Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waxing the playfield

In the days long before we became pinball owners, all we knew was, "Owning a pinball machine is a lot of work!  You have to wax the playfield!"  I'm being serious, that was the one and only thing we knew about pinball ownership.  And it sounded scary.

Now, of course, we know better.  Waxing the playfield is the least of your worries as a pinball owner!  But exactly how to do it is less clear.  This thread on Pinside is a very good read, but also illustrates that there's probably no exactly right way to do this, and that when people aren't necessarily all talking about the same thing when they say "wax the playfield." Some key summary points of this thread:

  • Machines older than 10 - 20 years may require different cleaning and waxing methods than newer Stern machines
  • Home Use Only (HUO) machines may require less protection than machines on route (located in public places).  Some say don't worry about waxing a HUO machine
  • Most people use Novus 1 to clean machines (Novus comes in 1, 2, and 3 versions that are successively more abrasive) 
  • Novus 2 is for polishing minor scratches, and contains mild abrasives.  According to Stern's website, it should be used to "wax the playfield" but some argue that it's not actually a wax
  • Steve Ritchie, designer of one of the newest Stern machines, AC/DC, said that you should use a canuba-based wax on AC/DC.
  • Consensus seems to be never use Novus 3 on a playfield.  That's for other machine parts that are in bad shape
  • Never use Windex on a playfield!  On the playfield glass, yes.
  • Don't spray any kind of product directly on your playfield.  Spray it on the lint-free cloth you are using to apply the product
  • For real waxing, use Carnauba wax, but never a wax labelled "cleaner wax" as it will contain abrasives and bad stuff
  • Never use water-based products on your playfield
I've seen plenty of people say "don't use Mill Wax" but I've also seen it advertised in game magazines as the go-to, and seen people posting that they DO use it.  We are not planning on using it on our machines, I will say that at least.

I've also read elsewhere that you should not wax or Novus a New In Box (NIB) playfield for a while when you first get it, to allow the playfield to "cure".  Some owners don't even PLAY a new machine for like a month to allow this curing to take place.

Bottom line, I think the gist I'm getting is that you don't need to wax a playfield very often at all, especially a newer one, and that when you do, you should use Novus 2 first to clean and prep the playfield, then go over it with a carnauba-based wax.  You should be VERY careful not to get the wax on parts of the playfield you don't want waxed (for example, the lower playfield window of AC/DC Premium/LE).  If you ever see dirt on your flipper rubbers, or ball tracks across the playfield, you should clean that up with Novus 1 and a lint-free cloth.  Replace your pinballs every now and then, maybe 4 times/year if you play regularly.  Can anyone confirm this conclusion is more or less on the money?

I'm not sure if the Turtle wax in the above video is the right way to go, and some comments on that video said that the presenter did some things wrong (which is par for the course, this is a seemingly subjective topic with no consensus).  For us so far, we've been cleaning with Novus 1 for the most part.  Even that will typically make the playfield beautiful, and will make the machine play a LOT faster, so be prepared for that result.

In the end, I think it's safe to say that none of this is an exact science, and maybe I was sort of right about waxing the playfield being a complicated thing.

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