Saturday, November 6, 2010

Summer Flashback!

On September 11, 2010, these Prehistoric Pelicans were seen wandering behind Whizbang Studio. I had just taken a picture of Mark Weyna standing by his...911

...and he pointed and said (paraphrasing) "Holy Crap, there's a couple of dinosaurs behind you!" I turned to see the Sand Hill Cranes taking a hike towards the backyard (apparently they also heard about the bridge that Dennis built earlier in the summer.)

In just a few short weeks these cranes would be headed south as the summer of 10 was winding down and turning into one of the best seasons in Chicagoland...another "too- short" season called "The End of Road Construction until March."

Our short enough summer was shortened even more by a lot of work getting the game ready for Pinball Expo just a couple of weeks ago. For those of you that showed up at our Expo booth we say thanks again for your input, suggestions, purchases, and overall support. The game played like butter thanks to the major efforts of Mark Weyna and Ken Walker, a huge part of team Whizbang and the Weyna-Walker Watermelon Warehouse...Wholesalers of Weigh-Good Wizardry.

So since we owe you some blogtime from the proceedings that led up to Expo, we felt it appropriate to relive a bit of our summer and show you how the playfield got from the hand-drilled piece we brought to the Midwest show in Milwaukee to the fine-tuned whitewood that was not only playing but scoring at Expo.

Flashback, Flashback, Flashback...(echo....echo...echo...)

On a beautiful day in May (28th), the Friday before the official beginning of summer, we loaded up the truck and brought a fresh and minty whitewood out to Harvard, Illinois...cowtown of cowtowns (and proud of it.)

Some of you may already know that Harvard is the home of Pat Lawlor's design studio. For the less-than-pinball-savvy readers, Pat is one of our colleagues that made some of the coolest pinball games from the 1990's and beyond. And we took him up on his previous offer to rout our first whitewood in his amazing workshop.

Pat loaded Dennis' drawing into the computer and told Dennis he had to make a few changes to get the router to to read it properly.

These revisions gave me time to wander around the PLD studio and shoot some pictures (with Pat's permission.)

After a few minutes, Dennis saved the file and Pat loaded it into the system that runs the router.

Pat made a few adjustments to the head...

...pressed the big red button...

...of course Pat's shop has a red button(inside pinball joke #1)...

...and the router started doing its dance on the pristine maple veneer.

Whoa Nellie!

Dennis took a look at the first holes and realized his drawing was still a bit off...slots instead of holes. Doh! Even Pat's monkey couldn't believe it.

All was not lost though - within a few minutes and a couple more minor mods the machine started to do its work and in about 45 minutes... was time for lunch.
And, of course, we had to play with the clock (inside pinball joke #2.)Looks good, huh?

After we got back, Dennis grabbed a hammer and the "special tool" and started finessing the switch slots - a perfectly normal procedure in the world of pinball design.

Voila! Se Magnifique! Our first official machine routered whitewood! Another step in the art of pinball. Thanks again to Pat and his well appointed model shop! We appreciate the support...and we'll be back. If you'll have us.

So the day was great, a big step in the design process that got us closer to our bigger goals, a great outdoor lunch talking about the glory days past and glory days yet to come, and all this goodness on the brink of what looked like a great Memorial Day weekend!

On the way out of town, I hit rural State Highway 23, windows down, my '97 CRV purring like it did in '97, and Sinatra comes on the radio with "The Summer Wind" much better could the day get...for McHenry County's finest looking to make quota for the month?

I haven't seen a speeding ticket in 30 years! Oh well, it could have been worse. At least I didn't have to give up my license and I didn't have to go back to McHenry for court. Online traffic school and a certificate! So I got that going for me.

So as the summer wore on and got hotter and drier than most, we also cranked up the heat on transferring the parts and wiring from the first whitewood onto this new whitewood. Slowly but surely Team Whizbang made strides in getting the WNBJM playfield to the next milestone...playable, scorable, wiring transferred and dressed for "production", and the big switch from the original 2-Player scoring from Continental Cafe, to the 1-Player configuration and added 4th scoring reel for the higher scoring opportunities that Dennis' layout provided. October seemed so far away.

Next time we'll show some of the behind-the-scenes efforts during the final month before Expo...the run-up to showtime that we in the game business refer to as "Game Hell".

And we'll see some surprise visitors to the Whizbang Shop of Horrors! Sorry, I guess we missed Halloween too.

And more information coming soon about where to buy WNBJM shirts and backglasses and framed backglasses...we're getting some much needed help!


All art, sketches, or photos related directly to "Whizbang Pinball" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Big Juicy Melons" or "Whoa Nellie (Brand) Sweet Juicy Melons" are TM and Copyright 2009 WhizBang Pinball LLC, Greg Freres, and Dennis Nordman.

Photos on this post courtesy G. Freres and D. Nordman


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  2. Game looked great at the show. I am jealous of Pat's shop. Keep the updates coming!

  3. I hope now that Pat is at Stern the help he is giving the Mellon Team isn't going to vanish in thin air.