Donkey Kong Restoration 4

So in Parts 1, 2 and 3, you will have followed my journey so far in restoring this beat up Donkey Kong cab. I felt I was in the home straight now – it was time for some artwork to be applied to the sides of the cab. This part scared me to death, because once the art is on, it’s on. You can’t get it wrong, there are no second chances. So here it is. A step by step guide to applying side art:

1.    Bring the cab into the house, remembering to carefully negotiate around “The Warden”. Don’t worry, her bark is worse than her bite:

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2.    Measure up your artwork and decide where it’s going to go. Tape it in place with masking tape, with a long piece across the middle. Remove backing film from the bottom up to the middle of the art, where your long piece of masking tape is, and cut off this bottom part that’s now unattached from the artwork. Then carefully start to squeegie from the middle, down and outwards (are you keeping up?). Notice there’s another layer of paper on top of the art, to allow a good amount of pressure to be applied without scratching the artwork. Once on, you can peel off this protective paper to reveal the shiny art underneath:

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3.    Remove the centre strip of masking tape, and the top half of the backing. Squeegie from the middle, up and outwards. Et voilà:

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4.    Repeat the process on the other side, taking measurements from the side you’ve just done, to ensure their positions match:

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5.    Step back, admire your handiwork:

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Given that this was “a one chance to get it right” procedure, I was surprised at how easy this was. Take your time, use common sense, and all is well. What I do like is the way the contours of the paintwork subtly show through the side art in certain lights. I think I prefer this to a sheen, flat art, as any imperfections can be forgiven when there’s some texture there. This is down to the roller technique I opted for on the paintwork rather than spray:

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Bit by bit I brought various pieces into the house and set to work at them. Stripping them down, giving them a thorough clean, then reassembling them.

Managing The Warden was tricky, but with stealth and distraction techniques, I was able to sneak in a complete Donkey King machine via the back door.

One nice piece I bought from the US (that’s right folks, more contributions to the GDP of America) was a reproduction wiring harness. Made by a guy going by the name of Dokert who frequents the KLOV forums, these are a complete all in one replacement for Nintendo games – using the edge connector of the PCB instead of the individual pins, these looms provide a neat and reliable solution to old tatty wiring harnesses.

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I had a buyer lined up for my old wiring loom, so the purchase wasn’t quite as financially painful as it could have been. As I started to piece together and solder the loom to the back of the control panel and coin door, I stopped to examine the counter.

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This small box sits at the rear of the coin door, and as it’s name suggests, literally counts the number of coins that pass through the coin mechanism. As you can see, my machine had counted up 224,456 credits. If we assume that these were all US quarters, it’s safe to say that this machine in it’s lifetime earned it’s operators over $56,000. (It would also be fair to assume that most of this would have been earned in the early 80s, during the Golden Age of videogames). An incredible statistic. Multiply this figure by the 18,000 Donkey Kong cabinets that were supposedly produced back then, and you start to get an insight to how big the coin op industry actually was.

So my cab had managed to offer up players almost a quarter of a million plays in its 30 year life before being retired to a warehouse somewhere in Germany. I was pleased I was bringing her back to life for a second bite of the arcade cherry.

One of the last parts to look at was the power supply.

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This lives at the bottom of the cab and converts the mains electricity into suitable voltages to power the monitor screen, the tube that lights up the marquee and the PSU, which in turn powers the main CPU board. Quite a complex bit of kit, this thing weighs a ton. Again, bit by bit I stripped it down, and cleaned where I could, making sure I pieced it back together as I found it. As I removed the PSU I heard something inside rattling around. Turning the thing upside down, I shook out a load of dust, dirt and general junk (all over The Warden’s nice tablecloth – more trouble brewing) and amongst it, a coin fell out to the floor. Sure enough, it was a quarter, dated 1992.

What this confirmed was that the cab had at least an eleven-year working life (1981 to 1992). Just a small piece of information like that makes this hobby worth while – you get a fuller picture of what you are working with and a little piece of history to go with your hard work.

So we were getting there. Slowly but surely, the cab was coming back to life, and hopefully, I was going to get some Donkey Kong gameplay to reward my hard work.

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