Marble tower #2: What I've done so far

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Blog entry by Woodcanuck posted 06-10-2010 10:07 PM 5508 reads 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Working from a set of plans Part 2 of Marble tower series no next part

I wanted to make the marble tower good and solid, so I’m making it primarily out of ash. This was convenient because I had some on hand. :-)

Here’s where we stand today on the project:

The first step was to build the base and attach the side rails to it that go up to where the cross bracing and the handle reside. This wasn’t too bad to do…but it was the first time that I ran into the concept of cutting compound angles…which I learned requires patience rather than skill. I sometimes lack both…but I got through it.

Next was the starter mechanism. This is very cool…and equally frustrating. I haven’t got this working 100% yet and will likely wait until the very end to complete it. The marbles line up in the top and you prime the system with one marble after the mechanism. The lower bar tilts up and down allowing the next marble to pop through the mechanism and start down the rails….and so on until they’re all running. When it works reliably I’ll try and shoot a short video.

From above:

Next up was the circular run around the rails before dropping into the xylophone. This was a major pain the butt. Again, compound angles and short patience conspired against me. :-) You need to compensate for a 5 degree angle against the outside rail, plus the 60 degrees to join around the hexagon, plus a 5-10 degree drop in elevation to keep the marble moving. Let’s just say there are more than a couple of mis-cuts still taunting me on my bench.

Next up was the xylophone. Now we’re having fun. This was a fun little piece to build and it makes noise!!! The one gotcha I encountered was trying to paint the keys. I thought it would be nice to paint them bright colours. I tried priming them and using some enamel paints, but this was not giving me the look I was expecting. In the end, I removed the paint and buffed them up a bit to leave them as unadorned metal.

After the xylophone the marbles are supposed to shoot into a little cyclone type thing. The plans called for building a support bar (see the original post and you’ll see the picture) and using laminated strips of thin plywood cut in a spiral and glued/screwed down onto the support bar. I didn’t want to do it this way. So, to challenge myself, I decided to try laminating together a large segmented bowl that would act like a funnel that the marbles can spin around and drop out the bottom.

I have never tried segmented turning before, so this was much more challenging for me than I expected. I turned it this week and it works fairly well. I’ve got a few joints that aren’t as clean as I’d like and the center at the bottom has some small segments that blew out while I was turning it. I’ll keep working on cleaning it up until I’m happy with it and I’ll also be creating my own mounting mechanism.

The funnel bowl:

Here’s approximately where it’s going to sit….after I figure out how to mount it and put a transition rail from the xylophone on to the funnel.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

8 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3602 days

#1 posted 06-10-2010 10:12 PM

the absolute coolest I’ve every seen

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Woodcanuck's profile


128 posts in 3025 days

#2 posted 06-10-2010 10:17 PM

Thanks Jim…you’ve always got an uplifting comment.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 3233 days

#3 posted 06-10-2010 10:33 PM

Jim is right, this is way cool! It is a fascinating toy for kids of all ages.
I look forward to following your blogs on this.

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3907 days

#4 posted 06-11-2010 02:05 AM

That is so cool. I love it.
I bet it will never be done, as in you can always think of something more to add.

Good Job,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3799 days

#5 posted 06-11-2010 02:34 AM

It looks like you are doing fine. Things like this seems to need a little altering to get them to work. Looking forward to the finished project. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View flyfisherbob2000's profile


81 posts in 3012 days

#6 posted 06-11-2010 02:48 AM

looking forward to the finished project!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18288 posts in 3701 days

#7 posted 06-11-2010 09:40 AM

Great project!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3737 days

#8 posted 06-11-2010 02:45 PM

Great blog! Really cool project!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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