Instructables
Picture of Tabletop Pinball
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This is a tabletop pinball machine made from all scrap wood and bits and pieces of things I've held onto just waiting for a project like this.

The ball is from an old computer mouse, with the rubber coating removed (you could use a marble as well). A crafty person should never throw perfectly good stuff in the trash. Just hang onto it, and eventually you'll find a new use for it down the road!

With some parental help, this can be a kid-friendly project. Building a solid table with a functioning paddle assembly requires some basic woodworking skills, and may be fairly difficult without proper guidance and appropriate tools. But once the paddle assemblies are in place, just about anyone can build ramps and jumps or anything else they can imagine for the upper part of the table. To me that's where the real fun lies--creating various obstacles and then seeing a ball bounce around all over and through them, somewhat under your power.

This is a great project for parents and kids to take on together!

Please check out the video at the end of the instructable to see it in action.
 
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Step 1: Table top

I have included measurements where I can. Most of this was made through trial and error, with lots of adjustments to make things work the way I wanted. If you plan to make one, depending on the materials you use, you may need to do a bit of measuring and tinkering to work out some of the details on your own.

This should be a helpful guide though, to show you how it can be done.

The table top is a piece of melamine which used to be part of a large router table top. It had numerous screw holes in it that I filled with putty. The dimensions are 36" by 20", not including the sides. The sides are 3/4" plywood that was ripped into 2 1/2-inch wide pieces.

The sides are attached to the piece of melamine with screws. To get a precise fit, it is very useful to use clamps to position the sides to the melamine, and then drill pilot holes into which you drive your screws.

A piece of two by four was screwed to the back to give the table its tilt.

Jack Moran4 months ago

That is awesome!

DIYDougS7 months ago

Great job! I love the plinko part!

Tobihedi8 months ago

I tried it it is awesome but the first 2times I did it I faild

How did you add the ball launcher?
Re-design1 year ago
Very nice!
I made it. just needs paint and graphics! The theme is horse racing and I am making it for my cousin who loves horses. There is a part where the ball gets trapped which I am calling THE STALLS
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IT WAS AMAZING ME AND MY BROTHER LOOOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
noob0062 years ago
is there still computer mouse with ball for sale? at a junkshop? at a second hand computer component store? a store of computer component?
seamster (author)  noob0062 years ago
I see them occasionally at the thrift stores I go to. There are some still out there.
Aron3132 years ago
I always wanted to make something like this!!
toysfortots2 years ago
Yeah it has four ramps, each one is a different point total. Highest points is the left eye of the skull. Everything is wood.
toysfortots2 years ago
Checkout this years pinball game!!!!!
2011 Pinball 2.jpg2011 Pinball.jpg
seamster (author)  toysfortots2 years ago
Holy cow, that looks awesome! I especially like the scoring trays. Very nice.
bwallen12 years ago
I am working on a machine design myself. I have several scoring holes worked into the design that lead to a completely hidden underlevel. It is inclined and has an "onramp" at the bottom that randomly puts the ball back into play behind either flipper.
toysfortots3 years ago
Hey great ideas!!!! I started my crew on new pinball games again this year so it looks like they will be as great as the pirate game from last year!!! Thanks again for the ideas!!!
I made one but I keep just adding and adding to it. Did you come up with the flipper mechanism?
seamster (author)  bobthebuilder7283 years ago
Yep. I just kind of tinkered around till I figured out something that worked.

So you made one? Want to share a photo? I'd love to see it!
tinker2343 years ago
wow hey could i add the bumber that lache the ball on contact i have a pinball machine alerday but yours is amazing
Graffix10g5 years ago
oh hey! put some holes in the floor that the ball can fall into! :D
seamster (author)  Graffix10g5 years ago
I considered that, but where do they go? Hmm... if I had some ramps up to a platform (or a "second floor" of sorts), the ball could fall through various holes in that and still be in play... I think we're on to something here!
I'm thinking a kind of trap door up the very back that goes to a second floor with less of an incline, but still one. Then the ramp goes to another trap door, coming up.

\
  -
    \
      \
-------
         []


\      = ramp
-     = trapdoor / second ramp
[]     = bumpers and stuff down the bottom
you could possibly use glass to see in the bottom with extra bumpers on the bottom floor.
When I say ramp I should actually be saying playing surface.
yeah! make it so the button makes to flippers move! naa but really i was thinking of trap holes so when it goes in, you lose. like there is a floor underneath and it falls to the bottom.
Foaly7 seamster5 years ago
I'd totally do that. Maybe a clear-plastic floor on each level, and dowels joining the many paddles together.
tinker2343 years ago
wow i have a commercial pinnable machine but yours looks funner and i dont have to go get a quater evry time i want to play
grimshade3 years ago
Do you know the ideal incline? The difference between the "Feet" on your design?
Appollo643 years ago
How did you make the bumpers? Great instructable!
I am using ply wood w/ sheet metal on top for my board, and great job man, this is really cool.
could you use plain old wood for the table top?
plain wood might not be smooth enough, but you could put contact paper or something over it to make it smooth
webwes3 years ago
your pinball machine rocks. I'm building one soon.
seamster (author)  webwes3 years ago
Sweet! When you get done, be sure to post a couple of pictures here. Or better, yet, take photos along the way, and do a full instructable. Good luck!
webwes seamster3 years ago
i'm sad.i don't have enough cash.
toysfortots3 years ago
Thanks for the ideas!!!!
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www.panhandleparade.com/index.php/mbb/article/inmates_rival_north_poles_toy_output/mbb7727367
W-O-W-!
seamster (author)  toysfortots3 years ago
Are you kidding me?! That is AWESOME!

Tell me you took photos throughout the build, please. You've got to put together an instructable, or at least a slide show with lots of detailed photos. This thing looks incredible.

I love the theme, and I'm dying to see a video of it in action!
Thanks it really is wild looking!!!!! Everything is made of wood except for the rubberbands we used. Wood carvings, air brushed back it was truely and adventure to build. As I said in an earlier post a TV news station came and did a video on the project. But no I do not have any video or photos of the steps. Under the situation these guys are in everything has to be approved. All I can share is the photos and video from the TV station.
seamster (author)  toysfortots3 years ago
Well, it's inspiring nonetheless! I appreciate the response, and taking your time to post the photos.

It makes me realize what a neat website this is whenever someone posts a photo of something they made that I helped inspire. This totally made my day!
jmhn3 years ago
How can you make a scoring system?
seamster (author)  jmhn3 years ago
I thought a lot about that, and aside from adding some electronics I'm not sure any suitable scoring systems is feasible.
im making this
skee ball3 years ago
thats so awesome!
wooooooooow thats awesome
Data6433 years ago
Could you show how you made the cardboard ramps; I'm having trouble with them?
DAV7063 years ago
can i do that improvement when the pinball machine is already old?
seamster (author)  DAV7063 years ago
Sometimes.
Data6434 years ago
This is so cool. I like how you can always change the parts around on the board.
Pe-ads4 years ago
Awesome, dude. I'm hoping to (eventually) make an Arduino-powered table, hopefully with a few twists on standard pinball tables. The Arduino would handle scoring, lights, sounds, et al.

However, I think I might make something similar to this before I embark on the Arduino project.

Thanks for the ideas,


Edward
super scout4 years ago
Make holes where the ball can drop onto a ramp underneath the board and make it come up somewhere else
qwafcfgfd4 years ago
this pin ball machine is awesome! I am totally building this! Thanks!
you should make a funnel. like have a ramp lead up to it and the ball spirals down
louwhopley4 years ago
 Looks awesome! Get an Arduino (arduino.cc) to add some lights and have noises played on impact. :)
MiKE.Bread4 years ago
 THIS IS SO AMAZING! I'm doing this ASAP! omgosh so cool. I know what your talking about too, i have so much random stuff laying around that i know i will use later so i don't throw it away haha. Kind of an issue though. :S
you could extend the launcher slightly further than the end of the table so that you can add a ramp chute type thing to reload it automatically also i see that on most pinball machines they have a thing so if you dont launch very hard the ball rolls back down and out through a downward aiming chute
new brainwave!
you could put all the "features" on a separate surface so you could remove a good setup and play a different level
also if you want to set up a new feature but it doesnt fit and you dont want to mess up your good current one
Maybe some old glass bottles to make different and spaced bumpers, would sound good too.
You could make a place where you can go down to a bottom level and somehow come back out.
 
Under_miner5 years ago
Dude thats the coolest thing i've seen on here
seamster (author)  Under_miner5 years ago
Thanks!  It was fun to make.
depotdevoid5 years ago
This is totally awesome, I've got to build one!  What a great idea, and it looks like I could build it almost entirely out of stuff I've already got lying around.
seamster (author)  depotdevoid5 years ago
Ah ha!  I think you've just issued yourself a challenge. 

I'm waiting to see what you come up with.... 
Okay seamster, it's not done yet, not by a long shot, but here's a little something I thought you might like: Cat Vs. Pinball

Enjoy!
soccer22915 years ago
I did a similar project in my tech class, Its fully run by a PLC, with 12 unique inputs and 8 unique outputs, a score board that counts up to 99 and a automatic launcher, pneumatic flippers, spinning objects, hidden switches and combos,.  Did i mention its all custom machined from scratch?

im posting the pictures and videos of it in 2 weeks. It also has a coin counter. It took 3 months of hard work
I forgot to mention that we, are using Light reflecting sensors, and induction sensors, so even if the ball gets near, it activates, it.

We were told by proffessors that it is a 3rd Year university project in grd 12
diato5565 years ago
very good ideas !!
I have build a copy of your flipper
Jo, from France
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seamster (author)  diato5565 years ago
Wow!  I see a lot of my ideas on your board.  Except yours if very refined and nicely finished, and you have an electronic scoreboard! 

It looks great.  Thank you for the photo!
thanks, seamster
I am a teacher in electronics and I'll discuss the operation with my students.
I have 3 gates on the pinball :
left : infrared gate (Led and photodiode) : add 5 points to score
middle : reel with magnetic switch : add 1 point per turn
right : electromechanical switch : add 10 points
a PIC microcontroller compute and display the score

salutations
Jo (not so good in english language)


this is amazing am building it at the moment with my dad
seamster (author)  cardboarddeathray5 years ago
I hope you guys have a ton of fun making one.  I'd love to see a photo of the finished product when you're done.  Good luck!
ghicken5 years ago
how long were the dowels you used to operate the flippers?
seamster (author)  ghicken5 years ago
They're about 8 or 9 inches.  They needed to be long enough to extend out of the table, but short enough to stop the forward motion of the flippers.  If you're making one of these, you'll probably need to just test fit and use the length that works for you. 
hmm. I was thinking you could add a score counter to your machine by using a pedometer. Simply put shock switches inside all the bumpers you want to give points for hitting and wire the to them to the shock switch inside the pedometer. (a shock switch is simply a momentary contact switch made of a metal peg surrounded by a metal spring)
killer07X5 years ago
What tape did you use for the flippers?
DarkSlicer5 years ago
How about the launching ramp sends the ball through a hole in the back wall, and in the back wall there are 3~4 holes, and behind the back wall there's that "Plinko" ramp, wich sends the ball to one random hole? Oh, and you could put a ramp to send the ball to that "Plinko" behind the back wall without atcually launching it!
*storm of ideas*
Passport5 years ago
Great job. It looks so simple but so well done. How much did it end up costing I'm thinking of making this. 5*
seamster (author)  Passport5 years ago
I spent about $10 on small stuff I didn't already have, like nuts, bolts and drawer pulls. The rest of the stuff was scrap stuff I had around. If you're a good scrounge, you could do this for pretty cheap. Good luck!
getthim5 years ago
how about cutting the top off of a coke or lemonade bottle you got a loop type thing
yoshi965 years ago
AWESOME
zero_zero5 years ago
Outstanding project. One idea to consider is using magnets for a trap or to hold extra balls. This guy has an interesting example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vFWbeoz0wk
finky5555 years ago
Does this make you the Pinball Wizard or what? You are that for sure. For your open space in the top left try a penalty ramp that leads either to the plinko board or flows back down a ramp aimed directly between the paddles. If you curve the floor of the ramp as the ball exits, that will give a bit of randomnous (spellcheckers says I made a new word) so that it may or may not be exactly center of the paddles.
daliad1005 years ago
An interesting idea could be a “ski-ball” or however it's spelt with a ramp which the ball can “jump” onto the target then where ever it lands in here it can roll down through a hole in the target.
app05 years ago
Super!Awesome!Cool! But add some electronic stuff like lights. Use an old MS-DOS PC(486DX2 works well) + LPT port as a controller. I can help you with programming for LPT using Turbo Pascal.And with creating circuitry too! Just mail me at NOSPAMvladkorotnev@mail.ruNOSPAM (don't forget to remove NOSPAM from the address)
Stew25 years ago
This is probably one of the wildest instructibles I have ever seen! :) As the other person said, steam punk it a bit and it would be absolutely incredible! Well done and kudos to you!
seamster (author)  Stew25 years ago
Thanks, I'm glad you like it! Yes, a steampunk version would just be awesome. I'm not a big steampunk fan, but I can see how really cool this particular contraption would be if it looked like a funky brass mess of tracks and ramps with all sorts of bells and whistles (literally!). Maybe I'll make a "Steampunk Pinball Table" if they ever have an appropriate contest for it. Or maybe I'll just make one anyway. Hmmm. The gears are turning...
alesteir5 years ago
One word: Fantastic!
MacLean5 years ago
Whats your high score?
Doveman5 years ago
Now just steampunk this and this will be absolutely incredible!
tornadoboy5 years ago
Oh and awesome job by the way!
tornadoboy5 years ago
If you want lights, sounds and maybe some triggered mechanisms try adding an Arduino board (www.arduino.cc), they're cheap ($30), extremely flexible and easy to program.
toafer995 years ago
veary clever
Its weak man there needs to be lights and other sounds and stuffs. That would make it so much better
seamster (author)  unbentcrayfish5 years ago
I disagree. I think the whole novelty of the thing is that there ARE NO annoying lights or sounds. It's personal taste of course (note the number of people suggesting LEDs and such), but the primitive nature of it is what I find appealing. (And don't we already have an overabundance of lights and sounds in our lives?!)
If you were inclined to make some more noise makers in it, maybe some along the lines of bells and small drums would be the way to go IMHO. A small drum for the ball to hit after the spinner ramp would be neat. Great work.
seamster (author)  carpespasm5 years ago
Hey now, I like those ideas. Thanks!
and adding leds isn't hard
adding LEDs wouldnt be hard, but it would ruin what this seems to be about.
vaxjo5 years ago
I really like this project and don't think you should bow to the public's insistence that you add electricity. Though more wooden, re-used "noise-makers" would accentuate the piece. I've also never cared about scoring "points" so the absence of a scoring system is just fine. What I would like to see is more state-changing devices: flip-flops that toggle when the ball rolls through them; walls that fold up or down when the ball passes over them; a ball-catcher that only releases the ball when a subsequent one triggers it; etc. Your design lends itself to infinite and unending modification. It'll probably look pretty crazy in a few months if you keep modding it. As a child I took a summer class, the over-arching theme of which I've long since forgotten (had to do with simple engineering, though), in which we made (among other things) a pinball table very similar to what you've done here (ours was all corrugated cardboard, paper and wood glue - we were a little too young to be trusted with power tools). With more time and space I would enjoy building something like this. (I do have a new niece. Maybe she would like a nice toddler-friendly, wooden pinball game in a couple years?)
seamster (author)  vaxjo5 years ago
Thanks for the comment. I haven't worked on it much since posting this, but you're thinking along the same lines as I have been. I like the idea of having multi-functioning obstacles that work differently each time, and ones that make the ball perform differently depending on velocity. This thing's been pretty engaging and fun--in a basic, hot glue and cardboard sort of way.
Honus5 years ago
Awesome -my kids would love this!
hiddentass5 years ago
Great Instructable. When I saw it, my first thought was if you built the table out of a sheet of steel you could have a box of pieces each with a magnet in the base to allow for free-form design and play testing. I like it simple without the lights and sounds, but modular pieces could be designed to be hooked together for beeping and flashing value. Again, great job. I'm building one of these as soon as my kid is old enough to understand how to play.
travis7s5 years ago
The is pretty neat, the ramps are very slick. Nice work. I've been slowly accumulating parts for a full size custom machine, if by some stroke of luck I win the Epilog I think I can make it a reality. I can see the appeal of the 'primitive' approach but for me the excessive lights and sound is what I remember most when I was a little kid. Now I can't even find a working public machine hardly anymore. :(
seamster (author)  travis7s5 years ago
I hope you win the laser cutter. Your nerf tank is cool on so many levels! I secretly avoid getting into lights and sounds and stuff partly because it costs money, but mainly because electronics scare the hell out of me. (But there's so much information available now on how to do things, I probably can't use that as an excuse anymore!)
Adding electronics is addicting, it starts with something simple like LEDs and next thing you know you have no life. ;) Playing with low voltages is pretty simple and safe though, if you have any questions I can try and help.
seamster (author)  travis7s5 years ago
Sweet. I'll keep an eye out for more stuff from you up on this site.
this is really neat. I made a pinball machine for my science project using Solenoid to activate the flippers. We mounted buttons on the side and it was really neat. I got a A+ on it.
seamster (author)  Fullmetalfreak5 years ago
Cool!
This is AMAZING. I feel bad not voting for it. :(
John Smith5 years ago
Awesome.
json127955 years ago
this is by far a favorite for me!

it is for three reasons

1. it can be modified for whatever i want.
2. its fun to build as well as play with.
3. everyone around me has fun with it.
capricorn5 years ago
The amount of awesomeness this 'Ible gives away is too much for words. I did build those flippers when i was a child, but never understood how to make the flippers (I used a little wood pice in my hand and went "arkanoid" on the ball). You simply rock mate :)
seamster (author)  capricorn5 years ago
Wow, thanks for the compliments! I always tried to make stuff like this as a kid, and things never seemed to work the way I imagined. Now that I'm a 30 year-old kid with a little more patience and experience, I can sometimes hack together all the stuff I imagine!
this is so awesome do you have any ideas on makeing one without any powertools besides a drill
seamster (author)  imthatguy11255 years ago
Unfortunately, I think you'll need more tools that just a drill--unless you're a really good scrounger/repurposer. If you keep your eyes open, you may be able to find things that will get the job done for you.
you could hack one of those cheap pinball machines with the metal rings and springs and use them for electronic scoring
altoids325 years ago
here's a thought, connect LEDs to all of the obstacles, when you hit/go through/rollover one of them, the LED lights up. Light them all up to win. Would this work? please tell me.
MegaMaker5 years ago
SO cool! I need to make one... with LEDs.
altoids325 years ago
I agree that this is awesome, great work man. however, i believe electronic scoring would make it much more fun, (and a little more competitive) and would be totally do-able. Maybe that's just me being new fashioned.
nickels5 years ago
This is fantastic!

My recommendations for v2:

1. Taller walls with a cover made of plastic to keep the ball from flying off the table. Cut the plastic and place it so that when the ball drains you can pick it up and put it in the ball launcher. It would attach to the interior wall and only cover from the top of the table to the bottom of the flippers.

2. Original artwork on the melamine board. The alternate is to find a great piece of art, do an over sized printout of it, laminate it, and glue it to the board. If your creative this art could be the table theme. Add bumpers and ramps so they flow with the artwork.

3. More obstacles made from everyday items.

4. Scoring mechanisms.

5. LED lights. What's a pinball table without some annoying flashing lights all over the place?

6. Sound effects on bumpers or ramps. I don't know anything about this but something tells me this site has instructions on how to do it.

Great job, I wish I had time to give this one a try. Very cool!
reywolf5 years ago
next step: add electronic scoring. just a few sensors maybe one of those walking pedometers
baileygrib5 years ago
EVERYBODY NEEDS TO VOTE FOR THIS INSTRUCTABLE!!!!!!!!!!!! I KNOW I DID!!
kdelwat5 years ago
AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! does the ball ever actually complete the loop
seamster (author)  kdelwat5 years ago
Yes, but not always. I'm going to rebuild the upper portion of the table soon, and make a better "playground."
shabagana5 years ago
that thing is awesome!! I wish I had the time to make it
reubyjay5 years ago
this thing rocks
robo_bob5 years ago
awesome
insomartin5 years ago
i never seen anything like it. thanks!
thorgin5 years ago
you just gave me a new goal in life!
Emsaid5 years ago
Wow how long did this take, its cool!
seamster (author)  Emsaid5 years ago
Thanks! I worked on it pretty solid for a couple of days.
seamster (author)  seamster5 years ago
Well, actually I did it mostly in one afternoon and evening. I sat and thought about it for quite a while before I started though.
ERCCRE1235 years ago
based on the video, i would think tha the table is at a too high of an angle
seamster (author)  ERCCRE1235 years ago
It probably is. (I didn't do any pinball research prior to building. I just kind of made it up as I went.)
snarfnugget5 years ago
AWESOME!!! I'd love to make one, but I dont have the patience.
Very nice. Lights and sounds or artwork would definitely spice it up, but its cool to see the base product first. And I commend you for not playing "Pinball Wizard" in the background of your video.
What are you talking about, Pinball Wizard is awesome!
Why would you commend Seamster for not playing "Pinball Wizard" in the video? That would have been a much welcomed addition to the video!
Ahh but cliche beyond belief. As great a song as it is though, I've had it stuck in my head for the past week...if this vid had had it, the song would never leave :-P
i love this idea! great work..
lemonie5 years ago
Yea! What are your thought for the final finish / artwork? L
seamster (author)  lemonie5 years ago
I hadn't given much thought to any artwork yet. It is kind of plain isn't it? Before I do any finishing work, I think I'm going to have to make the back and side walls much taller, and add more intricate loops and ramps and such. The paddle mechanism was the main thing I wanted people to see at this point. The paddles work much better than I had hoped!
Yeah the paddles do give you the 'whack' you need, it shows. L
Sandisk1duo5 years ago
cool! what about the score counting electronics?
seamster (author)  Sandisk1duo5 years ago
I wondered about scoring, but concluded that it really doesn't matter. I just try to keep the ball on the table!
lieuwe seamster5 years ago
electronic scoring is quite easy to achieve, you need some old cassete player, one which has a counter thingey on it, and remove the counter thingey, then using some wire/tape/whatever make it so that when the ball hits something it makes a contact which spins a fast motor which spin the counter thingey, man, i have this all planed out in my head, i wish i was skillful enough to build this :P
NachoMahma5 years ago
. Great job! . Looks like you need to find a way to anchor it to the table a little better for those power shots. ;)
seamster (author)  NachoMahma5 years ago
Thank you. (I do need to back off of those power shots a little!) I was surprised by how much velocity I could get out of those little paddles. I should make a much bigger table. There's potential for a lot of hours tinkering and playing around with this thing!
noah1r5 years ago
I like it it looks like fun I will have to try to make one. =)
rimar20005 years ago
Very good work. The "real" game machines are beyond compare better than the electronic or computarized. (It is my feeling).