Portable Pinball Lift

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I've been mostly happy with my Redneck Pinball Dolly. The problem with the dolly is that it's heavy and huge and it doesn't do stairs. Often a simple hand truck is the way to go. But I'm still not willing to use my back to get the rear legs on and off a game. Here's a pinball lift idea I first saw on Pinside around 2017. My primary goal for this project was portability.

The lift is based on a 30", 5,000 lb. RV stabilizer jack. The advantages of using an RV-specific jack are that the jacks tend to have a long reach and are easy to use with a cordless drill.

DISCLAIMER: Strictly speaking, an RV stabilizer jack is for stabilizing, NOT jacking. The jack seems adequate for my purpose, but what do I know? I am not a mechanical engineer. I built this lift based on what "looked right" to me. If you're dumb enough to replicate my example, you're on your own. Notwithstanding, I wouldn't recommend leaving the lift unattended or using it around rambunctious kids or pets.

Orientation Note: I'm utilizing the jack upside down. When I use words like up and down or top and bottom, I'm referring to my orientation, not the jack's intended orientation.

Game Set Up

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The front legs are bolted on and the lift cradle is placed under the rear bottom edge of the game.

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The game is rotated onto the front legs and lift cardle.

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The jack is centered under the lift cradle.

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The game is jacked up and the rear legs are bolted on.

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Done!

The above process is reversed for taking down a game. This system is way easy to use. The game is easily rotated on the lift cradle and the jack works great. Even my old low-voltage cordless drill had no problem lifting a game. Assuming the front legs are firmly bolted in place, the lifting process is reasonably stable. Nevertheless, note that the back of the game follows a slight arc as it's raised and lowered. Expect some slippage between the front legs and the floor and/or between the jack foot and the floor and/or between the lift cradle and the game and/or between the lift cradle and the jack.

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Some slippage may be expected.

The portable pinball lift consists of two parts - the lift cradle and the jack. The lift cradle acts something like a cam where the game is on the floor when rotated on end, but is off the floor when rotated toward horizontal. The cradle gives the jack space to operate. The cradle can't be too small because the jack won't work from its folded flat position. The jack requires a minimum starting height before it gains any mechanical advantage. The higher the starting height, the easier the jack will operate.

My cradle is 12" by 12" by 12" with a 12" radius. It's made from ½" plywood with plenty of bracing at the joining corners. I added a piece of aluminum angle stock that fits under the game kind of like a hand truck. And I added an oval hole for a carrying handle. My handle grip looked a little too fragile so I added a narrow reinforcing strip of plywood. I also added a pair of alignment blocks on the underside of the cradle for centering the cradle on the jack pad.

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Lift cradle.

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Lift cradle.

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Lift cradle.

I wasn't too happy with this jack as it came out of the box. It took an excessive amount of force to fold it flat because the inner scissor members didn't fit well into the outer members. I used a bench vice to slightly crush the inner members.

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Crushing the inner scissor members to get the jack to fold flat.

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That's better.

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Don't forget to buy a cordless drill adapter.

I added a ½" plywood pad to the top of the jack. The tab extending from the far end of the pad helps balance the cradle in place when the cradle isn't snugged up against the bottom of a pinball machine. Another small alignment block centers the jack under the lifting edge of the cradle. In the interest of portability, I added a folding handle made from scraps of hardware.

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Jack pad.

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Folding carrying handle.

Below is a detail shot of the handle arrangement. The handle shafts are long machine screws. I cut a shallow slot in the pad and pressed the shafts into the slot. One end of each shaft is held by a small screw. The other end of each shaft is simply pinched between the pad and the jack itself.

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Underside of jack pad.

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Interlocked alignment blocks.

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Interlocked alignment blocks.

The jack has a big round mounting bracket which I thought would make a good stable foot. I add a ¼" plywood pad to protect the floor.

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Bottom jack pad.

It wasn't my intention to use the manual crank that came with the jack. But I also didn't want to lose it. I cut it down to a more manageable size. Then I drilled a pair of holes to store it in the lift cradle.

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Cut down crank.

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Crank stored in the lift cradle.

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Crank stored in the lift cardle.