not to be confused with the pinball pirate
August 24, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

The Pinball Ninja has assigned himself a daunting task: repair 500 pinball machines in the 365 days of the year 2010! He's a little behind at the moment (#289 at last count), but the journey is still entertaining, and filled with insights into pinball repair.

With its case-by-case nature, the Pinball Ninja blog makes an excellent compliment to the more clinical approach of It's rumored that the pinball ninja is really the alter ego of Pinrepair's Clay Harrell who, along with maintaining the repair and historical information at and fixing 500 machines in a year as the pinball ninja, is also responsible for This Old Pinball, a series of very informative (and frequently very sophomoric) DVDs on pinball repair (think This Old House but with pinball and lots of topless women), and TOPcast, a series of long and very in-depth interviews with pretty much everybody who's anybody in the history of pinball and still alive to tell the tale.

[previously] and [previously]
posted by luvcraft (14 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
my two personal favorite TOPcast episodes are the interview with Tim Arnold (which includes discussion of topless shoeshine joints) and the ridiculous interview with Python Anghelo who makes countless wild claims and accusations interspersed with demands that Clay read The Fountainhead to truly understand Python's perspective on the pinball industry.
posted by luvcraft at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2010

There's no denying that they are sophomoric, but the TOP videos are PG13 content at worst. Nobody should miss the invaluable information they contain about DIY pinball maintenance unless you're very easily offended by juvenile behavior.

Anyone who finds they enjoy TOPcast and hasn't seen it should also check out Tilt:The Battle to Save Pinball, which is a great documentary including interviews with many of the same people but a little more accessible to non pinheads.
posted by ecurtz at 9:45 PM on August 24, 2010

omg omg omg omg pinball yay!
posted by Theta States at 9:59 PM on August 24, 2010

Seeing all those Twilight Zone and Addams Family machines, all thousands of miles from here, makes me sad. Will I never again have the chance to shoot for Lost In The Zone?
posted by JHarris at 12:57 AM on August 25, 2010

My parents have this one, but it's been broken since he got it and no one has ever been able to fix it, though many have promised to. I should probably email this guy.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 12:57 AM on August 25, 2010

I am completely seconding Theta States.

I grew up playing pinball on the machine my Aunt had IN HER BASEMENT, and yeah. I love pinball a LOT.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:58 AM on August 25, 2010

He can come replace the burned out lights on my Mystic!
posted by punkfloyd at 6:50 AM on August 25, 2010

Oh hell yes. Here I thought someone was going to play 500 machines. Repair them? This guy deserves some kind of cultural preservation award.

That's a great documentary, ecurtz, though I would love to see another that spends more time on the history rather than the pinball 2000 attempt.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:04 AM on August 25, 2010

There's something unsavory about the pictures of pinball machines with their front door open.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:14 AM on August 25, 2010

As the owner of a couple of old pins and coin-ops which I service myself, the scope and depth of what the Pinball Ninja can do is humbling. It's truly wonderful that someone is documenting these types of fixes before they get lost to time; I've used his repair guides many a time.

What's hard to believe (though I don't think the blog is dishonest in any way) is that he's able to fix the games he's going off-site to work on that same day, especially since he does board repair. There's a truly ridiculous number of parts for all of the different types of machines he's working on, perhaps more than they would stock at a local auto dealer's service center. Does he have a magical pinball van stocked with rare and uncommon parts that he rolls in? Does he have a series of steel suitcases, each stenciled with things like "GOTTLIEB SYSTEM 1" or "WILLIAMS WOOD RAIL" with coils and switches and resistors and connectors? The parts inventory and management necessary to run his operations must be unbelievable.
posted by eschatfische at 7:49 AM on August 25, 2010

I would love to see another that spends more time on the history

Pinball Passion isn't quite as good of a documentary, but it does some interviews about more historical stuff.

I haven't seen Special When Lit, which still seems to be playing the occasional festival.
posted by ecurtz at 7:53 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I saw Special When Lit at a festival a few months ago. It was mediocre and had a "laugh at the freaks" element about it that I didn't care for.
posted by tricked by a toothless cobra at 10:13 AM on August 25, 2010

Wonderfully documented and photographed. I find it equally as interesting to see where these classic machines are currently residing...garages, basements, rec rooms....

Most of these machines seem to be missing the cigarette burns and bolted on ashtrays I remember so vividly.
posted by VanishingPoint at 6:04 PM on August 25, 2010

That. Is. Awesome
posted by interestedfilter at 7:12 AM on August 26, 2010

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