Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sticky Situations: Pinball Update

The Criterium '75 sat unaddressed all fall and winter. Since I sold the Palooka last month, I decided to use the extra room in the basement for the Criterium. It was time to get to work again.

I've spent about two hours each night using the flour/ rubbing alcohol method, and after two weeks I can celebrate that I have removed almost all traces of the adhesive.

It was so tedious. Sometimes two inches of glue took an hour to remove. The process also removed more of the original artwork than I had hoped... but look at that shine after waxing!

The ball used to bump around haltingly, but now it rolls freely down the playfield. I think this might be a fun machine to play.

After a winter in the garage, all the switches need to be cleaned again, and I need to resolder many of the light sockets, but that's just standard EM work. Removing all the glue from the playfield was the biggest hurdle on this project.

More updates to come.

From December 2016:
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. I brought along a dolly and some straps, but the pin 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 towards 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. 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. The pinball will actually come to a stop because the surface is so gummed up.

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 for 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 gameplay. That helps me stay excited about this project.

Once the glue is gone, I still have paint to touch up, game glitches 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 $173.36 $194.39 on a sticky mess.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kansas City Here We Come

We attended a funeral in Kansas City, MO last Saturday. It's less than a three hour drive from Des Moines, but rather than make it there and back in one day, we stayed in a motel on Friday night.

I don't know if it was a spring break rewind or a preview of summer, but Friday night and Saturday morning felt like a mini vacation.

Daphne worked hard to find a downtown hotel that had an indoor pool. Most have pools on the roof or outdoors. A pool was our big selling point to Charlotte for taking this trip. Char knows that funerals aren't any fun.

When we got to the hotel, Char was disappointed by the pool's size.

I didn't blame her. At first I thought that this was the hot tub and someone had misplaced the pool. No, this was it.

While we unpacked, Charlotte set up a desk so she could negotiate for a bigger pool with hotel managers Sheep and Pinky.

The fruit snacks and applesauce bargaining chips were on the table. For the record, this is the first time I have ever heard Char use the word "negotiate".  And no, I didn't set up this picture. This was all of Char's doing.

I'm a big fan of using a city's resources when dining. We ordered seafood when we were in San Francisco. What do you order when you're in Kansas City?

BBQ, of course. We chose Jack Stack Barbecue because the restaurant was about a block from our hotel. It was dark inside, but the camera reveals a classy interior.

 Daphne and I share a sampler plate anytime we try a new BBQ restaurant:

"ROUNDUP – (‘cue for two) Sliced Beef & Ham, Pulled Pork, Pork Spare Ribs with Hickory Pit Beans, Creamy Coleslaw, Fries." 

Daphne substituted the creamy corn bake for the fries, and I'd highly recommend that. 

We swam in the tiny pool for about an hour when we got back. We were the only people using the pool at that time, and its size proved to be just right. The negotiations team agreed to back off.

The visitation began at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon, so Daphne planned to spend our morning at the Sea Life Aquarium. Daph didn't tell that to Char, though. She would have bugged us about it all morning.

We parked in a garage near the aquarium. The parking garage's elevator stopped at the "Exhibits" floor, and we stepped out. Suprisingly,  Charlotte started complaining while we were walking along the sidewalk. "Exhibits? I don't want to see an exhibit. That's boring!"

Daphne asked her, "Charlotte, what do you think an exhibit is?"

"It's this thing where you just stand around and look at stuff." 

When we rounded the corner she exclaimed, "Hey! That's Legoland!"

"And what's beside Legoland?" Daphne asked.

"Sealife! It's an aquarium! Are we going there?" Daphne nodded as a reply and Char thrust her fists in the air.

I asked her, "Do you know what an aquarium is?" I then answered my own question, "It's an exhibit."

Charlotte whispered to herself, "I love exhibits."

Daphne thought that this aquarium visit was the best one yet. Instead of just looking at each tank and then moving on, Charlotte wanted to read the displays and learn about the fish. She became really interested in the colorful tangs.

Color changes!

Cleaning up a virtual beach isn't all that satisfying.

I love this fish's guitar riff. link

Most of the aquarium was dark, and flash photography was forbidden, so that's all I have to share. Let's go to lunch at the nearby mall's food court. The deli had the shortest line.

I'm so predictable. I picked two hot dogs with relish and mustard. I would have perfered a coney dog, but I survived.

Yogurt for dessert!

We spent a few minutes in the toy store before heading to the church.

I don't believe my eyes, either. Your shirt is talking!

Monday, April 2, 2018

No Bunny Believes It At Our House (Spoiler Alert!)

Charlotte has believed in the Easter Bunny for years. Here she is in 2016. That bunny's eyes are only slightly terrifying.

This year it was cold, but we still got in an Easter Egg hunt.

Char used to be amazed at the number of eggs the Easter Bunny had hidden, but those days are gone. She and Daphne had a serious conversation last weekend. Mom wouldn't confirm or deny the existence of the Easter Bunny, but Char was positive he doesn't exist.

Charlotte didn't even seem to be upset. I think she felt triumphant because she had solved the mystery. Now she knows how kids all over the world can get candy from the Easter Bunny at the same time.They don't. Their parents and guardians hide the eggs. I think Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have also jumped down that same rabbit hole.

Initially, I had written how I was disappointed that Charlotte has become old enough to stop blindly believing what her parents tell her. Come to think of it, I'm glad I don't have to lie to her anymore.

Talking to Char about Santa and his ilk made me feel slightly off. Maybe it was small pangs of guilt? I'll have to think more about that and edit as necessary.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Blink and You'll Miss It - Part 8

Easter 2011 (nine months old)

Easter 2012

Easter 2013

Easter 2014 (Just a little grumpy about going to church.)

Easter 2015 (Pretty happy about going to church.)

Easter 2016

Easter 2017 - It's irresponsible to take a child with a fever to church, but she can still hunt Easter eggs at home.

Easter 2018 (Hmmmm. That dress looks familiar.)

Insert the "time flies" cliché here.

Actually, it isn't a cliché; it's a law.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

See Ya Later, Ya Big Palooka

I had a small issue with my Palooka pinball machine on Saturday night. I fixed that, and I cleaned a step up unit with the new brush I ordered for my Dremel.

 I took some pictures of the machine since I had it out of the lineup.

And then I sold it. 

I suppose you could call it a whim, but I've been thinking about putting Palooka on Craigslist for awhile. I had it working as well as it ever had, and I felt the time had come to let the machine go. 

I bought Palooka from a guy in Mason City who bought it from a guy in Wisconsin. The guy in Mason City made the pinball machine work again. I cleaned off the rust and added a power switch. I installed new legs, new bumper caps, a new start button, and new coin door bolts. The backglass was terrible, but I replaced it with a translite that was custom made in California. The decal on the door is meant for a jukebox, and it conveniently covers a rust stain.

I roughly figured out how much money I spent on this project and set the price accordingly. I either made or lost 25 bucks in the end. After two years and two weeks of playing Palooka, I got my money's worth. I didn't get into this hobby to make money. Breaking about even feels pretty good.

The new owner is a local guy who already has more machines than me. I am confident he'll take good care of it. After 54 years, Palooka is still trading hands. I'm happy to be part of this game's history. (I may or may not have written my name somewhere inside it.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pinball Switch Hitter

I haven't blogged about pinball for a while. The record collecting bug bit me pretty hard. I have been playing my records more than my pinball machines. When a pinball machine is played, the switches keep themselves clean by being active. If you don't play a machine for awhile, issues that weren't there before can arise as dirt and dust settles in.

In other words, use it or lose it.

The Full House pin has been a bit of a stinker lately. Last month I had a problem with the score motor. It wouldn't complete a cycle, and so the game was stuck after the first ball drained. The ball wouldn't kick out. I was able to to find the switch that wasn't making with some help from the guys on the Pinside EM forum.

I'm going to write this so I can remember what I did and what I learned.

The score motor is basically a tube with notches in it that rotates and moves various switches to open or to close while it turns. You can see that there are seven stacks of switches.

The schematic identifies each switch stack, tells you what each switch does, and tells you if the switch should be open or closed when it is activated.

My problem was that the switch that tells the motor when to stop wasn't doing its job. It is called the "motor run" switch and it is on the "Index" switch stack (far right). Let's zoom in.

So, by looking at the diagram, you can see that there are four switches labeled A, B, C, and D. The "motor run" switch is "D", and it is at the top of the stack. Also, you can see that one of its wires is orange and green, and the other is solid yellow. When this switch is at rest in the notch in the score motor's wheel (bottom right)- the switches D and C are open. Switches B and A are closed.

That means when the score motor turns and raises the switch stack, the bottom two switches open, and the top two close.

My D switch wasn't closing all the way. Once that was corrected, the Full House was playing as it should. To be honest, I would have never known to look at the motor switch, the advice from Pinside pointed me there.

Okay, problem number two.

When you start a game the backglass shows a number 1 lit up. This means you are on ball one. After you lose that ball, the ball count unit moves and lights up the number 2. This continues until all five balls are played and the words "Game Over" glow.

Sometimes my ball count won’t advance, and I get stuck playing the same ball for a few times. It doesn't matter what ball I'm on. This has been an intermittent problem since I brought the Full House to a working condition. Last week the machine got stuck on ball three, and that was it.

I knew the ball count unit was clean. I've cleaned that several times. After learning to use the schematic for the problem with the motor run switch, I looked at the schematic to see what switch controls the ball count unit.

The switch that pulses (activates) the ball count unit to "step up" (S.U.) is in the number 1 stack in position B. Out of the four switch positions D, C, B, A, switch 1B is third from the top.

The problem is that my switch stack only has three switches. How is that possible? I took it apart to make sure. Yep. There are only three switches. Those round, plastic guys on the end of the switch blades either lift to close a switch or lift to open a switch. There's only three.

Then for the first time I noticed that the index switch stack has five switches. Count the plastic lifts on the switch stack on the left. It has five. The stack next to it has the aforementioned three. It looks like someone put the 1B switch in the wrong stack.

Now I know why those screws wouldn't tighten the stack down. The stack was too tall with an extra switch. How did this happen? No clue. All I know is that I didn't do it, and it must be corrected.

I want to move the 1B switch back into the right position, but which one is 1B? Well, use the color listed on the schematic. One wire is blue with a yellow stripe, and the other is green. Simple, right? Not if you are colorblind.

I don't think about being colorblind very often. How I see the world is how I have always seen it. I don't wake up in the morning, look out the window and say, "Dang it. I'm still colorblind." Actually, I feel like I am lying when I tell people. But then I look at a nest of wires like this and I think, "Dang it. I am colorblind."

With Daphne's help, we located the misplaced 1B switch. The switches are complete units, and you can move them around like building blocks. It only took 15 minutes to move and adjust the switch.

The index stack on the left now has four switches. The same goes for the 1 stack next door.

Did that fix my problem? Mostly. I played 15 games in a row, and out of those 75 balls, the Full House only gave me one "extra" ball. Not too bad. I'll call that a win, and take what I can get.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Spring Break '18: Wednesday in the Park: I Think We'll Have to Go and Get Dry

Daphne had it all planned out. On Wednesday morning we'd follow the streets lined with notable Victorian homes, stop at a park where Char could play, and then have lunch. She just didn't plan on the rain.

That was okay, we weren't going to let some water get in our way.

Wet, steep hills are even harder to climb than dry, steep hills.

Here's the park. You'd think it would be crawling with kids, but it was empty because of the rain.

That meant that one kid, who was "too old" to play at parks, had run of the place.

Sure, you can play with the water. You're already wet.

Umm, that's gonna make your pants really, umm, never mind.

When it was time to go, the blue skies started to make their way towards us.

When the rain stopped, Char noticed this sign. She thought it was funny; I thought it was probably necessary.

Lunch was an unplanned stop at Dino Santino's.

"You, young lady, are going to eat every bite of that garic and clam pizza. And you are going to like it!"

Yeah, right. There's no way Char would eat that. Daphne and I did, though. I can count the number of times I've had clam pizza on one finger, but this was awesome. I would rank this in my top five pizzas of all time. 

After lunch Daphne spotted a bakery, Sift, across the street. Dessert time is nigh!

I had the Stud Muffin. You are what you eat.

Daphne picked the Irish Dream, and Charlotte had the Lemony Snicket. (Char can't wait for A Series of Unfortuante Events to return to Netflix on 3/30.) 

The cups are complimentary. 

No wonder the cupcakes were so good.

We do a lot of research on what are the "best" places to visit before we take a vacation. But if we only went to the places that made the "Top Ten" lists, we wouldn't have found Dino's or Sift. True, we wouldn't have known what we were mising, but we would have missed a lot.