One thing I have come to understand is this: The venue itself matters as much as the games inside.

    The Silverball Museum gets this. Like, totally. You can feel the vibe just by walking up to that colorful front door. In fact every inch of the exterior of the building screams YOU ARE ABOUT TO HAVE FUN!

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    I left my mark in the guestbook and ventured forth, already smiling…

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    Silverball spares no expense to tap every possible nostalgic element lurking in your brain... all simultaneously... turned up to 11. Disco ball? Check. 1950’s-era neon signs? Check. Vintage “Love Tester” game? Check. Wavy funhouse mirrors? Check. Even the wall projection TV has a faux “rabbit ears” antenna perched on top… nice touch.

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    It is LOUD in here. Really loud. Perhaps even louder than TPF. But that is part of what makes this place so awesome. Even though you already know all of the songs by heart (Rolling Stones, The Guess Who, Bowie)… hearing them played LOUD in this crackling space of energy and laughter is like experiencing them all over again for the first time. This ain’t no dilapidated pinball cave in some forgotten corner of a dying shopping mall… no no. The Silverball is *alive* and offers a little bit of everything…

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    EM rifle game? Got it.

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    Pitch and bat games? Got four!

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    Woodrails? Uh huh.

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    Tons of working (and rare) EM’s? Yep.

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    Shuffle bowlers? Absolutely.

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    Atari Football and an air hockey table? You betcha.

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    How about a couple of Norm Clark classics (and a middle-pop)? Yes indeedy.

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    "That" game which is following me around the country? Of course.

    And let's not forget a full bar, food menu, a row of Skee-Ball machines, private upstairs party area, video games, new Jersey Jack pins, classic Bally solid-states, plenty of mid-80's/90's classics, and still more I had yet to discover. It's amazing how much is crammed into this space and how well it covers the bases. All things considered, I've not seen a more effective all-in-one destination of this kind anywhere else, period.

    Better still, the Silverball Museum in Delray Beach just happens to be located in the middle of a walkable scenic neighborhood near an awesome beach, shops, bars, and good people watching. It really is the complete package. Good enough, in fact, to dedicate a vacation here and make it the centerpiece of your trip.

    I only wish I had another day…

    Next stop -> Melbourne, FL

    #346 4 years ago

    Silverball Museum is a great place. I'm so glad you got to experience it on what looks like a slow day. Last time I was there it was packed. Not that being packed is bad, but it is nice to have your choice of games with no lines.

    #347 4 years ago

    What a fun post, Nic! Entertaining storytelling to accompany the great photos.

    To play Gemini would be worth the drive to Florida.....

    #348 4 years ago

    Nic, this post embodies everything that is so awesome about your tour!! Not since Breaking Bad have I been so caught up in waiting for the next "episode" of an adventure.

    #349 4 years ago

    No bingo pins?

    #350 4 years ago

    Keep the updates coming; I never know what to expect next after seeing the pinball machines in the bath room!

    I'm thinking this could be considered a job/tour/adventure all wrapped into one.

    There are 2,359 posts in this topic. You are on page 7 of 48.

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