Handy restoration tips and tricks of the trade. Do you know a better way to do it, or have you discovered a new technique that solves an old problem? Please share it with us via the Postbox or email the Archive.
A solution for rusty mechanics
If you are lucky enough to find a machine at source (i.e. the damp cellar, the chicken shed or the leaky attic), the chances are it will have suffered the ravages of time. The initial euphoria of the "find" is quickly replaced by a sinking feeling as you contemplate the effort required to turn an unsightly tangle of woodworm, rust and broken glass into a fine, working antique amusement machine. Well, the glass (provided it wasn't once beautifully mirror-etched) and the wood (provided you know the original dimensions) shouldn't present too much of an obstacle. Missing or broken parts, damaged art work and seized mechanisms are the real headaches. Here, we offer a solution (quite literally) for the latter.
There are various methods of cleaning mechanisms. Wire-wool and sore hands is the cheap and cheerless way, but this is only effective once the machine has been disassembled. Bead blasting with fine abrasives can produce clean surfaces with no significant loss of metal, but unless you have access to a blast cabinet, you'll be placing your precious bits in the hands of strangers (it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it). And although blasting will produce a clean-looking mechanism, it won't un-seize a single rusty nut. The common approach is to give all once-moving parts a liberal spray of freeing oil, leave a few days and repeat as required. If applied patiently over time, this will free all but the most corroded joints. It also leaves a nasty oily residue which will have to be cleaned-off with degreasing agents. So will the more thorough method of separating the mechanism from its case and other perishable parts and leaving it to soak in a toxic bath of solvents (nasty).
Collector John Husk suggests a sweeter solution for dealing with thoroughly rusted and seized machines: Remove the mechanism from its case and art work. To do this without causing damage requires a methodical, patient approach and can be a day's work in itself (see stubborn screws). Go to the pantry and get three bags of molasses sugar. Take one teaspoon as a reward for your hard work so far, and pour the remainder into a suitably large bowl of warm water, stirring until dissolved. Place the mechanism into the sugar solution and leave to stew for up to three weeks before washing off and drying.
Irksome screws unscrewed
Your first attempt is your best chance of a clean extraction, so make it a good one. As in all restoration work, a bit of preparation can save a lot of perspiration. The vital thing is to ensure the screwdriver doesn't slip and mangle the screw head as you try to turn it. The first thing is to clean the slot with a needle-ended file. You can apply a dab of gripping agent to the screwdriver tip (expensive stuff, but sometimes it just gives you the edge). Insert a tight-fitting screwdriver and whack the handle with a hammer a couple of times to bed it into the slot and help break the screw's grip.
Penetrating oil followed by heating the screw head with a soldering iron several times, causing the screw to expand and contract can break the grip of even the most stubborn rusty screw. However it has taken me an hour or two to free one screw! Patience is the restorer's greatest ally. Failing that, one can dig the rusty thread out, which often reveals little more than a stump, then drill out the hole and fill it with a plug of the same wood, matched as best you can with the grain orientated the correct way. Simon Parkes
The impact driver is best used on heavier jobs. It allows you to apply maximum turning force to the screw head in one short sharp burst. It can be great for quickly releasing beefy bolts etc., but the downward force applied makes it unsuitable for more delicate work involving wood or fragile castings.
If a screw head offers no purchase, the screw extractor can sometimes come to the rescue. You drill a hole into the top of the screw, insert the extractor and twist. The extractors come in a range of sizes, but I've not had much luck using this method on small screws. There's just not enough metal in which to embed the extractor.
Where there's muck, there's brass
How do you make a shiny new brass replacement part match the rest of the machine so that it doesn't stick out like the proverbial sore thumb? If it is highly polished, start by scrubbing with a medium grade wire wool to dull the surface slightly. This also removes any protective lacquer which would obstruct the chemical tarnishing treatment (a blowtorch will also burn off lacquer and can produce some tarnishing). Now clean the metal thoroughly (ideally, with an acid solution) to remove greasy fingerprints etc. which would spoil the results. Rinse well and apply a cold patinating fluid such as Liberon's Tourmaline Brown. Do this with a brush, cotton wool or dip the object in a 10% solution until the desired colour is achieved. Rinse again and apply jade oil as a fixative. You can fine-tune the effect with further applications if required and by polishing the highlights with 0000 gauge wire wool.
Removing Stains from Wood
Out, out, damn spot!
I have always found water, rust and other penetrating stains
which are too deep to sand out a problem when refinishing slot machine
cabinets. Trying to hide stains by darkening everything to match is the
least satisfactory approach. The marks go even darker and the whole
piece is spoiled by the heavy overall colour.
Click here for detailed tutorials on the subject from Easy2.com.
Re-Keying a Lock
Don't drill it! Pick it!
Frequently, when you acquire an old slot machine, it's locked with the keys missing. Anxious to examine what you've really got, you reach for the power drill and start grinding away. Don't do it! You're destroying part of your valuable antique. Just be thankful it has a lock. If it's original, it's older than the machine and chances are it'll be hard to replace. Original locks are a first sign to discerning collectors that a machine hasn't been "got at" or "messed with". Drilling is the last resort. Be patient. If you don't have a skilled safe-breaker in the family, try your local locksmith. A good locksmith should have little problem picking the lock and cutting a new set of keys - all for less than the price of a new lock.
Metal Refinishing from Chrome Plate to Powder Coat
Thanks to Stuart Dale for alerting me to Caswell, an amazing New York electroplating hobbyist website supplying a wealth of information, equipment and supplies for metal refinishing. Professional re-polishing and electroplating is becoming increasingly expensive and involves an element of risk as you entrust your valuable and often irreplaceable machine components to another party. There is the potentially cheaper and more satisfying alternative of doing it yourself. That way the results are dependent upon your own skills and diligence. The tools and chemicals required for excellent results are obtainable at reasonable cost and electroplating is no more a black art than French polishing or photographic home processing.
Caswell provide many guides and learning aids including videos, an online electroplating manual (registration required) and an Introduction to Buffing and Polishing (also available as a Free PDF Booklet). They also supply powder coating paints and equipment and other useful restoration materials and techniques including a section on British Tools & Fasteners.
Cleaning and Polishing Tips
Don't use domestic spray polishes that contain solvents and silicone (most of them). Although they bring up a quick shine and repel dust, they don't protect the wood and the gradual build up of silicone will damage the finish. Do use a small quantity of good quality furniture wax (consisting of beeswax and carnauba) applied in the old fashioned way with a rag or brush. I prefer a hard paste to liquid waxes (which are more dilute) such as Harrells, as used by the National Trust or Mylands as used by the Queen! Allow it to dry before buffing up thoroughly with a clean cotton cloth. Use a soft shoe brush for moldings etc. A good patina is achieved by dusting regularly with a dry or slightly damp cloth, then polishing with some elbow grease, but you shouldn't need to apply wax more than once or twice a year.
Use a wood reviver to remove a build up of dry wax and dirt on a neglected, grubby and dry wood finish.
A touch of Autosol followed by a good rag polish brings chrome to a high shine. Take the glass out if possible to clean in warm soapy water - with a drop of vinegar, if necessary, to get the grime off. Use old newspaper to make it nice and shiny - it's the graphite in the print.
Ouch! My knob's stuck!
How to remove the ball off the end of the one arm bandit handle when it doesn't want to budge? The hard plastic ball (usually red or black) is attached to the steel chrome-plated arm via a thick thread, so in theory it can be removed simply by unscrewing the ball in an anti-clockwise direction. In practice, this may not be possible using hand grip alone - otherwise it would be stolen by the first trophy-hunting punter disgrunted by losing too much pocket money. Probably some glue was placed on the thread when it was assembled. The only reason for removing the ball would be to replace it in case of damage or in order to re-chrome the steel arm. If it's the former, breaking it with a mallet might do the trick. If it's the latter, I would suggest not removing it. The electroplaters should have no problem polishing and plating the arm with the ball in place. The stripping and plating chemicals shouldn't effect the plastic, but quiz the platers about this to make sure. Ask them to protect the ball if they intend to bead blast the metal.
If you do need to remove it - here are some techniques suggested by members of the Forum:
To get it off I actually tightened it up further - there was a slight budge by fractions tightening up, then it undid easily going the other way. It's anti-clockwise to remove; clockwise to tighten. You could try hand-hottish water to expand the plastic slightly. Soak the ball end in a sink bowl; dry quickly and give it a go before it cools. Maybe a bottle top/jam jar lid removing tool could help. Place a rag around the ball arm so you don't damage the surface; grip the ball; turn anti-clockwise. (Jam jar removers have two half ovals on either side which shape to fit any size of article you wish to turn). markymal
Try removing the arm assembly, and sticking it in the freezer over night then upend it in a saucepan of boiling water just so the ball is submerged. That might break the seal and get it turning. Badpenny
Another option is to turn the arm upside down and try and let some WD40 or other wonderous chemical (there's all sorts around - try an auto shop) seep into the joint. Coin-op
The handles on Segas have a bend in them. Put the handle in a 6 inch or bigger vice at the bend; get a bit of rubber matting; wrap around the knob; get hold of a car oil filter remover and bingo! It will come off or the knob will crack... simple! Bandit_Doctor
Remember:- if you do take the ball off, make sure you mask the thread before chromium plating or you'll never get it back on again!
Many may disagree with my method, and they may be right, but this definitely works. This guide refers to a Mills mech but holds true for most standard mechs using paper/card strips. It assumes there are old strips on the mech. If they are not, you will need to align the jackpot payout holes then load the strips to that position or use the strip align hole on the payout discs to set all three reels in the correct position.