Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

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Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:41 pm

I read a lot here but don't post often. I have never done a restoration thread before. I bought this machine in Oct 2016 from a member here. It has taken me all this time to complete the machine. It started with a weird bug where the #2 bonus light just wouldn't work during game play but did work fine in light test. Tracked that down to the wire being punched into the wrong slot in the insulation displacement connector in the head. It looked like a factory error that no one had ever fixed.

Here are some before pictures, nothing special at this point. It does have a nice back glass but I somehow took all my photos with it out.

20161013_010717847_iOS.jpg


Look at that cabinet fade, the red has basically turned into a chalk colour.
20161013_002840373_iOS.jpg


Lots of scratches and hack marks, the wood has a lot of planking.
20161013_010732270_iOS.jpg

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:59 pm

The playfield, this is the ugly part.

It is actually worse than it seems when you get up close.
161007-01.JPG


Somebody in the past had hand painted in some repairs for the whole bonus area. I have to give them credit it must have been all bare wood.
161126-01.JPG


Here you can see the most of the castle has been painted back in, then it all wore through again.
161126-02.JPG


The upper playfield had mylar in the middle area but lots of wear in the orbits and general cruddiness around the upper bumper.

171129-10.JPG


Before doing anything restoration-wise I always do all the electro-mechanical work. All new switch caps, new coil sleeves, clean everything that moves, clean adjust all switches bullet-proof the electronics. I also do anything need to solve the Bally SS false bumper or sling firing that all of these machines have. This machines was actually pretty good. So then the machine played really well. So, now on to the restoration.

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby tombiosis » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:21 pm

Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great candidate for a hardtop!
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:26 pm

I started by looking around for a good playfield, turns out Flash Gordon playfields are harder than hens teeth to find. I might have considered a hard top but they did not exist yet. So on a previous machine, Eight Ball, I redrew all the art work from scratch in vector format, had it printed it directly onto a spare playfield, clear coated it. Then I had to do a full playfield swap. It turned out well but I wanted to avoid another playfield swap if possible. Plus getting I was dependant on a print shop to do everything right. I got pretty lucky but with a split playfield it would have been much harder.

20160221_181815831_iOS.jpg


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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:55 pm

So I set out to make my own overlay. I could always print it directly onto a playfield if needed but I wanted to try the overlay route. So I started by buying one of those Classic Arcades overlays. They are really poor quality, nothing fits, the colours are crazy, all the reds and oranges were combined into one colour. Plus there are tons of stories of them wrinkling up no matter how well installed. I used it a reference for all the artwork locations. I made a 600 dpi scan and started working. So believe it or not I spent the next year of evenings cleaning up all the graphics.

Here is an example where I have cleaned up Flash on his scooter. The orange has been restored, all the colours are corrected. Notice that the mini-bonus section has no orange. It all needed to be corrected. For graphics like this I painstakingly cleaned it up be selecting groups of pixels and making them all the exact same colour, one colour at a time.

170612 Scooter test 2.jpg

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:27 am

The problem everyone has when the clean up a scan is they want to do it quickly. Some things just take time. For anything with hard line geometry, it gets all fuzzy when you try to clean it up. You have to redraw it in vector format then importing it into PhotoShop, that way you get a really crisp result. Has anyone bought a hard top yet? In some of the photos I have seen on line I was able to see they did not draw anything.

I started by doing all the text. Here is a sample.

170204 Flash Lettering 5 - Perimeter letters.jpg


The middle bonus section looks like this. Later on I had to spend a bit of time making sure it went behind Ming's head properly.

161120 Flash Lettering 3 Crest.jpg


Here I redrew the whole background, the green energy bolts, Ming's face and boots, the guards swords. The guards themselves are recoloured.

Upper PF Section.jpg

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby Chris Silver » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:32 am

Its always nice to see a quality tech do a quality job and bring a game back from crap. :)
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby darkdog1 » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:45 am

It is possible to have a copy of the "middle bonus section"?
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby semicolin » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:43 pm

Holy schnikes. Like and subscribe.
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby Sparky » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:37 pm

bjm-maxx wrote:I started by looking around for a good playfield, turns out Flash Gordon playfields are harder than hens teeth to find....


PM sent. I have a hen's tooth. Lol
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:32 pm

darkdog1 wrote:It is possible to have a copy of the "middle bonus section"?


Did you mean this?

Upper Bonus section.jpg


I am jumping ahead but I did several full size prints before I did my last one. The earlier ones have slightly inaccurate insert locations (maybe off by 1 mm) and/or colours (kept dialing them in).

I have two prior versions which have adhesive ready, just peel and apply. They are about 99% and 95% of my final version but I would sell those around my cost since they are not cheap.

I can look to see if I have an earlier one I could sacrifice for the middle section for really cheap since that section was completed quite early on.

The material I am using is Polyethylene which is .008" thick as compared to the cheap overlays which are maybe .003". This stuff will not wrinkle, I cannot even roll it up. But it is not like a hardtop which in my opinion is too thick at .030" The also hover above the original playfield on the rather thick 3M adhesive. Not sure why they went that way as there is always going to be a ghost appearance to the inserts due to the gap. In my case I chose to print underneath, so no clear needed. For the ultimate fit I would print on top of the material but then you would have to protect the top ideally by clearing it.

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:56 pm

Before committing to this method I decided to do some wear testing. I had been making some half scale prints to check colours (which look great on the wall) anyway, so I decided to sacrifice one. I bonded it to a Varathane sealed piece of birch plywood. I used some coarse grade steel wool and really ground it in there scratching it vertically. In this view your fingernail would definitely catch on these scratches but only in the right lighting can you even see them. In a player's position, they are invisible.

180430-03 Scratch Test.jpg


Here I did the same thing around the drain area but went in at least 2 directions making a real mess. Again I could only barely see the scratches from a player's position. I often polish mylar on old tables rather than try to remove it. I find I can get a huge improvement without risking the artwork. I use an old headlight polishing pad on my drill and play with various compounds. 3M makes one for boat hulls that has a progressive grit that gets finer as you work it. Seems to do the best job. So in this picture I have polished out the scratches and decided that even in a terrible case of damage, this material polishes like mylar and is tough, I really leaned into it with the steel wool.

180430-02 Scratch Test.jpg


This photo is meant to show the scratch detail but it also shows the inherent printer resolution. You can see the dither process to make non-pure colours. Look at the skin tone, you can see the sprinkling of colours made up of only cyan, magenta, yellow. This is a half scale print so the real print job is actually twice as good as this for the size of the artwork. Each feature is twice the size in both dimensions but the dots are the same size so the apparent crispness is better. Standing in front of my machine you do not see any of this. Actually the silk screens used by the factory have much lower precision. From my estimates it is about 100 dpi in the ink layers but you have several 100 dpi screens (one for each colour) so the apparent resolution is quite good because silk screen 'pixels' do not lay on each other precisely.

180430-02 Scratch Test zoom.jpg
Last edited by bjm-maxx on Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby cap » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:02 pm

I am considering polishing my mylar too. Have you tried 3M Finesse-It II compound? Would you say the boat hull compound is better than Finesse-It II?
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:15 pm

Here is what I mean by need to redraw things. This is a huge zoom in on some lettering from above. This was drawn in vector format (essentially infinite resolution). At some point it hits a printer with finite resolution so dots are what you get at the end of the day regardless of your source file type. I am working at 600 dpi which is better than anybody's eyesight. This is what the vector drawn letters look like when output at 600 dpi. Look at the slanted portion of the "w". This is the best dithering that can be done at this resolution, keep in mind I used jpg in this example which actually adds noise that is not there in my original PNG format.

170204 Flash Lettering 5 - Perimeter letters zoom.jpg


Now in the size it will be on the playfield.

170204 Flash Lettering 5 - Perimeter letters normal 4.jpg
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:20 pm

cap wrote:I am considering polishing my mylar too. Have you tried 3M Finesse-It II compound? Would you say the boat hull compound is better than Finesse-It II?


I have never tried Finesse-It III. One thing to be wary of is most grits are meant for harder materials than Mylar. Polishing a soft surface is a cross between gouging and shaping. I find the good old Novus 3 grit is not that great, it leaves a coarser finish. Anything meant for a clear coat should work well. However the boat hull stuff is meant for fiberglass resin. I think I just lucked out. I always meant to try that Treasure Cove stuff but I figure I should just buy a few products at Canadian Tire and test them out.

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:25 pm

The rockets caused me a ton of effort. They are jammed in below the pop bumpers, the inserts were inaccurately placed relative to the artwork in the original machine. So I broke them apart. I had to subtley adjust their positions and tweak their angles to get them to fit right.

161225 Rockets Spread Out.jpg


Once I liked what I had I reassembled them again.

161225 Rockets.jpg
Last edited by bjm-maxx on Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:28 pm

This took a huge amount of time. I redrew all of this from scratch. Those fingered turret things are not clones as they would be if done today. Each one was hand drawn and needed to be dialed in so as not to ruin their fit to each other. This took hours.

170111 Bumpers 4.jpg

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:32 pm

And now all integrated together. The factory artwork did not do a great job of placing the '10000', '20000', '30000' text or the keyline for those inserts. Spent quite a while working this.

Pops area.jpg

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby cap » Sun Jan 06, 2019 4:38 pm

bjm-maxx wrote:I always meant to try that Treasure Cove stuff but I figure I should just buy a few products at Canadian Tire and test them out.

Treasure Cove is now sold out. He can no longer sell his stuff at premium prices after he admitted it is just 3M compounds in an email that went public.
I learned about Finesse-It II in the same pinside thread. I did not try it yet because it is expensive and I heard the shelf life can be as short as 6 months.
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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:33 pm

I went and looked at my boat compound. It is 3M Marine Rubbing compound, it says to follow up with Finesse-It II right on the bottle. Is II vs III a thing?

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:56 pm

Ming took forever to finish. There is a ton of black line work. Since this part of the artwork is so close to the player it needed to be done carefully. In the end, I redrew Ming's whole face so it would be crisp. His hands took quite a while to finish off. The biggest thing was to get the orange back the way the original looked.

Ming Section.jpg

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:16 pm

Then there are tons of printouts like this. I make slits through each insert, then figure out what misalignments there are. Then I correct them in my file. Despite being able to measure accurately, there are always more things to fix. Eventually I have all the key lines exactly in place. Then I make all the main artwork fit correctly. This can take quite a while. The factory never got the match correct in a lot of areas. They had lots of tolerances to play with and needed to get games out the door.

180116-01.JPG

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:33 pm

Here is an early test print, the white under layer was somehow messed up in the bonus region, you can see all the white rings that should not be there. Most things fit quite well as I had adjusted all the keylines already.
This is a Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (CMYK) printing process. However white is done differently it is a dedicated printer channel with its own white ink. On your monitor which is RGB, full 255 red, 255 green, 255 blue add together to make white. On a printer, 255 is the full colour of that channel. So 255,255,255 is black (Cyan on magenta, on yellow). These inks are translucent to you see the back ground material colour, usually white paper shining through. Print all 3 on top of each other and you get a muddy black. For that reason, printers have a dedicate K (for Black) channel to create proper blacks. This is all the same as your home printer. However, you can print what is called a rich black, CMY (muddy black), then actual black ink over that. The impact is you get a richer black overall and you can see that difference when they are side by side. Usually you print about 80, 80, 80, 255.

As I mentioned the white is its own channel and needed because I am not printing on a white material, I am printing on clear. Separate print heads actually put down 4-6 thin layers of white then 4 more heads lay down the colours. For my white layer I shrink it back by 2 pixels to make sure it never peaks out from under the colour layer. What happened here is that there were some partially coloured but very faint pixels where the extra white is. The printer was set to print that layer full contrast so it was either print nothing, or print full white. I caught quite a few little errors where my erase tool had visually erased some pixels but had not set their values to a true 0.

180301-01.JPG


This is the sort of thing that has to be fine tuned. The keyline around the target bank fits okay, but not great. So I would make my way through the entire playfield making notes and then more test prints until its all good. I pressed arrows inserts in temporarily by hand and one of them happened to be red. They were are all white when I glued them in for good.

180407-03.JPG
Last edited by bjm-maxx on Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:18 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:12 pm

Stripped down the whole playfield, pulled all switches or anything that stick up down below the surface.

180423-01.JPG


All sanded down and ready for inserts.

180423-03.JPG


Using all new inserts. Sand each insert to about 400 grit and prep it for installation. I guess I never took any photos after this point before the overlay went on. I used a few coats of spray on Varathane, the clear water based stuff. In my experience it stays really clear over time although lots of people don't trust it. I spent extra time on the saucer, sanding out the black ball wear. The shooter lane turned out looking perfect.

180430-05.JPG


Here is the overlay in place. The adhesive on this is very sticky but does not harden. You can actually peel it off if you need to.

180604-05.JPG


The hardest piece was the roll over buttons, Flash Gordon has seven different ones that all needed trimming very precisely. Every opening in the playfield needed to be manually trimmed. The overlay is quite thick I went through quite a few blades.

180604-07.JPG

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Re: Flash Gordon restoration - done the hardest way

Postby bjm-maxx » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:31 pm

The hard part now done, its time to put the freshly painted rails back on and start repopulating things.

180609-01.JPG


More progress, at this point it just needs plastics and its playable.

180629-01.JPG


Its alive again for now.

180724-02.JPG


Nice new playfield in a terrible cabinet.

180724-03.JPG



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