Palleting a Pinball machine for Shipment


I recently put a Gottlieb Volcano machine on eBay. I picked it up for a really good deal, and thought I'd just play it awhile and resell it. Somehow in the moving process, it stopped working.

The machine was cosmetically VERY nice, not your everyday 22 year old machine! I *really* didn't want to ship it, but the buyer insisted, and offered to pay all fees to Argentina! The only catch was, he wanted it wrapped and palletized, not crated.

So, I sought out to find any information I could find on the internet in relation to palletizing games, shipping games, etc. I didn't want to re-invent the wheel by any means.
First, we built a 4x4 pallet. This measurement was determined by taking the size of the base of the game + the size of the top of the head, and making enough space around it for tie downs etc. We used 1x4, 2x4 and 1/4" plywood for the pallet. Another time, we will probably use a standard shipping pallet, but we had an awful lot of scrap laying around.

The other useful tools included a tape measure, cordless drill driver, 1 1/8" and 2" drywall screws, box cutter and a carpenter's square.

Don't forget plenty of cardboard, stretch wrap, and ratchet straps (or a bander).

First, the game had all the head removed and carefully set aside, then the balls were removed from the game as well as the shooter. The balls, shooter, head bolts, leg bolts, manual, and ring kit were placed in a cardboard box for later. The game was placed standing on the pallet afterwards. I also made another cardboard box with the 4 legs, each wrapped in bubble wrap for protection.
Half a dozen layers of stretch wrap were stretched around the game. Stretch wrap rocks, it's about 20 bucks for a thousand feet of 20 inch wide wrap from your local U-Haul or Office Max. Don't be a putz like me and wait til the last minute, Office Max and U-Haul can get it in fairly quickly if they are out of stock.
The stretch wrap was followed  by a layer of cardboard. It's important to put the stretch wrap on *before* the cardboard so the cardboard can't damage the artwork. Double layer cardboard was used over the glass for a cheap 2nd layer of insurance! After the cardboard is applied, another dozen layers of stretch wrap are put over the cardboard, to hold it in place. In a few places, I held the cardboard to the game with a little tape onto the stretch wrap - NEVER tape directly onto the game, it'll remove paint when it comes off.
The head was very carefully cocooned so no damage to the expensive, nice backglasses occurred. It's hard to find a Volcano with a good backglass, and it's even harder to find a Volcano backglass. I placed bubble wrap around the light/circuit board insert in the head, and then locked it in place. It can't move. Then, I closed the head. It's important to only get enough bubble in there for protection - too much, the head won't close, and if you push too hard, the backglass can break. Then, I put double layer cardboard over the front of the glass.

The head was carefully cocooned with stretch wrap, a dozen coverings or so.

Then, the head was placed by the body and held in place with a single 10 foot ratchet strap. On top of the head, I placed the box with legs, and the other box. 

After this, more cardboard was carefully applied where needed. The head was cocooned to the body with another dozen wraps of stretch wrap, and I went ahead and stretch wrapped the rest of the game while I was at it, just for good measure.
4 3" eye bolts were placed through the floor of the pallet after carefully finding the best place to mount them. I used nylon locking nuts on the bottom of the pallet, and used fender washers on both the top and the bottom (doubled up on the bottom!).
Then, 1x4" supports were placed on all 4 sides of the pin, with a protective layer of cardboard between the wood and the cocoon for another layer of protection. This keeps the pin from sliding any direction on the pallet.

After that, I took 2 14 foot ratchet straps, and tied the game down to the pallet. I had to remove about 3 feet of length from each strap, then flame the ends with a lighter so they wouldn't wravel. 2 layers of cardboard are placed between the cocooned machine and the straps anywhere the two touch - this keeps the strap from cutting into the machine. At this point, you can push on the machine, and the pallet lifts off the ground with it - it's a solid package.

Last, but definately not least, label your shipment! I put about 20 signs on the game that said "Fragile, Handle With Care", another half dozen labels that said "NO FORK" on the bottom of the cabinet, and of course, the source and destination of the pin.
Put some zip ties around the hooks on the straps and the eye bolts, this will let the recipient know if it's been tampered with! I also put them around the ratchets on the straps!

Some of the better links I found when completing this project include:


Appolo's Crating Guide

Mike's Arcade Shop's Guide D&B Shipping Services Guide
Pin-Man's Guide The Arcade Shipping Database


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Page last updated Wednesday June 13, 2007

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