Word to the wise: cabinet repair is time consuming.
When I last posted 55 days ago, I had completed the carpentry work on the 2001 light box and my "extra" light box. Since then, I have turned to the cabinet itself. I pulled out the playfield and score motor board. Removed all the associated hardware. Removed the chimes, tilt board, and coin door. Removed the side rails based on the excellent guide by vid1900, which worked well. Removed the legs.
My boss helps me with the disassembly.
Once I was looking at the empty wooden box of the cabinet, it was clearly not in good shape. The bottom panel was swollen and nasty. Apparently the swelling of the bottom panel "sprung the ribs" or cross-members beneath the score motor board. Those cross-members were simply floating around in the bottom of the cabinet, unglued from the side walls. Also, the front of the cabinet (the coin door side) was not well seated and seemed loose on one side.
The empty cabinet. The 'ribs' at the bottom are unanchored.
Close-up of the first two ribs. The bottom panel is swollen and popped the ribs' glue joints.
I cut the bottom panel down the middle and kicked it out of the machine. If I could do it over again, there would be less kicking. Unfortunately, some of the wood around the groove that receives the bottom panel chipped and splintered out. More on that below.
After kicking out the bottom panel, this was the first of many repairs to the lip around the bottom of the machine, which splintered in several places.
You can see what a large splinter-out this is. Sure wish I hadn't kicked that bottom panel out.
I got some nice pipe clamps on craigslist (which was its own saga, mostly stopping my progress for about 2 weeks) and re-glued the "ribs" or cross-members at the bottom of the cabinet. Then I turned to the front panel. I tapped it out with a dead-blow hammer, which caused some minor splintering of the joints. It wasn't nearly as bad as the splintering around the bottom panel. I chiseled out the corner gussets that receive the leg bolts. I glued the front panel back in place with a good deal of clamping pressure, to get the joints flush. Then I cut and drilled new corner gussets and glued them in place, ensuring that the bolts would still fit. (side note: I am much more comfortable with electrical stuff than with carpentry, so even these basic woodworking steps feel like I'm pretty far out over my skis.)
Notice below that the lip around the bottom of the front panel is completely gone. Much of this is deterioration, not necessarily my kicking out the bottom panel.
Reglued front panel with new gussets. Notice the lip for the bottom panel is completely gone on the front panel.
After doing the front panel, I agonized over whether to remove the back panel. It wasn't loose, but I sort of wanted to remove it so I could re-glue it with TiteBond III and have confidence that it'll be in place forever. But the back panel had a lot of small nails holding it in, at least under the legs. It looked pretty solid. Ultimately I didn't have the stomach for removing it. I was concerned that I would get worse splintering than with the front panel. And I was thinking about the risk vs. reward … it is the back of the machine, after all.
The back panel is secured with a bunch of nails under the legs, and hopefully some glue as well. Not sure if the nails came from the factory or another repair.
I removed the "scarf" or neck piece from the cabinet, removed the staples and nails holding it together, and glued it square.
The neck piece.
Then I set about stripping all the paint off the cabinet. It was much easier this time than when I stripped the paint from the heads. I actually just used Citri-strip, and left the nasty Jasco stripper on the shelf. I really worked the stripper with a paintbrush, getting the stripper to engage with all the layers of paint before I started stripping it with the knife. Almost all of the paint came off straightaway. I have a respirator for doing post-stripper sanding. I have been working particularly on sanding the front edges, trying to get them clean and flush so that the paint will be uniform all around the box.
I spent a few nights re-gluing sections of the bottom of the cabinet that had partially splintered out when I kicked out the bottom panel. I had a new bottom panel cut at the lumberyard.
There are three sections at the bottom of the machine where the lip or groove that receives the bottom panel was completely gone. These were at the back of the machine, the front of the machine, and a span of about 20 inches on the side. I noodled on what to do with these. Arguably, once the bottom panel is glued in place, the slot or groove doesn't matter. But I hate the idea of the bottom of the machine being all ragged- it just invites splinters or paint damage when the machine is being lifted or slid into an SUV later in its life. And after reading and re-reading the leckmeck thread "A New Dimension," I am much more focused on tiny details.
So, I set out to use Bondo fiberglass resin to rebuild the lip, based on vid1900's cabinet repair guide. So far, I have only done this for the front panel. I hammered in a row of small nails to serve as anchors along the bottom inside edge of the front panel. Then I drilled partial holes between the nails. Finally, I shot staples over the holes. All of this creates a row of anchors for the resin, kind of like a bone screw for a dental implant. I took a 1/4" plywood section and made a dam to go into the slot for the bottom panel between the two side panels. I slathered this plywood section with Johnson's wax to prevent the fiberglass from sticking to it. (side note: Vid's guide recommends using "aluminum stock" as a mold for the fiberglass, but I couldn't find this at my lumberyard or hardware store, so I decided to forge ahead using wood.) Then I made a dam to go in front of the fiberglass. I nailed it in place with tiny nails, which ultimately didn't work as planned.
Building an implant for the missing bottom lip on the front panel. I started by driving in tiny nails, like a primitive dental implant.
Next I put a wooden dam behind the nails, where the bottom panel would go. Slathered it in wax.
I drilled partial holes between the nails, and drove lots of staples to further anchor the fiberglass resin. Added another wooden dam in front of the nails and staples. The resin will be poured into the slot.
Close shot of the nails and staples.
I mixed up the fiberglass resin and poured it between my wooden dams so that it ran down onto my row of staples and nails. I added enough resin to provide the correct "slot" beneath the bottom panel. About 3 minutes later, resin started leaking slowly out between my outer dam and the front panel of the cabinet. I considered my options, none of which was great. I decided to stay the course; I let the resin leak slowly for about 30 minutes, after which it stopped. I probably lost about 15% of the total resin. After that, I mixed up a small batch and just "topped off" my pour. At this point there was no further leaking because the resin had cured between the cracks. I waited another 30 minutes or so, then cut off the drips with an exacto knife. After another 30 minutes, I was getting worred about the resin curing to my dams despite the Johnson's wax. I removed the inner dam with a sharp upward tug using vice-grips. It actually pulled free right away, leaving a clean inner edge in the resin to eventually accept the bottom panel. Then I pried off the outer dam with a claw hammer, again leaving a clean edge. Remarkably, my wax-on-wood approach worked well.
After pouring in the resin.
After removing the dams.
Now that I've done the fiberglass resin once, it makes sense to use it again for the section of the side panel where the "slot" is missing. This fiberglass approach is probably overkill for the bottom of the machine- my dad referred to it as "like a sculptor working on the part of the statue that only God can see." Ultimately, I will probably end up just cutting a piece of wood to glue in at the back side of the bottom panel. But for the front side, I wanted a nice clean replacement.
Another lengthy section where the lip splintered away, along the side of the cabinet. This needs a fiberglass resin implant, too.
Going forward, once this fiberglass resin work is done, I will be further sanding the cabinet and applying regular Bondo to fill in the various divots and scrapes. Then I'm planning to apply KILZ primer with an HVLP gun. I got a 20-gallon compressor from Craigslist, ostensibly for doing the paint splatter step. But as long as I've got it, I want to use an HVLP gun for the primer to avoid using a roller or brush. I expect it will be somewhat challenging to get the KILZ to spray. I will err on the side of buying an HVLP gun with a larger nozzle (1.7+ mm) and then apparently you can cut KILZ with up to 10% water. I'll try it on a dummy surface before I get out too far over my skis.
I might try to build some kind of lazy Susan to let me rotate the cab while spray painting it. I think I'm going to want to minimize handling the cabinet between coats. And I will probably just use Rustoleum rattle cans for the heirloom white base coat and the red and blue stencils. I have toyed with the idea of spraying those layers with the HVLP gun, but not sure what paint I would use. We'll see.
Again…this cabinet work is just time consuming. A year ago I was swapping a new Wade Krause playfield into my Jack In The Box. I thought *that* was a big task (and it was). But at least when I was doing that job, every day brought measurable progress in the right direction.
I think what this teaches me is to be really picky about the pins I work on. Fortunately, 2001 is one of my favorites. The labor is such a personal investment that I probably would have given up on a title that was not as special to me. But then again, it's always a good time to acquire more apocalypse skills. Now that I know how to use the fiberglass resin, I could find my way through a boat repair if I needed to.