(Topic ID: 181877)

spiroagnew's Re-Import Star Gazer resto


By spiroagnew

2 years ago



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  • 43 posts
  • 14 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by seshpilot
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#1 2 years ago

Having just wrapped up a Gottlieb 2001 restoration, I’m going to switch gears back into Solid State mode with a Star Gazer. I was really lucky to snag this project game last summer before interest in it really took off. I guess it has always been a darling amongst the Bally/Stern enthusiast crowd, but it seems there is a recent fever towards getting hands on a Star Gazer in any condition (if I were a betting man, I'd bet on Stern remaking the game at some point in the near future). I’ve had some generous offers to take the game off my hands, as is, but it’s a project I’d like to see through before deciding that to do with it.

ACQUISITION
---------------

It is nice to have friends that are bored. Drano swore off hunting new games for a short period of time last summer (he has since fallen off the wagon, surprise, surprise!) and lamented the fact that his pinball hunting days were behind him. I said he could always hunt games on my behalf.

Drano: What do you want?

Me: Find me a Star Gazer.

A few days later, Drano had a line on a project game. But it was in France. My international pin-hunting had been limited to importing games from the US in the past, so bringing a game from overseas, unseen, was way beyond my scope. Drano had done it before, and assured me wiring money to a complete stranger with only a slight grasp of the English language was nothing to worry about. The price was…acceptable, I guess, given the scarcity of a Star Gazer, however, I'd purchased working EM games for the same amount. The air freight charges to get the game from rural France to Toronto almost equaled the price of the game itself. Throughout this process, I seemed to just be the money man financing a multi-continent pinball purchase orchestrated by a friend who was more than willing to spend my money and help me obtain a classic Stern. There were no ulterior motives here, as far as I could tell…because Drano already owns a Star Gazer!

My first look at the game--amazing how much money junk commands these days in this hobby...

The game arrived with few surprises. I knew what I was getting into, as about ten pictures were sent. The game was packed well by the French seller and arrived undamaged. There was no backglass in the game. No boards were included except for the lamp driver. No lockdown bar. It included an incomplete set of displays. Various coils were missing from under the playfield. A complete plastic set was included and packed separately. The cabinet was in decent shape. The playfield was mylar’d with some areas of wear around inserts. Ball guides, brackets, coin door, coil plungers, and nearly everything else made of metal was covered in rust. The worst of it was the upper ball guide, it was one solid strip of crusty rust, and probably will not be salvaged. The wiring liberties taken on the game were interesting to say the least. Most “hacks” (or creative European work-arounds) were related to the game’s power supply and rectifier board. I hope these are simple challenges that can be retraced and corrected using schematics, and photos from Drano’s properly wired version of the game.

One of many wiring mods...

I paid extra to get the weathered coin door look.

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The plastics...that's good, I guess...

One positive is that the game was an early unit in the Star Gazer production run. The playfield has the famous “hairy knee” (really, a poorly transmogrified tassel from the backglass art) that was deleted from the art on the later runs. It also has the yellow spinners, matched with white stand-up targets. The serial number of this game was “504”. According to the Internet Pinball Serial Number Database, excluding the sample games, the production run started at serial 500 or 501 and worked its way up, so this game was one of the first to roll off of the Stern production line.

Hairy Knees and All.

The game has been sitting through the winter, and I'm finally ready to dig into it.

#2 2 years ago

PARTS STOCKPILE
--------------------

Between then and now I’ve been slowly collecting parts to aid in the restoration process. I had an Alltek board kicking around so I set it aside for the rebuild. I located a working SB-300 sound board, locally, and it was one of the first items I purchased for the machine. I got word that greatwichjohn had a few left-over playfields from his first reproduction run that had become available. I wasn’t sure the salvagability of the one in my French game, so I jumped on the price he was offering them for—a discount because the two outlane “Special” inserts were clear instead of original opaque. I’d need a backglass, too, which greatwichjohn makes to order, and I’m currently awaiting his response on the next run. If this doesn’t pan out, BGResto also offers reproductions. I’d prefer an original, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Greatwich Repro...

I purchased steel strips from McMaster-Carr to fabricate my own metal ball guides, replacing the collected rusty mess that was included in the game. Many thanks to redketchup for providing information about the specs in his own Star Gazer thread: http://www.maaca.org/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=12672&hilit=crazy+stargazer&start=100

As luck would have it, Drano was giving his own Star Gazer a facelift, so I was able to piggyback on a few of his orders. New oak rails from taylorVA, new set of plastic stand-up target faces and a whole new set of playfield posts from Marco.

I’m no stranger to repainting cabinets, but I’m on the fence about this one. The cabinet is acceptable overall. It is a borderline case, for sure. I’ll definitely be in touch with pinballpimp for stencils if I do choose to repaint the damn thing. Suggestions either way are welcome.

The cabinet...

On my trip to our place in South Carolina shortly after acquiring the game, I was lucky enough to pick a former operator’s storage space that had quite a few Bally/Stern parts available. I picked up a complete Stern coin door, a complete Stern Nine Ball cabinet face (complete with coin door, lockdown receiver and lockbar attached to the wood), a Stern apron, some original white Stern spinners, a backglass trim set, drop target mechs from a Meteor and a bunch of other common little parts and pieces that were either missing or unsalvageable from the Star Gazer as it arrived. I also picked up a set of dead seven digit displays from this storage space for a song, in order to experiment with the LED retrofit displays offered by acebathound. I snagged a set in blue during his initial offering of the kits and I already did a set of six-digit blue for my Stern Stars restoration. They look great in Stars, and I expect the same results for Star Gazer.

Of course, I also stocked up on the commonly needed parts and pieces from the usual sources like PBResource, Marco, @GPE and Pinball Life. I have the missing coils, a flipper rebuild kit, hot-stamped drop targets and plenty of other repro crap ready to go. I’ve got a cap kit for the sound board and all the necessities to re-pin the connectors (all of them, regardless of condition, re-pin everything on these era games, for Pete's sake!) The beauty of it isn’t the parts I do have, but the parts I’ve FORGOTTEN that will completely hold up progress…!!

#3 2 years ago

UPDATE
---------

Baby steps, right? I’m starting small. I re-capped the sound board and fabricated a wiring harness to connect to the MPU. This was the least intrusive thing I could do without getting my hands dirty and digging out the game from the cold garage. Plus, I can test my work in my new-ish Catacomb, which also needed a cap kit and a new wiring harness to replace its original IDC harness. Two birds, one stone.

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#4 2 years ago

UPDATE
---------

I finally braved the cold February weather and made the Star Gazer carcass available. There were definitely some power issues--the line filter was completely bypassed, connectors from the rectifier board were spliced in some interesting ways and the most creative hack was the tapping of the flipper power, ran through a diode and a capacitor to run the left hand side GI. I’m hoping that a new rectifier board (a repro) and re-wiring will sort everything out. Everything seems to jive colour-wise with the wires. And I have photos of Drano’s game to go by.

Dig that groovy capacitor and diode!

I pulled the playfield and stripped both the top and bottom to gauge the overall condition of the playfield art. As stated in the outset, the playfield had been completely mylar’d. When Drano had lifted HIS Star Gazer mylar last fall, it pulled up quite a bit of the art, rendering the original unusable. I feared the same for mine. With both a hairdryer and compressed air at my side, I set in at a loose corner, and was amazed when I needed neither heat or freeze to lift the entire mylar sheet off of the playfield with minimal paint loss! It did pull a lot of the black from the black insert keylines, but that would be an easy touch-up to perform and it left the insert art and text firmly attached to the insert. It left behind some areas of glue, but it was easily cleaned up and not nearly as messy and time consuming to remove as other glue removals I’ve embarked upon in the past. There was a marked difference between the blue that was under the mylar and the blue not covered by the mylar. Even after hitting it with Magic Eraser and 91% Iso, there was still a considerable difference between the vivid under-mylar blue and the muddy unprotected blue. I’m going to choose to leave this alone during touch-ups, as the mylar covered a lot of area, with uncovered areas living in clandestine places. If cleared, it may even out a bit, and it’ll be obscured by shadows and plastics and posts.

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After breathing a sigh of relief with this mylar removal, I totally forgot that the game had pop bumper mylar, too. This was probably factory, and was a little more heavy duty than the full playfield mylar. The pop bumper mylar removal on my Stern Stars project was a bit of a disaster, as the mylar took with it large chunks of paint, even when using the freeze spray technique (I was able to touch up the area with success, but it was a very time consuming process). I went with a bit of hairdryer heat to loosen the glue on Star Gazer pop mylar with decent success. Very little paint loss here, too, but the glue proved to be a bit of a b*tch to get off the playfield. Persistence and Goo Gone eventually got rid of the mess, though.

Slow and steady peel...

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After a few evenings worth of Magic Eraser cleaning and touch-ups, I had a pretty nice playfield, and I made the decision to clearcoat and use this original, in lieu of using the Greatwich repro. While the Greatwich repro is decent, I think I nicely cleared, early-production original will look better in the game. I’ll try to sell the Greatwich repro once I can confirm that the clear takes to the original. Better to be safe than sorry.

Touched up, you can see the discolouration between the covered mylar blue and the uncovered blue.

#5 2 years ago

UPDATE
---------

Things are moving along at a feverish pace. Got these photos of how the clear is laying down on the playfield. Not bad for a first pass!

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#6 2 years ago

Backglass is available. I sent you a message this morning here.

#7 2 years ago

Holy smokes! What a project. This is absolutely fantastic. Great game to restore, and great to watch progress. Good luck going forward.

#8 2 years ago

UPDATE
---------

Plenty of playfield parts cleaning to do while the clearcoat is being applied. I got to the drop targets last night. I'm not going overboard here--as you can see from the picture, I'm not chrome plating the underplayfield parts, I'll just make sure they are as clean as they can be, free from rust, and most importantly, work properly. Not a matching coil among them, but they all seem to give the same resistance reading. I'll move onto the pop bumpers next. I love working on these Sterns...the mechs are so easy to service. It's like they looked at a Gottlieb game from the late 70s and just eliminated all of the frustration from cleaning and replacing parts. I can say this because I previously replaced the drops on 2 sets of 10-target banks for the GTB 2001 project, which was a royal pain in the ass. This was a breeze comparatively.

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#9 2 years ago

Awesome project - I applaud your "fortitude" for taking on something with so many logistical challenges!

Really nice to see you save that original playfield too, with the funky "hairy knee" tassle!

Where did you source the hot-stamped drop targets from?

#10 2 years ago
Quoted from Fytr:

Awesome project - I applaud your "fortitude" for taking on something with so many logistical challenges!
Really nice to see you save that original playfield too, with the funky "hairy knee" tassle!
Where did you source the hot-stamped drop targets from?

I see we are both working on a Star Gazer at the same time...yours needs much less work than mine does!

The targets came from Pinball Resource--four bucks per target.

http://pbresource.com/pfdroptar.htm

They sell the pop caps, too, but without the lines around the perimeter. I have the originals for mine but one is broken...I will try to repair, otherwise I'll use a PBR repro with the waterslide decals provided by our friends in Quebec.

#11 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

I see we are both working on a Star Gazer at the same time...yours needs much less work than mine does!
The targets came from Pinball Resource--four bucks per target.
http://pbresource.com/pfdroptar.htm
They sell the pop caps, too, but without the lines around the perimeter. I have the originals for mine but one is broken...I will try to repair, otherwise I'll use a PBR repro with the waterslide decals provided by our friends in Quebec.

Thanks. So these are actually hot-stamped (the star), or just inked?

I also needed a replacement for one of my pop bumper covers so picked up one of the ones from PBR. It doesn't match the originals at all though, so if you go that way plan on replacing all 3. I'm trying to find someone who has replaced theirs to sell me an original so I have a complete set, so far no takers though.

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#12 2 years ago

UPDATE
-------------

I'm told the playfield got a second coat of clear today. Well on its way! I have a tracking number from greatwichjohn for my backglass, too!

I did get a chance to finish up the pop bumpers this evening. New wafers, bodies, springs and coil sleeves. The one-piece removable assembly is great. I'm on the fence about the plastic rod/ring.

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#13 2 years ago

oops. Meant to pm

#14 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

New oak rails from taylorVA, new set of plastic stand-up target faces and a whole new set of playfield posts from Marco.

What are oak rails? I think I know, but not positive and don't want to guess.

Thanks.

#15 2 years ago
Quoted from cottonm4:

What are oak rails? I think I know, but not positive and don't want to guess.
Thanks.

They're the playfield rails on the edge of the playfield. Typically wood wrapped in black vinyl. taylorva makes a solid oak rails that are painted black. More durable and a better finish.

#16 2 years ago

UPDATE
---------

Final coat of clear should be going on in the next couple of days. Big ol' UPS package was on my doorstep last night from greatwichjohn -- the Star Gazer backglass has arrived. It looks great, but then again, I have nothing to compare it to.

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However, I also ordered a Catacomb glass, as the one in my game had the paint completely flaked off under the bagatelle. One difference between my glass and the repro was the lack of the word "CREDIT" screened on the credit display. I'll have to find a way to print white on clear to rectify this. Putting the Catacombs side by side shows the oranges and yellows pop more on the original on the right, but overall, I'm very happy with Great Pinball's reproduction work.

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The Star Gazer glass has white masking on the rear, whereas the Catacomb and the couple I have from BGResto are dark grey. Will this help the light push through?--as I've found the others very dark when lit from behind.

#17 2 years ago

UPDATE
---------

It's not often I find myself with a day off work and home alone with no children or wife around. I'm totally taking advantage of the situation today. I soaked the Star Gazer apron in Evaporust to remove the rusty mess. It helped to loosen the original paint as well, which was helpful. I wet sanded to get a nice even surface to work with before spraying with Trimclad Medium Blue, which was a pretty close match to the original. I also shot the spinners with Trimclad Yellow. I purchased decals for the apron and spinners from Pinball Rescue Australia. The yellow spinner decals were a special order, and unfortunately the rear stars were printed in blue...and they should be red. It is something I can live with though. I laid the decals down today using the methods suggested by PBRescue, and they went down well...except for a little clouding on the apron, which they say is common and will dissipate (hopefully).

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Apron decal: http://pinballrescue.net/Decals_Apron_Stern.html
STN-AD-802 (take care when ordering, two different apron designs carry this Part ID #)

#18 2 years ago

Wow, nice job! Those look fantastic. Love the blue you used it really pops. My original apron is a slightly lighter shade of blue, but I think yours will actually look better when on the game.

Looking forward to painting + decalling my spinners as well. Was the Trimclad a spray can? How many coats did you put on? What was the process (time between coats, etc.)?

#19 2 years ago

UPDATE
--------

After knocking the decal out, I went ahead and started on a part of the project I was really excited to embark upon: making new ball guides.

The original guides were rusted to holy hell. I decided to follow redketchup's lead and make my own. I ordered 1" strips of steel from McMaster-Carr for the project. The original guide height was around 1 1/8", so there will be a bit of height difference, but I figure as long as the rivet heights match the original, it won't make much of a difference. I ordered two thicknesses of the steel strips and ended up going with the thicker. It matched the thickness of the original a bit better--it would also be more durable while still being able to be bent to shape. The original brackets, riveted to the original guides, were drilled out and will be re-used.

A bit of a height difference...

Lengths of the guides were as follows:

2 x Flipper Guides - 4"
1 x Left Side Spinner Guide - 8 1/4"
1 x Ball Entrance Guide - 17 1/4"

I carefully marked off my measurements and used a Dremel with a cut-off wheel to make my cuts. I then cleaned up the cut edges with some heavy grit sandpaper to smooth them out.

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Measuring out and drilling the mounting holes can be a bit daunting. I used a 1/8 bit to drill the holes. The bracket mounting holes needed to be opened up a little bit with the 1/8 bit to allow the rivets to pass through. I'm using a press and hardware acquired from Pin Restore. The rivet faces and bodies are a bit bigger than what was originally used by Stern, but the rivets sit pretty flush, and I've rolled a ball along the guides, and the ball's movement doesn't seem to be impeded by the larger circumference rivet. Opening up the bracket hole with the 1/8 bit takes off about a millimeter of steel, which allows the rivet to pass freely.

At this point, I have only drilled, riveted and polished the two flipper guides. It went well, so I'm taking a break as to not press my luck! (Press, get it? A little riveting humor there for you...) The metal polishes up really nice using a buffing wheel. As you can see the brackets protrude out the top a wee bit...but I've made sure the riveting holes were true to the bottom of the guide. Seeing as these guides are tucked away under plastics, it won't make a visual difference. If I feel adventurous, I finish the rest this afternoon.

Rusty original vs. newly minted

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I'm going to wait to shape them until I have the playfield in front of me to test measure them with respect to the bracket mounting holes. I'm not looking forward to bending that top curly ball guide, I'll tell you that right now...

#20 2 years ago
Quoted from Fytr:

Wow, nice job! Those look fantastic. Love the blue you used it really pops. My original apron is a slightly lighter shade of blue, but I think yours will actually look better when on the game.
Looking forward to painting + decalling my spinners as well. Was the Trimclad a spray can? How many coats did you put on? What was the process (time between coats, etc.)?

The Trimclad Yellow Gloss came out a bit dark for the spinners. I'd go with a Canary Yellow, which was either available in a spray can from the Trimclad or Rust-O-Leum brand (they carried it at Lowes). Or just stick to white, which was original to Star Gazer as well. The Pinball Rescue decals completely cover the area of the spinner, so its only the edges of the spinner that show...it wasn't really a big deal that I used the darker shade of yellow. I did a couple of coats. This paint has a hard time drying this time of year, so I've been letting them cure for a few days in a spare bedroom under a floor fan before applying the decals.

#21 2 years ago

Funny how most of the Star Gazers seems to have ended up in Europe, ive seen 3 of them sofar just here in Sweden.

#22 2 years ago
Quoted from Luzur:

Funny how most of the Star Gazers seems to have ended up in Europe, ive seen 3 of them sofar just here in Sweden.

Lots here in Canada, too...considering the production run.

#23 2 years ago

I wonder if classic Stern delivered games like modern Stern does, exports always go out first. That might explain why Canada and Europe has more of them if the production run was "prematurely" aborted and the US saw fewer games, since Stern was all excited to get Flight2000 out, or so I've read.

#24 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

UPDATE
---------
It's not often I find myself with a day off work and home alone with no children or wife around. I'm totally taking advantage of the situation today. I soaked the Star Gazer apron in Evaporust to remove the rusty mess. It helped to loosen the original paint as well, which was helpful. I wet sanded to get a nice even surface to work with before spraying with Trimclad Medium Blue, which was a pretty close match to the original. I also shot the spinners with Trimclad Yellow. I purchased decals for the apron and spinners from Pinball Rescue Australia. The yellow spinner decals were a special order, and unfortunately the rear stars were printed in blue...and they should be red. It is something I can live with though. I laid the decals down today using the methods suggested by PBRescue, and they went down well...except for a little clouding on the apron, which they say is common and will dissipate (hopefully).

Apron decal: http://pinballrescue.net/Decals_Apron_Stern.html
STN-AD-802 (take care when ordering, two different apron designs carry this Part ID #)

Thanks for providing that decal link. I didn't know how I was going to deal with this. And they have Seawitch, too.

#25 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

The Trimclad Yellow Gloss came out a bit dark for the spinners. I'd go with a Canary Yellow, which was either available in a spray can from the Trimclad or Rust-O-Leum brand (they carried it at Lowes). Or just stick to white, which was original to Star Gazer as well. The Pinball Rescue decals completely cover the area of the spinner, so its only the edges of the spinner that show...it wasn't really a big deal that I used the darker shade of yellow. I did a couple of coats. This paint has a hard time drying this time of year, so I've been letting them cure for a few days in a spare bedroom under a floor fan before applying the decals.

Since your zodiac targets are white, I would stick with yellow spinners for a more "correct" look.

#26 2 years ago

Slow and tedious work has made for lack of updates. I've re-pinned all the connectors on the harness. I re-used the housings where I could, but some were covered in such thick sludge (I'm assuming conductive grease) that I substituted with new 0.100 housings from Great Plains. There has also been a lot of cleaning, tumbling and of the top playfield parts. Again, not glamorous work.

On a more glamorous note, I did get my cleared playfield back from drano and it looks pretty darn good. You can certianly tell the difference between areas that were covered by mylar and areas that were not, but I stand by my decision to use the original 100%. While the Greatwich repro was great, the finer details in the art just were not there versus the original--a small gripe against a great repro product to be sure, but one that would have eaten away at me over time.

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#27 2 years ago

Star Gazer original backglass were either some white or mostly gray blocking. I originally started selling white, & most people wanted gray.

#28 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

As you can see the brackets protrude out the top a wee bit...but I've made sure the riveting holes were true to the bottom of the guide. Seeing as these guides are tucked away under plastics, it won't make a visual difference.

Before you attach your plastics at final assembly, I suggest placing little rectangles of mylar underneath wherever the tops of those brackets might contact them, to avoid wearing thru the ink over time.

#29 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

Lengths of the guides were as follows:
2 x Flipper Guides - 4"
1 x Left Side Spinner Guide - 8 1/4"
1 x Ball Entrance Guide - 17 1/4"

Can you document the measurements for where the holes need to be drilled.
What are the L brackets. Part numbers?
What size rivets did you use?

#30 2 years ago
Quoted from brenna98:

Can you document the measurements for where the holes need to be drilled.
What are the L brackets. Part numbers?
What size rivets did you use?

I've got tracings of the brackets for where the holes need to be drilled and can share them with whomever needs them.

I re-used the brackets from the old guides. I believe I mentioned that in the write-up. I had a look at Marco and they didn't stock them. They do have some brackets that may work, or Vid has a guide on how to manufacture new ones out of scrap.

I used the rivets and press available from Pinrestore.com as that's what I had available.

#31 2 years ago
Quoted from jibmums:

Before you attach your plastics at final assembly, I suggest placing little rectangles of mylar underneath wherever the tops of those brackets might contact them, to avoid wearing thru the ink over time.

That's an idea...IF they actually make contact.

#32 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

On a more glamorous note, I did get my cleared playfield back from drano and it looks pretty darn good. You can certianly tell the difference between areas that were covered by mylar and areas that were not, but I stand by my decision to use the original 100%. While the Greatwich repro was great, the finer details in the art just were not there versus the original--a small gripe against a great repro product to be sure, but one that would have eaten away at me over time.

That play field is gorgeous; Drano does some nice work.

After you get all parts installed, get the apron and plastics on, and put the glass on, no one is ever going to see and differences in the colors. And when you are playing it yourself you won't even it.

2 weeks later
#33 2 years ago

Been away on vacation for a little bit, and also in the midst of a gameroom shake-up (trading multiple lower value games for one higher value game...to free up some space and mark a grail game off my list). Lack of updates reflect this.

I have started to re-assemble the under-playfield--the wiring harness and most mechs are back on. I still have to do the slings, ball serve and the flippers. I hope to get those done and onto the topside sometime this week. No pictures...but it ain't all that interesting really. I don't think I need to rush, because I have decided to paint the cabinet using pinballpimp stencils. I wasn't going to, but the inside of the cabinet is pretty gross and there are a few areas of the outside that need attention. The stencils are en route, but I'll have to wait for some better weather to get to paintin' as I do most of my cabinet work out of doors. We've hit quite the cold snap here over the past week.

#34 2 years ago
Quoted from cottonm4:

While the Greatwich repro was great, the finer details in the art just were not there versus the original--a small gripe against a great repro product to be sure, but one that would have eaten away at me over time.

Ugh! That is hairy knee alright

#35 2 years ago

Wow! Nice project! and you start with a very bad prospect! awesome work like usual

Good luck with the rest

#36 2 years ago

I would love to see lots of pics of the under side of the playfield. Heck, lots of pics all over top and bottom will be really helpful to me in my project

1 week later
#37 2 years ago

Sorry for the lack of photos...got the playfield put back together. I'm extremely happy with how the guides I made installed and perform overall. The ball moves without being impeded by the larger rivets. I am, however, not happy with the large fight I had cleaning out the right star rollover. I had some clear lift. I'll live with it, but I don't have to like it! It may have been my ham-fisted nature of cleaning them out, the amount of clear in the star or the clear still being soft....or mix of all of the above. Besides that, I'm happy with the way everything looks.

There was one difference between the production game and this early run game. The left side rail ran complete and unbroken up the side of the game, whereas production games used two separate rails leaving a gap behind the drop target bank (cost cutting? I replaced the original rail with those made by taylorva, production versions, so it took me a bit of head scratching to figure this out).

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#38 2 years ago

My repro was originally mostly gray backing. It is now mostly white.

#39 2 years ago
Quoted from spiroagnew:

Been away on vacation for a little bit, and also in the midst of a gameroom shake-up (trading multiple lower value games for one higher value game...to free up some space and mark a grail game off my list). Lack of updates reflect this.

Maybe its time to get rid of that pesky Transporter?

2 months later
#40 1 year ago

Aw, dammit. I apologise to anyone who was actually following this thread. The game is complete. I’ve been playing it for the better part of a month now. And I love it. Unfortunately, the precious free time I devote to pinball restoration was spent actually WORKING ON the machine, rather than typing prose about working on the machine. And as we all know, when the finish line is in sight, it’s kind of a sprint to be able to launch the first ball into play…you forget about taking pictures or typing a thread update along the way.

I had to review the thread to actually find out where I left off. Seeing as the playfield turned out so good, I thought it a shame to drop it into an unrestored cabinet. I turned to pinballpimp for some stencils. I absolutely love working with his product. I cut my own stencils when I can, but when the Pimp has a set in the can for a game I’m working on, I’ll spring for them every time. The two colour design was a breeze to paint. I used Molotow rattle can paint in Tulip Blue/Signal White. The process was straightforward, other than dealing with the shitty Stern fibreboard trim of the backbox. Man, that stuff is a pain in the ass to square off. In the end, I hardened the “frayed” corners with epoxy and sanded it out. It seemed to work OK, and is holding up nicely.

Pimp stencil applied, ready for white paint.

000-pins1 (resized).jpg

000-pins5 (resized).jpg

000-pins7 (resized).jpg

Since the game didn’t have any internal boards when it arrived, I installed an Alltek MPU I had laying around, sprung for an Alltek Solenoid Driver board, and refurbished an original Lamp Driver from a previous project. I used a rectifier I picked up from K’s Arcade, which they are apparently manufacturing themselves now, and it works as well as the Rottendog ones, thus far. The original sound board I picked up from a local friend worked 100%, and I think I was extremely lucky to find someone with an extra working Stern sound board lying around and were willing to part with.

The game was also missing displays, and I had the pleasure of working with acebathound ‘s Retrofit display kits on a set of busted displays I picked up on the cheap. I went with the blue. It looks great, but it is an obvious choice, and blue dominates the game as it is. In retrospect, I would have liked to have experimented with the filters on white displays (yellow, pink are colours that come to mind) to give the game more colour depth. However, I’m totally happy with how the kits look. I’ve assembled a couple games worth of kits now, it’s almost second nature replacing the parts.

A display being tested out in Catacomb

One problem I ran into is that the backbox light board had warped. Thus, when I tried to put my repro backglass in, it wouldn’t fit as it was impaired by the displays jutting out too far. It was warped far worse near the bottom of the board than it was at the top; you can see the bow in it in one of the pictures above. My choices here were to have a new backboard cut, try to straighten out the original (which had already been populated with wiring) or get creative. Disgracefully, I chose the latter however, it ended up being less obtrusive than trying to straighten the original with home-made splints or other bracing techniques. I flipped the credit display bracket to the backside of the board (like the rest of the 7-digit displays) which gave that display the proper clearance, and used ¼ to ¾ inch plastic spacers on the 7-digit brackets to get the displays far enough back for the glass to seat unimpaired. If I can get a new backboard cut by someone building a homebrew Star Gazer down the road, it is something I’ll definitely do, but for now, I can live with a couple of spacers in my life.

Other than that issue and a couple minor switch adjustments, the game was plug and play. I’m happy to report that the ball guides I manufactured mimic the originals in every way…even with the larger rivets from the Pin Restore rivet kit. I was able to re-wire all of the creative Euro-wiring back to factory specifications without issue. Some may call it overkill, but I’m a big fan of re-crimping ALL contacts on a Bally/Stern game before firing it up for the first time. It saves a ton of potential headaches and tail-chasing. Dealing with all those 0.100 connections is a real drag, but worth it when those connections are fresh, snug and worry-free.

The Finished Product

I think the game itself is one of the best of the era. The layout is fantastic and it is rewarding to play the whole playfield, grabbing the multipliers from the drops and ripping a lit spinner. If you can master the middle bank of targets and the associated spinner, it can really help along a big score (in addition to maxing the bonus and associated multipliers, of course). The stand-up target layout is visually appealing, however, a lot of the targets are collected by the rollovers near the flippers and there’s no clear shot to any of those targets anyhow. You’re relying on the luck of the pop bumper to collect what you need…might as well just let attrition run its course and collect what you need through the star rollovers. The area near the flippers is a neat design, and makes for some really cool ball action versus a standard “Italian bottom”. I wonder if a design like this could be employed in a modern game?

My conservative high score, thus far...

Also, in looking for a new tattoo design to go with my #Funhouse and #CFTBL work, I went with a Star Gazer influenced design. It features the star sign “inserts” to represent the signs of my wife, my two kiddos and myself. It was designed and tattoo’d by Kirk Sheppard of Kettle Valley Tattoo Co. (BC) on his recent visit to my end of Canada (ON).

000-pinskys2 (resized).jpg

Big fat Star Gazer tattoo on my big fat arm

The game has come a long way from the refugee I had imported from France. I’m glad I had the opportunity to work on one. Here’s hoping Stern sees the value in remaking their older titles and Star Gazer gets the chance to reach a wider audience because it certainly deserves it.

#41 1 year ago

Thanks for the update!

You, sir, are a true inspiration. It is simply amazing what you've done with this game.

Nice Tat, btw.

#43 1 year ago

I am loving this! Keep up the great work bro

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