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Thread: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

  1. #1
    Sandwich Shooter SteveFury's Avatar
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    Default 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    This is a 1947 United pinball machine I acquired last month.
    I found it on my local Craigs List, asking price was $80 but the seller accepted $60. I think it was a fair price for both of us because of its condition. Really, the only things keeping it out of the landfill was a good back glass and an almost complete game without too many missing parts. The only needed parts were the common things such as rubbers, posts, levelers etc.

    This is the CL description:
    This is a Singapore United Pinball machine from the 1930's. Back glass is in great shape, Wood on the game surface needs to be cleaned and waxed. Needs new glass top and rubber bumper set that is available on e-bay for $20. Electronics work but will most likely need to be gone through and cleaned up.
    The CL photo:
    Attachment 74356

    The bad thing about the machine is it was stored outside in the elements for about a decade, out of the rain under a carport. The playfield suffered severe damage, particularly because it didn't have a glass. There was some mold, heavy rust and delaminating of the plywood:
    20140309_211519.jpg20140309_211610.jpg20140309_211755.jpg

    I always fix the worst parts first in my projects, so I stripped the playfield of all its parts and cleaned it up good as possible. The paint was very fragile which made it difficult to clean without damaging it. Next in order was to fix the delamination. I used some weighting and clamping techniques and got it all glued down. The table isn't perfectly flat in areas because of the repair. You can see the paint around the lower bonus area was not repairable. I had to make stencils and repaint using both paint brush and air brush. I had to repaint and stencil much of the lettering in various places such as roll over lanes etc:
    20140315_132852.jpg20140323_002006.jpg
    I sealed the playfield in Varathane after all the repairs were done. Varathane is a water based polyurethane which does not contain linseed oil. Linseed oil is found in most polyurethanes and turns amber after time. Here it is freshly sealed:
    20140324_064732.jpg
    Almost every metal part in the machine had a white powder coating on the metal. I believe it was the factory applied anti-rust material which was now beginning to fail. Its appearance was like white-ish gray chalk and rough as sandpaper. I had to remove much of it as possible using a wire wheel then seal it up again in paste wax. A lot of parts were plain rusty such as this kicker solenoid plunger. I had to remove and polish parts like this else it will eat up the brass solenoid sleeves. The sleeves are part of the solenoids and not replaceable:
    20140313_023811.jpg
    I completed all the playfileld repairs. Repainting, de-rusting, fixing the broken iron ball guides and a quick doing over all of the switches.

    Next was cabinet repair.
    All the hardwood was in good shape. No major dings etc. The cabinet was also fairly good except the sides were split but not seriously so. Except for the back corner which was split wide open. I re-made the corner piece and added a splint to the broken side. The paint was not repairable. I had to repaint it so I made stencils of the original artwork. Here it's ready to sand:
    20140325_235401.jpg20140326_073651.jpg

    (Continued)
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    Sandwich Shooter SteveFury's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Here's the CL photo which didn't come through on the previous post:CL2.jpg

    Anyway I repainted the cabinet, applied the original stencils and finished touch-up painting later. It took an entire day to strip and sand the 4 hardwood legs and seal them in Varathane:
    20140327_170839.jpg The original front coin door was broken in half so I had to cut a new one: 20140328_145416.jpg
    Although the glass was in good condition for its age, it needed a lot of repair. Much of the paint had turned to dust and even breathing sent it flying everywhere. I stabilized the paint by sealing it in Tripple thick and finished the repair with air brush and acrylic paint. You can see how fragile the paint was:
    20140313_034312.jpg
    Repair of the head was pretty straight forward. There were three stepper units which had to be disassembled/de-rusted/cleaned/adjusted, lamp sockets repaired:
    20140414_214307.jpg

    That completed the major portions of the machine. There was a zillion other cleanings and tweaks but I had it all completed by the end of two weeks including a new playfield glass. Here are a few post-repair pictures:
    20140412_161038.jpg20140412_161206.jpg20140412_202944.jpg

    Here's some interesting things I learned about these very old pinball machines.
    Modern pinball machines are for general entertainment. This machine does not have flippers. It is produced purely as a gambling machine no less than a slot machine. The back glass has a "replay" indicator. Modern machines have these too, but this one can never actually award a free game. High scores advance the replay counter as a payout indicator. It can only be decremented by inserting a nickel and starting a new game as normal, or by a secret button underneath the cabinet.

    As it goes, a bar or gambling house would place the machine and the player will almost always loose the game. A game cost a nickel and was worth about 50 in our money today. I find the "Play it one more time" factor of this machine is very high and I can understand how these machines made great profit. I usually go through about $150 or so worth of nickels in one playing session, and win maybe 4 replays if I'm lucky.
    Once the player was lucky enough to rack up a few replays he had the choice to either keep playing and try for more replays... or loose them in the process... or to redeem them for either cash or prizes. My father (in his 90's) say bars would usually offer free drinks for replays instead of cash. The "number of the week" was apparently very popular where a player would try for a certain high score and win something special.

    But these gambling machines went illegal in 1951. They couldn't be transported across state or even county lines. Not even replacement repair parts. The industry had to innovate to survive and so flippers appeared which caused a "gray" area whether it was a skill or gambling game. I always thought pins were entertainment devices and that governments were simply over-reacting but I was wrong. Even the counter inside my game doesn't count the number of games played. It tracks the number of total replays (payouts if you will) as an inventory tool for its operators.

    When flippers first appeared these flipper-less games became instantly obsolete. Manufacturers produced after-market flipper kits. This machine had one installed. However I watched a few youtube videos with these flippers installed and it seems the player wins almost every game. I think that spoils much of the fun so I didn't re-install them in this game. I left them out, packed in a box in case I ever want to try them.
    One other thing I was very surprised was the level of control one has on the ball simply by adjusting how far you pull the shooter and especially nudging for skill. Yes, there is most definitely skill learned from nudging. It makes all the difference in game play and outcome.

    I find the enjoyment of this game almost on par with my flippered games. Although most parts of this project was very annoying (Grinding rust for example) I think it was well worth it. Here's a youtube video I made:

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    Gibisans - Japan West compirate's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Absolutely gorgeous work!

    人生は恐れなければ、とても素晴らしいものなんだよ。
    人生に必要なもの。それは勇気と想像力、そして少しのお金だ。

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    Great restoration and video. Coupla questions:
    Did you spray or brush the Varathane on and how long did it take to cure?
    I've read that it can take well over a month to fully harden.
    Thanks.
    EM Pinballs & Arrangeballs

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    Sandwich Shooter SteveFury's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Quote Originally Posted by emmadog View Post
    Great restoration and video. Coupla questions:
    Did you spray or brush the Varathane on and how long did it take to cure?
    I've read that it can take well over a month to fully harden.
    Thanks.
    Hi Emmadog.
    This is the 3rd pin I've had to seal in Varathane. I usually start the spraying session by applying 2-3x very light overall mist, not trying to coat it. If there's any wax left on the surface then the mist will help prevent fish eyes. The light layers tack in about a half hour. Then I apply 3 more coats each heavier than the last. This builds a thick coating which has a heavy white haze, not clear.

    It's this point the Varathane reacts in very disturbing ways with the underlying paint. It was worse than ever with this Singapore machine, it looked as if I applied paint stripper not sealer. The paint cracked, bubbled and lifted and was far worse than I recall my other games. I truly felt despair after all that meticulous stencil and airbrush work.

    The thick paint skins in a couple hours but it takes a couple days for the white cloudiness to vanish to crystal clear. The previously bubbled and damaged paint looks a whole lot better. This is a good point to sand off the orange peel with fine grade paper. I used #600 paper on my Spirit of 76 machine but it was not fine enough and scratches can be seen through the final coat. As a result I didn't sand either my Space Mission or the Singapore. Personally I like the unsanded surface better.

    I apply a final, very thick coating. (I had just applied the thick coating and snapped the photo in my 1st post... hence the white milky haze.) It takes another 2 more days to dry enough to clear the white haze.

    I do my painting in the utility building outside, and it's this point I bring it inside. The paint isn't tacky but it will give an odor for about a week. Once the odor is about gone I repopulate the playfield with parts and consider it dry enough to do most things I'd otherwise do with it. It takes about a month for the odor to completely vanish, so I assume it's 100% cured at that point. And the previously damaged paint looks completely normal. I don't understand how the cracked and bubbled paint "knows" how to fix itself as the sealer dries. Very strange indeed.
    I could probably wax it at this point but I like to wait a few months before doing so, just in case.

    Oh, and I made a type-o in my previous post. I don't put $150 worth of nickels in a playing session but rather about $1.50. A slight difference. I also mentioned the playfield delaminations didn't clamp completely flat. I made the playing surface flat by applying layers of Polycrylic by Miniwax, building up the low spots to prevent the ball from stalling in them. Insert Filler.JPG It seemed to work pretty good. The Polycrylic is also fantastic for filling in dished or sunken playfield inserts. A bit expensive I think for the little can but truly amazing stuff.
    I use about 1.5 cans of varathane for to do the playfield.

    I was too disgusted to see the horrific paint damage while the Varathane set on my Singapore to take photos. Just shut the door and leave. But I did take photos of my Spirit of 76. You can see some of the paint had mildly bubbled and got real blotchy in the left photo after the first heavy coat. The issues almost completely cleared after a day or so in the middle picture. You can see the milky haze on the left, taken just after spraying and you can see the underlying paint looks a lot better:
    1st Coat Varathane Closeup 3.jpg
    All the paint damage issues had completely cleared once the sealer was fully cured.
    If you enjoy my pachinko, pinball and pachislo YouTube videos, please "like" them at:
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    Thanks for all that info. I've used a similar product for leveling inserts and I had great results too.
    That's very interesting about the Varathane and paint reaction. I've never heard of that but glad it sorted itself out otherwise that woulda been a huge bummer.
    Thanks again and I'll keep this info in mind when I clear something.
    EM Pinballs & Arrangeballs

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Yes, very nice.
    Having lived in Singapore for a while, I can vouch that at least the buildings on the back glass are authentic. As for the rickshaws and lanterns, well, I wasn't there in the '30s, but I kind of doubt it. At least not as prevalent as implied. We're talking about the most developed city-state in Southeast Asia here.
    Da' Horse!

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Part of the Empire in the 30s
    Ian #UKPachinko

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Quote Originally Posted by Drunkenclam View Post
    Part of the Empire in the 30s
    Yeah, yeah, we know, Raffles and everything...

    Its just that I was expecting more of a Malaysian influence, and not so much of Chinese influence. Like the bonus jackpot should be a Durian. And it could be relabled "JackFruit". LOL.
    Da' Horse!

    Don't F with Pachinko Machines, Man !

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Quote Originally Posted by heima View Post
    Yes, very nice.
    Having lived in Singapore for a while, I can vouch that at least the buildings on the back glass are authentic. As for the rickshaws and lanterns, well, I wasn't there in the '30s, but I kind of doubt it. At least not as prevalent as implied. We're talking about the most developed city-state in Southeast Asia here.
    My wife, a Philippina had commented the same thing when she first saw it, particularly the rickshaws and the way it shows people carrying baskets on the bar on their shoulders. Me? I wouldn't know but it's nice to get a confirming opinion.

    Thanks!
    If you enjoy my pachinko, pinball and pachislo YouTube videos, please "like" them at:
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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Beautiful work, Steve. Love those old wood rails.

    FYI, there were other machines that were used for gambling and they payed out cash (even tho it has the "for amusement only" disclaimer on it). I was watching a Sportsman by O.D. Jennings on ebay, but it went for more than I could go.
    pachinkoparts.com - Home Page
    Definition: Racecar-a device that turns money into noise.

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveFury View Post
    My wife, a Philippina had commented the same thing when she first saw it, particularly the rickshaws and the way it shows people carrying baskets on the bar on their shoulders. Me? I wouldn't know but it's nice to get a confirming opinion.

    Thanks!
    You are welcome. And I apologize for hijacking your thread. That has become a sweet-looking pinball thanks to your efforts.
    Da' Horse!

    Don't F with Pachinko Machines, Man !

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    AWESOME VIDEO STEVE! Very cool game! I don't know what it is, but I like this different stuff!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Joe

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    great video, thanks for rescuing it!

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    Default Re: 1947 United Pinball "SINGAPORE" restore

    Very very cool and rare pin Many thanks for sharing it with us.
    When things don't go right the 1st time , Step back ,Take a break and come back renewed. RGS

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