F-14 Tomcat Pinball Machine

    When I found this machine, it was missing its CPU and its power supply board, and one of the domes on top was damaged.  However, due to it being mylared, the playfield was a good restoration candidate.  The image below shows the machine in its finished state.


    Completed restoration on the F-14 machine.

    Full shot of the restored playfield.


    Playfield Restoration

    I started by working on the playfield first.  The photo below shows it stripped of all parts on top.  There was a band of missing mylar at the top of the playfield between the two pilots.  This left a semicircle of dark dirt in the playfield.  As an experiment, I started cleaning the white area of the "Hitman" first, and as you can see below, it turned out quite well, although there was some paint loss.  This would required repainting with acrylics, a process that's described below.

    Removal of the glue after using freeze spray to remove the mylar was a huge pain.  For some reason, compared to the previous playfields, the glue did not dissolve well, and it took many minutes of soaking in alcohol before the glue softened.  Another issue was the triangle shaped inserts in the middle portion of the playfield showed a white haze.  From my correspondence to others, this appears to be a common problem with System 11 playfields.  Other than cleaning, no special techniques were used to alter these.

    Many of the techniques used are shown on my
    Space Shuttle playfield restoration page.

    stripped pf

    The playfield after all the top parts have been removed.  The only cleaning was the white

    area by the Hitman's white helmet and suit.  The area around the slings were not mylared,
    and showed heavy dirt and wear.

    With the mylar and glue gone, the first step on the bare playfield was thorough vacuuming and then cleaning with Magic Eraser and Isopropyl Alcohol.  This removed much of the ground in dirt in the areas that were not mylared, but it also wore lots of paint off.  It was clear these would have to be repainted.  For this restoration, I had an unusual amount of good luck finding near-perfect matches out of my wife's collection of acrylic paints.  The colors and their numbers are below.


    Black: Delta Ceramcoat "Black" 02506.  No mixing needed to provide the right color and gloss.

    The colors that were used in this restoration.

    Red: Crafters Edition "Real Red" 72007.  A perfect match for the red.  Same color that was perfect on Space Shuttle and Medieval Madness.  This appears to be a common Williams color.

    Blue: Apple Barrel "Turquoise" 20210.  Blue is the hardest to match, but this one was near perfect.

    Green: Folk Art "Bright Green" 227.  A few drops of white was needed to lighten this one.

    Orange: Pumpkin Orange.  Same orange as on Space Shuttle.

    White: Delta Ceramcoat "Antique White" 02001. No changes needed for a perfect match.

    Yellow: Delta Ceramcoat "Bright Yellow" 02027.  Only tiny amounts used, so the match was not critical.

    Flow Improver: See below for application.  This allows the thinning of paint without loss of color strength.

    A very successful experiment was the use of "Acrylic Flow Improver" by Winsor & Newton.  In the past, I have found that repainting and touching up the playfield produced slight bumps and brush strokes due to the viscosity of the paint.  However, this time, I thinned the paint with equal parts water, and then added a few drops of the Acrylic Flow Improver.  The results were very good.  When dried, the painted areas were completely flat and thin to the touch.  The finish felt like it was sprayed on.


    The playfield on my rotisserie and being clearcoated.  It is important to keep
    spraying the Varathane until you see a white milky haze develop.

    One of the areas of repair was a deep ball trail on the "Rescue" lane (left=before).


    There were three areas with damaged inserts.  I decided to try and repair these with Water Slide Decal Paper, but instead of using an Ink Jet printer, I decided to use a Laser printer instead.  The reason is that the ink from the former can be dissolved with the solvent in Varathane.  When I used this technique on Space Shuttle, the letters were slightly affected by the clearcoat.  Since Laser toner is applied with heat, I reasoned it would not suffer from this effect.

    A test printed on a transparency showed that Laser toner is impervious to Varathane.  However, prior to soaking them in water, it is still necessary to lightly precoat the printed Decal with a thin layer of Varathane.  If the initial layer is too thick, it will cause the toner to lift off the Decal.  If this occurred during the clearcoating process, the result would be disastrous.

    The artwork was obtained by photographing the insert with a ruler, and then using Photoshop to draw in the missing text.  This was then Laser printed onto the Decal paper using the photographed ruler as the size guide.  I had originally intended to only apply the letters that were missing, but my match of the existing letters was so good that I just applied the new over the old.  An example is shown above.

    Although I was a bit hesitant, for my first coat of clear on the entire playfield, I applied a very thick first layer of polyurethane.  Thus I did not use an initial "mist coat".  I was pleased to see that this did not have any undesirable effects, and there was no running or blurring of any of the touchups or Decal paper artwork.  A total of three cans of Varathane were used in 6 spraying sessions.


    Before (top) and after pictures of the Gen. Yagov area.

    The above image shows how well the match is between the original colors and the new acrylics.  In my experience, the darker colors such as red and blue are the most difficult to match.  However, I found a near-perfect set of colors for this restoration.  Only the green should have been lightened a bit more.  It is important to compare colors by wetting the dried acrylic with a liquid (such as Naphtha) as clearcoating tends to darken colors.

    For painting the fine details, I used either a toothpick or a blunt sewing pin, a technique I learned during Space Shuttle.  I only used a brush on the large areas.  The former allows very fine control.  Along with my head-mounted binocular magnifying glasses, and a bright CF lamp, I can paint to a very fine detail.  The use of thinned paint also prevented bumpiness, and the result was very good.

    In the area above, the blue, black, red, white and green areas that were unprotected by mylar have been repainted.  The match with the blue can be seen especially in the area below the General.  That blue triangle is only half painted.  The left half is acrylic, while the right half is original.  The transition is almost impossible to see.  The red match is also near-perfect.  You can however see a slight trace of the new blue in the area in front of the General's face.  However, it is not visible in the overall playfield shot below.


    Full shots of the clearcoated field.

    The Electronics

    Since I took the head and cabinet apart for restoration, I decided to check out the electronics separately.  I simply set the backbox onto a wheeled dolly, allowing easy access without having to bend over the cabinet.  Note the transformer on the floor in the image below.  I installed a spare System 11b and power supply board into the head, and the displays came to life.


    Checking out the electronics separately.

    The checkout showed that the two bottom numeric displays were bad.  I decided to purchase LED displays by PinScore for only a few dollars more.  I then connected the backbox to my playfield on the rotisserie, which allowed me to checkout all the electronics without having to bend over the cabinet.


    The backbox (with the LED PinScore displays) connected to the playfield on the rotisserie.

    I did some tests before and after installing the PinScore display.  With the standard plasma displays, the heatsink on the 5V regulator rose to 98F (67F ambient).  With the PinScore displays (at around 90% brightness), the temperature rose to 105F.  This is just slightly warm to the touch, and I think the temperature rise is quite acceptable.

    The benefits of using LED displays is clear.  They will last much longer, and I no longer need the high voltage supply.

    Note:The F-14 manual has the following discrepancies from my machine:

    The master display board is D-11416-1 in the manual, while it is a D-11610 in my machine.   For a schematic of the latter, see Cyclone.  The two boards are functionally equivalent.  Per Brett Davis from PinScore, only Millionaire and the first 1500 F-14s had the older board.

    The sound board is D-11298 in the manual, while it is D-11581 in my machine.  See Cyclone for a schematic.  The latter board added U6, a 55516 CVSD chip, which is not used on F-14.  This chip is controlled directly by the processor on the sound board.  Apparently, the same F-14 sound ROMs can be used on either board.  On the former board, there are more analog audio options such as balancing the two channels, allowing unbridged outputs, and having an unamplified output back to the CPU board.

    There is a row of six flashers along the back of the playfield.  These are in bulb holders that are soldered into a thin circuit board.  The problem is that the stress of the handling and machine vibration on the bulbs is transferred directly onto the thin traces.  On my unit, four of the six bulbs had broken their traces.  To break the load path, I decided to repair the connection by soldering thin wires with a generous 'service loop'. 


    View from the bottom of the board shows the very thin traces that bears the mechanical load.
    Be sure to loop the wires as shown to allow isolation of vibration.

    Top side shows the wire soldered to the leg of the socket.


    The Cabinet

    The front of the cab at the start.  There is caked on dirt on the Start and flipper buttons,
    drill holes, dings, rust on the plunger rod, and tear outs on the bottom edge.

    The tear outs on the bottom were accompanied by a delamination on the front.

    Shot after the restoration on the front have been done.  The tear outs and the drill holes
    have been filled in by epoxy, and the cab has been repainted with acrylics.


    The above picture shows the cab after refurbishment.

    The tear outs on the bottom were reconstructed with epoxy.  With the cab upside down, epoxy was dripped down into the wood fibers.  This caused a very strong bond between the repairs and the wood structure.

    The front delamination was glued and clamped with a very strong wood glue.

    The drill holes and dings were filled in with epoxy.

    The caked-on brown dirt near the buttons were cleaned with Novus 2.

    The plunger rod was dissassembled cleaned and tumbled.  A new barrel spring was installed.

    Finally, the cab was repainted with acrylics.  The colors used were "Gloss Black", "Fire Engine Red #436.


    One of the domes (blue) was cracked, so I received a set of the beacon hardware from Levi N. in exchange for repair of his CPU board.

    Installing the playfield

    On this machine, the playfield pivots up on a single point.  There is no way to slide the playfield forward when you do this.  As a result, when pivoted up, the back part of the playfield prevents access to the bottom part where the connectors are located.  This means that I needed to devise a hoisting system to hold the playfield up while the connectors are mated. 


    The hoisting system to hold the playfield while the connectors are mated.

    I installed a hook into one of my ceiling beams, and used a ratcheting tie down to slowly lower the playfield into position.  The cabinet was placed on furniture sliders (as all the rest of my machines) so that I can easily slide it into place underneath the suspended playfield.  The whole thing worked like a charm.


    Parts for this machine from Marcos and Bay Area.

    Tips on using water slide decals.


    1/24/09 - Machine purchased from Russell Riddell.

    1/28/09 - After about two days work, all the parts and mylar removed from the top.

    2/7/09 - Clearcoating starts.  The yield is two layers per can of Varathane.

    2/10/09 - Final coat applied onto the playfield.

    2/11/09 - Initial checkout of electronics.

    2/12/09 - Reassembly of playfield starts.

    2/15/09 - Reassembly of playfield complete.

    2/16/09 - Start of cab restoration.

    2/20/09 - Front of the cab done.

    2/21/09 - PinScore installed and all electronics checked out with the playfield.

    2/23/09 - Flashers repaired in the back of the playfield, and developed a hoist for the playfield.

    2/25/09 - Restoration is complete.

    4/4/09 - Sold to Roger R.