(Topic ID: 68002)

Tumblers and polishing your balls


By Geocab

5 years ago



Topic Stats

  • 60 posts
  • 25 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 years ago by Baiter
  • Topic is favorited by 13 Pinsiders

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    Topic poll

    “Do you polish your balls in a tumbler?”

    • Yes, I polish them in a tumbler. 7 votes
      11%
    • No, I replace them once a year or sooner if needed. 28 votes
      44%
    • Yes, I polish them, but also have new ones on hand. 15 votes
      24%
    • That's what she said. 13 votes
      21%

    (63 votes)

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    There are 60 posts in this topic. You are on page 1 of 2.
    #1 5 years ago

    Pinballs that is.

    I was browsing the forum for threads about pinballs and came upon a recent premium pinball comparison thread. http://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/balls-premium-comparison

    Towards the bottom of the thread a Pinsider posted photos of Before and After results of polishing some used pinballs and from the photos, the results are very impressive. The pinballs appear to be very smooth and shiny, obviously the smoothness being very important for playfield preservation.

    After seeing those photos, I'd like to buy a tumbler for the pinballs in my machines.

    Is there one tumbler I should look into buying?

    In the above thread, Fytr mentioned he used a Berry type ammunition tumbler but not a specific model.

    Marco's has this: http://www.marcospecialties.com/pinball-parts/BT400

    Amazon has this: amazon.com link »

    How do you use a tumbler? As in, how many pinballs will fit in the above models? How much walnut or corn cob media do you pour in? How much Novus 3 (going off of Fytr's example) would you put in? In what order does this all need to be done?

    Currently I only have 4 machines which equals 14 pinballs. If I went with PBL Premiums, that's about $40 shipped. Initially, it would cost more to buy a tumbler and media, but I can see the cost evening itself out after awhile, plus I don't plan on stopping at 4 machines even though it'll be awhile before I can add another.

    Thanks for the help, guys!

    #2 5 years ago

    Ironically I have 8 balls in my tumbler being polished as I type this.

    I have the Cabela's tumbler. Been great so far.

    www.cabelas.com

    By the way, you will still have to replace your pinballs after awhile. They will eventually get chipped and polishing will not be enough to completely smooth them out again.

    #3 5 years ago

    Could you do more than 8 at a time?

    And I do plan on buying another set so I can polish them and replace as necessary, but still have plenty on hand.

    My F-14 pinballs are good, DM is decent, but Sorcerer and Firepower could use new or polished pinballs for sure.

    #4 5 years ago

    A tumbler is kinda overkill for balls. Just polish them regularly using a cotton rag and metal polish. I use Blue Magic, which I bought at a nearby auto parts store. You'll get the same results in much less time. 5 minutes a ball tops. When the rag stops showing black (dirt), you're done.

    Regularly polished, decent balls will last (stay shiny as hell) for 10 years or more in home use. Buying new balls every year or when they get dirty is probably the biggest waste in this hobby. Besides making them look like new, most polishes leave a thin protective coating on the ball. No reason not to polish them occasionally.

    #6 5 years ago
    Quoted from phishrace:

    A tumbler is kinda overkill for balls. Just polish them regularly using a cotton rag and metal polish. I use Blue Magic, which I bought at a nearby auto parts store. You'll get the same results in much less time. 5 minutes a ball tops. When the rag stops showing black (dirt), you're done.
    Regularly polished, decent balls will last (stay shiny as hell) for 10 years or more in home use. Buying new balls every year or when they get dirty is probably the biggest waste in this hobby. Besides making them look like new, most polishes leave a thin protective coating on the ball. No reason not to polish them occasionally.

    It does depend on the game too though. My RFM tears up pinballs quicker than my other games. I think the ball hitting the metal bracket does this

    #7 5 years ago
    Quoted from RobT:

    Ironically I have 8 balls in my tumbler being polished as I type this.
    I have the Cabela's tumbler. Been great so far.
    http://www.cabelas.com
    By the way, you will still have to replace your pinballs after awhile. They will eventually get chipped and polishing will not be enough to completely smooth them out again.

    I have the Cabella's one too. Works great. Get both crushed walnut and corncob media ... and a container of Flitz.

    #8 5 years ago
    Quoted from pinster68:

    I have the Cabella's one too. Works great. Get both crushed walnut and corncob media ... and a container of Flitz.

    Would I use both media at the same time? Does Cabela's sell all of this? Or am I better off purchasing online?

    I think these stores are finally getting in my area.

    #9 5 years ago

    I have the Lyman 1200 model as well, mine came with a smaller and a larger bowl, which is handy for different size loads.

    For balls, I put up to 6 in the smaller bowl that has been almost filled with walnut media. After I set the balls on the top of the media, I cover each with a generous amount of Novus 3 and add a couple loops of Novus around the bowl for good measure. I usually run them for 3 full days (72 hours) for best results.

    I got the walnut media at a specialty pet store, it is used as tank liner for lizards I think.

    Polishing used balls is not a cure-all, but I've had good luck repolishing them after a couple of hundred plays.

    #10 5 years ago

    Thanks for replying in the thread. How loud or quiet is the Lyman 1200?

    #11 5 years ago
    Quoted from Geocab:

    Would I use both media at the same time? Does Cabela's sell all of this? Or am I better off purchasing online?
    I think these stores are finally getting in my area.

    Walnut for better cleaning, corn cob for better finish.

    I brought online ... I think from Amazon. 5lb bags that are sold as reptile bedding.

    Once you start tumbling parts you won't look back. The results are amazing.

    Get a plastic strainer or colander to separate the parts from the media after each batch completes. Also get a set of metal dental picks to remove media from screw heads and stuff.

    Enjoy,

    Brian

    #12 5 years ago
    Quoted from Fytr:

    I have the Lyman 1200 model

    My Lyman is at least 15+ years old and still going strong. Almost always have it running with pinball parts or spent ammo casings.

    #13 5 years ago

    What are the views on using rice as media? I havent used walnut yet, has anyone tried both?

    #14 5 years ago

    I'm thinking rice would produce more dust as it's not as hard. Not sure though...

    #15 5 years ago
    Quoted from Fytr:

    I have the Lyman 1200 model as well, mine came with a smaller and a larger bowl, which is handy for different size loads.
    For balls, I put up to 6 in the smaller bowl that has been almost filled with walnut media. After I set the balls on the top of the media, I cover each with a generous amount of Novus 3 and add a couple loops of Novus around the bowl for good measure. I usually run them for 3 full days (72 hours) for best results.
    I got the walnut media at a specialty pet store, it is used as tank liner for lizards I think.
    Polishing used balls is not a cure-all, but I've had good luck repolishing them after a couple of hundred plays.

    Fytr, in the photos you posted of your results in the other thread, it looked like the scratches were gone, is that accurate, or were they not picked up in the photo?

    #16 5 years ago

    I tried Blue Magic. Not sure how accurate the photos are since I'm not using a tripod or anything, but in real life I do see some improvement. Would a tumbler do better, or is this what I would expect?

    Also, what other parts do you guys use in a tumbler, besides screws?

    I appreciate all of the input I've received so far.

    before and after.jpg
    #17 5 years ago
    Quoted from Geocab:

    Thanks for replying in the thread. How loud or quiet is the Lyman 1200?

    It is fairly loud, I've found that the vibration generates low-level frequencies that travel a fair distance throughout the house. So I run my out in the garage where it doesn't bother anyone.

    Quoted from Geocab:

    I tried Blue Magic. Not sure how accurate the photos are since I'm not using a tripod or anything, but in real life I do see some improvement. Would a tumbler do better, or is this what I would expect?
    Also, what other parts do you guys use in a tumbler, besides screws?
    I appreciate all of the input I've received so far.

    Based on the pictures, a tumbler will do a better job of removing the scratches than Blue Magic did. After 72 hours the balls come out very shiny. There are still microscopic imperfections (vs a polished new ball), but they are an order of magnitude smaller than they were before polishing. That's why I was interested in the premium ball comparison thread if the OP could use his microscope to compare new vs polished used balls at magnification.

    You can put all small metal and plastic parts in the tumbler (posts, screws, star-posts, etc.). I've only done balls with mine so far but have just started a complete shop-job on my IJ and plan to tumble all the small metal parts. See this IJ Restoration thread for more tumbler magic!:

    http://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/ij-restoration-started/page/6#1121985

    #18 5 years ago

    Cool. Checking that out. Thanks!

    #19 5 years ago

    I use the tumbler from Harbor Freight. With the always available 20-25% off one item coupons out there, it's under $49 and it will hold up to 5lbs of schtuff.

    I by Lizard Bedding (crushed walnut shell) from Petcoâ„¢ real cheap.

    I tumble leg bolts in mine the most, then balls and playfield parts.

    I use a foam 2x2 exercise pad underneath to limit the noise.

    #20 5 years ago

    Someone advised me that tumbling pinballs does not work (because it actually scratches them)--and therefore to best protect your PFs, to instead change out your pinballs with your batteries once a year.

    I vaguely seem to recall a thread on some forum that microscopically showed a close-up of tumbled balls seeming to prove this claim, but I'm not exactly sure...thoughts?

    #21 5 years ago
    Quoted from NM:

    therefore to protect your PFs, to instead change out your pinballs with your batteries once a year.

    I agree, Neil. I've always done it this way and have never had any problems. Seems like a small expense compared to the alternative of possibly wrecking boards or playfields.

    #22 5 years ago

    I'd like to see that thread. Did it microscopically show new pinballs compared to freshly tumbled ones? I'd really like to see the differences. Even if I don't tumble pinballs, I've thought about how badly some of the parts on both my Firepower and Sorcerer could use some cleaning.

    For those of you that do tumble polish your pinballs, have you seen any problems or noticeable wear on your playfield?

    #23 5 years ago

    Balls are $1 each. Just replace them every year or sooner if you play a lot. There are lots of rare parts of this hobby, but pinballs aren't one.

    #24 5 years ago

    Since there are a couple trains of thought, I added a poll to the thread.

    #25 5 years ago
    Quoted from Geocab:

    I'd like to see that thread. Did it microscopically show new pinballs compared to freshly tumbled ones? I'd really like to see the differences.

    Can't recall unfortunately.

    Lost all my old favorites when my computer crashed this Spring...OT: get something like Carbonite if you don't already have it.

    #26 5 years ago

    My computer died a few months ago. Use my phone mostly right now. Stinks because I have a lot of software I'd like to use again.

    #27 5 years ago
    Quoted from Spitfiren8:

    What are the views on using rice as media? I havent used walnut yet, has anyone tried both?

    Yes, i mix up walnutt with a handfull of rice.
    Not used rice only.

    Works great, for me, YMMV

    #28 5 years ago

    Well, I'm from Canada and pinballs end up costing quite a bit more once shipping from the US is factored. I also tumble new balls to give them that mirror finish. I wouldn't worry about using shiny tumbled used balls again so long as they remain perfectly round, they likely have fewer imperfections than many new balls (pre tumbling).

    How do you suppose the manufacturer gets their premium balls so shiny?, if not by tumbling them in the first place?

    #29 5 years ago

    That's why I'd like to see a comparison of new ball versus tumbled ball sometime. I don't have the proper camera or equipment to do such a test myself.

    Tumbling question, can you tumble light sockets?

    #30 5 years ago

    I'll be damned. We actually pay $8000 for pins but to save $1 you guys polish your own balls ?

    . Jokes aside I did not know some guys were doing that.

    That's cool but I prefer to have tons of used shinny balls in my basemen.

    Wait that came out wrong

    #31 5 years ago

    A quick addition here. I'm restoring a TZ and the balls were in torrid condition and the powerball looked like a ball of coal and stained beyond salvation.

    Well... Overnight in the tumbler with some walnut media & Flitz and they look brand new! The powerball looks perfect. One of the pinballs has a chip in it so I will chuck it but the rest look like they were just produced.

    Definitely worth a try IMO to "refresh" your, ummm, balls.

    #32 5 years ago

    Keep them balls clean...

    #33 5 years ago

    I have pondered the same question.

    I bring to the table microscopy of some pinballs photographed today.
    First, a new pinball
    Second, a used pinball removed from one of my games
    Third, a used powerball just for grins.
    All photos at 100x magnification.
    Hope this helps.

    new pinball - 100x.jpg
    used pinball - 100x.jpg
    used powerball - 100x.jpg

    #34 5 years ago

    Noice.. Can you get ahold of a ball that has been tumbled for 24hrs?

    #35 5 years ago
    Quoted from Patofnaud:

    Noice.. Can you get ahold of a ball that has been tumbled for 24hrs?

    I sent a PM to the OP
    We'll soon know. Stay tuned.

    Edited: I should have paid closer attention. I thought the OP possessed re-polished, old, pinballs.
    It will take me some time to devise a polisher and make it work. Wish I could help more.
    Unless someone is willing to ship a single, re-polished, old, pinball for microscopy??
    I'll even offer to have a new one shipped to you in exchange.

    #36 5 years ago
    Quoted from Triumvirat73:

    A quick addition here. I'm restoring a TZ and the balls were in torrid condition and the powerball looked like a ball of coal and stained beyond salvation.
    Well... Overnight in the tumbler with some walnut media & Flitz and they look brand new! The powerball looks perfect. One of the pinballs has a chip in it so I will chuck it but the rest look like they were just produced.
    Definitely worth a try IMO to "refresh" your, ummm, balls.

    Overnight? Flitz must be much more aggressive than the Novus 3 then, I need to tumble for 2-3 days to get mirror like results.

    Interested to see the magnified pic of the re-polished used ball.

    #37 5 years ago
    Quoted from Fytr:

    Overnight? Flitz must be much more aggressive than the Novus 3 then, I need to tumble for 2-3 days to get mirror like results.
    Interested to see the magnified pic of the re-polished used ball.

    I'll post pictures tonight. Unfortunately I don't have any "BEFORE" pics though. All I can say is that they were in TERRIBLE shape. lol

    #38 5 years ago

    I should note that I also put in an equal part of Meguiar's Ultimate Polish (I think, it's Ultimate Polish. It's the one that smells like cinnamon).

    #39 5 years ago

    I polish them on the cloth buffing wheel. I took a piece of scrap 2 x 4 lumber and drilled a 1 1/4 " hole with a spade bit, about 1/2 " deep. The buffing wheel spins the ball as it polishes it. The whole process takes under a minute. The ball gets very hot, so be careful.

    Allan

    #40 5 years ago

    I bought a tumbler today. Won't be able to use it until next weekend at the earliest, but I hope to polish some old pinballs and see how they turn out. I'm sure I can find plenty of parts on my Firepower to clean up too.

    Question: is media one time use only? Or can I re-use it a couple of times?

    #41 5 years ago

    I asked Bryan Kelly this very question. His answer, which I have followed and works very well, is about 6-10 uses. If you use walnut media just make sure it hasn't turned greyish or it won't give good results.

    #42 5 years ago

    I was going to try to polish some old pinballs this weekend in my new tumbler to try it out. I don't have any Novus 3 or Flitz, but I do have Novus 2, or the brass polish that came with the tumbler.. Can I use either of those until I order something else? Any other suggestions for polish additive to the walnut media?

    Thank you.

    #43 5 years ago

    before
    pbbefore.jpg

    24 hours later (walnut media only)
    pbafter.jpg

    #44 5 years ago

    Looks like tumbling did a nice job. I wonder how much of a difference an additive would make. Or does that just speed things up?

    I have 4 pinballs that I'm going to experiment on, I might try and pull one out each day so I will have one in for one day, another in for two, another for three, etc.

    #45 5 years ago

    I know it is the best money I have spent on pin cleaning items. I got a Hornady(5 lbs) tumbler off of ebay for 40 bucks, media (i wanted it now) 20 bucks 5 lbs. You can get some media on ebay for a lot cheaper.

    #46 5 years ago
    Quoted from Soapman:

    before

    pbbefore.jpg 66 KB

    That is one nasty looking used ball!

    I usually try to re-tumble mine after 200-300 plays, well before they get so bad. Makes restoring them to a mirror finish easier also, and obviously would reduce the playfield wear from such a scared ball.

    #47 5 years ago
    Quoted from Fytr:

    That is one nasty looking used ball!
    I usually try to re-tumble mine after 200-300 plays, well before they get so bad. Makes restoring them to a mirror finish easier also, and obviously would reduce the playfield wear from such a scared ball.

    I know right!!! It was one that was in a pin when I brought it home. I was testing it out.. I put new ones in my game every year.

    #48 5 years ago

    Well for polishing pinballs, I'm extremely disappointed in the tumbling results. First photo is the four balls after tumbling. From left to right: one day, two days, three days, four days of tumbling.

    Second pic is a close-up of the after tumbling, third pic is before tumbling.

    20131117_150832.jpg 20131117_150811.jpg 20131108_181321.jpg
    #49 5 years ago

    What polishing medium did you wind up using?

    I wonder if more steps are required with coarser/finer media.

    #50 5 years ago

    what a waste of electricity!

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