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Tackball ball yellowing and shaft repair (Started on What did you buy on Ebay thread)

Gearhead Lu

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Starting a new thread on trackball repair so the original thread is not derailed. Some of the previous posts...

On 9/4/2020 at 2:51 AM, bfollowell said:

I've noticed that almost every single Atari or Wico trackball, or any other brand I may have seen over the years, is really aged and discolored. Has anyone ever tried cleaning or RetroBrighting them? Those balls are thick and heavy enough that I doubt much short of a direct nuclear strike would hurt them.

On 9/4/2020 at 4:44 AM, Gunstar said:

I think I tried cleaning the ball on mine without luck. But I do believe that the balls, at least on this model of Atari track-ball, is a genuine billiards cue-ball, so replacing it shouldn't be too hard. But I've never bought billiards balls, so I don't know their cost or if you can purchase a cue-ball separately or if you have to buy an entire set.

On 9/4/2020 at 6:28 AM, adamchevy said:


I’ve replaced CX80 Trak balls in the past with new billiards balls. You can find them for sale on eBay separately for sale most of the time. I think I paid 9 or 10$ for the last one I purchased, but that was a few years ago. The feel and weight was exactly the same but smoother because it was new.


Thanks to your conversation I decided to pick one up for my CX22. It was $15 shipped.



On 9/4/2020 at 8:17 PM, Gearhead Lu said:

I have a couple Wico Atari ST trackballs (two buttons) that have yellowed balls also. Did not realize the yellowing until I saw the box pictures. Have not tried to whiten them. I thought maybe try putting the ball in the sunlight, but could turn out uneven whitening. Forecast tomorrow said it could get up to 110F here. I wonder if that is too hot to try whitening plastic??


After cleaning track balls and the guides, I use Pledge furniture polish spray on the ball and makes it spin super smooth. It contains silicone that makes it slipery. Spray on, wipe off.

I do this often on a trackball that I use on my current PC. Pledge also works good as a cheap auto or bike detailer.



OK, The weather forecast was wrong. It did not get up to 110F, it got up to 112F. ?

I set my very yellowed Wico balls in the hot sun for a day with a peice of electrical tape on them to see if I could tell a difference. They just slightly lightened up. I then soaked a ball in 40 volume hydrogen peroxide and set in the sun for another day with little whitening results. Still quite yellow. ?

You can barely see the darker yellow where I had a small square of electrical tape (lower leading side of ball).









On 9/4/2020 at 9:02 PM, Gunstar said:

I submerged the ball in peroxide and water in a tub (along with other items) for 2-3 days and any effect on the yellowing was insignificant. It just doesn't retro-brite like plastics. Maybe if you left it out in direct sunlight for a month, rotating it, it might eventually bleach out again, but my track-ball works fine which is the important part, and I figure eventually I'll get around to buying a new cue-ball for it.


One thing I should mention about looking for a cue-ball for it, make sure it's a standard regulation size cue-ball; at least in American bars and some pool houses, with coin-operated pool tables, the cue-ball is a different size (smaller) so that it goes down the right tube to the scratch-shot retrieval, while the other balls go into lock-up in the side of the table until more quarters are inserted. I don't know if these cue-balls are widely available, If one of these smaller cue-balls is used it may leave too much room between in an the opening so that the ball has room to skip, and doesn't roll as smooth.


This also occurs if the metal spindles have grooves develop from years of use, like mine are, enough to completely remove the nickle plating, down to the brass, about a centimeter wide . I found some trackball spindles on-line for replacements, but before I ordered I discovered it was enough to just put a layer of medical tape (it sticks and stays put better than electrical tape) underneath the spindles' bearing cups where they rest. this raised the ball up the same amount as the groove was deep on the spindles. It works great again now. But this is not a permanent solution, as the grooves made on the spindles by the ball could get deep enough that it restricts diagonal movement too much and makes the ball "skip" or "jump." But, in the case of the metal spindles, it could be another decade of use before the grooves get too bad, if used regularly.






On 9/25/2020 at 1:41 PM, cwilbar said:

I'd have to compare my Wico and my Atari trackballs to arcade trackballs.  It would not surprise me if the parts (at least on the Atari units) were from the arcade vision (i.e. Centipede trackballs).

Not sure about Wico. 


An interesting option would be to have a machinist make new shafts out of something a bit harder.  Though that is going to get expensive for just a pair.



23 hours ago, adamchevy said:

I’ll make you some shafts. I was thinking about making myself a set when I took apart my CX22 a few days ago. I’m thinking about making them out of a hard stainless like 316 or 304. I just need to figure out how to take those plastic things off on the end of the shafts. I might even try some D2 tool steel or titanium if I can find some. The only problem with Titanium is that it may be to light weight. That and titanium eats carbide inserts for breakfast.


Anyway I’ll make this a project for next week.

11 hours ago, cwilbar said:

I doubt the application would require titanium ?


But the idea of a hard stainless steel is good.  I think the only other bit is surface finish.  If made too smooth it might not work well.  I bet new originals have a bit of texture.


If you pursue it, start a thread on the topic for people to follow.

I had a great idea... or so I thought. Just slip some good quality heat shrink tubing on the shafts. Maybe it would grip good and be a simple fix I thought. My Wico shafts have a slight bit of wear and the ball rolls a bit rough. So I tried the heat shrink with my spare parts Wico track ball using some Reychem D-25 heat shrink. With heat shrink on just one shaft it rolled very smooth and gripped really good, but only when spinning in the direction of the heat shrink covered shaft. I sleeved the other shaft with heat shrink and the ball was hard to spin in either direction. Apparently there is too much grip. When you roll the ball on one shaft, it needs to slip on the other shaft because the shaft it is not in contact at the midpoint of the ball side. The shafts centers are not on the same plane as the ball center. This requires a bit of slip between the ball and the shaft that is not in the direction of the ball rotation. I would think that the slipping is what is causing a lot of the wear to the shaft.

I removed the heat shrink and polished away most of the roughness on the shafts using a buffing wheel. Now the ball spins easy and smooth in all directions. It seems to still have plenty of grip to turn the shafts that the ball is rolling in the direction of. 

I would not worry about how smooth the shafts are. My guess is that a smooth shaft will have less wear. I think if the bearing are spinning free then it will turn the shafts OK even with very smooth shafts..

Another thing is that the Wico has springs under the bearings that suspend the shafts for contact and keep pressure between them and the ball (see my Wico trackball photo above). 

I think Gunstar's Atari trackball would not need the tape under the bearings if it had the springs even with worn shafts. The shaft size would not be so critical.


Gunstar said his trackball wore through the nickle plating from years of use.

I would also think stainless steel polished shafts would work fine. 


6 hours ago, Stephen said:

Ahh man - you have a lathe?  Which brand & size?


1 hour ago, adamchevy said:

I’ve worked for the same Machine shop for the last 10 years. I run 2 Mori Seiki NL2500sy lathes.

That sound too easy making the shafts with that lathe.


I have a lathe also. An old cheap Central Machinery (Harbor Freight) 12" x 37" Gear head lathe. ? Good for small hobby stuff.

No CNC. I have to cut parts manually and use micrometer dials (no digital readouts).











Edited by Gearhead Lu
Correction for clarity.
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I recently bought one that looks brand new and it's pretty yellow too.  But I thought they are supposed to be yellow?  In this picture it doesn't look as yellow but definitely not white.  Wonder if they came as yellow or if they were light yellow and got yellow over time.



Wico trackball.jpg

Edited by tjlazer
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21 hours ago, tjlazer said:

I recently bought one that looks brand new and it's pretty yellow too.  But I thought they are supposed to be yellow?  In this picture it doesn't look as yellow but definitely not white.  Wonder if they came as yellow or if they were light yellow and got yellow over time.



Wico trackball.jpg

When I first got my CX22 trackball, back in the late 80's, it was as white as a standard cue-ball comes new, technically it is probably an off-white color, I don't have a new cue-ball to look at. It definitely yellowed significantly over time.




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