Feeling all the bumpers, always playing clean
May 20, 2009 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Make your own pinball machine. The art of pinball machines is in decline, but some folks endeavor to keep it alive. From the basic, to the the full blown experience, these guys do it their way. DIY pinball goodness.
posted by caddis (28 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
very cool! pinball is a lost art, indeed... and an underappreciated tactile, strategic skill, too. as a kid,at our house, we rocked (but not too hard, it had a touchy tilt) this vintage pinball machine , an early two-player model, for years, until the day it died (a vacuum tube? a mechanical relay?) and the folks sold it. in a world where you can master a video game in a few weeks, it's interesting that my recollection is that it took us years to really master that machine.
posted by RockyChrysler at 7:39 PM on May 20, 2009

If you're looking for inspiration, check out the Internet Pinball Machine Database.
posted by jedicus at 7:39 PM on May 20, 2009

I lost my virginity rocking a pinball machine.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:41 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's something a little simpler, and a lot creepier.
posted by CaseyB at 7:56 PM on May 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

As a teen my friends and I completely mastered Captain Fantastic. We would go to the mall put in enough quarters for each of us to play and then rack up twenty games or so which we would then sell for fifty cents on the dollar. It wasn't about the money so much as the winning.
posted by caddis at 7:59 PM on May 20, 2009

No pinball thread would be complete without mention of John McPhee's essay "The Pinball Philosophy" - collected in Giving Good Weight.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:01 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

then of course there was Xenon "try a tube shot" that was so perverse
posted by caddis at 8:04 PM on May 20, 2009

I lost my virginity rocking a pinball machine.

Jodie Foster or Indiana Jones?
posted by qvantamon at 8:04 PM on May 20, 2009

There were a couple of wonderfully strange homemade pinball machines at California Extreme last year. It would be awesome if someone set up a DIY pinball convention.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:08 PM on May 20, 2009

The full blown experience you reference seemingly got completed: video, pics, and the homepage.

Pinball is one my favorite games (and I've spent way too much time playing virtual pinball - but the skills transfer to the real games, timing, rule understanding, etc).
posted by el io at 8:20 PM on May 20, 2009

I used to make mini-pinball games all the time when I was a young kid - much more basic than even the simplest one displayed here. I'd just get a flat piece of wood or particle board (not too big, as you'd probably end up playing with it on the floor of your room, or at the kitchen table), and draw some sort of rough design on it as a layout plan. Using a ruler helped.

Get a bunch of nails and hammer them into the board where the obstacle corners were supposed to be. Get a bunch of rubber bands and stretch them between the nails. The paddles were clothespin halves, from those clothespins which use a spring mechanism (you pull them apart and then put them together again back-to-back. The notches where the arms of the spring sat become a hole through which you can put a small nail. Use an elastic band to hold it in a 'down' position, and operate it with your index finger on the blunt end of the paddle).

The ball could be a large ball-bearing or, more usually, some sort of marble. You drew the scores on the board and added it up in your head when the ball went over it. Lastly, you nailed or glued a piece of wood to the underside of the board at the top end, so it would slope down toward you

The first one I made didn't really have anything special on it, and you started playing by just dropping the ball in at the top. Later on I added a ball chute and a spring, and various things that would spin around or click when the ball passed them.
posted by Ritchie at 8:32 PM on May 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Echoing Ritchie... we used to make them out of discarded pegboards, spools, rubber bands, etc.

I had a childhood friend who was a few years older than us, and he would make these tables in various sizes--one had a racquetball as the pinball--and charge kids a dime or so to play them, and he would donate the proceeds to "Jerry's Kids." He also built miniature golf courses on his lawn, and makeshift skeeball alleys in his garage.

Later, another kid pointed out to me that the kid's dad's name is Jerry.
posted by not_on_display at 9:05 PM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

There has to be a twist.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:20 PM on May 20, 2009

Pinball Wizard!
posted by ericb at 9:23 PM on May 20, 2009

Expensive hobby, lots of moving parts, springs, etc. that wear out, break and need replacing. Owning a video arcade is a lot cheaper, but pinball has a definite charm unto its own.
posted by furtive at 9:52 PM on May 20, 2009

Great thread! I love the mechanical/analogue aspect of pinball and was really put out with the 'digital' games (ie., Star Wars pinball in the blond&blue bar at my undergrad small town) and I suspect that a lot of other machines don't have a strict analogue button/flipper drive train.

Anyone have opinions or links on how pinball started?

Huh, nevermind, wikipedia has an ok primer. Anyone have cooler histories and evolutions of pinball machines?
posted by porpoise at 10:36 PM on May 20, 2009

This is incredibly awesome.
posted by JHarris at 10:58 PM on May 20, 2009

This is beautiful. I find skittles endlessly entertaining, so I don't think I'm going to need to make a very elaborate game in order to keep myself entertained. Maybe something based on the L'Eggs egg and surgical tube future cities they made us build in grade school. I really loved Bride of Pinbot...
posted by queensissy at 11:23 PM on May 20, 2009

Coconut Island is one of the most complete home made machines, but there are others. Snow Mountain Pinball is on their second machine from scratch, and custom themes are popular for rebuilds. 1 2 3 4

So grab the old soldering iron and come hang out on rec.games.pinball or the homebrew pinball group. And decide if you'd like to simulate, emulate, reverse engineer, customize, reprogram, or replace the control system for your dream machine.

If you're lame like me you can even hire somebody much more talented to do your art.
posted by ecurtz at 11:46 PM on May 20, 2009

Nothing breaks my heart more than walking through a modern arcade (which there are very few of here in Phoenix) and not being able to find one. single. machine. I love pinball machines. The closest I seem to get anymore is the virtual pinball I downloaded on XBL.
posted by Bageena at 11:56 PM on May 20, 2009

Diner was my all-time favorite pinball machine. It had a story arc and objectives--feed each of the patrons by hitting the targets on either side... until the rush came, and they all swarmed in asking for orders at once.

Add to that the bottomless cup of coffee huge multiplier, where your score was multiplied by the number of revolutions you could get the ball to make around the cup during a very specific time period, some great voice acting, and awesome artwork and... wow. This was how pinball mades SHOULD be made.

And Bageena--last I was there, Sunsplash/Golf Land on US 60 & Country Club has pinball, upstairs.
posted by disillusioned at 1:00 AM on May 21, 2009

"Do you dare to enter the BLACK HOLE?"

Sent shivers down my ten year old spine!
posted by orme at 4:07 AM on May 21, 2009

The day that I brought home my vintage KISS pinball machine and placed it in the game room was one of the best days of my life. Sometimes I just plug it up and stare at it.
posted by bradth27 at 4:26 AM on May 21, 2009

I beat Captain Fantastic once it was the high point of a drunk night in Boise. I beat Xenon somewhere in Texas. I miss pinball. Its physicality is much more satisfying than video games.
posted by RussHy at 4:29 AM on May 21, 2009

Ooh, that loop target in the first DIY link is inspired.
posted by Spatch at 5:32 AM on May 21, 2009

Oh, wow, caddis, I still remember that pinball game! "Enter Xenon." What a slut.
posted by misha at 7:28 AM on May 21, 2009

Also, I wish this is what my son would do in his engineering class instead of building bridges out of spaghetti noodles.
posted by misha at 7:30 AM on May 21, 2009

Fun House was in my dorm's rec room. I have never been so driven by anger at a ventriloquist's dummy, before or since (Jeff Dunham's puppets included). I just wanted to stuff the pinball down that sucker's throat SO BAD. (Plus, the cool 2 million points really fed those good-feeling neurons. I spent tons of quarters on that sucker.)
posted by not_on_display at 11:43 AM on May 21, 2009

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