Polishing Pinball Parts for fun and profit


Do these parts look like they've come from one of your machines? Well, I've had a number of machines that had dull, oxidized or even rusted parts above and below the playfield. Sure, the parts can all be cleaned by hand or replaced, but that's a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of money if you replace them. My solution involves using a vibrating polisher designed for gun shells to polish your metal bits and pieces.

I recommend using the Berry Mfg Shell Casing polisher, available here for $74.99 as part of a kit, which includes a strainer, bucket, media and sample of polish. You can use a number of types of polish such as Flitz or Novus #3. Berry has other accessories here

For Media, I recommend shredded walnut shells, available from your local PetCo store. You get 10 lbs for $7.99, enough to overfill the tumbler twice. The media is available online for a similar price, but once you pay shipping and handling, it's not such a bargain.

Some people use Corn Cob media. I would like to try some of this someday. It's an excellent choice for final polishing after polishing with walnut.

You can also buy Walnut media with jewler's rouge mixed in, which is great for some items, such as light bulbs. It eliminates the need for the Flitz, but I've not had good luck with it on most metal pieces.

Start off with 4-5 lbs of fresh walnut media, and add enough flitz to go around the bowl once or twice.
Then, add a few handfuls of parts, your mileage may vary on the amount of parts vs how long they need to polish. You'll find things shiny that were never shiny before!
This picture shows some items after being polished for 36-96 hours. I polish the parts until they shine, and the parts polish a lot faster if the bowl is more empty, and a lot slower if it's packed full. Once the media gets tired, it takes longer to polish the items. Really nasty parts take longer to polish as well.

I polish anything that fits into the polisher, including shooters. I normally disassemble the entire works and put them in as seperate pieces.

Polishing Light Bulbs is a questionable item. It might even be false economy. I polish the bulbs I remove from games I shop/restore, then use the good ones behind the translite/backglass. Many of the bulbs that are on the edge end up being bad after polishing since the filament is delicate. 

I used to buy Mirror Glazed Pinballs from Ken Iman, but don't care for his selling practices, so I polish my own. I buy balls from WICO or any number of sources, then put them in the polisher with some fresh media for 8 hours or so. I replace the balls every time I shop the machine, or annually, whichever comes first. I don't re-polish the old balls, that's just making bad balls look good. At the price of a playfield or playfield repair, pinballs are just cheaper to replace!

Check this article from Clay (the same one from the famous repair guides) on Mirror Glaze Balls; Pinball Snake Oil?

The media on the left is fresh crushed walnut media. The media on the right is used crushed walnut media, which is very tired and in need of replacement. I'd guess it was in the polisher for 8 months, and probably ran for a total of 1000 hours. The media absorbs the polish and the impurities from various items being polished. Replace your media often, it's cheap.


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Page last updated Wednesday June 13, 2007

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