Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Welcome...TO THE ARENA!!

As Alec has been hinting over the past couple posts, I DO have some pretty rad pinball-related news.  A couple of weeks ago I bought myself a 1987 Premier Arena pinball machine.  I found it on craigslist for cheap and moved it right into my apartment.  My ultimate plan is to move it into the school's media room once Alec moves his Medieval Madness machine out, but for now, I get to play it every day and work on it.  Considering the price I paid, I thought that there was going to be major problems with the game, but lo and behold, the thing plays like a dream.  The only lingering malady is a malfunctioning alpha-numeric display.  Soooo, I can't see my score, unless I get a high score. I really don't care, for now, though.  I'll have to pony up for a new display before I move it into the school's media room.

The reason I was so drawn to this game was that it was so very different from Jurassic Park.  1) It doesn't have a wizard mode 2) It doesn't have modes 3) It has drop targets 4) it has lanes 5) it's alpha-numeric.  I've played it every day since I got it and I love it.  The artwork is absolutely hilarious, and there are some really great midi tunes that play (especially when you get the special!)

On the same order that Alec got his Medieval Madness cliffy protectors, I got a handful of parts (and the manual) for Arena.  The biggest coup was the general illumination, which was completely out.  All it took was one slo-blo fuse and WHAMMO, all the lights came on!  It was like pinball xmas!

OOOOOOOOOOHHOOOOOO!!!!  ARENA!  I've got other big pinball plans in the works, but that's all you get for now!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Medieval Madness Repair Day

I have been so busy lately, I haven't had much time to work on my Medieval Madness machine.  Finally I ordered some parts (from the newly redesigned Marco Specialties site!) and set aside some time this past weekend to get my hands dirty.

My first job was replacing the coil on the damsel tower ramp diverter.  Here's how the old coil looked, compared to the new one:

About a year ago I replaced the sleeves on ALL of my coils, which I highly recommend for three reasons: 1) It really helped me familiarize myself with all of the components underneath the playfield  2) The coils worked a lot better with new sleeves! and 3) It helped me pinpoint a few coils that were starting to go bad, like the one shown above.  Not only had it burned through its paper, but it was almost impossible to get the new sleeve in because the coil had swelled.  I'm glad I was able to replace this before it froze and blew something on a circuit board.

After swapping out that coil I installed this great set of Medieval Madness protectors.  Some of the exposed plywood was starting to chip in high-traffic areas, but now all are protected by a nice layer of metal.  I took a photo, but it's hard to see them, so I indicated where they are with some arrows...

The other big repair news is that I finally cleaned my machine properly!  When I bought my Medieval Madness I was given a bottle of Mill Wax, which is full of petroleum distillates and basically has no real wax in it.  I've been using it for the last couple of years, because I didn't know any better!  But after reading this lengthy thread on I decided to make the jump to cleaning with Novus 2, then Novus 1, then a carnuba paste wax.  I can already tell the difference, my playfield is looking good and playing like greased lightning!

All of this is small pinball news compared to the MEGA-news that Jon is sitting on.  Hopefully he'll spill the beans soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Karl's Grandfather's Homemade Bagatelle Board

After I wrote about the antique mall bagatelle board I saw, my buddy Karl emailed me some photos of a homemade bagatelle board that his grandfather made.  Karl writes:
We used a rounded off wooden dowel (which has gone missing, but a drumstick works fine) to push the balls up the thing, and then gravity took them where they went. The finesse was all in how much oomph you put into your initial push.  Pretty simple! 
The hardest one was the 150 hole right below the second to bottom center ring area. The 125 ring at the bottom was almost as hard to get. Actually the scoring was pretty random as you can see haha.

I think this would be a super fun project to build one day.  It's amazing to think what has been created from such humble beginnings as these, eh?

Monday, February 13, 2012


In January, I went to visit my family in Seattle for a few days.  While in town, I swung by one of the great American pinhalls, Shorty's, with my dad.  To my delight, I found that they had a brand new Transformers set up in the back room. 

I must say, the game was a lot of fun.  I love the idea of splitting the playfield into two sections, and the ability to choose which way you want to play the game.  The first time I played, I set up a two player game and made player one an autobot and player two a decepticon, so I could compare and contrast.  The shots were super satisfying, the multiball was crazy and intense (BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM out of Megatron!) and I loved the series of lights in the top lanes, outlanes and other various places on the playfield.  It was pretty mind-bending, when I figured out that there were TWO series, one for each side.  It was a cool twist on a simple idea.

Anyway, my father and I only had an hour to kill before we had to move on to our next appointment, so I didn't get too deep into the game.  But my first impression of Transformers was very good (it helped that I got a replay on that first autobot game :)  I can't wait to play it again the next time I see one!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cambridge Lanes and Games

Back in December, I went down to Boston for a few days to attend the 30th birthday party of my good friend Liz Prince.  When I got to town, Liz told me she knew a good place to go play pinball.  Did I want to go?  Yes, yes I did.  So we got into the car and drove over to Lanes and Games, in Cambridge.  Here's Claire and Liz in front of their billboard:

I gotta say, when I heard this place was a bowling alley, I didn't expect much.  We have a Lanes and Games in White River Junction, and the machines there work, but aren't that great.  I was pleasantly surprised therefore when I got into the arcade room and found that it had EIGHT machines, all of which were in PERFECT working order.

From left to right: Twilight Zone, Scared Stiff, Addams Family, Tron, Iron Man, Family Guy, Spider Man, Sopranos.  What a collection!  They were a little pricey, but worth every token.  I put in a little time on Tron and a LOT on Twilight Zone, which I finally started to get the hang of by the end.

Anyway, if you live in the Boston area, I HIGHLY recommend this place!  You can walk there from the Alewife stop on the red line, which is right around the corner.  Tell 'em Drop Target sent you!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Insider Photos

No I know that that title makes it seem like I've stumbled across secret photos that show Steve Ritchie and George Gomez literally using MAGIC to make pinball machine, but sadly, no, they're just a really tasteful collection of photos that were shared to us by comics prof, and all-around nice guy Isaac Cates (Isaac has been doing a really great series on mythical animals on his site HERE).  These photos show the inside of the Stern pinball factory in a way that I've never seen it before: 90% devoid of people.  Normally, when I've seen photos or videos from inside the factory, it is a blur of hustle and bustle.  That's not to say that the images make it look abandoned, it's just nice to focus more on the machines and tools used to make the pinball machines than the hard workers.  You can view the photos HERE

I also stumbled upon THIS the other day.  Please put rubber bands around your shoes before you watch this, because I will NOT field complaints about socks being blown off!