Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pinball Update: Switching it Up Edition

Work on the Full House continues.

In the 50s and 60s, many pinball machines were turned off by hitting the bottom board with your palm or your foot. This would lift a pin in the "kick-off" switch, and the game's lights would go out. Pressing a flipper button turned the lights back on, so the machine's power wasn't really off until you unplugged it.

The kick-off switch in my Full House (1966) doesn't work. There's supposed to be a pin that pushes through that plastic base.

But a previous owner drilled a hole in the bottom board and removed the kick-off switch's pin.

I'm guessing they used a pencil or something like that to activate the switch. That's better than beating the bottom of the machine, but you'd have to get on your knees to make it work.

By the 1970's, it was standard practice to have a toggle switch located under the front right corner. This switch is flush with the bottom board. That way it can't be crushed when the cabinet is placed on the ground.

Some collectors won't install a 70's style switch in a 60's cabinet. They want to keep the cabinet as original as possible. I'm not that hard core, and I like knowing the machine is really off when I go to bed. So, I installed a switch.

The first step was to mark the center on a 3" x "5 block of wood and drill a small hole through it. I smeared a thin layer wood glue on both the block and the spot where I wanted the switch. Once the block is in place, I drilled the hole all the way through the cabinet. I used a screw to "clamp" the block of wood in place.

I used a hole saw to drill through the block and the cabinet the following day. To keep the hole neat, I drilled up from the bottom for a bit, and then drill all the way down from the top. Looking at it now, I can see that my plate isn't going to be perfectly centered over the hole. Hindsight is always 20/20.

The toggle switch and switch plate came from Pinball Resource. The four wood screws and wire came from Ace Hardware. I soldered the wires to the switch, and then attached the switch plate with the screws. I'll leave the wood plug for the next owner. They can take the switch out and glue the wood back in if they don't like this modification.

I desoldered the power wire from the fuse block, and soldered it to a switch wire. The other switch wire was soldered to the fuse block. Now the switch can interrupt the flow of electricity to the machine.

Here's the view from the bottom. The plate is a off-centered, but I can fix that if it bothers me. Nah, it doesn't really bother me.

Fixing the weak flippers with this rebuild kit from Pinball Resource was next.  Most of the parts were easy to install.

I was intimidated to tackle the flipper switches. The right flipper switch was okay. I was using a jump wire in place of a broken wire. That was enough to test the machine.

The left flipper switch was a mess. Solder joints were broken. The two left switch blades were bent permanently closed, and the constant current caused them to burn and break. This also made the flipper coil overheat. The contacts on the right switch blades were facing the wrong direction, and one blade was missing the plastic blade lifter. 

I had to buy new blades, contacts, separators, and a lifter to create a new switch from scratch. After that, I had to solder it together. This new switch looks and works much better. Whew.

The right flipper switch is also done.

Hitting the ball to the top of the play field is no longer a problem, but both flippers are a tad "buzzy." That's just an adjustment issue, though. It will get figured out. 

Since I could play my Full House, it was now time to set the points needed to earn free games. All you have to do is decide on the score, and then connect the corresponding colored wire to the right connection slot.

There's a guide inside the backbox to help you.

Setting the scores was a snap once Daphne helped me mark the red, blue, yellow, and green wires.

Hey! I've got functional pinball machine! It's a lot more fun to play than I anticipated, too. 

I could call it good, and go looking for another project, but I don't like the plain cabinet. It needs graphics.

I haven't painted a pinball machine before, so this is uncharted territory. But there's a first time for everything. 

Step one is to take everything apart, again.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween Begins; a Tradition Ends

I'm a little jealous of Charlotte's Halloween experience. When I was a kid, you got one night of free candy and a rerun of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Now a kid can celebrate Halloween for weeks.

We started Halloween on Saturday at the Blank Park Zoo's "Night Eyes." Char told us last year that she would be a vampire next time. I don't know how she picks the costumes, but she doesn't change her mind.

Charlotte wasn't interested in the photo ops with characters this year; she was too focused on reading the posted jokes and getting candy. Char was having fun, but I could tell she was also going through the motions. This is the sixth time we've attended "Night Eyes," and I suspect that this might be our last.

She wasn't too old to enjoy the inflatables at the Fun Zone, but she couldn't jump on the one that was for children five and younger.

It's a fuzzy action picture, but I like it. She looks spooky jumping around in her makeup.

The only stand-in she wanted to pose by was this car. Char wants to drive? That is scary!

I had to ask her three times, but Charlotte finally endured the embarrassment of sitting with Dad in front of the Night Eyes pumpkin.

I didn't want to miss my chance to see how far we had come from our first "Night Eyes."



That pumpkin isn't the only thing that's changed.

In between dance and karate lessons, we've got Trunk or Treat at church, Mysteries of the Castle, the Central Iowa Wind Ensemble's Kids Halloween Concert, and then there's Beggar's Night on Sunday. There's about 10 other events that we're going to miss, but you can't do everything. link

I am going to try to fit Charlie Brown in there somewhere. It's his special's 50th anniversary this year. Wow, looks like everybody's getting older...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I'm Too Old For This

Charlotte reeeeeealllly, wanted to go to her school's skating party last week, but Daphne and I had decided that we wouldn't go. Charlotte hasn't been on roller skates before, and we didn't think she would want to learn by falling in front of her friends.

BUT, Char came home from school with a note from her teacher about how helpful she has been. We relented and promised her an hour at Skate North Incrediroll.

I didn't think much of it until we were in line to buy tickets. That's when it hit me. I asked Daphne, "We don't have to skate, too, do we?"

"Well, she can't skate by herself. I'd think we have to."

I have a feeling that my face replied by turning white. I haven't been on skates since I was 12, and I wasn't any good back then. I once broke my arm skateboarding. This was trouble.

The rotating lights above the rink made me think of the ambulance I'd soon be in.

When we got on the floor, it was as bad as I thought. I immediately slipped as if I was on ice, and I only missed the ground because the small concrete wall caught me. I patted the top of the wall in thanks. Then I tried to inch my way further out while three-year-olds zoomed past.

Char was between Daphne and I, and when she'd slip she'd almost take me down with her. Char's skate would slam into my foot, and I'd end up back on the wall hanging on as if I was about to fall off a cliff.

I kept thinking about Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting, The Blind Leading the Blind.

Char fell several times, but she kept getting up. Daphne and I were pretty proud of her attitude. We noticed that quite a few parents had rented a "skate mate" for their kid, so Daphne left to get one of those while Char and I inched along, hugging the wall.

The skate mate helped, but Char didn't want us to hold onto the top tubes with her, and she still wiped out a few times.

About 30 minutes into this week-long hour, the DJ announced, "Don't forget parents, you can walk the rink in street shoes, but you have to remain next to your child the entire time."

 My head whipped around so fast I almost lost my balance again. Whaaaat? We could be wearing street shoes? We're risking our lives for no good reason? 

That's why none of the other dads were slipping' and sliding'. They weren't skating! How did I not notice that? When I looked at Daphne, she looked as surprised as I felt.

But it was too late by that time, so we kept chugging away.

This is the only picture I have from those terrible 60 minutes. I left my phone in our locker so it wouldn't get broken like my arm.

I'm happy to report that neither Daphne or I fell this time. That was a relief because I was sure I'd be leaving Skate North on a stretcher. 

I know one thing. The next time we go skating, my boots will be made for walking. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

She's "On the Right Track!"

Last night was Char's first vocal concert!

Look Charlotte, you're famous!

Mom got her dressed for the part.

And we were raring to go.


I don't think anyone looks too nervous.

Time to line up.


Here comes Char's line. It's a pun, "I hope you can get on board with these songs."


How did they sound?


We celebrated with frozen yogurt after the concert. It was a nice way to end the evening.

There are times when I'm parenting and I think, "I'm too old for this." A lot of parents my age have kids in high school and college. But I have to admit that I'm pretty excited to have 11 more years of nights like this. Thanks, Charlotte.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Iowa Orchards, Again!

Last week Char's class took a field trip to the Iowa Orchards in Urbandale. She had so much fun; she wanted to take us there, too.

We rode on a hayride out to the play area. Once there, we traversed the tires.

Then it was time for a jump into the corn pool.

When you get buried in corn...

... the corn gets into everything...

The view from the top of the hay bale slide didn't seem too high.

And the landing looked safe.

Let's go for a jump!


And again!

"Crash Landing Geronimo!"


I'm not sure why these slides were behind the Porta Potty, but I'm sure that would be quite a ride.

Once we were jumped out, we went pumpkin haunting. Thanks for the fun afternoon, Iowa Orchards!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pinball Update: Full House Edition

I bought a pinball machine that didn't work last June. It was cheap, but you get what you pay for. 

I couldn't plug in the machine to test it. Someone had cut off the power cord - not a good sign. So, I tried a different route of repair. I used the "shotgun" approach. I cleaned every switch and adjusted the switches that weren't making contact. I took apart the stepper units in the backbox, cleaned them with 400 grit sandpaper, and then applied a thin layer of Super Lube synthetic grease. I tested the solder joints looking for breaks and loose wires. I also tested the continuity of all of the coils, and I ordered replacements for those that were dead shorts.

I finally installed a power cord and tried to start a game after three weeks.


Not too bad!

Next was the machine's appearance. Even Char could tell this one had an ugly paint job.

I used some chemicals to strip off offensive colors. I was hoping to find at least part of the original paint underneath, but that wasn't the case. Whoever painted this cabinet sanded off the original paint scheme. As it stands, the machine doesn't look terrible, but I'm going to try to replicate the original design. Hopefully I can make stencils before it gets too cold to paint.

The artwork on the back of the backglass was flaking off. You can see all the cracks that surround the Full House logo. I can have a replacement made, but that costs over $300 and takes a couple of months. I thought I could try to save the glass and save myself some time and money. 

I sprayed on a few coats of Triple Thick to seal the flaky paint back onto the glass. Even though I held the can about 20 inches away from the glass, some large flakes flew off the glass and disintegrated when they hit the garage floor.

Daphne helped me cover the wet, clear paint with saran wrap. The idea is you can can press the curved flakes flat against the glass once the wrap is in place. You let it sit overnight, and in the morning the saran wrap can be easily removed. I was skeptical about the ease of removal, but the wrap came right off. I masked off the score reel windows with heavy paper cut to size and weighed them down with quarters.

When the paint chips blew off, they left holes around the letters. Looks like we have some touching up to do.

Daphne helped me pick out the paint. We used this old VW vent window to see what each paint sample would look like when it dried on the glass.

Once Daphne approved the colors, she started the touch up. I tried helping her paint a straight line by using some painters tape, but that was a mistake. A huge section of the artwork peeled off when I tried to remove the tape. I had to carefully line up the artwork, and then I triple thicked the tape in place. Lesson learned.

After Daphne did the touch up, I did my best to fill all those cracks that look like rivers on a topographical map with white paint. I then covered everything that wasn't supposed to be translucent with silver paint.

The backglass looks okay. But the artwork certainly looks better than it was, and spending a few dollars on paint is better than paying for a replacement glass. The best part was working on it with Daphne. Usually, pinball repair is a solo affair.

The glass looks better the further you stand back. I'll call it a six-footer.

The playfield plastics were dirty, cracked, and warped from years of lightbulb heat.

I used Novus 2 to clean the plastic, and a heat gun helped me straighten the bends in the plastic.

After fixing the plastic, I cleaned the playfield with a magic eraser pad and rubbing alcohol. This leaves a residue that can be cleaned up with Novus 2. The last step is to polish the surface with a non-abrasive carnauba car wax. I installed new rubber rings before reinstalling the playfield plastic.

I rebuilt the three pop bumpers last week, and my next steps are to rebuild the flippers, get the free game awards figured out, and put in a power switch. 

This game gets more fun to play with each improvement, and that bothers me. I don't have room for it in the house. It's a garage-only machine, but it's getting too nice to stay out there...