Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sticky Situations

I have no idea how a pinball machine from Europe ended up in Cascade, Iowa, and I will probably never know. The previous owner was a gentleman in his 80's, and his son-in-law was the person who handled the deal through eBay and email.

I was told the machine was in the owner's basement, so I brought a dolly and some straps, but it was waiting for me in the seller’s snow covered driveway. Also waiting in the driveway were six family members - sons and grandsons, I presume. Inside the house, others were peeking through windows. It was uncomfortable having all those people staring at me, so I didn’t spend much time looking at the Criterium. 

I tried asking Grandpa some questions about the Criterium, but he snarled, "What you see is what you get!" What I got was a sense that he was angry at me for buying his pinball machine. I had already agreed to buy the machine for $50, so I handed him the money. With some help from the teenagers, I began loading it into the car. Grandma opened the door to the house to yell, "Make him move that heavy piece! That's the dangerous part!" The young guys helped me, anyway. Grandma sneered at them. Grandpa left to get the mail.

I thanked everyone for their hospitality, and walked to my car. Before I climbed in, Grandpa returned and looked me in the eye, "If you get it running, send a video to him." He pointed at his son-in-law with his thumb, and then curtly walked away. I replied to his back, "I will." 

Buyer's remorse sunk in at the first rest stop. The backglass was in great shape, but to say that the playfield’s top mylar layer had delaminated was an understatement. In some places the plastic had warped over roll-over switches and entire light bulbs! As it sat, the playfield was useless. I did not take any pictures of the machine at that time, I was too bummed. 

Here is an example of how badly the plastic had lifted off the playing surface. You can see that it had covered that lightbulb in the middle of the picture. How is a pinball going to roll on that?

I have read about people using a freeze spray to get old mylar off playfields, so I kept the Criterium’s bottom cabinet in the garage, and on a cold, January night I was able to take advantage of the low temperature and break/ tear/ rip the warped plastic off the playfield. It was so brittle. I lost about 15% of the artwork, but I can live with that. Kids, they call these "player's machines."

I was able to get the Criterium to come alive, and that is a testament to the people who designed and built these machines. My work is not done, though. About 65% of the playfield is covered with a layer of sticky adhesive. Like these machines, the adhesive is really tough. In some spots the pinball will actually come to a stop because the surface is so gummy.

I found this advice online:
"After you get the Mylar off, pat down the residue glue with white baking flour. Really press it into the glue, and let it sit a few minutes. Next, wet the flour with 91% or higher isopropyl alcohol, and allow it to sit until most of the alcohol has evaporated. Starting at the edge rub all the glue into little crumbs with your thumb."
Who discovered that you can remove glue with baking flour and alcohol? It amazes me what people come up with. I can tell you that this idea works, but it is really slow going. 
I sprinkle the flour over a patch of adhesive that is the size of a quarter. After a minute, I pour some alcohol from a spoon over the flour, and I wait 5 - 7 minutes. I then scrape off the mess with a plastic razor blade.  I have to do this three or four more times to get the paint completely free of the glue. 
This isn't hard work, but it does get tedious. I quit after an hour or so. I then "wax" the spot with Novus 2, and I play the machine for awhile. The ball moves through the newly cleaned area much better, and it is cool to see how that changes game play. That helps me stay excited about this project.

Once the glue is gone, I still have paint to touch up, game gliches to fix, and about 20 light bulbs that won't come on. It's a good thing that my time is free.
I hope to be able to call the son-in-law sometime in June and tell him there's a video of Grandpa's pinball machine on my blog. That would be pretty cool.

PS: Charlotte, a $50 machine is never a $50 machine. So far, I've spent $173 on a sticky mess. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Dance Recital Post for Grandma Betty

Grandma Betty couldn't come to the Char's recital on Saturday, so this post is for her.

It was a cold and stormy morning, but Charlotte really wanted to go down to the Farmers' Market. She assured us that we would be just fine. It was cold, but we had fun. We didn't have to wait in any lines, that's for sure.

Charlotte's Recital was at 3:30. She smiled while she danced, and she looked like she was having fun. We went to Orange Leaf with Uncle Chris and Aunt Phaedra afterwards.

You cannot take any pictures or video during the actual performance, so these are from Friday night's dress rehearsal. 



Char missed you! "Get well, Grandma Betty!"

Friday, May 19, 2017

5 Days to Go

"U is for Reading Under the Desk Day."

I think Captain Underpants is perfect for "U Day."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

It Ain't Pretty

There's still a lot left to do, but after being dormant for 37 years, the Criterium 75 is alive.


I've kept my New Year's resolution!

For once.

Monday, May 15, 2017

9 Days to Go

"Q" is for "Quiet Time," and Char's got her pillow all ready to go.

I see a trend here. First they had "Nap Day." Now they have "Quiet Time." I suppose "S is for Sleep Day" is coming soon...

I'm seriously jealous.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Whew! That was Quite a Weekend

(I could have broken this large post into smaller portions, but I wanted this to be as long as the weekend felt.)

Last weekend's weather made it feel like we had already reached summer, and we sure took advantage of it. Charlotte was outside for most of the daylight.

Saturday started off with the opening of the Downtown Farmers' Market.  We got down there early, but it was still crowded.

Our first stop was at the Breakfast Delights stand. Charlotte and Maggie could hardly wait to start a new season of eating poffertjes. 

The adults passed a sausage breakfast sandwich back and forth.

Daphne and I shared a poutine on last year's closing day, and we both thought adding a fried egg to the poutine would be unhealthy, but it would probably help warm up the cheese curds. 

Six months later, we found out we were right. We went for the morel mushroom poutine. So good.

One of Charlotte's favorite treats is a snow cone. I think she likes the "special effects" tounge that it leaves behind.

We left the market around 11, and by noon we were at the 3rd annual "Kites on the Green" event at the common area near the Johnston Public Library. This was the first time we attend the event, and I have to say it was pretty impressive. The kites on display were more like hot air balloons. 

We told Charlotte that this was the only way we ever wanted to see her in a police car.

I also told her this is the only way I wanted her to her have a tattoo. Nice hats, by the way.

Fire Truck!

Ummm. I'm not sure what is going on here. The Police Force Awakens?

We brought Charlotte's Lady Bug kite. It was swag from a birthday party last year.


After a half hour of flying her kite, Char got tired, but she wasn't ready ready to bring the kite back to earth. Mom made for a good backrest.

We left the Green around 2:30, and at 3:00 we parted ways. Daphne and her mom enjoyed going to Pella for the Tulip Festival, and Daphne has started that tradition with Charlotte. I opted out, so I could work in the garage.

I bought a project pinball machine last December, but it was too cold in garage to work on it. There isn't that excuse now. The previous owner purchased the Criterium 75 in the late 70s, but he hadn't actually played it because it never worked. So, I have no idea what I'm up against. Might as well find out.

I cleaned the switches and stepper units in the back box and repaired obvious solder problems.

I pulled the bottom board out of the lower cabinet, and I tackled the switches there. 

I bought a replacement coil for a burned one, and once that arrives (eBay predicts Saturday), I'll install the coil and put the bottom board back in here.

Then I'll work on the bottom side of the playfield. 

All of this work might be for naught, but I hope to get this machine working before the end of May. We'll see. I haven't shown you the playfield because that's a different can of worms.

I do like the bicycle theme.

I asked Charlotte to take some pictures of the Tulip Festival with her camera, and she came home with 140 pictures. Holy cow. Here are my favorites in no particular order.

We headed over to Adventureland on Sunday after church. The park was supposed to open last weekend, but it was too rainy.

I have a feeling that this is the last year I'll take pictures of Charlotte on these rides. She barely fits.

Look at those two girls on the right.

Daphne and I took turns riding with Charlotte on Der Flinger. Man, I hate that ride. I get nauseous just looking at this picture.

Can we go back in time to when Charlotte only wanted to ride the Ladybugs, and we stood on the sidelines and waved? No, we can not.

We left the park at 3:30, picked up some groceries for the week, and I went to bed at 9:45. I haven't gone to bed that early since I was sick. If this is what summer is going to be like, then I'm in trouble.