Things I learned this week - archive 2005 - 2006

The archive of funny stories, things people (and I) learned, events and accidents that happened..

Here are the latest things learned.

2006-12-15: Clip the leads short enough. by Mark Sunnucks
Fixed up the rectifier board in my old Stern machine, installed new bridge rectifiers as the old ones were toasted. Don't know how, but I missed clipping the excess lead on one of the legs of BR1.
Fitted it all back together. Of course BR1 was shorted right to ground and blew a few too many volts to the MPU. I learned to solder small things on the MPU board that night!

2006-12-01: Don't drop the glass. by Alex Allen
Yesterday I was touching up a spot on my Gorgar backglass when it slipped from my grasp.
In slow motion the backglass hit the concrete floor of may garage and exploded into a million colorful little pieces.
I think I am going to save some of the pieces, mount them to a piece of plexiglass, backlight it and hang it on my wall as a reminder of my stupidity.

2006-11-15: Don't use Goof Off. by Steve Schukei
There are eight playfield like plastic inserts in the backbox of an Apollo 13, right under the translight. I stupidly used goof off on one of those inserts and the goog off dulled and fogged the plastic.
Luckily I could restore the shine by sanding off the damaged part of the insert and polish it to restore the shine (using 1000, 1500, and 2000 grade sand paper and finishing with Novus 2 and 3).

2006-11-01: Snow Queen, nice outside but rotten inside. by R.P.
I was already looking for a long time for a Gottlieb Snow Queen in good condition, finally I placed a WTB ad.
A day later already I was contacted by a pinball dealer who wanted to sell that machine out of his own collection. The dealer is quite known in the Netherlands as has his own 'pinball shop'.
He confirmed the game was in very nice condition, but it just didn't play. So I thought it would be ok.
When I went to the east of the country to pick up the game it did look very good from the outside. Nice backglass, nice playfield.. When I looked through the open part of the cabinet where the head connects, I saw some loose wires. The seller told me that was because someone had troubleshooted the game and therefor loosened a few wires to see where they were going to.. but it wasn't any problem, all wires were in place, just loose in the wire loom, all it needed were some wire straps to get it all nice again.
I specifically asked if there was messed with the wiring and if I could trust it and he answered the wiring was ok.
I still regret I didn't remove the playfield glass to look underneath the playfield, because if I had I would never have bought that game.
When I came home I did.. and found an unpleasant surprise !
The wiring loom was cut in several places, soldered badly, had electrical tape wrapped around it, and the complete wire loom was just loose at the bottom of the cabinet.
At one place the wiring is completely cut and there's some weird modern relais in between. The whole reset circuit, tilt circuit and free game knocker had been removed too.
So I have a Snow Queen that's nice outside but rotten inside..
I immediately phoned the pinball dealer that I wanted to return the machine as he completely misrepresented it and lied when I asked questions, but he didn't want to.. I should solve the wiring problem myself.
So be warned.. always inspect a game under the playfield too before buying and don't buy machines from a certain pinball store..

2006-10-15: Look where you stick your hands by Buzzman
I was removing the lower coin door from an old Robotron cabinet that someone had unsuccessfully tried to remove from the outside with a crowbar. I'm always leary of spiders in this situation.
I was in a hurry and needed to get that one last bolt undone so I stuck my hand under the wooden coin housing and loosened the last bolt. Sucessfully removed the coin door without much incident. When I went around to the front of the cabinet and peeked inside (it was missing the coin hopper).
There was this huge poisonous Brown Recluse spider tucked up in one of the corners (alive). It was about the size of a 50 cent piece with legs and all (one of the biggest I've seen).
Luckily, it didn't bite me. From now on, I'll start using a mirror to see where I'm sticking my hands!

2006-10-01: Watch out with spring steel by Julian H.
Just had a lucky escape I feel I should share...
I was in the process of replacing a ramp flap for my DM, and found a small (5cm x 70cm ish) new roll of steel I'd ordered and not yet used. It was secured with a small cable tie to keep it in a roll. So, held it with one hand and snipped the tie with the other band. Bang - the roll unravelled with such force it came out of my grip and jumped about 2 foot in the air. I was lucky my head was not in the way. I remember another group member saying that this stuff was so dangerous that they wouldn't use it any more, and taking about cuts to the bone. He was right, and I should have paid more attention. Be careful...

2006-09-15: Keep your games locked
Got a service call for an NBAFB. Apparently since there was not a working lock on the coin door, the customer's 5-year old figured out how to release the lockdown bar and slide the glass out just enough...
To throw HANDFULLS of glass marbles into the playfield!!!
> > Then he played a game or two. I would have loved to see it in action! The ball trough was totally full! The funny part is that last time I was at the house, I suggested they have me put a lock on the game. They didn't think it was necessary.
About $300 later, and everything is all good again. I sold him a nice new lock too!
If you have kids... keep the games LOCKED. On second thought, leave them open. I can always use the business! :)

2006-09-01: tarps are not waterproof by Tim.
Just a warning to all out there who have things covered up with the protection of tarps: USE SOMETHING ELSE!!!
I know and have known that tarps are not waterproof, no matter how many times it's written on the package. But, I was stupid...
...about 2 years ago, I built this makeshift area for games. I put two layers of old 3/4" plywood down on the ground, with thick black plastic in between each layer and running up the inside of this area.
Then, I wrapped the entire outside of it in a tarp, I wrapped the door separately. But, I don't trust tarps, so used two of them.
I have had no problems, I wanted to believe that it was because of the two layers of tarp.
I just should of known it was too good to last. Today I went out there and what did my wondering eyes should see, but a whole bunch of wet stuff, DAMNIT!!!!
The moral of the story is; I'm just stupid, don't be like me.
Same kind of story by Rob C.
I was trying to do some cabinet carpentry on a Chiller I had (the bottom was trashed). Well, suddenly black clouds started forming overhead and I knew it was going to rain. Threw a tarp over the game (which was on its side on sawhorses) and staked the tarp down.
The next day after the rain let up, I pulled the tarp off to find that the rain soaked right through it. So, i ended up parting out a Chiller.

2006-08-15: You always have your best/longest game at the worst possible time by Kim M.
I got tired of watching my hot tub slowly fill up with water today. Figured I'd knock out a game on my STTNG while I was waiting.
I'll not humble myself any further. You know the rest of the story.

2006-08-01: Don't Novus everything by Rick S.
Just discovered what Novus is NOT good for... Gottlieb pop bumper caps. It dissolved the ink in like 15 microseconds. Damn!

2006-07-15: Learn to hide your pinball machines
A friend of us still lives with his parents and is limited in the amount of pinball machines he can own. But what does he do if he find the game he really wants (Haunted House) ? He buys it. As he didn't find an external storage are, he hid it in the house.. In a back corner of the attic, camouflaged using cardboard boxes.
Picture here and here with camouflage.

2006-07-01: Use correct light bulbs. by Pascal VW
When I shopped my Indiana Jones pinball it needed a lot of attention. I replaced all lights underneath the Path of Adventure mini playfield. Shop job ready, everything looked nice, except for some light bulbs that were too dim.
Measuring voltages, looking for burnt connectors, and other troubleshooting things... to find out in the end I used incorrect light bulbs, they were 12 volts instead of 6.3 !
Pinball machine only use 6.3 volts light bulbs, while arcade games use 12 volt bulbs. There are some exceptions, like the topper of Whitewater that uses 12 volt bulbs..

2006-06-15: Don't break the glass.
I was replacing the pinballs in my Medieval Madness.. took out the playfield glass, set it down too hard on the floor and it shattered into a million pieces ! It was all over the gameroom, unbelievable how far those glass pieces go.
It wasn't the first time this happened to me. Previous time was when I was repairing a pinball machine for an operator in a bar. Not just any bar, but a 'special' one where men hang out.. I couldn't leave the machine without a glass and had to wait more than an hour before my wife showed up with a replacement glass. You don't want to know what I heard that hour.. I know most men there were joking, but when my wife arrived with the glass someone said 'you're too late, he's one of us now..
The repairman of an operator we know even managed to break 6 playfield glasses in a few months time, including some expensive Pinball 2000 glasses !

2006-06-01: Use a hairdryer, not a heat gun.
Again an example that I know well what I should not do or use, but if it's within reach.... Someone wanted playfields inserts from a game I had parted. I know how to remove playfield inserts: heat them with a hairdryer from the bottom of the playfield and when the glue is soft then use a hammer and a piece of wood to get them out. Use a hairdryer and not a heat gun or paint stripper because they are too hot. I read it before and even wrote it myself in my newbie pages.
But what did I do when the inserts were still stuck even after I heated them for several minutes ? I was doing this in my basement and the paint stripper was within reach.. surely it couldn't do anything wrong if I only used it for a very short time, would it ?
Sure it would, the inserts immediately became dull and started to deform very very fast.. Luckily it was a general type of insert so I could remove another (this time using the hair dryer and lots of patience) to help the person who needed them..

2006-05-15: Don't test a new product on your most expensive game
Touch-up paint pens exist to hide small scratches on cars. Clearcoat is also available in this type of pen.
I was shopping my Medieval Madness and thought it would be a good idea to protect the bare worn wood of the Merlin scoop using such type of pen.
Unfortunately either the layer of clear I put on was too thick, or this type of clearcoat cannot take the abuse the Merlin scoop has.
Result: it wears and there's a powder residue all over my playfield.. Always test unknown products first on an old, worn or cheap game first !

2006-05-01: Check what transistors are in use.
I once bought a game with a broken fliptronics board, the previous owner had removed the transistor from one of the upper flippers. No problem I thought, until I buy the correct transistors I just swap this board with a game that has no upper flippers, and everything is fine..
Most games don't use every transistor on their boards, so you can remove them when you urgently need one for a repair and don't have spare parts.
So I put the bad board in my Bram Stokers Dracula pinball machine. After a few days of playing I noticed that I seemed to get mist multiball quite a lot. Actually, even when I didn't hit the ball, I could shake the ball loose when it arrived on the left site of the playfield.
Wait, that's not correct, is it ? Finally I noticed the left gate didn't raise anymore. Time to take out the manual.. and yes, this gate is powered by the fliptronics board as if it were a flipper.. Duh !
So always check the schematics/manual to see a specific transistor really is unused.

2006-04-15: Hope it stays fixed for long By TwoPlays
So, with all the talk about ToTan plastics, I decided to play a few games on my ToTan. Looking through the cash box I find the broken piece from the right inlane :-)
Ok. Let's glue it. Perfect ! Clean the surface. Check. Dude it's perfect ! March around gameroom with joy and anticipation. Check.
Plastic gets installed.
Fire up game, first ball gets served through the skill shot, down the ramp it comes and.... CRACK !!!! Oh man, not again.
Son of a$*%$%$%*$* !!!! Ball snaps it first shot.

2006-04-01: Measure the height of your game/truck
Not pinball but arcade related. I got an Exhaust Note, this is a large 2 seater arcade racing game. Brought it home with a large rental truck. However we didn't have room in our house yet, and we had to get the truck back in time, so we decided to put the game in our storage area. A neighbor also has a van which I could borrow, so I was going to use that later to bring it from our storage area to our house.
A few days later I'm ready to pick up the game with this van. I had already removed the monitors to make the cabinet less heavy. Lifted one side of the game on edge of the the truck, went over to the other side to lift that side and push it in... and then we noticed the game would not fit ! The van was not high enough, it was just an inch lower than the game. In the end I did get the game home though. The cabinet had quite good wheels under it, so I pushed it to my house, about 2 miles further. Took me more than an hour and I got some weird looks as I had to cross a few busy roads.
Something similar: know the height of your truck when driving a rental van underneath a bridge !

2006-03-15: Turn the game off. By Levi
So I decided to change a few lightbulbs on my new TAF. Didn't bother turning the game off- after all, it's easy to see which lights don't work! Changed from under the playfield, cause it's so much easier than changing from the top.
Put the game back together, lights all work. Unfortunately a whole switch row is grounded. Long story short, after disconnecting every switch I realized I should check Clay's guide. Seems sometimes lazy ops work on the game when it's on and short things out. Swapped CPU with DrWho, it works!
Long story short- don't fry your boards!!! Don't be stupid!!! Turn off the game.
An operator I know did something similar, he wanted to adjust a switch on his Medieval Madness using a long screwdriver while the game was on..

2006-03-01: Keep your pants in one piece. By DefJam
I just picked up a 1st run, HUO TSPP. The steps to my basement present an interesting challenge... you see you go through the doorway immediately down a step, turn 90 degrees and straight down to the basement.
So we develop the "Spin the Pin" method. Basically we decide to move the pin through the doorway backbox first and spin it while we are moving it so the back box is facing down stairwell... This is working pretty good... we are about halfway through the doorway and spun, I'm down the stairwell holding the weight of the pin... my buddy somehow manages to slide through the doorway to get behind it, squats to get some leverage so he can help lower it the one step and Rrrrrrip! Tears his pants right down his backside. The sound was very loud. Too funny.
Rest of the move goes well, got the cart on it, straight shot down the steps. Drink beer, play pin.

2006-02-15: Take all costs into account when buying a pin.
A friend of us often find good deals on pins. However if you take into account he spends almost all of his free time driving hundreds of kilometers to pick up a pin and pays a lot in storage costs for all his 'projects', the real cost probably shows they're not a bargain anymore..after a few years they should be made out of gold considering the storage costs he paid.
I once bought a cheap Fathom pin, to have spare parts for the one I was busy fixing up. Came home and noticed we forgot to take the legs. A few weeks later we were again in the area where this operator lives, so we passed by to pick up the legs. On our way back to the highway we got a speeding ticket.
The speeding ticket cost us more than we paid for the whole game, that set of legs were the most expensive I ever bought..

2006-02-01: Remember where you put your tools. submitted by Mike S.
Ever lose a tool only to find it laying in the bottom of one of your games???
I found my tack hammer last night laying in the bottom of my WWind cabinet after I peered inside to adjust the volume for the game after it had gone missing for about a month. Sorry I yelled at my kids for using and losing one of my tools, next time I'll check the cabinets one last time! :-)
This isn't the first time this has happened BTW...they say the mind is the second thing to go...
...can't remember what the first thing is. :-o

2006-01-15: Do not polish with a dremel ! submitted by Virt
My CV translite has dark tracks where the 'cannon ball' gets show towards the bell.
So tonight I dissembled the backbox, got out the Novus #2 and #1, and started to hand polish it out. There was one area I couldn't seem to get clear. So I fired up the Dremel, with a soft polishing pad, and put some Novus #2 on it.
With less than a second, the polishing pad had eaten into the translite, and I had converted my small dark track into a larger opaque area.Feel free to mock me now :-\

2006-01-01: Don't try to lower an agreed price
Happy New Year ! An operator we know buys and sells a lot of pins. It's no secret he's into pins to make money off them. He buys lots of pins and parts, sells whats useable and just burns the most rotten parts in his garden.
One day someone came to pick up a pin (which could only be parted), just when he was busy burning some rotten cabinets of games he parted himself.
The buyer complained about the agreed price and tried to renegotiate it.. Operator didn't like it, a deal is a deal and those projects are not worth his time or worth fighting/discussing.. he said he'd rather just throw the pin the guy came for also on the fire.. and so he did in front of the buyer !

pinball machine on fire

2005-12-15: Secure pins when you move them
A friend and I were moving pins, each drove a van in which 4 pins could go, still on their legs. There was no time to take the legs off, and with 4 pins the van was full, they had no room to move so we hadn't tied any pin down. Last batch we had to get that day, 4 pins in my van, but only 3 in his..
It was already dark, we drove quite fast, suddenly I see the road has a speed bump. At 90 km/h I hit the brakes and go over it at about 50.. he's driving very close behind me and has to brake even harder.
We arrive at our destination and unload my van. We then eat something and suddenly talk about the trip and how we drove.. friend says it almost sounded as if a pinball machine had fallen down but he had looked behind him and didn't see anything wrong. I ask him if he's sure..
We go to the van, fearing the worst, and horror: a pinball machine did fall down and lays on its side ! We careful put it back on its legs, unload it, test it.. A miracle: nothing is wrong with it, nothing is broken, everything still works ! Hat off to Williams for making strong pins.

2005-12-01: Remember where you unplug connectors
Same pinball show, a pinball 2000 machine suddenly had reset problems. A friend of mine removed the computer in the head. Careful brushed all dirt off, as he suspected this was the cause of the problem. Put the computer back inside the pin and started to plug in things. Had one connector left and didn't know where it came from, 3 positions were possible. He didn't dare to rely on luck so the game stayed off until it was back at the warehouse where it could be compared to another machine to see how everything needed to be plugged in..

2005-11-15: Secure pcbs in the backbox
At a pinball show an operator I know had some WPC pins for sale. One of the games didn't have all its stand-offs in the backbox anymore on which the pcb's are secured. The power driver board was only on standoffs at the top side of the board. Someone wanted to check something inside the head, touched the board, this moved back and touched against the metal ground plate inside WPC heads.
Poof, a spark, and the game went dead. Probably the main fuse had blown, so nothing unrepairable, but the game wasn't for sale anymore for the rest of the show..

2005-11-01: DO NOT move a game with the playfield Up. submitted by Brian.
Just did this about 20mins ago. Wanted to move a pin a little bit so I could better work on it. Big gash in my head. Bleeding has stopped but I feel a headache coming on..

2005-10-15: Do NOT use contact cleaner ! submitted by Ron.
This is an email I received recently:
Hi Ron. I have a 1974 Williams Star Pool machine. We started to play a game and the machine would not accept multiple players. My uncle who is into pinball machines opened the machine up and took a look . He attempted to clean up what he thought was the main relay with a contact cleaning solution and the contacts and the whole rear of the game went poof. Looking for an estimate of what the repair costs may be.
What do we learn from this ? Contact cleaner is flammable ! Do not use it ! And if you do use it, wait long enough for it to evaporate before you switch on the pinball machine !! It's not the first time an electro-mechanical pinball machine catches fire (and becomes unrepairable) because someone makes this mistake !

2005-10-1: Only one flaw.. by Paul R.
A few years ago I went to look at a TZ listed for $3k. On the phone the seller said it was the nicest pin he had ever seen.
Together, in his kitchen, we stood before the holy grail. Together we looked at the rusty metal, peeling decals and broken ramps. I bowed my head. The passing of any pin is a solemn moment.
I asked him about the threads from a large screw protruding through the middle of the playfield. "Yeah that's its only flaw." He said and went on to explain that now that he had hammered the screw down it didn't really effect game play anymore. "Why didn't you just remove it from the underside?" I asked.
"Well then you'd have a hole," he responded. Yep, he got me there.

2005-9-15: Test cleaning products on a covered place out of sight.
Noooo.. initial reaction is always to test a product in the middle of the playfield so you see it well.
I was shopping a Bally Playboy pin. It has a bright pink apron at the bottom of the playfield, but that was a bit dirty.
How do you clean aprons ? Careful with soapy water.
How did I do it ? Industrial cleaner.
Result: an apron with a white spot on it, right in the middle so you look at it all the time.
How do you clean a backglass ? You don't. Or dust it off very careful.
How did I clean the dirt of a nice backglass on a Gorgar machine ? Windex.
Result: dirt came off.. some red paint too. Luckily I could touch it up..

2005-9-1: Don't Confuse Goof Off with Goo Gone for Removing Stickers! by Don H.
A hard lesson learned from removing a sticker from a NOS clear plastic Comet Pinball ramp. Thinking Goo Gone works to remove adhesives so why shouldn't Goof Off.... Not Too Smart. Goof Off will cloud and ruin a clear plastic ramp, take my word for it! If you want to remove old paint, wax off of a clear coat playfield, etc Goof Off works ok. Never use Goof Off in place of Goo Gone to remove a sticker from plastic.

2005-8-15: Learn to say 'no' - by PinTed
Well the worst experience that I ever had moving a pinball machine was into a co-worker's basement.
When my co-worker first came to me with the request she asked, "You're into pins ... right ... the playing kind?" I asked, "You don't even know what I work on here at work. How do you know that I like pinball?" She responded, "I saw your picture in the newspaper (*) and figured that you'd help me." I suspected that my co-worker knew little to nothing of pinball and was in need of my help. I asked her, "Which game?" She said, "a pinball game". "Is that the name", I asked. "I don't know", she responded. This verified my suspicion.
But, before I got myself into something that I would regret, I asked my co-worker about the game and the move. She could answer no questions about the game. She said the move should be easy because, "It's (the move) just straight down one flight of stairs. Upstairs would be hard." I told her that I would help her only if she would, "Take everything off of the stairway." She agreed.
So, the next Saturday, I took on of my friends and my tools and headed to my co-worker's house. We surveyed the situation. There was no pinball machine. There was a set of stairs going up and into the house and the downstairs stairway was full of the obligatory: jackets, shoes, and tools. I asked why the stairs leading down into the basement weren't cleared. My co-worker responded, "I didn't know what you wanted taken off of the stairway?" I barked, "everything!" My friend and I went downstairs to check out the pin's eventual location. As my friend previously guessed, the large gravity furnace was located at the bottom of the stairs. Far from either of our imaginations, the pipes for the furnace limited the egress into the basement to less than four and half feet in height. And, of course, the pin was to go around the corner and into the cluttered adjacent space.
My co-worker had her son clean the stairway and make a spot for the pin while she went to get the pinball machine. My friend and I waited almost two hours for my co-worker to return. In all that time, my co-worker's son only made a narrow path down the stairs and small landing spot for the game.
When my co-worker finally arrived back, my friend asked what took her so long. She said, "You know, I got the game from a girlfriend and we got to talking. You know how it is." He responded angrily, "No, not when I know there a people waiting for me!" She tried to defend her actions but only made thing worse by saying, "It didn't take that long. The pinball machine was already on the trailer."
My co-worker's son started laughing at his mother. In turn, my co-worker started yelling at her son for not cleaning up the stairway. I didn't pay too much attention because I was busy dismantling the machine for its trip down the narrow, still cluttered stairs and into the cramped and cluttered basement. When my co-worker saw what I was doing she acted as though I was cutting and "Picasso" out of its original frame. She was irrational until I told her, "They (the pinball manufacturer) made the game by putting it together. So it (the game) does come apart."
I made my co-worker's son carry the game's legs and their hardware into the basement while my friend and I took the body. My co-worker "freaked out" again because she didn't have the strength to carry the game's head. She blathered something about us needing all of the pieces but we didn't pay attention because we had already turned away carrying the body.
My friend and I had to heft the game's body down the stairs and under the furnace pipes. It was like playing limbo with the body of a pinball machine. As there was not enough room or height to set the body on its back. We simply had to "muscle" the game into its new home.
I stayed in the basement to put the legs on the game. I asked my co-worker's son where he put the leg's hardware. He didn't know and couldn't find the hardware in all of the junk around us. Lacking a place to even set down the game's head that he had retrieved, my friend had to stand and hold the head as I wrestled past him to go into my car for new leg bolts. Buy the time that I had rushed back, my friend had found the bolts. I quickly put the legs on the game. Then, I took the game's head from my friend. I installed the head with less than one half inch between it and the floor joists. I plugged everything in and turned on the game.
Yep you guessed it. The damn game didn't even play! All that frustration and work for a pinball machine that wasn't even complete. One of the game's motor / target assemblies was missing.
Purely out of frustration, I pulled and repaired the main board and "Jimmy rigged" the target. That damn game was playable before my friend made a path for us to get away.
And get away we did!

2005-8-1: Try to sell it as one part - by Marvin G
A few years ago I set a NOS backglass for a Bally Grandstand (one ball game) as vertical as I could against a wall so I could take a picture.
As I turned and went for the camera I heard this awful crash. It was shattered in lots of pieces. I was going to use that picture to sell it on Ebay too. :-(

2005-7-15: Capacitors do have a charge in them
I know, they do, they're like batteries. Read it often in electronics courses. But they discharge after a while and up to now I've handled a lot of boards with capacitors on them and I never had any problem. Up to now..
I removed a bad board out of a pinball machine which had just been switched off. Didn't have a lot of room to lay it down so I put it on top of the coin box..
Let me rephrase that. I put it on the metal lid of a coin box. It gave off a nice spark. Didn't do any real damage but this reminded me to be more careful next time handling boards with capacitors.

2005-7-1: Do not remove fuses whilst the game is ON
No it was not me who was so stupid and luckily no one got hurt.
I was at a friends place, he's young and wants to learn how to repair pins. We were checking out the 8 ball deluxe limited edition he has. The game had some problems with its coils. I had traced it back to a problem with the solenoid expander board underneath the playfield. So I ask him if he had checked the fuses underneath the playfield. He said he didn't and wanted to pull a fuse out with his bare hands, whilst the game was on !! I could stop him just in time..
Probably the fuses didn't have a high voltage on it, but still, there are some basic things regarding safety you have to learn..
So let me make this clear: when working on fuses: always switch the game off. When working on wiring in the cabinet which goes to/from the transformer: always pull the plug out of the wall socket !

2005-6-15: Do not use synthetic thinner on plastic ramps
It will cloud them. You don't want to know how I learned this.. well, you probably do if you're reading this column :-)
A friend who restores classic cars said I could try synthetic thinner to clean clearcoated playfields, as it gets used on cars to remove every dirt/dust before they get painted. It worked well on a clearcoated playfield, and in combination with a magic eraser sponge it did wonders.
So when there was still some dirt on a clear plastic ramp and the bottle of thinner was within reach.......
luckily it damaged only a small part and with a lot of novus and flamepolishing I could remove most of the cloudy part.
Btw if you're using superglue in combination with an 'activator' spray: the activator will also cloud plastic if left on for a few seconds, so always wipe it off asap.

2005-5-1: Don't forget the power wire
Something I learned years ago when I assembled together my first pin of which the head was removed. I started with pinball machines and had bought a Stern Dracula. Assembled it in the morning just before I went to work. Put the head on the cabinet, put the bolts in and put the connectors onto the pcbs. Wanted to plug the machine in, and didn't find a line cord or plug ? Didn't have time to search, so I went to work, thinking about what I did wrong..
The power wire was still inside the cabinet ! You have to take it out before you put the head on.. it goes between the two parts.
I'm certainly not the only one who made that mistake, as I once bought another old pin which had a hole drilled into the side panel through which someone had run the power wire..
We all were a newbie once and learn from our mistakes..