Pinball Rehab

pinball repair and restoration

Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair Hot

Ultimate Playfield Restoration Guide

  1. Ultimate Playfield Restore - Getting Started
  2. Ultimate Playfield Restore - Repairing Inserts
  3. Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
  4. Ultimate Playfield Restore - Touch-Up Painting
  5. Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Touch-Up Painting
  6. Ultimate Playfield Restore - Clear Coating a Playfield

This is part three of a six part series on doing a high-end playfield restoration.  This article covers advanced repair topics like fixing insert ghosting.  For an overview of the process see the Ultimate Playfield Restoration Guide.

  1. Fixing Insert Ghosting
  2. Repairing Gouges
  3. Shooter Lane

Fixing Insert Ghosting

Insert Ghosting is where the clear coat has pulled away from the plastic and now you see the air gap between the back of the clear coat and the face of the insert (see Image 1).

The theory of fixing Insert Ghosting is that we need to glue the flap of clear coat back down to the insert face.  There is going to be no place for a lot of solvent evaporation, so we need a glue that will cure without direct exposure to air.  We also want this glue to have some flexibility to it so something brittle like epoxy is out.

Pro restorers have found that Isocyanate Clear coat is the perfect solution.

Lately, I've been using Diamond Plate for my top coats (I restored a game for a Dupont engineer who brought me a rather generous 5 gallons of the stuff), but it seems to be too "hot" for this kind of repair.

Image Gallery

Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair
Ultimate Playfield Restore - Advanced Repair

What does work nicely is PPG Shop Line JC661 clear (available through PPG Platinum Distributors) .  You mix it in 2:1 ratio with a fast topcoat hardener and it cures before it eats the old clear coat.  Still, you should make a scan of that area of the playfield in case disaster strikes.  You can then use the scan to make a decal.

You need to neatly apply the clear under the flap, and for this you will need a syringe.  The JC661 is too thick to be drawn up into an Insulin syringe, so you will have to get a big horse syringe (see Image 2).

Using an absolutely brand new X-Acto blade, cut a slit around the damage, following the edge of the insert itself.

Be extra careful because the clear contains Cyanide, so you don't want to go injecting yourself with that.

Fill the gap under the flap with the clear.  Have a rag moistened with Acetone ready to clean up any spills. Use less than you think you need, it takes very little.  Press down the flap to push out any extra clear or air bubbles into the rag. Cover area with waxed paper (see Image 3).

On top of the wax paper, place a hard rubber block.  Under the playfield hold a piece of plywood.  Clamp together tightly overnight with a 12" C-clamp (see Image 4).

The next day, un-clamp the rubber block.  Very carefully remove the wax paper in the same direction as the flap you cut.  If any bubbles got trapped under the flap, just open them with your X-Acto and fill with a drop of clear when you spray your clear coat over the entire playfield.

You can see the finished product in Image 5.

Repairing Gouges

Latter in this series I'll show some better examples of filling gouges.  These pictures were not intended to focus on that part of the repair.

You can use Epoxy, 2part Auto Clear, or Bondo.

Here, I'm replacing the crappy System 6 flipper mechs and coils with the much superior Williams 1990s style.  The Sys6 flippers connect through 3 fin screws that run through the top of the playfield.  After removing the screws, the holes and chips must be repaired (see Image 6) .  The screws left not only a hole, but a depression around the holes and lifted some paint too.

I taped over the back of the holes and filled them almost to the top with 5 minute Epoxy.  I dewaxed the surrounding area with Acetone, then I topped the depression off with Bondo.  Why not just use Epoxy all the way?

Because Epoxy is harder than the playfield, so you won't get a nice feathering around the fill. You will sand off lots of paint before you ever get the edge even with the playfield.  Bondo sands and feathers easily.

I gave the Bondo a half hour to dry and then feathered it into the surrounding playfield (see Image 7).

You can color blend the area in with an airbrush, or mask off and spray to the edges - depending on the complexity of the surrounding graphics.

If you have smaller chips, and you are going to clear coat anyway, drip the clear coat into the chips with an eyedropper and level them off.  Sand lightly, repair any paint loss and proceed with clear coating the entire table.

Shooter Lane

The Shooter Lane is a special case in restoration. Because each layer of plywood changes direction, each layer wears in a different way. Dirt gets pounded in and end grain wear in the wood can leave soft fibers exposed.

Get a dowel or a piece of pipe of suitable circumference. If you do a lot of playfields, you will have a few sizes around the shop. Cushion the sandpaper with an old rag so that your pipe has some "give" like a sanding block has (see Image 8).

If the lane looks bad, you might start with 120 grit sandpaper and see if you can clean it up. Don't remove too much material or the groove can become too wide. Step down to 220 grit and see what it looks like.

After the 220 grit, run you finger along and see if you have it smooth. See if you have a bunch of spongy wood fibers (see Image 9).

There is a little bit of sanding skill and a little bit of fudge factor involved. Take your time, it either will be nice, or a pile of crap. If you think you got it nice, take some Naphtha on a rag and wipe down your work. This gives you a preview of what the clear coat will look like (see Image 10).

Sometimes it looks great dry, but looks terrible with Naphtha applied. Other times it looks dicey and grey, but comes out perfect when wet.

If the damage is too bad to sand out, don't despair.

Patch any soft wood fibers with wood filler (I use Woodwise Epoxy Wood Patch), sand smooth, mask with tape and simply paint in the layers of plywood.  I know this sounds flaky, but I've done it 100's of times and 95% of the time the customer never notices - but if I did not paint it, they'd notice for sure.