Shortly before the start of the 35th Pinball Expo, Pinball News made a journey to Cicero, west of Chicago to visit the Chicago Gaming facility.

The Chicago Gaming building in Cicero

The Chicago Gaming company is a relatively-recent offshoot of the older Churchill Cabinets company which made household and office furniture before branching out into arcade cabinets for pinball and video games as well as pinball playfields.

Although Churchill Cabinets subsequently expanded its Chicago Gaming business with a range of remakes of popular Williams/Bally pinball titles, the majority of the factory is still dedicated to woodworking.

Stacked packs of Baltic Birch sheets

One thing you can guarantee when working with wood is the creation of dust. Despite advanced suction and filtration systems, wood dust appears to coat most surfaces in the woodworking part of the factory.

The large sheets are cut into cabinets sides or playfields

One of the many CNC routers featuring multiple cutting heads

Stacks of cut wood sheets waiting to be turned into game cabinets

Churchill Cabinets produces game cabinets for several customers in the coin-op business as well as for their own Chicago Gaming range of pinball remakes and multi-cade video games.

Putting together the pieces which make up a pinball cabinet

One of the four presses which clamp the cabinet pieces together while the adhesive sets

Fully-formed cabinets before the game-specific decals are applied

Cabinets with the artwork decals applied

The cabinet building is relatively simple compared to the production of title-specific playfields. Not only do playfields have to be very accurately cut and routed, they then have to have inserts glued in, be sanded smooth, and then be printed and clearcoated.

Plain Monster Bash playfields are inspected to make sure they are perfectly smooth and flat

Once a playfield had passed inspection, it goes to the screen-printing room to have the artwork applied. The process is still fully manual. Each colour layer has its own screen with the ink applied by hand, starting with a base white layer. Individual playfield designs can use a dozen or more different screens depending on the complexity of the artwork. The playfields are put into racks after each colour is screened, where a pedestal