Ok, enough with the books and theory… let’s start tearing this thing down.We’re going to be working with the mech out of the case from now until it is completely disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, repaired and adjusted.

First we’ve got to get the reel bundle out of the machine. This is relatively simple, but let’s take a look at the bundle and how it interacts with the rest of the machine.


Some of this will be more obvious after we get the bundle away from the mechanism, but the above photo shows some critical parts of the payout mechanism. The reel discs tell the mechanism which symbols are showing in the payout window through a series of strategically placed holes. The vertical payout levers (sometimes called “payout fingers”) travel into these holes and transmit any winning combination mechanically to another portion of the payout mechanism called the horizontal payout levers (not pictured yet.) In turn, the horizontal levers determine which payout slides move into position, allowing coins to fall into money bowl.

Also pictured above is the award token release lever, which functions a bit differently from the payout fingers. This lever determines if the reels have lined up on 7-7-7 by sliding into a special notch on the outside of the reel discs. You can’t see the notches above, but once the reel bundle is away from the mech we’ll take another look.


Here’s a rear view of the payout fingers and the award token release lever. Normally there would be a push bar assembly connected to the award token release lever on machines with the gold award feature, but that part is missing from this particular machine. We’ll worry about that later.


On the a-frame side of the reel bundle, we find a couple of parts that deal with the process of stopping the reels. Notice the starwheel and the reel stop lever. When the mechanism is cycled, each of the three reel stop levers move in turn to engage each reel’s starwheel, bringing the reels to a stop and ensuring that they stop with a symbol squarely in the payout window.

The two other parts pictured above are the reel shaft retaining screw and the reel shaft itself. In order to remove the reel bundle, we first loosen the retaining screw, then unscrew the shaft so that it can be pulled free. Be aware that other slot machine models may have a second retaining screw located at the other end of the shaft, and some models of machine have a reel shaft that is simply pulled out rather than unscrewed and then pulled free. Take a good look at the machine before attempting to remove anything.


Finally, we’re going to look at the underside of the reel bundle as best we can while it is still in the mechanism. In the photo above you can see the kicker assembly, although it will be much easier to see once the reel bundle is removed. For the purposes of this photo, the mech has been partially cycled, leaving it in the “wound up” state. The kicker assembly engages the underside of the reel discs and imparts force to them once the reel stop levers have disengaged and the payout fingers have retracted away from the discs. This force is what actually causes the reels to spin, and this was one of the parts that was frozen up when I first acquired the Mills 21 Bell.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be removing the reel bundle and photographing it in more detail. If you are following along with your own machine and intend to do a full disassembly, you might want to pop the mechanism back into the case and play it a few times before proceeding. Once we start the next step it will be a while before the machine can be played again.

One Response to “The reel assembly – In situ”

  1. lynn says:

    i have the same machine, but the reel wont turn, everything else seems to operate.I am not sure what to do,is there a more detailed picture

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