A new set of strips for a Mills "7-7-7" machine I'm working on arrived today from Mr Slot in the US so I set about removing the old strips and fitting the new. It occurred to me that this seemingly simple procedure is in fact harder than you think if you're a beginner and there are a few tricks and tips that can make it much easier. We have had a lot of new members who say they are new to the hobby of late, so I decided to write this beginners' guide as I fitted the new strips. The powers that be can decide where on the forum it should be poked away.
Fitting new strips sounds easy, and in fact it can be, if you prepare well and take a few precautions.
Many may disagree with my method, and they may be right, but this definitely works. This guide refers to a Mills mech but holds true for most standard mechs using paper/card strips. It assumes there are old strips on the mech. If they are not, you will need to align the jackpot payout holes then load the strips to that position or use the strip align hole on the payout discs to set all three reels in the correct position.
(1) Remove the money box coin shoot from the front to allow easier access to the third reel.
(2) Part cycle the mech stopping the fan with a cloth leaving the reels free to turn.
(3) Mark the start point of the first reel strip on the edges of the crimp tins.
(4) Using a thin screwdriver or knife, un-crimp the first reel strip making sure not to miss any crimped areas.
(5) Remove the first strip. The best way to do this is to simply ease it out, rather than sliding it round the reel. Rust and dirt will make it tear if you try to slide it out. Take care to keep the strip in one piece if possible and watch for added symbols coming adrift as you go. Not knowing where these came from can cause big problems later.
(6) Lay the old strip out next to the correct new one (they both should be numbered 1,2,3 or a,b,c). At this stage, check for any differences between the old and the new. Many machines, especially those used in the UK, will have had the payouts changed so the reel strips may well differ. The new set I'm using on this Mills machine came from Mr Slot in the USA and consisted of 4 strips, including an alternate reel 1 strip. This allowed me to cut symbols from the spare strip and make changes to the other three, bringing them in line with the old strips. Make any changes using double sided tape to attach any overlays. Cut the overlays very slightly smaller on the edge side so that the double thickness won't impede the new strip when you feed it into the channels on the reels. Make sure to put double sided tape on all four sides of the overlay so it doesn't come adrift during loading or use.
(7) Clean off any rust spots on the empty reel using sandpaper and wire wool. Doing this thoroughly at this stage will pay dividends when you come to load the new strip. Run a strip of sandpaper along the inside of the strip channel to make sure it's (a) open all round, (b) smooth and (c) clear of any pieces of the old strip.
(8) Find the openings on the reel which act as the loading point for the new strip. Open the BOTTOM of the gap wider than the top, ready for the new strip.
(9) Slide the bottom of the new strip into the reel slots and slowly feed the strip into the reel, allowing it to slide round the reel. If you have prepared the reel correctly, it will slide effortlessly round until it reappears at the top and the blank extension tucks neatly under the top of the strip automatically.
(10) IMPORTANT: Continue to advance the now fully loaded strip round the slot until the top of the strip lines up with the mark you made at the start to show where the top of the old strip was positioned.
(11) Lightly crimp the strip at this point, then remove the cloth stopping the fan and allow the mech to cycle through. Now check if the new strip lines up with the remaining old strips. Make any slight alignments and then crimp the new strip at several places round the reel, particularly where there is an overlay, at the start of the strip, and at the strip loading gaps. Note that the start of the strip is rarely at the point where the strip loading gaps are.
(12) Repeat the procedure for the other strips. Doing one at a time stops confusion of the strips and allows for better alignment.
Note that new strips may well be a different length to the old ones. If too short, they can be stretched using steam and a slight stretch. If too long, they should tuck into the back of the strip