Machining Pinball

By Lloyd Graff

Back in the heyday of Brown and Sharpe screw machines in the 1970s, many of the screw shops in Chicago ran parts for the pinball machine guys. The flippers and bumpers were exquisite mechanical devices full of precision components. Most of those parts are gone today as video games have come into vogue, but one manufacturer remains, Stern Pinball of Suburban Melrose Park, Illinois. There was an excellent article in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune about the company and the owner Gary Stern. An accompanying piece on 98-year-old Steve Kordek, a hall of fame pinball designer is also well worth reading.

My best pinball experiences were as a kid on family vacations to Miami Beach. While my parents baked by the pool, I lived at the hotel pinball machines, mesmerized by the thump of the bumpers and the unpredictable roll of the steel balls. One of my childhood regrets was flipper anxiety—always a little early or a little late on the buttons.


Question: What is one of your most vivid memories of playing pinball?

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0 thoughts on “Machining Pinball

  1. Andy L

    There was a piece about this pin ball manufacturer on either the Discovery or History channel recently, Pretty cool.

    Pinball was an important part of college life in the late 1960’s. I remember spending my last dollar on a pinball game and a beer. That, of course was before I met the Lord Jesus and found a much better way of living, and eternal life.

  2. John Venckus

    I purchased a pinball (its called World fair. It has the Space needle ) in the 70’s from an auction for $60 and still have it and everyone from young to old play it whan ever they come over for holidays. They still love the sound of the bells and spinning pointer as the numbers go up. Maybe some day I’ll find a triple deck pinball. As far as the digital pinballs I’ve seen they just dont have the mistery of a balls direction for the hand an eye excitement when anticipating when to strike the flipper.