A couple of years ago I bought a fairly gutted Asteroids machine for $50. It had been sitting in a damp storage area and the bulk of its metal parts had been damaged by rust and corrosion. Since the sides of the machine were in quite good condition (and since I already had the innards of another Asteroids that was dry-rotted beyond salvage) I decided that this one would be a good candidate to restore.
I always like seeing those "before and after" type home restoration programs on TV, so I thought it would be fun to document the restoration process piece by piece as a record of the machine's progress and as a help guide to others. This first part will describe refinishing the metal marquee holders on the top of the machine.
Atari finished many of the metal pieces on their classic arcade games with a technique known as powder-coating. Powdercoating is a process by which a tough (usually plastic based) finish is actually baked onto the metal. It is more durable than most painting processes and generates that fine-grained "orange-peel" like surface unlike a spray-on paint would..
Having previously refinished parts using multiple coatings of "Rustoleum Matte Black" (now just "Rustoleum Flat Black" is available) spray point I was familiar with its overall good results, but wanted to get closer to that classic Atari texture. A little bit of searching revealed that home powder-coating systems were available and affordable ($99 for the unit I purchased).
Some Naval Jelly was used to neutralize the remaining deep-rooted rust and then the piece was rinsed/brushed with acetone to get any remaining contaminants or oils off of it. (Use a lint-free cloth or wire-brush when rinsing away the dust and oil-- getting lint all over the metal will mess up the finish!)
Using the powdercoating machine is pretty simple. An alligator-clip is attached to the metal to provide a ground path, a 10-15 PSI dry air source is connected to the gun and when you're ready you press a foot-switch down and pull the trigger on the powdercoating gun. A semi-focused cloud of plastic dust (a LOT like photocopier toner methinks!) coats the metal and sticks to it rather well. Wear a GOOD respirator and work in a well ventilated area; the plastic dust is ultra-fine! Don't work near open flame either lest your arcade game refinishing project end up in a demonstration of why grain-elevators explode...
All in all a pretty successful first attempt! Refinishing the game's control panel this way will be... Interesting. Not sure how to do something quite so large (an Asteroids control panel is MASSIVE!) without a big oven. On the other hand, the powdercoat seems to be very forgiving when you work in sections, so just heating a smaller area at a time might work OK.
Some other useful powdercoating links:
This summer I did some more powdercoating using Eastwood's "Satin Black". It's a nice 'non-gloss' finish that looks good on arcade parts. The technique remains the same as above, just using a different powder at the end of the process. Here's a few shots of a coin door I refinished/refurbished:
Updated: 6/19/2003, 1/15/2005
© 2005, Clayton Cowgill firstname.lastname@example.org