Introduction: Pinball Machine

To begin the construction of your pinball machine, you will need the following materials:

2 3D printed button caps

1 LED Strip

Miscellaneous wood pieces varying in size

2 hinges

Screws of varying sizes



Launch mechanism (like from a toy gun)

Pressure sensors

6V power source

4.5V power source

(Optional) Pinball flipper shock absorbers

9" PVC Pipe

7.5" PVC Pipe

12+ rubber bands

At least 2 pinballs

soldering iron




Assorted Drill Bits

Circular saw bits

Band saw


LEDs (optional)

Noise maker (optional)

Step 1: Play Field and Circuitry "Box"

Screw 2 20" by 5.5" boards onto the top of the short edges of a 20" by 40" sheet of wood; after that, you will take trapezoidal "box" pieces (9.75" tall at one end, 6.25" tall at the other, 40" long) and screw them beneath the box along the long edge. Then, screw the long siding (5.5" by 40") between the other two siding boards along the 40" edges. From here on out, the area within the siding will be referred to as the play field, and the area underneath the play field will be the "box".

Step 2: Ball Return and Launch Lane

Now, you'll drill a hole with a circular drill bit in the bottom right of the front siding board. Then, you need to push every part of the launch mechanism except for the grip through the newly-made hole. Place the stopper around the launcher, that way it cant slide back out. After you've made sure the launcher works, you will need to make the launch lane. Take your 5.25" by 2.5" piece of wood and place it 2" away from the right siding, at the bottom near the stopper (if using a different launch measurement, adjust your own measurements accordingly). Then, you'll need to take your 27" by 2.5" piece of wood and place it along the same path as the other piece of the launch lane, but 1.5" further down the line. This will complete your launch lane. Now, you have to take your 17" by 2.5" wood piece and place it at a 97 degree angle from the left siding, placing one end at the end of the first piece of the launch lane, and the other end 7.5" down the left siding. This will create your ball return, and will also act as storage once the pinball machine is complete.

Step 3: Out Lanes

Now that the launch lane has been completed, you need to build the out lanes for the pinball machine. You will take your 6" by 2.5" piece and place it 1.5" away from the left siding, and 9.125" from the front siding. Then, take your other 6" by 2.5" piece of wood, and place it 1.625" away from the launch lane, and 9.125" from the front siding.

Step 4: Flippers

For your flippers, you will first want to sketch out whatever shape you want your flippers to be at a 1:1 scale. Then, you sketch that on the wood that you will be making your flippers out of, and cut out at least two flippers (you may want to make extras). Then, you will drill holes in the flippers just large enough for the metal dowels to fit through, then place the dowels inside (you shouldn't need to secure them, but if you do, wood glue should work well), Then, you will decide exactly where you want the flippers (if you are using a design similar to ours, you should place them 2" from the out lanes and about 10.125" from the front siding). Then, you will need to drill holes slightly larger than the metal dowels into the play field wherever you decided to put the flippers; you will insert the dowels into the holes, with the flippers on the play field. Then, you will take whatever wood you chose to use for the actual flipper mechanism (we used replicas of the actual flippers), drill a hole in each piece (the same size as you drilled in the actual flippers), and place them onto the dowels (you can use hot glue or wood glue to secure it better, if necessary). Make sure you position the flippers on top at whatever angle you want them to be at the end, and the pieces on the bottom pointed slightly towards the closest side wall. Drill a screw into the play field just behind the flippers, to stop them from going to far back. After that has been finished, you will drill a screw into the end of the flipper mechanism, and one a couple inches away, along a straight path continuing from the dowel, to the first screw, to the second screw. Stretch and place rubber bands between the two screws (two to three rubber bands at most, depending on the variety).

Step 5: Buttons

Before you begin the construction of the actual button mechanisms, you will need to place the 3D-printed button caps onto your 2 pieces of PVC Pipe (if you don't have access to a 3D printer, you can construct your own button caps from other materials). You can secure them with wood glue or hot glue. Then, you should drill a hole just larger than the PVC Pipe into the "box" siding beneath the play field, perpendicular to the wood for the flipper mechanism. Then, you should take two of the small pieces of wood, place them 1" away from the original holes, then drill another hole through those two, so that they keep the buttons on the same course. Slide the PVC Pipes into the holes (make sure the longer pipe goes to the area that requires the longer pipe, and vise versa), then drill a screw into the pipe so that it can't slide out any further than you want it to. Then, drill another screw into the ends of both pipes, and on top of the course-correction wood pieces. Stretch rubber bands between the two screws on both pipes (once again, no more than two to three). Now, test the flippers to make sure they work properly; when you press the buttons in, they should hit the flipper mechanism, causing the flippers on the top to turn. Then, when you let go, the flippers and buttons should be quickly drawn back to their previous positions, due to the rubber bands.

Step 6: Side Ramps

In order to lead the ball into the flippers, you need to make side ramps that the ball will slide down, leading directly into the flipper. Just take a rectangular piece of wood and cut out a curve, allowing the ball to roll into the flippers. (Ours were done using a 2" by 2" piece of wood).

Step 7: Obstacles

There are a number of obstacles you can design for your pinball machine: pits that the ball can fall into, forcing the player to get the pinball out of it themselves. You can create extra lanes with a "multiball" in an indentation, so that the first ball hits it and both come sliding out, or you can place sensors in the wall to make noise or light up when the ball hits them. You could even make a freestanding structure on one side with sensors in it. (No specifics will be provided for the obstacles we implemented.)

Step 8: Electronics

Drill out a hole and set the switch in the left of the front siding, so that the ends are inside the ball return box. Then set up a power source wired to it (we used a 6-volt system for ours). If you are using sensors to make noise, you can also set up whatever noisemakers you have inside the box. Then, drill a hole through the bottom of the ball return box, and put any wires going to the rest of the machine going through that hole. Have most or all of the wiring done out of sight, and all of it in places where it can't be hit by the pinballs. After you've done the rest of the electronics, attach the LED strip to the inside of the pinball machine's siding. Hook it up to a separate circuit of the switch, then hook up a power source (whatever comes with the strip works best), then test the strip (you can run its wires up the sides; they're organized enough that it shouldn't matter). Once all of the electronics have been tested, and they work, move on to the next step.

Step 9: Storage Cover

Place a large slab of wood over the ball-return box. Trace out the shape of the box, and then cut the cover out to those dimensions. Attach the cover to the box via a hinge, and then you have a complete storage area for your electronics and anything else you need to store with the pinball machine.

Step 10: (Optional) Legs

The legs are not necessary for the project; if you want, you can just place the machine on a table whenever you want to use it. However, if you do want to build legs for it, there is no set height for it. Just set the height for however tall the anticipated audience is, and make sure the top of the legs follow the slant of the play field.

Step 11: Complete Pinball Machine

Now you decorate your new pinball machine however you like, and then it is complete.