Today, we move to the topside of the playfield!
I'd like to reiterate that I've never touched a playfield before so I have no idea what I'm doing Some things you can only research and read so much of in attempt to understand, it takes experiencing to really solidify understanding.
Let's look at some pictures.
1B - bottom right playfield (resized).jpg1C - top shooter lane (resized).jpg1D - corner gouge (resized).jpg1E - L A S T top lanes (resized).jpg1F - orange sweep (resized).jpg1G - splattered planets (resized).jpg1H - Special and Spot (resized).jpg1I - recessed paint (resized).jpg1J - green planet (resized).jpg
Despite being covered, the playfield collected a lot of dust and debris over the years; it probably hasn't been cleaned in 10 years. For the first phase of cleaning the topside, I started with just a cloth and isopropyl alcohol (thankfully I bought this bottle long before the Covid-19 pandemic because now you can't find alcohol anywhere). With the dampened cloth, I dabbed it across the playfield to lift the major, more abrasive debris. It didn't pick up much but it was a good start to get familiar with the playfield. I then took a microfiber cloth, dampened that with alcohol, and started to softly scrub dirt off. This worked ok but a lot of noticible dirt and ball swirls remained. After scrubbing in certain areas, it appears the playfield has some sort of protective clearcoat on it...but I'm not sure what it is. It seems that the clearcoat is covering existing dirt as well as ball swirls (therefore sealing these impurities into the playfield), or it could be that whatever clearcoat was used has weathered to the point of absorbing/retaining accumulated dirt and ball swirls. It's been really difficult for me to be sure. Again, I don't have much knowledge in this area. Were playfields clearcoated during manufacturing back in 1980? If so, I would imagine the coating they used wasn't as good as the automotive clearcoat used today. I'm kind of stuck at these crossroads trying to decide if I should attempt to strip the existing coat or if I should leave the existing coat, clean it up as much as I can, do my touch-ups, and then clearcoat on top of it. One way or another, by the wear we see on the playfield now, we know that the old clear is not sufficient enough to protect the playfield.
I knew I could at least start the playfield restoration with mylar removal and cleaning up the splatter paint. Mylar removal was extremely easy, thankfully, and I think that's due to whatever clear is on the playfield. I've never even held a Duster can before so I was really not familiar with the "freeze" feature of these air cans. For those who haven't used it before, it's just a can of pressurized air (often used to clean dust from hard-to-reach places like electronics/keyboards). If you hold the can upside down, however, it shoots freezing air and fluid (not really sure what kind of liquid). The freezing cold air is supposed to seize up the mylar glue which in turn releases the mylar from the glue. Again, this method worked great on my playfield! It was rather terrifying at first when I shot the mylar - I wasn't expecting any liquid to be shot out of the can so that was surprise. When it released onto the mylar and started bubling into a white foam, I was terrified that it was eating away at the playfield. Nope! No worries! It just foams up and can later be wiped off with a damp cloth. Whew! Scared me at first - I thought I ruined everything! When you use the freezing air method, make sure you keep your hands away from the spray by holding the mylar with tweezers or something. Also, don't pry or lift the mylar with force - all you need is a small, constant, taut grip. When the glue freezes, it will release the mylar.
2A - duster can (resized).jpg2B - mylar removal process (resized).jpg
You can see from the pictures that the overspray blue paint was on top of the mylar. This means the clearcoat was added first, then the mylar, then overspray paint. The blue overspray could very well have been from the manufacturing process - if it was, it means the clearcoat was applied during manufacturing as well which means the clear (whatever that may be) on my playfield is 40 years old. If the overspray paint is not from the manufacturer, well that just means someone had careless excecution of cabinet touch-ups lol.
2C - released mylar (resized).jpg
With the glue left behind, I used the classic alcohol + flour technique to remove it. I really feel bad for the folks who have full-playfield mylar - how tedious it must be to remove that glue! I was getting impatient with just my two small pop bumper mylar rings. Due to my impatience, I grabbed a thin, blunt piece of metal to scrape the glue off. I used the back, blunt end of the metal shaft of an X-Acto blade. I'm not recommending you do this because I don't know how other playfields are. I think the only reason I could get away with using this is because the existing clear on my playfield and the mylar was applied on top of it. Regardless, it worked really well to remove the glue after applying alcohol and flour. I did nick the playfield in a couple areas, though, so I'll need to do some extra touch-ups later.
2E - mylar glue scrape (resized).jpg
You can also really see the color varyation between the mylar-covered playfield areas and the surrounding areas. I'm having a difficult time deducing if the coloration difference is due to playfield color fade, clearcoat discoloration/fade, or accumulated dirt (or a combination).
2F - mylar removed (resized).jpg
My next task was to remove the overspray blue paint from, well, everything. The excess paint was all over the upper playfield. Most of the spots were at the top-right of the playfield but I found traces of it all the way down to the far left areas by the upper-left slingshot. To remove the paint, I took a cotton swab dampened with alcohol to prep the target spot. I then used the sharp end of my flat-head X-Acto blade to lightly scrape the paint off. I sure hope you don't have to do this to your playfield! The blade worked rather well to remove the paint, it was just tedious (as you can probably imagine) to scan the entire playfield for every single, tiniest blue spec of paint and then try to scrape it off without accidentally cutting into the playfield. I made another few nicks in the playfield during this process as well that I'll need to touch up later...but I have so much to do already, what are a few more spots?
3 - orange sweep paint splatter removal (resized).jpg
Once I cleaned up those particular surface spots, I decided to do a complete topside playfield scrub. What could clean up the playfield the most without destroying it? I tested out the common tools I've heard about: Novus 2, Novus 1, and off-brand Magic Erasers (w/alcohol). Basically what I found was the Magic Eraser did a decent job at scrubbing off dirt/grime and the Novus 2 did a decend job at hiding the cracks in the clear. I ended up scrubbing the entire topside of the playfield with an alcohol-dampened Magic Eraser plus Novus 2.
4 - ME alcohol and Novus 2 (resized).jpg
Again, I'm not recommending my methods because my playfield may be different than others'. I've heard Magic Eraser and Novus 2 are quite abrasive and yes, they will completely destroy exposed paint. Using this method stripped all paint touch-ups currently on my playfield. The true colors of my playfield, or lack thereof, now show! I don't see this as a step backwards in my progess, though. With the touch-up paint removed, I can really see what needs to get re-leveled and painted. I previously planned that whatever touch-up paint I would do, I would try to bring it up to the same level as the adjacent paint to minimize visible divots in the artwork. My main scare in touch-up work is going to be matching colors, lettering ("2000" and "PLUS"), and the dot matrix fade in the green parts of the planet.
Here are some before and after pictures summing up my work so far. Sorry for the inconsistent lighting of the pictures.
5A - B L A S T (resized).jpg5B - cleaned bottom right playfield (resized).jpg5C - cleaned top shooter lane (resized).jpg5D - cleaned L A S T top lanes (resized).jpg5E - cleaned top center playfield (resized).jpg5F - cleaned orange sweep (resized).jpg5G - cleaned special spot blast (resized).jpg5H - cleaned green planet (resized).jpg5Ib - cleaned full playfield (resized).jpg
At this point, we're caught up to my current progress!
Right now I don't have a clear plan for artwork restoration. I'm mulling over ideas of stripping the existing clear vs leaving the old clear and starting restoration now. I'm also mulling over methods for painting and what equipment to use (and potentially buy) to reach that end. To sum up, I'm sorting out my thoughts and tools for the job. Any input you might have as I contemplate the next steps, feel free to share!