Introduction: LED Pinball Coffee Table

About: I like making things out of items that would have otherwise been discarded. Check out my other projects!
There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden (as all good stories start) I found an old pinball machine at the dump.  I promptly took it home and has help putting it in the house where it sat in my living room long enough to put rust stains on the carpeting where the metal feet sat.

It wasn't complete enough to make it work without spending a lot of time and money on it.  I live too far away from a market to sell it as-is.  And honestly, the wife didn't seem too keen on starting a game parlor with our limited space.

So I decided to make a coffee table out of the main playing surface.

(Please add a link to if you mention this project someplace other than Instructables.)

Step 1: Tools and Materials

This will largely depend on what you have available...
  • a pinball machine
  • lumber
  • plywood
  • screws
  • staples
  • hot glue
  • tempered glass
  • aluminum stock
  • wood glue
  • a few strings of LED Christmas lights
Some suggested tools...
  • screwdrivers
  • drill and bits
  • pencil
  • tape measure
  • glue gun
  • staple gun
  • small nailgun
  • belt sander
  • miter saw
  • table saw
  • bench grinder
  • reciprocating saw
  • pliers
  • wire cutters
  • bolt cutters

Step 2: Disassemble the Pinball Machine

Once you have a derelict pinball machine the hard part is over.  Now start taking the thing apart.

NOTE:Vintage pinball machines are collectors items.  Make an effort to get parts into the hands of people working to restore these collectible machines.  You won't be using all of the parts in this project so save the rest and don't send them to the dump!  (Note that this machine was salvaged from the dump before you blast me for cannibalizing it in this way.)

Now you need to have the thing sit around your house long enough that your wife wants it gone so bad that she'll even help with the monotonous disassembly.  That worked for me!

Remove the scoreboard area, the legs, and then get to removing the guts - well, most of them.  You'll want to leave in the flippers, and any other items that project onto the play surface.  If the mechanical system extends too far below the play surface you might want to fake it by cutting off a part and reattaching it later.

Step 3: Replace Lights With LEDs

I carefully went through the machine and replaced with LEDs where there had been incandescent light bulbs. 

First you need to remove the plastic ends put on the light strings to make them "icicle-like."  I found that some came  off easily with just a twist of my fingers.  Others needed pliers to pe worked loose and some needed to be clipped off with wire cutters.

I then used a combination of staples and hot glue to affix the lights to the back side of the board.  Be extremely careful not to pierce the insulation of the wires when using the stapler.  I used the stapler mostly to position the lights that penetrated through the play board.  I used the glue-gun to position the ones that needed to be glued in place against the transparent plastic indicators.

Step 4: Build a Frame for the Table

I had two dimensions i had to work around - the size of the pinball play field and the size of the tempered glass that i had on hand.  You might live somewhere that you can just order a piece of glass to fit the same size as your machine.  Or you might have the glass from the machine you're working with.  I had to use two pieces that i had kicking around though.  And i don't have the tools to cut tempered glass.  (And will not ever I suspect.)

So your assembly here will probably be a lot easier than this.  I'll skip the carpentry details and let the photos do the talking.

I used yellow cedar for the frame.  I notched out a groove for plywood on the bottom side for rigidity.  I used stainless steel screws that were countersunk in the wood for the frame corners.  And i used some strips to support the sides of the glass just above the play field.

Step 5: Add Legs

I have a problem figuring out the legs for the tables i want to build.  But i had some aluminum rectangular stock  kicking around that i decided would do the trick.

I drilled pilot holes and then used screws to attach the legs to the frame on the inside.  By using rough-cut lumber i had almost a full 2 inches of thickness to work with on the leg attachement points.

Step 6: Enjoy It!

...Now to put an electric outlet in the middle of the floor of the living room so that extension cords are not necessary.
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