Saturday, January 18, 2014

Astro Invaders Arcade Restoration - Marquee Touch-Up

Part I - Intro
Part II - Lights & Locks

In a previous post I repaired my marquee light. With the light shining through, the missing paint was now much more noticeable. Actually, it's not paint. I believe it was screen printed. Over the years the ink had dried out and was starting to crack. In some of the worst spots, it was flaking off. So I decided at the very least, I should preserve the sign in its current condition. With any luck, I might even be able to make it look a little better.

flaking ink

I started by cleaning the back of the marquee. Years of dust had accumulated over the ink and was probably muddying some of the colors. Because of the compromised condition of the ink, I couldn't simply scrub the sign clean. So I sprayed the marquee with Fantastik and let it soak for a minute. Then I rinsed it under a very light stream of water. That removed much of the grime. I followed by very lightly wiping the ink with a damp paper towel. That did pull off a few flakes of ink from the worst area but it got the rest of the marquee much cleaner.

Before (top) & After (bottom)

With the sign sufficiently clean I needed to protect the ink so that it wouldn't crack or flake anymore. I read on a forum that Krylon Triple-Thick Crystal Clear Glaze is the best option for preserving old pinball marquees and backglass. I found a can at Michaels and applied it per label directions over the ink; two heavy coats. The glaze dried clear and left a nice thick protective coating. Now I don't have to worry about the marquee getting any worse. More importantly, I could try and repair the missing ink on the sign without fear of ruining the sign. Any mistakes could be wiped away.

If you read the arcade/pinball forums, you will find most people advise against repainting translucent marquees.  Even if you match the colors perfectly, the translucency will likely differ and your repair might actually be more obvious than the damage was. While trying to decide what to do, I came across a 24 pack of Sharpie markers at home. For some reason I thought they might be suitable for repairing the marquee art. I tried them along the edges of the marquee, hidden by the brackets. The colors ended up being too transparent; even with multiple coats.

So next I decided to try fine point Sharpie oil-based paint pens. I picked up a few colors that were close to the marquee colors and tried them out along the hidden edges of the sign. I tried two colors to touch up the purple area of the marquee. The colors weren't an exact match but the repair looked OK...until I put it up to the light.

repair lighted from the front

same repair lighted from behind

With the light shining through the marquee, any spot of paint that was over the original ink made the area more opaque and painfully obvious. IF I could get paint that was a closer match, and IF I could get the paint ONLY on the clear areas without getting ANY paint on the ink, the repairs might be OK. But those are a lot of ifs.

Luckily, the black paint is completely opaque. Repairs made with the black paint pen were completely invisible. The area of the marquee with the worst flaking is actually black and light blue. If I can at least touch up the black, the missing light blue might not be that noticeable. So I carefully went to work with with a black extra-fine point Sharpie paint pen.

before (top) & after (bottom)

The resulting repair isn't perfect, but it looks pretty good. I've got two things going for me. Most of the flaking paint is light blue which blends well with the clear areas. And the worst part is in the area of an explosion. So the bits of flaked and missing paint almost look intentional. This will do for now. Maybe in the future I will play with those light blue areas again. The final step in the touch-up will be polishing the front of the marquee with some Novus plastic polish. But that will wait until the rest of the cabinet is finished.

back on the arcade

The difference is subtle. From 5 feet away, nobody would probably notice the difference. But it is certainly better than it was. And most importantly, the marquee will be protected for the next three decades. Next up, I'll rebuild the power supply.

Krylon glaze      4.49
Paint pen           2.50
Total              $6.99

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