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The Sands Mechanical Museum offers restoration services for coin operated games. We do museum quality restorations and specialize in older games, usually manufactured between 1930 and 1960. The customer is charged for actual time and materials needed to complete the project. The current labor rate is $75 per hour. Estimates are free, as is consultation.

a sample of past projects

Museum Quality Restoration

The objective of a museum quality restoration is to bring the game back to the way it was originally and to stabilize the cosmetics as much as possible. Upon completion, the game should look like it was recently purchased and has been played. It needs to look like it has provided some number of hours of enjoyment already.

The game should not look brand new or even better than new, with new chromed parts, for example. Reproducing the game as new removes the antique value of the game. The game does not look old anymore.

The restoration should be balanced. Restoring only a portion of a game begs comparison with portions that have not been restored. The rough parts of the game will look especially shabby if a nearby part of a game is shining like new.

By stabilizing both the cosmetic and the mechanical parts of the game, additional wear and deterioration are avoided. The game can be played and enjoyed without worrying that valuable parts or art work will be damaged by the play.

We recommend that you find a restoration service that matches your expectations for your game. You should find a restoration person with a chrome supplier, new paint shop, and a good eye if you want a game that will be a showcase. My restorations focus on a full mechanical restoration so the game will play as it did originally and cosmetic preservation in order to preserve the original patina and age of the game.

what happens

Each assembly is removed from the game and totally disassembled. Each individual part is cleaned and examined. Restoration is mostly cleaning! There are many different methods for cleaning, as seen by an article I wrote on the subject.

The mechanisms are put back together and adjusted in order to insure full operation. Wear points are replaced with stronger materials if needed in order to protect fragile parts.

The cosmetics are cleaned and protected. Some restoration of art work is possible, to cover previous damage. It is also possible to refinish parts of a game, but this is discouraged. A patina from years of use is considered beautiful and is difficult to reproduce. Those considering refinishing or painting games should watch The Antiques Roadshow and count the number of times the expert tells the unhappy owner how much the object would have been worth if it were not refinished. Obvious damage can be carefully fixed.

All electrical circuits are evaluated for safety and any problems corrected.

In cases where parts are missing, new ones are fabricated, using the same methods and materials if possible. In some cases, the original part failed because of the manufacturing methods, and so modern methods will be used to make a more reliable part. Missing assemblies are especially difficult to replace as there are no examples of how it was built and how it functions. Sometimes similar parts can be sourced from games built by the same manufacturer or fabricated from drawings in the patents.

The game is put back together and all operations are checked. The game is carefully tested and any problems are corrected. Attention is paid to the cosmetics to make sure they are not wearing.

It is important to find a restoration person who will meet the expectations of the customer. The work normally performed needs to result in a restored game that meets the customer's expectations.

Some of the procedures I use are documented here.


  1. Explain the services available

    We explain the process shown below and explain what we will do for this particular machine.

    There are many kinds of restorations. We strive to provide restorations that are museum quality. We can provide other types of restoration but we are not as proficient or cost effective.

    For example, we generally do not shop pinball machines, which is just cleaning the playfield and installing new rubber rings and lamps. When serviced this way, the game will play for a short time but will develop other problems later and require another service call.

    It is important for there to be good communications during the entire restoration, not just at the start, but through out. The customer needs to trust the person doing the restoration and the person doing the restoration needs to trust the customer.

  2. Understand the type of restoration desired

    Once the services are described, the customer can decide if this service matches their vision of a finished restoration. It is important to listen to the customer!

    We discuss the complete restoration and any options. The customer needs to understand, with some detail, what will happen and the we need to understand what the customer wants, with some detail. We both need to agree.

    Understand the how much the customer expects to pay. Every attempt is made to work within the budget available.

  3. Provide an estimate of time and costs

    A complete estimate if the time, materials, and schedule is provided. The customer needs to approve the cost and schedule before work starts.

    The estimate will include details about the game, how many assemblies there are and what work will be required on each one. Any changes in appearance, such as touching up graphics, need to be described so the results will match the expectations.

    Any materials used in the restoration will be listed and any costs included. Any risks where the condition of parts is not known should also be listed. Any surprises found during disassembly will be described immediately when found and the cost, schedule, and materials adjusted.

    A schedule will also be provided. While restorations take time, especially if done correctly, there is some expectation of getting the game back soon. Progress can and should be monitored.

    All the estimates are just that, estimates. Every effort will be made to meet them. Any unexpected problems will be communicated and the customer can approve of any additional work.

    The cost of the restoration will be actual time and materials. The cost of the restoration will not be based on the estimate, although every effort will be made to meet the estimated costs. We try to be conservative when making the estimates.

    Transportation needs to be provided by the customer. Some packaging and freight contacts are available and can be suggested.

    Some work may be subcontracted. These services will be described and costs included. I do not mark up contracted work or sourced material.

  4. Monitor the progress and get intermediate approvals

    The schedule is important, because it affects the costs directly. A weekly progress report can be sent out, either by mail or mail and includes the activities for the previous week, time spent, and any problems encountered. The customer needs to tell us how much communication is desired and how much detail is included.

    Any changes from the original estimate will be listed and approval sought.

  5. Check the restoration for problems

    The game is examined when first delivered and any shipping damage or missing mechanisms listed. As the restoration progresses, any surprises are also described. When mechanisms are disassembled, hidden wear or broken pieces are sometimes discovered. These may or may not have been accounted for in the original estimate. If not, they are described and a revised estimate is created and provided for approval.

  6. Document the restoration

    All restorations are documented, for both the customer's and the Museum's benefits. These notes include the date, start and stop times, the assemblies being restored, drawings or descriptions, and notes for later use in documenting the restoration.

    Examples of these notes are available for review. These notes are often used to complete articles for later publication in hobbyist magazines or on this site. These can then be reviewed by potential customers or used for later restorations of the same or similar game. While the notes are written for every restoration, not all restorations result in an article.

    Extensive pictures are taken. The pictures show the mechanism as it is disassembled, often with the parts laid out in order. Before and after pictures show the original condition and placement of parts and the final detail.

    Every effort is made to keep the client's identification anonymous. I do not discuss client's names or games. Occasionally visits to the museum will result in the viewing of games. Owner's names will not be published unless permission is granted.

  7. Return the game

    Upon completion, the game is thoroughly tested. Kid testing is also available and suggested if kids will be playing the game in its new home. Kids do things differently and treat games differently than adults.

    After testing, any problems are resolved and the game is ready to be packaged and delivered to the customer. While crating and shipping are the responsibility of the customer, we can help with the arrangements and suggest vendors. Also delivered are restoration notes, care and maintenance suggestions, and a set of spare parts if available. Extensive pictures are also available on CD. These pictures show the disassembly, original condition, and assembly of work performed.

    The old parts removed from the game during the restoration process are also returned. These are important if maintenance is required in the future. The old original parts provide patterns for replacement parts and can often be used if fabrication of replacement parts is required.

  8. Guarantee

    The length of time for warranted parts and labor is dependent on the game and the source of the parts. In general, parts are warranted for 30 days and labor for a year. It is the customer's responsibility to provide transportation for the purposes of service.

  9. Provide the bill for services

    A bill is presented. In general 35% of the total cost is expected at the start of work, along with prepayment of any parts that need to be ordered. 50% of the cost will be expected upon completion of the restoration, prior to delivery. 25% of the restoration can be retained until the customer has a chance to play the game and verify that it all works and is satisfied with the restoration.

The Sands Mechanical Museum

Michael Sands and wife
1652 Kennewick Drive
Sunnyvale, California 94087

phone: +1 408-773-1170

email: signature gif