Cabinet Rebuild

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Case Study Summary
Game Lido
Games Applicable To All Bally bingos
Source Chris
Problem Reported Unrepairable Cabinet
Fix confirmed


I recently purchased an old Bally Lido, which had seen many better days. It had been warehoused for a few years and probably moved around and dropped on more than one occasion, the result of which was that the main playfield cabinet was literally falling to pieces. The machine needed a major overhaul and after tossing various ideas through my head, I decided that before I could do anything else I had to 'fix' the main cabinet. This was easier said than done and after a few hours trying to sort out the pros and cons, I decided the only way to go was to scrap the existing and build a completely new cabinet. The following shows how I proceeded.

Stripping the original cabinet

Everything had to be taken off the cabinet and labelled. The playfield had already been removed, as had the ball return tray beneath it.

cabinet front and coin door wiring

I started with the front door, as the wiring could be unplugged and the door put to one side as a separate entity and worked on at a later time. Then

  • The ball shooter was taken off and the lift mechanism unbolted and removed.
  • All bolts and screws were put back into the cabinet where they came from, so that:
  1. I didn't lose them
  2. I could see what went back where.

At this stage I must say that if you're not sure where things go, then it is advisable to take a few photos to enable you to put things back in the correct place later on.

All the switches behind the buttons were taken off, labelled and just left in the bottom of the cabinet. Once again, all the screws were put back in the original places. The ball lift motor was taken off and like everything else, for the moment, left in the bottom of the machine. All switches and tilt mechanism were taken off, as too was the ball trough.

I was finally left with nothing connected to the front or sides of the cabinet and the wiring loom and all associated switches etc., were on the bottom of the cabinet.

Disassembling the cabinet

The next step was to disassemble the cabinet, which on this machine was fairly easy, as much of it was already falling apart. However, I didn't want to cause too much damage to the cabinet sections as I had to make exact (well, almost exact) copies of them all.

The front and upper back sections didn't want to come away from the side panels and I discovered they were held together with 4 screws - 2 each side, through the side sections into the front and rear panels. The front screws were located about 1" down from the top of the side panel and went through into the wooden rail at the top inside of the front panel. The rear screws were in a similar position, but went into the back panel, not the wooden rail attached to it. Once the screws had been removed it was fairly easy to pry apart the joints with minimal damage. I didn't worry too much about breaking the triangular reinforcing blocks, as it was pretty obvious that these would all have to be replaced.

Finally I was left with the cabinet's basic parts: 2 side pieces, a front, 2 vertical back sections, a horizontal back section and, of course, the base plywood section with all the wiring and gubbings still attached. The latter, for the moment, I put to one side so that I could work on it later.

Forming the new sections

Next on the agenda was to cut out the new pieces using the old ones as templates.

The original cabinet was made from 3/4" thick hardwood planks joined together and sanded, but for convenience I decided to use 18mm MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard). It is easily worked and has an exceptionally smooth finish which is ideal for painting. However, saying this, and having used it to make the new cabinet, I wouldn't recommend it! I found that, in hindsight, it was not strong enough to route the grooves close to the edges of the board and this made the corner joints very tricky. On top of this, you need to wear a dust mask all the time when working with MDF, as the fibres are very fine and dangerous if inhaled. If I ever had to do this again, I would go for a good quality plywood (Birch or similar and at least 9 ply) every time. More expensive by far, but worth it !!

Each of the original sections was traced into the new board and cut out. The only exception being that I made the corner joints very slightly different. The original joints had a small mitre at the corners, which I decided was going to be very awkward to reproduce. The new joint made the side pieces shorter by about 1/2" (1/4" each off front and back).

New and original cabinet corner joints

Next job was to get the router out and cut all the grooves and channels into the new boards, copying exactly from the originals. You need to be fairly adept with the use of a router for this work. Alternatively you could take it to your local joiner/cabinet maker to do it for you.

The side panels were grooved at the top to take the glass, the bottom to take the plywood base and the ends for the corner joints. All panels were routed to match exactly with the original pieces. The hole in the rear horizontal panel was cut out, as was the hole in the front for the door. This was also rebated to match the original. I didn't bother to cut the hole in the left hand side panel for the coin box door, as I figured it would never be used. The sides of the front and lower rear panels were rebated and grooved to form the corner joints. This I did on a spindle moulder as I was fortunate enough to have access to the use of a joinery workshop, but could equally well have been formed by a router or even a small circular saw.

Now the new pieces had all been machined to match the originals, all the other parts could be transferred from the originals to the new.

Transferring other bits and pieces

Starting with the left hand side, the timber rails that support the playfield and ball return tray were pried from the original side. They are only pinned and lightly glued, so came off fairly easily. These were transferred to the appropriate position on the new side and glued and screwed (I thought it best to screw these rather than nail them back) into place. The same was done with the right hand side and the screws and bolts that hold the ball lift motor and associated items were also transferred to the correct positions.

Upper, original side panel and lower, new side panel with wooden rails, bolts and screws transferred ready for assembly
New and original rear panels

The front was next. This looks tricky, but it's really very easy !

The centre of the holes to be drilled for the buttons were marked and each drilled right through with a 2mm pilot hole. Working from the outside and using a 25mm (1") flat wood bit, the holes were drilled out to the necessary depth - approximately 9mm - NOT right through ! Changing to a 12mm flat wood bit, the holes were continued, but again, not drilled right through. The front section was then turned over and working now from the inside, the holes were completed with the 12mm flat bit. Doing it this way gives a good finish to the hole and doesn't break or tear the back of the hole. I ended up with near perfect 'double diameter' holes that matched the existing exactly.

The same was done for the ball shooter hole. I marked the centre and drilled a pilot hole right through first, then drilled the larger hole part way through from the outside. I continued with the smaller, inner hole and then finished it from the back. The original ball shooter hole has a concave look to it, but it really isn't necessary to achieve this. It appears this is just to give the ball shooter plenty of room for adjustment and drilling as above is perfectly adequate for this. I finished the front by drilling the rest of the holes as necessary, but always starting from the front and finishing from the back to make a nice neat job.

Next was the wood rail on the inside top of the front rail. The one with the vertical holes through it to take the buttons on the top rail.

I took off the painted metal plate and kept it for later. I also took out the small metal inserts that are in the holes - they just pushed out from the bottom. Once again I pried off the wooden rail and then glued and screwed it to the new front section. I found I then had to carefully re-drill the holes as they slightly overlapped onto the front panel, but no problem.

Finally on the front panel, I put a groove in the top edge. This is important as the top rail fits down into this groove. I found this best done by running a small circular saw over the top edge of the piece.

Original and new front panel with top wooden rail glued and screwed into position
Front panel inside.JPG

The rear sections were all treated in exactly the same way, with the rest of the bits and pieces being transferred onto the new sections.

This left just the plywood base to be stripped of the wiring loom and cleaned up, as I had already decided that I was going to use the original again rather than make a new one. It was the only bit that wasn't damaged beyond repair. Any of the triangular support/reinforcing blocks that had been left on the base were pried off and the ply sanded back to ensure an unobstructed fit into the bottom groove.


Now I had all the pieces ready, it was time to reassemble the cabinet. I first checked all the components joints to ensure they were going to fit together and checked the fit of the ply base panel. I laid out the left hand side panel and glued in the front and LOWER rear panel only, using a PVA wood adhesive. The adhesive was then brushed into the three sides of the bottom groove and the ply panel was slid into place. WARNING ! (if anyone is going to do this). The bottom plywood panel was slightly undersize width ways, so I had to ensure it didn't go all the way down into the groove in the side panel or it wouldn't have have been wide enough to fit into the groove in the other side when it was attached. (I hope that makes sense !) To do this, I temporarily tacked the ply panel into the correct position. The corner joints and the bottom groove on the right hand side panel were then glued and the panel located into its correct position. Any excess adhesive was wiped off and the cabinet fitted with sash cramps to keep it rigid while the adhesive dried. I also checked the diagonal measurements to ensure that the cabinet was square.

New cabinet, viewed from the back, with triangular reinforcing fillets fitted, but without the final two end panels.
Front view of new cabinet

When the glue had dried and the clamps removed, all the triangular reinforcing blocks were glued into place around the bottom of the ply panel. These I simply made from a 1" x 1" triangular timber fillet.

I decided that before gluing the last two end panels into place it was going to be far easier to put the corner leg brackets in. With the need to be accurate in drilling the holes for the leg bolts, I plumped to drill them from the outside, through the corners. After carefully marking the position of the holes, I chiselled a small flat area onto the corner of the cabinet which enabled me to position and drill an accurate pilot hole through the corner of the cabinet and then through the triangular wooden support which was securely wedged into place. With a pilot hole in place, it was then easy to gradually open the hole with succesively larger drill bits. A flat bit was used to rebate the hole in the triangular fillet to take the metal plate for the leg bolts. The fillets were then glued into place and the metal plates nailed to them.

The final two rear panels could now be fixed into position. The vertical panel was simply glued and slid into place in the grooves in the side panels. The horizontal panel was glued and laid into place, taking care to fit it the correct way round - VERY IMPORTANT. If it's the wrong way round you won't be able to bolt the head onto the cabinet correctly !

The rest of the triangular supporting fillets were then glued into place. The final thing was to refix the 4 screws in the side panels, fill over the screw heads and sand them down.

The wiring loom and all the other parts could now be refitted, keeping fingers crossed that there weren't loads of bits left over.

Finished cabinet waiting for the wiring loom and other bits and pieces to be refitted
An unusual view, but the finished result

There is of course one thing left to do - the front door ! , but if anyone has got this far, then you will have no problem in copying the original door and making a new one for the cabinet.