Portion of the backglass of the Flash
While at work, I saw a post on RGP offering this machine for sale for a very good price ($150). I immediately e-mailed Justin B. the seller, and picked the machine up the following Saturday at his home. Although I have never played this machine before, I figured the price was right. This machine was previously owned by Mark R., who bought it in early 2004 from Dave in Laurel, MD.
The condition of the machine was quite good for its age. The backglass has some scratches due to the corners of the score glasses, the playfield had some small BB-sized ares of missing paint, and the plastics were all intact and unbroken. Definitely a machine that could be readily restored as the other parts could be purchased.
Start of the renovation
The machine setup in my pinball room. The backbox does not hinge,
so it is simply placed on a table.
In this arrangement, the cabinet to backbox harness can be mated for test.
The first thing I had to do was
troubleshoot the electronics. When initially powered up, it would
up in Audit mode (Test 4). I transferred the board to my CPU tester to
continue troubleshooting. I checked D17 (it was good), and could
tell the 5101 CMOS RAM was bad. After that was replaced, the
displays powered up dark. From what I could tell, the CPU passed
the CMOS RAM check, but hung up on the check of the driver board PIA
chips. With the help of Keith Apgar, I decided to replace them,
and after that, the CPU booted up successfully.
Once the CPU was running, I could perform test such as the display test.
All of the plasma displays checked out fine. These can cost $40 each.
The playfield solenoids were checked out with a separate power supply,
and found to be all good. This gave me confidence that all the
solenoid drivers would also be fine on the driver board. With
this out of the way, I just hooked up the backbox to the main cabinet,
and was able to play a few games to check out the machine. All
solenoids and switches worked fine. I just needed to do a
thorough renovation on the playfield and its parts.
An overall picture of the playfield
before the renovation.
I will be doing a complete renovation of this playfield, including stripping all the parts above the playfield, cleaning, touch up painting, clearcoating, polishing all the parts, applying NOS target decals, and restoring the parts. Finally a new rubber kit will be installed. This kit was included with the purchase of the machine.
The original condition of the center of the open area in the lower
It is in the worst shape, and is also the closest to the player.
The same center area after many passes of the Magic Eraser and touchup painting.
All the inserts were repainted including the area in the red circle in front of the left slingshot.
The middle main insert is cloudy because I started to apply clearcoat to it.
In the original condition, the
playfield was rather dirty, and had lots of ball swirls. These
cleaned up well with the Magic Eraser and alcohol. Then came the
touchups. These were in some
small areas. For example, the area in front of the left sling had
some paint missing. I mixed some acrylics and obtained a
good match. The touchups were applied with the end of a toothpick
for the large areas, and a sewing needle for the really fine
work. For example, the "20" insert was touched up, but I think it
looks very original.
Some more touchups. Left=before.
In the initial set of games that we
played, we noticed that the ball would rumble audibly across the
playfield. We compared this to the Space Shuttle,
which I had also clearcoated, where you cannot hear the ball at
all. On that machine, the ball seems to float over the
playfield. It became apparent to me that I had to clearcoat the
Flash playfield also. Another problem was that some inserts had
bowed downwards over the years. When the ball rolls slowly, it
could sometimes get stuck in one. One common way to repair this
is to fill them in with water-thin
super glue, but I decided to use clearcoat instead.
The poly I used for the clearcoating. Like the proven
product (Varathane) this is water based.
For this project, I decided to try
brushing on the clear instead of spraying it. I went to the local
Lowe's and found that they sold Varathane in one gallon containers only
($46). They also had another product that was similar to
Varathane. It is the Olympic
Polyurethane in half pint cans ($6). This product has the
following in common with Varathane:
Available in gloss finish.
Does not yellow over time.
In liquid form, the product is milky white.
Alcohol disolves this product.
Center of lower playfield after clearcoating. Not much change
visible from this angle in
my opinion. The clear on the center insert has not fully dried, and is still slightly white.
The procedure I found worked the best
Use a cool area to slow down the drying as much as possible. This allows the clear more time to flow.
Plug all the holes in the playfield with foam plugs. Make
sure they do not stick up above the playfield. If they do, small
amounts will be dispersed when you use sandpaper.
Use a new foam brush for each layer of clear.
Brush a large portion of the playfield with quick strokes to wet the area.
Pour the clearcoat on the wet area to form a thick film, use the
brush to push the clear around. Try and achieve a consistent
amount of milky whiteness over the playfield to have a consistent layer
of clear. You only have a few minutes to do this. After
that, the clear will start to solidfy, so do not touch at that point.
After several hours drying, and a film has formed, a fan can be used to increase air circulation to speed up drying (I did).
Once completely dry, use 400 grit paper between clearcoat layers
to smooth out imperfections. It will take about 24 hours to dry.
When done, buff with an random orbit buffer and rubbing compound,
then finish with Novus 2 and carnauba wax.
Before clearcoat (top) and after (bottom).
Although the finish does look nice,
and enhances the contrast of the colors (black is blacker, colors are
brighter), the result is not as flat as the Space Shuttle's
finish. Spraying directs material at the playfield in a large
diffuse pattern, which prevents local high spots. Locations where
the clear is not thick enough can be reapplied with a quick burst of
spray. In the case of brushing, one can only pour a small local
mound of clear on places
that need more.
So in the end, I thought it was a worthwhile experiment, but I will probably spray the next time.
A glancing angle of the clearcoat shows the remaining ripple on the finish. Although it is very shiny and reasonably flat, there is much more
remaining ripple compared to the Space Shuttle.
One area that was especially
challenging were the rollover insert switches. I decided to
remove the star-shaped portion, tape over the hole, and then clearcoat
them by hand using a small brush. After a few coats, I cleaned
the star with alcohol and a toothbrush and reinserted it into the
Right: taped closed and clearcoated
Left: After clearcoating and taping removed. Right: clearcoated, star insert cleaned and replaced.
Photos after final assembly. I also have tear down
pictures. If you need assistance with where a part goes on your
playfield, let me know.
Back to the Electronics
Although the CPU and associated electronics were working, there were still reliability problems. After about half an hour of play or use, the CPU would lock up. To get it to work again, I simply had to press down on the ROMs in their sockets. Clay recommends upgrading from System 4 to System 6 ROMs. This required the replacement of the flipper ROMs (U17 and U20 also). Since a different socket is used for the main code, I did not have to use the problematic sockets. After installation of the new ROMs, there were no resets after several hours of game play and letting the machine run in attract mode.
Sealing and touching up the backglass
Close inspection of the back of the glass shows that the missing paint was mainly due to the scraping of the score glasses. Thus the paint was not flaking due to age. This meant I could safely clean the back with a paper towel dampened with alcohol. I took off lots of dirt, but no detectable paint. Afterwards, I masked the score windows with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, and sealed the backglass with Krylon's Triple Thick, per Clay's site. I started with thin coats initially, and then heavier coats later as I was afraid the solvent in the Triple Thick would affect the backglass. After it was dry, I cleaned up the score window, and was pleased with the results.
The next step was to touch up the backglass with acrylic paints. Mixing this paint can be difficult, and after several hours, settled on the color. The dark blue could have been matched better, but the light blue was very good match.
Left: before, Right: after touching up with acrylics.
Another example of touchup.
To prevent future damage of this
type, I covered the sharp corners of the score glass with a few layers
of black electrical tape. I then removed a few lamps behind the
backglass to reduce the overall temperature for less thermal stress on
Note that the above touchup method with acrylics will only work for the opaque areas of the backglass. Acrylic paint is too thick to be translucent. I realized that a thinner and darker (more saturated) ink was needed. I decided to experiment with thinning out the acrylic with water, and achieved good results. The basic process is to find the darkest and brightest version of the color that you can obtain. Then thin the acrylic with five parts water. Apply first to some transparent plastic to get the feel for the thickness needed. Beware that the paint will be very watery and runny. After it dries, hold it up to the lit backglass to see how much light transmits through. Reduce the puddle of paint if it is too dark. By doing this, I was also able to touchup the translucent areas. Since the paint is so dark, it reflects the right amount of light when the machine is off. When the lights are on, the paint is thin enough to pass about the right amount of light and color.
Area of the backglass that is translucent and missing paint.
the blurry image. The white parts of the dress have missing patches,
revealing the lamp socket in the backbox.
Picture afterwards. Since the paint is so watery, I have little control
over it. At least it has the approximately correct color, and the
bulb socket is no longer visible. In any case, I can remove the
touchup with one swipe of alcohol and try again in the future.
More touchups. Since I do not have a 'before' picture, the touchup areas are circled.
I had to reconstruct the '3' by freehand, and it turned out quite well. The red is translucent, and looks correct when back lit.
The final result. After all the touchups.
March 25 2006 - Picked up machine.
April 1 2006 - Played first game after repairing the electronics. It's alive!
April 15 2006 - Playfield reassembly complete.
November 11 2006 - Sold this machine for $800.
(c) 2006 Edward Cheung, all rights reserved.