Black Knight retheme

The playfield on this Black Knight is a little warn and it would take a lot of work to get it back to original condition. I could completely repaint the playfield by hand, or put down an overlay, but really this is a perfect candidate for a retheme. Even though I had a hard time tracking one of these down, Williams made over 13,000 of them – so they are far from rare. Retheme it is.

My thought is to convert it to “The (Black) Knights of Ni” after Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I’m going to include elements from the movie like the rabbit, holy hand grenade, the Enchanter named Tim, and stuff like that. The upper playfield knight will be replaced by the tall Knight who Says Ni. I’m not usually big on toppers but a mossy antler topper would be in order.

I’ll have to give the playfield a look and plot it out but I’m looking at hand painting the entire playfield. I’m also planning on making a translite for it since I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. And of course, I have to include some custom sounds.

This will be my biggest pinball project yet.

I’m going to update this page as I continue on the project – sort of a diary. Some of my thoughts on what I’m doing might change so it will be fun to see how this project evolves over time.


October 22, 2016

Before I could put this machine on legs I had to fix the cabinet. The bottom had fallen out and the strip of wood holding it in was mostly missing. This means I had an excuse to buy a pneumatic brad nailer. New power tool days are good days.


October 24, 2016

I grabbed an image of the playfield off the web and made a quick and dirty mock up of “The Black Knights who say Ni” playfield. I need to refine it, and alter the style of the images I’ve added to match the original artwork, match fonts, etc – but here a test layout. The concept is to make it look very similar to Black Knight and not notice the changes at first. Then, the more you look, the more you find.

The Knights of Ni and King Arthur in the top playfield. Tim to the right of them. Lower playfield has the Black Knight below the left ramp. The Trojan Rabbit added to the plastic under the castle on the left. In the middle above the multiball light is the Rabbit of Caerbannog. Next to the two magna-saves I’ve added the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh. And in the middle, you have double and triple shrubbery.

There is a red plastic in the middle between the two playfields. That would be cool to have the King and Knights with their coconut squires behind them.

I’ll have to keep playing with this, but I think it’s workable.


November 5, 2016

The woman I bough this machine from wasn’t sure if it worked or not. Before I start ripping it apart, I want to see what I’m up against. For all I know the entire thing is thrashed and it’s going to need tons of new parts and boards. I decided to go the risky route. I got everything connected, checked all the fuses, plugged it in, crossed my fingers and flipped the power switch. The transformer awoke with a hum, but that was about it. No display. No sound. No lights.

I started troubleshooting at the power supply and worked my way out. I started testing power outputs and fixing connectors and wires.

I got the GI (general illumination) going first. Then I got power to the displays (they all work). I got the MPU to boot into audit mode, then into attract mode. I could add credits but not start a game. I found a problem down by the ball trough switches, fixed that, and it sprang to life.

It wouldn’t speak at first – even though it spoke when I pushed the test button. There are two jumper switches on the sound card. Once I found the right setting, it spoke.

I spent about 2 hours going though the playfield. I fixed drop targets, switches, and feature lights. Even got the bell working. By the end of the day it was playing to my satisfaction. It’s a mess, it played like crap, but everything worked.

Time to tear it apart.

This is what I’m starting with.

The lower playfield has has touch up work and it’s covered with mylar patches. All that needs to come up. The pop bumper is trashed and all of it will need to be replaced. This is fine since I’d like to try and make this the Holy Hand Grenade.

I started pulling everything from the playfield and gave it a scrub. This thing was pretty dirty.

Next step is to remove the mylar then I’ll go over the entire playfield with alcohol and ME foam and try to work out as much dirt as I can.


April 8, 2017

I haven’t worked on this retheme for a while because I decided to make some how-to videos on cleaning playfields using this Black Knight as a test subject. The videos are now up on my youtube channel. Now I’m done with that nonsense, time to get to work.

I pulled the mylar and cleaned both playfields. I then lightly sanded all sections I plan to paint with 800 grit sandpaper. I want to keep some elements of the original theme, so I masked off these areas with frisket and started airbrushing the background colours.

I started with the red. Once the red was dry I lightly sanded it in areas where some of the original paint has worn away. I’m using the red paint to fill in these areas. It seems to be working.

Next, I started airbrushing the yellow.


April 9, 2017

I cut some more paper templates and airbrushed the orange.


April 14, 2017

Finally, some signs of it taking shape.

I misjudged where my reds were going to end up on the top playfield and overshot my yellow. No big deal. Easy fix. I resprayed some red on the upper and lower.

Next step is to start blending the colours. In the original design the two colours blended together with a speckled pointillism type thing. I tried to emulate this by testing different ways to airbrush and even tried a splatter from a brush. Neither would give me the control I needed.

Time to pull out the tiny brush.

This is about 4 hours worth of making tiny little dots on a playfield. It sounds like a lot, but if you’ve never done pointillism work before, there is something very zen and calming about it. You don’t realize how long you’ve been at it until your hand and arm start to cramp.

I started shooting video clips back when I first shot the yellow. I plan to edit this together into a 20-30 minute video of the conversion. I took some close up video of this pointillism work. I think it will be fun to see it sped up.


April 15, 2017

It’s starting to look like a Black Knight again!

I sprayed the blue on the upper playfield and the little bit of blue in the top left of the lower playfield. Most of the blue at the bottom of the lower playfield is in good shape. It just needs a little touch up, so I’ve left it alone.

Once the blue was mostly dry, I pealed the frisk and masking from the lower playfield. I had a little bleed from the frisk here and there, but it will clean up easily.

I wasn’t quite happy with the position of the yellow near the tip of the sword, so I brushed a little yellow here and there to reshape it. I think it will look better once it gets white and yellow dots. I started the white dots around the rest of the sword and began to touch up around the handle the lower playfield.

So here is an idea. I really wanted to sneak the butt trumpet guys from the movie into the lower part of the playfield somewhere. On the handle of the sword are two birds. I think with a little modification, changing the scrolling bits around, and clever painting, I can put the butt trumpet guys there.

Here are the trumpet guys from the movie and a quick photoshop of them in the handle of the sword. If I were careful, you wouldn’t notice them.