DIY Pinball Machine

Introduction: DIY Pinball Machine

Video of the (lower half of the) machine in action:

Looking to make something fun and usable? Want to impress millions of friends with your craftiness and woodworking skills? PERFECT! A pinball machine is right up your alley.

This Christmas my boyfriend decided it would be a great idea for us to make each other's Christmas gifts for each other. It seemed like a great idea until I realized that I'm completely useless when it comes to making usable things! So, my dad and I put our noggins together to come up with this home made pinball machine.

This was a trial and error type of process. We were constantly changing things around, but here are the things we settled on. Please comment with any questions or suggestions for improvement!

Step 1: Step One: Gather Your Materials

You will need the following:

Circular saw (best)//jig saw (okay)/hand saw (more time consuming)

(1) Melamine- 24"x48"x3/4"(Melamine is heavy and durable for the playing field)
(2) Primed MDF wood (or any other material)- 6 foot of 5&1/2" x 1/2" 
(1) Piece or scrap of light-weight composite decking or PVC garage door molding- 6" wide
(1) Lumber - 12" piece of 2"x3" cut into 4" lengths
(1) Nylon or wood molding- 4 foot piece at 1"x3/4"
(1) PVC Pipe- 2 foot section at 1&1/4" inside diameter cut long ways
(8) Angle corner braces- 2"
(6) L inside corner braces- 2"
(2) Flat aluminum rods- 1/8" thick x 1/2" wide x 36" long
(3) Rubber washers about 1" wide x 1/4" thick x 5/16th" inside diameter
(1) Rubber stopper- 1&1/16" x 7/8"
(20) Nylon washers- 1&1/2"
(8) Nylon washers- 1"
(4) Nylon machine screws- 1/4" x 1&1/2" - 20 threadcount
(6) Nylon spacers- 1"x1/2" outside diameter x 3/8" inside diameter
(6) Nylon nuts - 1/4" at 20 thread count
(4) Compression springs- size 23/32" x 3.5" x .041" (these sizes don't need to be exact)
(1) Carriage bolt- 5/16" x 8" 
(2) Threaded rods- 5/16" x 8"
(6) Nuts to match carriage bolts
(2) Threaded extensions- 3" long for 8" carriage bolts
(2) Couplings- 5/16" to join 8" carriage bolts and 3" threaded extensions
(3) All thread bolts- 3/8"
(6) Nuts to match 3/8" all thread bolts
(2) Carriage bolts- 3&1/2" x 3/8" 
(4) Nuts to match 3&1/2" x 3/8" carriage bolts
(4) Screw protectors for 3/8" bolts
Something to use as a ball- we used bouncy balls from a game but you should try different materials and see what works best for you.

Step 2: Step 2: Make and Secure the Frame

1. Cut MDF to fit around the outside edge of the melamine. This will the sides of the playing field.

2. Pre-drill holes for the braces. An old trick is using a finishing nail. Secure the MDF to the melamine using the 8 corner braces. Next, screw on the L shaped angle braces- 2 on every side.

3. Figure out what you want the top and bottom of the playing field to be- the bottom being where the player will stand. Measure 12" from the right corner and left corner towards the furthest end of the frame.

4. Screw the 2 pieces of 2"x3"x4" to the sides of the frame. These will hold the rods for the paddles.

5. Drill a 1/2" hole through the side and 2"x3"x4". **Make sure the drill is level and at a 90 degree angle to the sides.**

6. Push the 2 plastic spacers into each hole on both sides. You may have to hammer these in.

Step 3: Step 3: Create the Plunger

1. Drill a slightly larger 1/2" hole through the MDF and side. *Make sure the drill is level and at a 90 degree angle from the side.*

2. Push two 1" spaces into the hole.

3. Drill a small hole into the small end of the stopper. The hole should be smaller than the 5/16" carriage bolt.

4. Create the plunger using the diagram listed.

Step 4: Step 4: Creating and Attaching the Paddles

Creating the larger lower paddles:
1. Cut a triangle from the guidelines on the included photo. Remember to make holes slightly bigger than bolts to remove friction. The final triangle paddles should measure approx. 6" (side) x 6" (side) x 8" (diagonal).
2. Bend the 3" threaded extensions at a 90 degree angle so that it can be attached to both the paddle and to the side of the structure. Use a level to make sure that this is level. Helpful hint: put on the coupling nuts first on each side of the extension. Then put it in a vice and bend each side.
3. Follow the photo to attach the paddle to the play field.

Creating the smaller upper paddles (optional):
1. Cut down the 1" x 3/4" molding into two 4" pieces. Follow the guidelines in the photo to figure out where to drill the holes.

Connecting the paddles together (optional):
1. Cut the 36" aluminum rod in half into 2 equal 18" pieces.
2. Drill two holes that are slightly larger than 1/4", 1/4" from the end of both sides of each rod.
3. Drill 1/4" holes for the rod in each lower (larger) paddle, indicated by the photo.
4. Drill 1/4" holes in the upper (smaller) paddles, indicated in the photo.
5. Connect the rod between the small and large paddles as described in the photo.

Step 5: Step 5: Adding the Extras

After the basics, you're ready to start working on the good stuff! Like I said, much of our design was trial and error. 

Adding Springs
Springs are a great way to add some extra bounce to your playing field. We added some springs across the back of the field so that the ball would come back to the player faster. To do this, we simply attached two small hooks to the sides of the structure and stretched a spring across it. We also used a spring behind the paddles closest to the player. If the ball rolls back through the paddles with enough force, it will bounce back into the playing field! Experiment with the height of the springs. If it's too high or too low, it wont work correctly.

In addition, rubber bands can also work well. 

Adding Bumpers
After testing out a few different things, we settled on using Super Bouncy Balls from Five Below to act as bumpers. First we drilled 1/2" holes through the balls and into the melamine. Then we put a bolt through the ball and melamine and bolted it through using 3" carriage bolts. Remember to top them off with bolt protectors.

Adding Blockades
Another easy way to make the pinball machine more fun is by adding some wooden blocks to the playing field. These blocks can maneuver the balls different ways.

Jazzing It Up
One of the best ways to make your pinball machine unique is by adding your own art or giving it a nice ol' paint job. We used exterior glossy paint to give the machine a nice finish. I also added some art work to the top. My boyfriend is a big fan of Futurama, so I decided to go with that theme. Be careful about adding paint to the playing field since even the smallest imperfections can cause the ball to roll differently. Also, if you use melamine, do not use acrylic paint on it. It will peel right off. Outdoor paint works well.

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    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction



    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Right now its at my boyfriennds but I will most definitely ask him to make a video.