Man builds pinball machine

Courtesy photo Kelly Corcoran stands next to the pinball machine he designed and built.

GLADSTONE — A Gladstone man has expressed his love of pinball by designing and building his own pinball machine over the course of two years.

At the age of 5, Kelly Corcoran’s interest in pinball was sparked by a pinball machine at a bowling alley. Thanks to a mechanical glitch, he was able to play multiple games on the machine on one quarter.

The experience had a lasting impact on Corcoran, who is now 26. As a child, he drew hundreds of designs for pinball playfields and built pinball machines from materials like Lego bricks and cardboard boxes.

In 2011, when he graduated from high school, Corcoran’s parents Lois and Dan Corcoran took him to the Midwest Gaming Classic in Milwaukee — an annual convention focusing on electronic entertainment, including pinball. He returned to the event on several occasions; eventually, these visits inspired Corcoran to build his own pinball machine.

The theme of Corcoran’s pinball machine is the video game “Undertale.” According to Corcoran, he spent months designing the machine’s playfield.

“It went through 11 different iterations as I tried to determine exactly the right layout,” he said. Corcoran noted the final design is similar to the popular pinball machine “The Addams Family.”

The layout of Corcoran’s pinball machine includes two sets of flippers.

“I tried to design the entire layout so that every flipper had at least two significant shots to hit. I didn’t want to stick extra flippers in there just for the sake of having them,” Corcoran said.

After deciding on a theme and design, Corcoran began constructing the cabinet — a process he described as a learning experience.

“The design of this cabinet really drove home the point that I need to measure things ahead of time and pay attention to those measurements, because it’s really not squared off very well,” he said. “There are a lot of things that could have been done better. But I learned quite a few things about woodworking in the process and I’m not going to have this issue again.”

Corcoran used Inkscape, a vector graphics editor, while designing his pinball machine’s ramps. The ramps were assembled from raw steel rails, and Dan provided assistance with welding.

Some of the materials used in Corcoran’s pinball machine were purchased from local businesses.

“In particular, all the wood products came from 41 Lumber, and all of the printed artwork was done by Meier’s Signs,” Corcoran said.

The pinball machine uses desktop computer components for its game program. These components are connected via USB to controllers which operate the playfield and its devices.

Corcoran will be showcasing his pinball machine at the Midwest Gaming Classic 2019 this weekend. He also plans to build another pinball machine in the future.

“This is not the last build,” Corcoran said.

To take a virtual tour of Corcoran’s pinball machine and to see it in action, search for “Undertale Pinball Tour” and “Undertale Pinball Gameplay” on YouTube.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today