Just a few notes before I start. I still don't enjoy web design, so get ready for more super long pages with LOTS of pictures on them! At least I divided it up into five pages instead of one long one! Also, with any picture on this site, you can click on it to view the larger version if desired.
If you've already read every single word on this page (ha ha) and want to skip to the finished pictures at the end, click here.
For web resources I've found helpful through this project, click here. (Located at the very bottom of the last page.)
Well, this has definitely been the most drawn out project I've ever had the joy of being part of. I initially agreed to fix this pinball for my college buddy, Eli, about two and a half years ago now. A lot has happened since then; I had a kid, moved twice over six monthes, and had to do lots of immediate repair projects on the new house. So it definitely hans't been a speedy process, but hey, I agreed to do the work for free. So you take what you get. :) All I know is that at the end of this, Eli will have a machine that's full of family history, that he's proud to own, and that he'll be able to enjoy for many years to come.
Black Knight pinball machines were made by Williams in 1980. I'm not going to attempt to list the entire history of the game, there's plenty of other sites for that. But I will say that it was the first ever pinball to have a two level playfield. And it was one of the first to use the Magna-Save feature - in which the player can enable a big magnet to save a ball from ball draining. It's also got some fun speech and sound effects too. I gotta say, it's pretty awesome. Here's the flyer they released in print:
Here's a link to the short wikipedia document and another to the IPDB page on it if you want a brief summary beyond that.
Stamped all over the machine is the serial number
462858. There were 13,075 machines manufactured.
As with my grandma's ball bowler machine, this machine has been a part of his family for a very long time. 9/15/1983 to be exact! His grandfather bought it and later gifted it to him. I just love working on machines with a good family history! You can see the original purchase slip below. Looks like he maybe traded in a Casino pinball machine as part of the trade.
They have kept all the documentation for the machine; manuals, repair receipts, personal high score lists, even directions to the pinball repair place. The last time the machine appears to have been serviced was 2010. So it's definitely overdue. It worked for a while with a few key attractions that were broken though. Some of the knight drop targets and the multi-ball feature were broken, but the game still played otherwise I'm told. I had never been able to play the machine myself before. But then the machine suffered a catastrophic failure (more on that in a minute) and it's sat broken for quite a while since then.
I even found these complicated instructions to get the machine to start up, which made me laugh. By the end of this it will be set up to free-play, so it will be only as complicated as turning it on and pressing start.
I found this sheet of information interesting that the pinball seller must have included. Definitely wish those were still the prices today!
Now, back to that catastrophic failure that I mentioned. Well...the boards literally lit on fire. Best I can figure from working with the machine is that one of the solenoids locked on, melted the sleeve (tube) on the inside of it and kept activated long enough that it just fried up the board. Interesting, the board that fried was a Kohout reproduction driver board. So this is an after market board, not the original. The old board must have fried at some point before this too. The old board had old-school batteries on them anyway, and those are definitely prone to failure/leakage over time, if you don't keep on top of changing them. The new board doesn't have any batteries to replace, so that will be nice. Here you can see the worst of the damage, though both the MPU and CPU boards both showed damage:
Now I have to mention to you the reason behind the disturbing lack of true "before" pictures... I received this pinball machine over two years ago from my friend when we still were at our old house. I was excited to work on it and got to work disassembling the playfield parts. I took probably 200 photos, put things in specific piles and was super organized. Well, then we somewhat unexpectedly decided to buy a new house. So I had to pack up everything into like 50 different baggies and pack them up in a box for safe keeping until I'd be able to work on the machine again. The bare playfield machine sat waiting for me to get into the new house and finally have enough time to commit to this. Anyway in this interim I happened to jump in a pool with my phone in my pocket (doh!), right after we moved to our temporary place for six months. So...I lost ALL of my before photos, dissasembly pictures, etc. LOTS of useful information. So yeah, hurdle number one right there. But I was able to put it all back together in the end by looking at a bunch of other BK pinball pictures online. In the end, I figured it all out, no extra screws either. :)
So, given that there's no more "before" pictures coming that's enough back story, let's just jump right into the restoration efforts!