Fishtales Restoration

A few before shots of this machine that was in very poor shape when i got it!


The playfield is dirty, but really very good – some light surface rust on the habitrails]

The first job i started was to check the electronics over for errors. I’m pretty nervous about these machines as they have been stored in a fairly open environment for the last 7 years or so.  The first thing i did was insepct the power lead and 240V line going to the main switch.  Luckily i checked it as one of the main AC lines had been damaged or chewed through

So i installed a new double insulated cable to be safe.  Next step was to check the transformer, so i unplugged everything downstream of it, so power was just going to the tranny – blew the main fuse after a few seconds.  Disconnected the tranny from the main power switch and blew another fuse.  Assumed it was the line filter as the thermistor and varistor looked good with no visible signs of damage – plus the line filter had continuity across active and neutral.  Threw a new line filter in and it fired up no worries with a slight hum from the transformer.

Next, as i am nervous/cautious, i checked every set of output wires from the transformer for correct voltages – everything seemed to be in order. Just push the DMM leads into the female plug and turn the machine on – this way there is no way of slipped or allowing the probes to touch when working with highish AC voltages.

After that, i one by one connected power to each of the boards in the backbox.  Power driver board was sweet, all test points were perfect – 5.02V on the 5V line which i was very surprised with!  The CPU had no acid damage and started up the correct LED sequence which was great.

When i connected the sound board and turned the machine on, i was greeted with a shower of sparks, flames about 2cm long and some smoke!!!!! Turns out the capacitor C28 spewed its guts everywhere, so that board went into the repair pile.  The Display board seemed to be putting out quite high voltages – 152 and 140, i think these should be down around 120 or so, so will investigate that one further. (Note: I have since rebuilt the DMD controller board, and it is working 100% now)

So then i pulled all the boards out, the wiring harness and all the bits and bobs from inside the cabinet. Pulled the siderails off and started to peel off the decals

It was great fun just sitting in the shed with the young fella (2.5yr old) as he loved rolling the ball around the ramps and passing me tools

I think i’m training him well as he seems to get the rules of hitting the captive ball, and his aim is pretty spot on!

Started by fixing up the main cabinet.

First issue was there was a strip of timber at the top that was originally chipboard that had all swollen with moisture (see sitting on top), rippped this out and put a new piece of pine in

The rear of the headbox was all swollen as well, so bashed it out with a hammer and cut a new sheet out for it

There were plenty of chunks missing and parts of the cabinet delaminating, so went through quite a bit of builders bog patching up these holes and also extending the delamination as far as i could so that it didn’t happen again in the future.

See this pic for an idea of the stuff i had to fill

This is the first application of bog, prior to sanding – its important to get into this stuff after about 1/2 hour as it sets rock hard and you will have a lot more work of sanding if you leave it too long

Here is a pic of one side of the cabinet with bog in the large holes (rear of cab) and fine filler in the tibmer grain and small scratches

After all that has been done and sanded plenty, i hit it with spray putty – not sure that this is its intended application (more for auto body work), but i think it works OK at filling in all the fine areas that i might have missed with the other applications – the pic below it the headbox with the new back installed

I also decided that the base was too far gone, so bashed it out – a pic of the cab with the first coat of black for the inside

Then it got too hot in the shed, so i decided to grab the playfield and bring it inside the house in airconditioned comfort!

So in terms of the playfield – here are a few unglamourous shots

Basically threw the playfield in my home made rotisserie and started pulling all the bits off.  The only issues i could find were one coil that had its wires clipped off and the only reason it was having problems was that its bracket was a bit bent, making the plunger difficult to move up and down.  Other than that, the rear of the playfield is very very clean.  Rebuilt the flippers, pulled all the light PCBs off and washed them, checked all other mechanical components and linkages etc, and everything seems to be pretty good – although i won’t fully know until i power it up and do all the necessary tests.

The backboard of the playfield was absolutely hideous with possum crap and everything all over it – the pins on the small PCB were stuffed.  So a new set of header pins and plenty of scrubbing ahead…

After a bit – it all came up great!

After everything was stripped, i put all the small metal parts in the tumbler for a few days to clean/polish up.

Cleaned all the ramps, plastics and posts etc, then moved onto the fun part, getting into the playfield

So with a mix of shellite, metho, nifty. magic erasers and plenty of rags and elbow grease you can get a very satisfying result

Then i got the treasurecove polishing kit out, and polished it all up

With everything clean, i’m now at the stage of repopulating the playfield.  Easiest way is to go through all the photos i took of pulling it down in reverse order.

I’ve started putting LEDs through the machine – if you have a few machines and/or LEDs, its great to organise them by colour and type in this sort of case – heaps better than sifting through ziplock bags all the time!


A fair bit of progress today and yesterday

Got all the playfield back together fully and looking good, hopefully the coloured LEDs i’ve put in work well as i’ve tried to match the plastic colour to the LED for the general illumination lights – won’t really know until i power it all up

Once that was done, i ventured out of the air conditioning and into the shed.  A bit more time on the sander giving the spray putty a nice smooth finish.  Then i gave a few extra coats of satin black to the inside of the cabinet, plus sprayed all the corners so that when i trim the new decals, there will be black underneath giving a nice edge.

Then i cut out a new base for the main cabinet – set a guide up by clamping a straight edge down and cut it with the circular saw, then cut out the switch and speaker holes and glued it to the cabinet.

All looks pretty good with the new base and sides all black

I then started to reinstall the cabinet hardware, starting with the earth braid in the headbox.  Doing this stuff is fairly slow, but also good as you can see that the process is getting closer and closer to being able to fire it up for the first time!

Also i’ve been replacing a few plugs where the old ones are burnt – this is a very common issues, particularly for J120 and J121 which are the two plugs for general illumination.  You can see the old one i’ve snipped off is well past it and burnt!

Also have spent a lot of time cleaning up the wiring harness (cleaning all the wires with Nifti and rags), painting bolts and bits and pieces ready to install back in the cabinet so everything looks good.


So now have the headbox mostly back together. Cleaned all the boards up – still have to test the soundboard as it had exploding caps – i replaced them, but am yet to power it up. Flame polished the topper cover which made a fair difference. I also put blue and green LEDs in the topper – will see how it looks once powered up. I also added new fuse listings, but did this after i tool the picture.

And a pic with the decals installed

I did the headbox and front of cabinet dry, and also added a sheet of polystyrene where the coin dorr cutout is, to stop the decal sagging


Then my wife helped me do one side decal – we did it the wet method – sprayed some detergent on the back of the sticker and on the cabinet (needs to be well sealed prior to application), and put the decal down. After trying this, i’m a big fan of the wet method, simply because it gives you time to smooth out any air pockets very easily with a squeegee.

Have also been spending time cleaning and polishing all the cabinet hardware – painting all the bolt heads in satin black so they look like new.

The fishing reel/launcher was very crusty with heaps of gunge and very dull looking. Cleaned this up with the wire brush, then prepsol, then etch primer, then hit it with some chrome paint – came up great i reckon!


Got the other main decal on no worries, then cleaned up the last of the bits and pieces all lying around and started putting it back together.

Felt protectors for the headbox hinges

Then put the head on, as well as new rails, shooter, new flipper buttons and the cabinet wiring loom

Also installed a new woofer from Jaycar, put most of the wiring in corro conduit, which looks so much nicer than factory

I then went around and tested all the earths back to the the plug, and all was good.

Since all the boards were in and main wiring harness without the playfield i decided to fire it up. I had previously tested all the boards, but not the sound board since many of the original tantalum capacitors threw mini fireballs at me….i replaced them with electrolytic caps and……..everything powered up nicely with no smoke!! I should never have doubted my repairs! The CPU booted up fine as well. Next step will be to put the playfield back in and test from there.

I dropped the playfield in and plugged everything in, and…… display, no sound, two blown flipper fuses after a few seconds BUT, some very pretty lights! So was good to see it all lit up – unfortunately i’m not a good enough photographer to capture it, but this is a machine that LEDs really lend themselves to.

So after some board swapping, there must be an issue with the fliptronics board, display board and sound board – even though they powered up, they did not do their job.  But all is working well now with good boards

Anyway, since then i’ve had a few games – its super fast but plays perfectly (after a few minor switch adjustments). Very happy with the result and will try and throw a quick video up later

Enjoy the pics

You cna’t see it here – but i put a mixture of blue and green LEDs in the topper and it looks great – also a red one in the fish’s eye

Oh – and just for a giggle, here is the first look at the machine


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5 thoughts on “Fishtales Restoration

  1. Unreal rebuild rob, lots of time and effort put into that one. Came out looking and operating better than when it first came out of the factory!

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