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Modular Marble Machine #2: The Elevator Column

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Blog entry by William posted 04-10-2013 12:26 AM 2295 reads 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Pump Part 2 of Modular Marble Machine series Part 3: The Base »


Yesterday we built the pump to handle pushing the marbles, but now we need to get them on some kind of upward mobility. Marble machines work from gravity and momentum keeping the marbles moving through it’s course. So they have to start high. So today I built the elevator column. In this first photo, you see the elevator column sitting beside the pump.

I took a closer shot so you can see that we added pins to the top of the pump that line up with holes on the bottom of the elevator column. This assures the elevator gets placed in the exact location every time. If it did not, there is a good chance that marbles could get hung up.
Speaking of things getting hung up, after I built the elevator it was time to test the pump and elevator assembly. I test each and every part as it’s built. Besides being fun, it is a necessity. It is best to catch any problems exactly as they arise instead of later having to isolate a single problem within a conglomerate of parts.

I realized I had a problem with the pump. It worked fine yesterday while feeding one marble at a time. Now though, with the elevator in place, I was able to try feeding a steady stream of marbles by setting up a temporary trough. It would take one marble fine, then would catch the next marble between the piston and lower part of the cover hole and jam up instantly. That just would not do. So I investigated the issue.
What I determined was that the piston was dropping down just a hair too low, allowing following marbles to drop down into the hole on top of the piston before the slider had a chance to move the assembly aside. This was like throwing a monkey wrench into a gear assembly. It simply caught in the sum of parts and jammed.
I thought about scrapping the pump and starting over. Before doing so though, I took a coffee break and thought of an easier solution. I used a micrometer and measured the difference between the marble at it’s lowest point and the top of the slider assembly, and determined that it was only an eighth of an inch difference. So I sliced off an eight inch section of three quarter inch dowel on my table saw sled and carefully glued it in place flush with the bottom of the slider assembly.
Of course this required another extended coffee break while I waited for the glue to set up. I wasn’t sure how it would work and kept thinking of an old saying I remembered from the Emergency Broadcast System, “this is a test, this is only a test”. That scares me. I think I’m showing my age too much remembering these things and my kids haven’t a clue what I’m talking about when I say things like that.

After the glue dried though, luckily, this fixed the issue and I could move on. We were cooking with grease now. Then I wasted about an hour just playing with the whole assembly. No, I don’t play. It’s testing. Yea, that’s the ticket, testing.

So here is the whole assembly of the pump with the elevator column attached. As I showed with the pins earlier, the elevator column is removable. The reason for this is that later, when everything is done, the machine breaks down for all the parts to be stored in the base.

At the top of the elevator column is a turnout that directs the flow of marbles outwards, or inwards in this case, toward the base that all this will reside in. As the marbles reach the top and are pushed outward, the shape of this piece, along with the metal rod you see in the center of it, helps direct the marbles where they need to go.

Here was part of the “testing” process. I like how you can actually see the marbles as they rise through the elevator column.

Here is a closer view of it.

.

I got a message yesterday with a question about my using plywood on this machine and about the species of other wood I’ve been using.
Some people who know me or read my blogs know that I have a hatred for plywood. Whenever possible, I use nothing but solid wood. However, as much as I hate to admit it, plywood does have it’s place. In some situations, such as the ones you’ll see during the construction of this project, the stability of plywood just can’t be matched with solid wood. Solid wood moves with weather changes. It doesn’t matter what it may be sealed with. That movement is always present.
For example, you’ll notice the base mount on the elevator column and the top and bottom of the pump are plywood. This is a critical area where the placement of the parts always have to be perfectly the same as they were designed to be. In cases such as this, plywood allows the possibility to make it and rest assured that the wood will not move enough to make that future joining of parts a problem.
You’ll see me using a variety of woods in this project, as I like to do in a lot of my projects. So far, except for the plywood, all the wood I’ve used has been sycamore. I chose it because it is a very stable wood for these moving parts. While it is not as stable as plywood, it has less movement with weather changes than some other wood choices I’ve tried in the past.
I will try to remember to state the species of woods I’m using in future installments of this build.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/



21 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4146 posts in 1546 days


#1 posted 04-10-2013 12:37 AM

Thanks William, I was looking out hardwood off-cuts for Gordon’s Marble run
I’m now looking at the plans and it makes sense to use plywood in certain
places. He is using the same plans as you.
What is the average marble diameter in the US of A?
Jamie

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Sandra's profile

Sandra

4631 posts in 764 days


#2 posted 04-10-2013 12:49 AM

I’m watching this blog with interest. My 8 year old has shown interest in the shop and I think a marble machine (very simple one, may be just the type of project to do with him). Thanks for posting this.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#3 posted 04-10-2013 12:52 AM

Jamie, the marbles I’m using come from the dollar store. They are supposed to be 5/8”. That is what the plans call for too. However, I drill a 5/8” hole in a piece of wood and test every single marble for size. A lot of them are oversized and will cause issues for marble machines. You see, if built right, all marble machines are built so that the tolerances are kind of tight according to which marble you’re using. You can use looser tolerances, but the looser things are, the more marbles you’ll have flying all over the place.
Out of a bag of fifty marbles, usually about 30 to 35 marbles are usable for a mcahine. I have young boys and they get the ones that are oversized.

For the wood, you could use any kind of wood actually. The box it sits in, certain other parts, and such could all be made of plywood if one wanted. I would suggest hard wood for the slider in the pump, the elevator, and the feed chute. After that though, if one wanted, the rest of the machine, the blocks and such, could be made from any type of wood. You could actually use the cheapest wood you can find at the local hardware store or lumber yard. Myself, I usually like using harder woods I have around the shop though. Our locally cheap wood is pine and splinters too easily. The only time I like using it is if I’m constructing something like a wall.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#4 posted 04-10-2013 12:54 AM

Sandra, this is my fourth machine. I always have extra parts left over from them though. Sometimes I mess up on something, or sometimes on some of the machines I make up extra chute material just in case and don’t need it all.
Anyway, my boys always take the extra material and make contraptions at the shop or in their bedrooms to run their marbles on.
If you want to build one for an eight year old though, this one would be perfect. Later you’ll see that the machine is made up of building block type pieces that can be built up and arranged, and rearranged over and over again, any way a child (or child at heart) could possibly want.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#5 posted 04-10-2013 01:01 AM

Sandra, here’s another idea.
My kids are old enough not to need it, but
When my grandchildren get old enough to start learning math, I’m planning on building them some of these.
I think it’d be a fun way for kids to get interested in math.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View JL7's profile

JL7

7274 posts in 1654 days


#6 posted 04-10-2013 01:15 AM

Marble mania 16 has begun….....carry on…

-- Jeff - I have not failed. I've just found 10,002 ways that won't work.

View DIYaholic's profile (online now)

DIYaholic

13772 posts in 1364 days


#7 posted 04-10-2013 01:16 AM

Looks like your marbles are pulling a “George & Louise Jefferson”.....
& are “Movin’ On Up”!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procratination a bad thing?

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#8 posted 04-10-2013 01:18 AM

Thanks Jeff and Randy for coming to take a look.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4146 posts in 1546 days


#9 posted 04-10-2013 01:40 AM

That adding machine looks very interesting
Jamie

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#10 posted 04-10-2013 02:03 AM

I think so too Jamie.
One day, I’ll wind up building one.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Kreegan's profile

Kreegan

1452 posts in 836 days


#11 posted 04-10-2013 02:19 AM

Looking good, William. You have a talent for these things.

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#12 posted 04-10-2013 03:24 AM

Thank you Rich.
In the process of doing all this on the marble machine, in the next couple of day, I want to make a few glueups of pen blanks too. I was thinking today, some of the harder to glue up ones that I’ve been having issues with because of my impatience, I can glue one part at a time and have plenty of time for it to dry while I work on the marble machine.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View stefang's profile

stefang

13298 posts in 2023 days


#13 posted 04-10-2013 07:43 AM

Interesting build William and I liked the adding machine too. Now if you can just figure out how to make a marble powered car engine.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile

William

9149 posts in 1532 days


#14 posted 04-10-2013 11:49 AM

Thank you Stefang.
I don’t know about a marble powered car, but I have often thought of building a wooden car. There are many examples out there, but I have a few ideas of my own.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4146 posts in 1546 days


#15 posted 04-10-2013 11:55 AM

William,
you would like a Morgan then

Great cars William but I would need a Lotto win

Jamie

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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