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Big Bang Bowler - United Chief Shuffle Alley/vp Hybrid Project

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Hi Gang,


Most (if not all) that come to this site, know about my current build. But for those that may be new, or those that do not frequent chat, here you go.


I recently went to Washington with The Pinball Monk. While there, I picked up a 1966 Midway's Little League pitch and bat machine. The guy I bought it from (on ebay) had also been trying to sell a pile of United shuffle alley's. He had only been able to sell the one, fully complete machine and had been left with all of the others. When I showed up for the pitch and bat, I was told I could take anything I wanted. As an impoverished collector, there was no way I could pass. So I searched through what he had and thought I was lucky as hell when I found a matching lane, head and legs.

All of my machines were in non-running condition when I got them but, I had never worked on a shuffle alley. I assumed all of the key workings were in the head, which was still locked. In all fairness, many later shuffle alleys are set up that way: key workings in the head. However, it turned out that older United shuffle alleys have all of the key workings inside the lane and the head is mostly just score reels.

OK, that's fine but, once I opened it up, I found it to have been scavenged. It was missing at least 9 relays, 3 stepper units, the front door and everything that goes with the front door. It was also missing the backglass.

I did my best to find new parts. I was willing to make new steppers if blank parts could be found. No luck. I was seriously bummed. I have wanted a shuffle alley ever since I was a kid.

While in the chat room talking about this machine, Rascal made an interesting suggestion: Gut it and run it with a PC and VP.




Once I had determined that the steppers could not be replaced, the idea was something to discuss. And discuss it we did!

Rosve has built a REAL pinball machine that uses a monitor for the backglass and is run by a PC and VP. Rascal showed me the vid and it is BRILLIANT!


So now, the plan is to do just that. All parts will be removed, except for the transformer, the bell, the pin and all that makes them work and light.


I will upload pictures and video as I go.

Right now, I haven't even wiped it off. But Rascal and DeeGor are all over it!

Rascal has been amazing! I can't say how lucky I am to have him as a friend.

Rascal is a fantastic coder and artist. Luck was with me when this piqued his interest. At this point, all the game graphics and coding are complete, due entirely to his hard work. Rascal, I will never be able to thank you enough!


After he was done with the game programming, DeeGor took it and has added the LEDWiz coding that will be needed to run the bell and pins. He has also made other contributions. Thanks DeeGor!


I have traded a crappy Augen Netbook for the computer that will go in it and am just waiting for it (the computer) to be dropped off.

I scored a free, non-working, 42" LCD TV/Monitor for the backglass. All It needs is a new backlight inverter (I hope).

I just ordered the missing pin hangers. Once again, thanks DeeGor!

I will have to fabricate new pins most likely.


Once the holidays are over I will bring it in and begin work.

Pics and more updates to follow when I have more time.

(first time uploading pics here, forgive me if I do it wrong)









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Well, I just got money from my mom for xmas.

I should be able to get the backlight inverter for TV, and the LEDWiz.

I will get the LEDWiz 32, not the 16. I think the 16 would be enough to run the pins and the bell, but I am thinking about controlling the lights above the pins as well (eventually). The 32 is only 5 bucks more than the 16, so that is what I will get.

I have a GPWiz40 MAX that will work fine for the switches. I don't think I will need more switches than that. Of course that may change, but I doubt it.

I need to get the computer now so I can see if I need to get a video card for it.


Anyone ever try one of the VGA to HDMI adapters?

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Props to Rascal! I have to give him tons of credit as he deserves every bit of it.

I just think a post showing his work is in order.

At first, I wasn't even sure I was going to do this. But Rascal was very enthusiastic about the idea. Once I began seeing it was possibly the only way to resurrect this machine, Rascal took the lead and worked up a model of the bg.

All we had to work from for the redraw, was skewed shots filled with reflections and 1 video of a United 5th Avenue Shuffle Alley (which is 100% identical except for the name).

The fonts were not the same but the art was enough to sell me on the idea for certain.

If you are ever lucky enough to get Rascal involved in a project, you can be certain you have one of the best on your side. His lighting looks as real as anything. He sees detail I never would have thought of, and I am a graphic artist and sign maker!

Anyhow, as he went along, he sent me images. and I want to post those now, so as to show the progression of his fantastic work.

The first image is a deskewed shot of the original backglass.

The second and third images were first drafts. Note the bowler figures. It is a bitch to draw something from nothing....

I took the the little bowler guys on and with a whole lot of creative license and guess work, managed to clean them up.

The fourth and fifth shots have the bowlers repaired.

Once that was complete, he couldnt be content until he had the pins on it! Never mind the fact I will be using real pins...   ;)

Thanks Rascal!









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Update: I was sent a message though YouTube from someone that watch my initial video of this machine.

I ended up calling the guy, and he gave me another guy's phone number. I called him and, he has the impossible parts to find: The 8.25" pins!

He still needs to look and verify if all are there and if they are the correct pins, but he was fairly certain they were the right pins and all there.

Here is the original video:

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Hey, Opie  ;)


Thanks for the Tour! It was really nice seeing your growing Arcade up close. 


That Pitch n Bat is in VERY good hands! That's looking nice and clean, and it will really be nice to see that when it's fully restored. Something to look forward to!


As for that Jumping Jack ... *-whoah!-* that's brought back a really vivid flashback ... they had one in the Just Fun Arcade in July '77. I discovered it after seeing Star Wars for the 8th time in the cinemas next door. That head-on playfield shot with your cam hit me like a bolt of lightning! Hey! I KNOW that table! I PLAYED it before!! Coool!!!  :D The table itself is very interesting because it's like a cross between Old Chicago and Target Alpha. The lower playfield is like OC with the two bumpers right above the outlanes, and the side of the lanes making flipper action a little fun ... or frustrating, depending on the gameplay. The middle playfield is like TA with the two mini-flippers to either side and a nice big bank of 10 drop targets to hit. I'll be watching this one with great interest. But ... too bad, just like Mata Hari ... it belongs to someone else, did you say? So this one will be going away once it's done? Awwwwwwww  :( that would make a nice permanent addition to your Arcade there. It will be a sad day to see it go away ...


Old Chicago is looking as pristine as ever ... wish I could play it! And Flash ... FABULOUS! Lots of TLC here. Never saw Flash looking so good IRL. 


And then you get to the United Chief Shuffle Alley. Man, you have a thing for real Projects, don't you? Well, this one's gonna take a whole lotta TLC. It'll be interesting to see how you'll get the parts, like the missing relays and things. That's some real old school electrical goin' on here, kinda like the old school electrical in a DC-3 or something. This will be very interesting to read as you progress along ... thanks for sharing! 


It'll be even more interesting to see how you, Rascal and DeeGor add VP to this to get it up and running. How intriguing! Using a modern day PC with modern software like VP to bring life back into a vintage 1953 bowler machine! BTW, those backlass images were awesome! 


Definitely looking forward to seeing how this one turns out, with each update you give! Way to go, dude. Real Craftsmanship™ here!  :D

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Thanks for the kind words, Pete!

I am currently waiting on the three pin hangers I ordered, and still waiting to hear back about those pis. Once those are secured, I will get the LEDWiz and probably an ipac to use instead of the GPWiz I was planning on using. From what I am hearing, it will be easier to use.

I also have located a second 42" TV. This one has "tuner problems". My hope is that the problem is just in the channel tuner and I can still select the different input sources and have those work. If that is the case, I would not have to spend any money repairing the other 42" TV I have now.

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I'm just about done with the vp program that is going to handle the ipac/gpwiz interface. Thanks to wildman for the nice pictures of the pins in five stages of raising, I now have animated pins for someone that would just want to build a lane with 32 rollovers and an ipac.
Here is a video of it running through a 2 player game.

The key assignments are as follows.


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Awesome work Rascal!


Update: After much confusion, misunderstandings, heated exchanges and subsequent apologies; the last of the pin hanger parts are going to be sent after the holidays.

The iPac4 and LED-Wiz are ordered.

Next up: TV repair

Still to come (in no particular order): Order relays, clean up, tear down, repair rail, restore finish and repaint if needed, wire switches, wire lighting above the pins, install computer and monitor, figure out pin reset, fabricate pin brackets, fabricate pins, new front door, decide on button options, connect pins and reset mech to computer, replace plexiglass that protects the pins, order puck, wax and powder.


The holidays are almost over Once we get all the holiday decor put away, I will be bringing it in and starting work on it.

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since you are a hobbyest can't you remake the pins using fiberglass?

using the one good one as a model for the rest of them?

That is my plan only instead of fiberglass, I will make a mold of the one remaining pin, and vaccuform new pins.

Unfortunately, the original pins have a very unique way of attaching to the pin hangers. There were very few machines made with these style pins.

What that means to me is: in addition to making pins, I will also have to fabricate fairly small metal brackets. This will require plasma cutting, bending and welding. The will attach to the pin hangers in the same manner as the original pins did, but allow me to attach the any new pins using two bolts or screws. 

While writing this, something just occurred to me: The new style pins attach using two screws and, until I get new pins made, I am considering a cut-down set of the newer style pins, which are easily found. But I better get at least one so I can make sure the screw holes on my brackets line up with the screw holes on the pins!

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Update: Got a new contact today. Neil Nagy. May have pins for me. Maybe not. But this is a REALLY good contact. I think he will be someone I talk to frequently in the future. If I wanted to rebuild this to original, I could probably do it with his help.

But too much work as gone into this and parts are ordered. I will continue with the plan.

Anyhow, he has some 6" pins but not sure what he has for 8.5".

Now I wait and see what his reply to my email is.

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The holidays are over and Christmas decor came down today. After we went and saw The Hobbit, the bowler was brought in and work began.

I spent all evening gutting and cleaning the "coffin" (lane portion of the machine), inside and out.

The finished wood cleaned up pretty decent, but one rail is cracked and missing a chunk and has some deep gouges. That being the case, I will glue the crack, place a piece of wood in where the chunk is missing, sand both rails and refinish them. The head is missing two of the three trim pieces so i will replace all of them and stain them to match.

The acrylic window is shot. It was removed and will be replaced. It looks as if there should be a horizontal piece of acrylic between the lanes and the pins. My first thought was to replace it but, should the puck stop underneath the pins, it would make it tough to retrieve. i have seen pics of one or two with this piece in place, but most have it removed. Still not sure what I will do....

The Formica has two or 3 minor dings but nothing that will be any problem. It cleaned and shined up nice. the cork strip on each side of the lane will need to be replaced.

The metal rod that is above the foul line was pretty corroded, but nothing that some 600 grit sandpaper would not fix.

There is still more cleaning to be done on it, but the worst of it is taken care of.

Tomorrow I will gut and clean the head, get it in place, and maybe do the rails as well.

The paint is actually pretty good with very few major scars. It was interesting to see that it is actually speckled with red. I don't really want to repaint it. But at least one part will need repair and repainting: The pin hood. The curved section has cracked and will need to be puttied, sanded and repainted.








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Well, I have spent several hours on it now.

First of all, I figured something out: At first I thought there was supposed to be a horizontal piece of plexiglass or acrylic. There is a groove and I assumed that is what is was for. Turns out, that is not what that groove is for at all. There is a red, wooden piece that covers the rear row of switches. I have had a pain in the butt time working around that. There are screws on the outside that obviously screw into that piece but, when I removed those screws, that piece still did not budge. So I moved on and worked around it. There is a strip of cork on the inside of each rail. That cork was cracked and missing in places. Today I went to the hardware store and picked up some cork to replace it. I had hoped to find a roll that was long enough to do it in one strip but, the best I could find was a 24" x 48" piece for around $15.00. i figured I would just do each side with two, 4' strips. I came home and began removing the old cork. it came off pretty easy. Turns out, it was also done with two, 4' strips. Once I got it off, I saw the screws that hold the uprights for the pin unit. There was one screw back under that red piece I mentioned earlier, but I thought that if I removed all the screws I could reach, maybe I could relieve enough tension on things that I might get that red piece out. Well it worked, but not how I thought. Once I got the screws loose and things opened up a tiny bit, it turns out, that red piece slides forward in those grooves, so as to allow access to the very rear of the lane.I am considering removing the uprights (and the pin assembly) so that I can take that piece out, and sand it down so as to allow for better movement. Maybe, maybe not... I really should.

I also glued the cracked, left rail. I hope to fill that in tomorrow.

Anyhow, I sanded and refinished the right rail today and did more exterior cleaning. The rail turned out beautiful. The re-stain matches perfect. I have to repair the other rail, then sand a finish it. I will refinish the legs very last. I used Minwax PolyShade, Pecan Gloss 420.












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Well, it took three days, but the lane is gutted and restored, and the head is gutted and cleaned. I still need to do the legs and the pin unit. I also need to remove some wood framing from the head. I am going to take it to work with me and cut the offending framing out, there.

I heard from the guy that may have pins, but no mention of the pins yet.







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