My apartment can get pretty dark once the sun goes down, but the lighting options available at big box stores do nothing for me. That’s why I decided to make my own solution: a cool pinball bumper cover nightlight.
If you do a Google search for “pinball machine crafts,” all you’ll find are lots of projects to make your own mini pinball machine at home—out of cardboard, out of foam sheets, out of chipboard … but there are very few how-tos for people who want to salvage old bits from vintage pinball machines and upcycle them into something new. Noting this deficiency, I wanted to write a post documenting what you need to do to make this super straight-forward project.
Keep reading for a detailed rundown of what you need and what to do to make this cute craft that will help you add a splash of warm light (and a little kitschy style) to a dim hallway, gloomy half bathroom, or any other lightless spot in your home.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Stuff You Need to Use to Make a Pinball Bumper Cover Nightlight
- An old pinball bumper cover (I used a Gottlieb 1956 marbleized-Bakelite, daisy-style cap that I snagged from a kind eBay seller)
- A nightlight module with a metal clip (I bought this set from Amazon and it worked great)
- Liquid Nails glue (the 4-ounce size for small projects is perfect—if you made my Invader Ghost mosaic, you should have more than enough Liquid Nails glue left for this project, too)
- A piece of bubble wrap (you’ll need something bigger than your pinball bumper cover)
Pinball Bumper Cover Nightlight Instructions
Step 1: Prep your supplies
Start with a pinball bumper cover. The one I got off of eBay had a little dinge on it. So I cleaned it up using a Q-tip before starting my project. (Be gentle. You don’t want to be so aggressive that you accidentally scrub off some of its paint vintage paint!)
Once it’s clean, lightly sand the bottom backside of your pinball bumper cover. Also, sand the flat side of your nightlight module’s metal clip. (And, if it is attached to your nightlight module, take it off. We’ll put it back on after the bumper cover is fully attached.)
Wipe away any grit released from the sanding.
Step 2: Prep your Homemade “Jig”
The trickiest part of this project is making sure that your pinball bumper cover doesn’t wobble as the slow-drying Liquid Nails sets. The cheapest, easiest, and most fun way to secure your nightlight during this process is to create a homemade “jig” using a piece of scrap bubble wrap.
Pop a circular area in the middle of your piece of bubble wrap that’s slightly bigger than the diameter of the part of your bumper cover.
Place your bumper cover into this divet face down.
Taking the time to do this quick step is important. It will allow your parts to rest together rest snuggly, just like an egg does in a bird’s nest, while the glue sets.
Step 3: Glue Everything Together
Put a smidgen of glue on the flat edge of your nightlight’s clip and on the bottom backside of your pinball bumper cover on the areas where you sanded.
Let these two newly joined pieces sit undisturbed for about 24 hours.
Step 4: Assemble Your Pinball Bumper Cover Nightlight
Click your metal clip with its bumper cover front onto the nightlight base. Screw in the lightbulb. Plug it into the wall and admire your work!
FAQs About Pinball Bumper Cover Nightlights
Though this is an easy craft, you might be wondering about some of the supplies. The following are answers to some frequently asked questions you might have about the materials used for this upcycling project.
Where Can You Get Pinball Bumper Caps if You Don’t Want to Shop on eBay?
If you want an old one, try your local antique mall and look in a booth that has old video games and other gaming machines. A lot of these vendors will repair broken machines they find and may have spare parts up for sale (or are willing to sell to you even if they don’t have something in their booth).
If you want a new one, the yellow pages—printed or online—are a big help. Just look for a pinball machine repair shop near you. Most can source and sell you a bumper cover.
Is Liquid Nails Glue Toxic?
No. According to the product website, after it has dried and cured, the solvents have gone away (and it’s the solvents that are toxic and flammable).
What Are Some Other Things You Can Do With Parts of an Old, Broken Pinball Machine?
Let your imagination rule! Here are three ideas to consider that require a bit more effort than the pinball machine bumper cover nightlight project:
- Drill a hole into the top of a pinball machine flipper (that’s the name for the tapered paddles that you control to hit the balls when you play the game). Then, slide a ball chain through it and you have a one-of-a-kind keychain.
- Salvage the back glass (this is the upright glass panel with the game’s main art) from of the wooden frame surrounding it (also known as a backbox). Then, get it framed to hang as special art for a wall in your house.
- If you have woodworking skills, turn a pinball machine’s cabinet into a conversation-starting coffee table. For inspiration, pop over to Etsy where there are a bunch of examples that you can use for inspiration for your project.
If you make a pinball bumper cover nightlight, I’d love to see your interpretation of this project. If you post your work on social media, give me a tag! I’m @joyoliviamiller on Instagram. Happy upcycling!