KnowledgeCornerstone » Ramblings from an educator and life-long learner

Pinball Machine Construction

Measurements are coming…

For those interested in how I constructed the pinball machines in my science class, this *will attempt* to explain how I made them.  I spend a lot of time messing around building things in my garage, and I often don’t use exact measurements.  This is what I “threw together” for these machines.   There are some great links I found listed at the end that I looked at as I was constructing these.  Starting with the final product:

This is actually smaller (and much more manageable) than the original ones I constructed for the students.  If I had to do it again, they would all be this size.  But feel free to adjust the size accordingly to fit your needs!

The first part was the four walls of the base.  These do not have to be cut on an angle, but I wanted this to look as close as possible to a real pinball machine.  I had my students research the angle of the machine.  There is some variance, so we decided on an angle of 7 degrees.  I have a miter saw that I was able to set on this angle, but the first time I did this by hand with a protractor.  (Side note: the miter I have is a 12 in…NOT slide…so I cut 1 side then flipped it and cut the other.  I should have just drawn it out and cut it with a hand held circle saw.)

These are the 4 sides and the support pieces for the top.

I am a huge fan of wood glue! Glued and screwed to the based walls.  I measured 1.5″ from the top to attach the support pieces.

I used 1.5″ screws to attach the 4 sides.  I did not glue them so they can be taken apart and stored flat.

The top is a piece of peg board.  Measure and cut AFTER you have assembled the base to make sure it fits.

For the flippers, I used a band saw to cut out the pieces.  My students did dome research and told me that they did find a place to buy flippers already made.  Next time…

I drilled holes in each flipper and attached a 2″ dowel with glue.  *Notice how everything is labeled right and left.  I was doing this as I went along but it helped when I disassembled the machine for transport, I was able to put it back together correctly!

This next part is for the flipper arm.  I laid everything out before gluing everything down.  I marked where the dowel for the flipper arm would go through and then was able to drill a hole from that.

This part is a little hard to explain.  This is what the flipper arm will PUSH to move the flipper.  It needed to have a hole to fit the dowel from the flipper.

A hole was drilled to fit in the dowel from the flipper.

Here is the whole flipper mechanism before being glued.  The flipper (with the dowel that is glued in) is coming up through the small wooden part.

Drill the hole for the flipper arm.

Start gluing.  The flipper arm needs something to stop it so I used some picture hangers that I found in a drawer.  My thought was that I could attach a screw to the flipper arm and it would stop at a certain point.  A picture explains this a bit further down.

Again, I wanted to be able to take this apart and remove the flippers (because I wanted the students to make their own flippers at some point).  I marked where the flippers should be positioned on the board with the holder on the underside.

I grilled a small hole to fit a screw to hold this together.  I had to carefully hold the flipper in the position it needed to be on the board.

I put it back on the board and put the screws in to secure the flippers.

These are the ends of the flipper arms.  I used some balls that I found at a craft store and drilled a hole to glue in a dowel.  Drilling into a ball is not as easy as it looks.  I found this clamp (that I have never used in my life) to hold the balls.

The last part of the machine was the launcher.  I came up with this after wandering around Home Depot for a while.  I used a long bolt and glued a chair end cap to the end of the bolt (using some super duty super glue).  I used simple wooden drawer knobs and found the round metal inserts that would allow me to screw the launcher bolt into place.

The last part was to glue the guide in place on the face of the pinball machine.  I cut a piece of plexiglass to hold the launcher down.  I could not find a spring that was 1) cheap enough for all of the students to have one and 2) that was strong enough.  One of my students used a spiral from a notebook and it worked perfectly!  We did have the conversation about the thickness of the metal spiral and the ability to launch.  Some springs work better than others.  (metal vs plastic and thickness)



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