Modular Marble Machine #12: Then Finish, The Catch, and Some Instructions

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Blog entry by William posted 04-28-2013 04:05 AM 2626 reads 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 11: Preview Part 12 of Modular Marble Machine series no next part

If you haven’t already seen it, you can see the finished project here.

Now the catch is, this project is not staying in my shop like the other marble machines I’ve built. This one is supposed to be shipped to Canada. My problem is, I now have to figure out the best way to ship this. It is 48×52cm, 17cm high, and weighs about 37 pounds.
That wieght is not exact. I got the weight by standing on bathroom scales with the project, then without, and subtracting for the difference. This isn’t exact but give me a general idea of the weight.
I’m open to all suggestions about the best and most cost efficient way to get this to a fellow Lumberjock across the norther border.


Now, the rest of this last blog entry is an instructional for the person who this is going to. If you would like, you can read on. If not, thank you for checking out my blog and be sure to go check out the finished project.

After removing the cardboard and other packing materials, this is what you’ll be looking at.
Before I go further, I wanted to give you a list of exactly what you’ll be recieving.

1-base unit with pump assembly
1-bag of marbles
1-feed chute
1-elevator column
18-4×4 unit high double unit riser blocks
8-4×3 unit high double unit riser blocks
4-2×1 unit high double unit riser blocks
8-3 unit high single unit riser blocks
6-2 unit high single unit riser blocks
4-12 unit riser plates
2-6 unit riser blocks
4-5 unit riser blocks
4-4 unit riser blocks
8-3 unit riser blocks
8-2 unit riser blocks
3-flip flop units
2-zig zag tracks
2-circulating bowls
1-double back ramp
1-ski jump
4-long straight tracks
2-long drop tracks
3-long left exit tracks
3-long right exit tracks
4-short straight tracks
2-short drop tracks
3-short left exit tracks
3-short right exit tracks

Now, back to setting everything up.
Remove the base plates and you’ll be looking at this. You can certainly just dump it out like a kid if you’d like. I prefer to arrange everything neatly though so I can see what I’ve got. It makes it easier if you plan on building complicated tracks.

Locate the crank assembly. I’ve removed it for shipping. In this photo I show the two pieces, but when you get it, the block will be attached to the end of the shaft.

Remove the four screws from the connecting block and take it off of the shaft as you see in this photo. If you look at each end of the connecting block, there are ink pen markings I left on the ends to make it easy to tell which way it goes in order to go back in the exact same position.

Push the crank shaft through the hole in the side of the base unit where the walnut cover with the arrow is. The metal rod from the pump assembly goes into the hole in the end of the crank shaft.
The crank handle should be about one to two millimeters from the decorative walnut cover on the side of the base unit.

Place the connecting block over the end of the shaft just as it was when you removed it. Replace the four screws and tighten them down tight. This compresses the split shaft and tightens it down onto the metal pump shaft.

Place the elevator column on top of the pump assembly. You can see in this photo that there are metal alignment pins to make sure it is placed in the exact proper orientation each time. Be sure to press it down firmly over the alignment pins.

It will now look like this.

Place the feed chute back into place. You can see in this photo the notched end goes towards the front of the machine. The other end just rests on top of the pump assembly.

Put the base plates back in position and you’re ready to start building.

There is a five unit riser block permenantly attached towards the top of the elvator column for you to start with. If you wish to work with a double track, start with a flip flop. While any of the three will work, two of them require use of additional riser blocks to bring them to the proper height. I made this one out of a pretty piece of mahogany burl I had to distinguish it from the other two. If you start with it on top of the riser block that is attached to the elevator column, it is the proper height for the elvator exit. The next pieces are tracks that you have to use other pieces to support along side each side of the flip flop. As marbles come out, they’ll alternate each direction from the flip flop.
Build your tracks however you wish. Marbles are fed from the feed chute to the pump and go up and out the elvator column. You are only limited by your own imagination. All tracks must end feeding back into the feed chute if you want the track system to keep cycling back through.

Building track systems that don’t leak marbles all over the place is a matter of trial and error. Be prepared to chase down flying marbles. It happens. Don’t be scared to experiment. Add block on the other side of problem areas just to keep marbles from flying off. Marbles are unpredictable. No matter how carefully you build, some will seem like they have a mind of their own and fly off somewhere waiting for you to find them. This is part of the fun.

You’ve already seen how the pieces lock together using marbles. With the marbles I am shipping with the machine, I’ve had no problems building track systems and still have enough to keep it fed well enough. However, due to lost marbles, or if you just prefer more, you may have to find a source to purchase more marbles. If you do, you need to drill a 5/8 inch hole into a scrap piece of wood like I’ve shown in the blogs and test each marble, one by one. I’ve found that marble sizes are not consistant. If they are a tad small, that’ fine. If they are oversized though, they will not work.

A lot of the pieces, like the 12 unit riser plate, has multiple holes to be placed numerous ways. It is not necessary though to use a marble in every hole. Usually, two marbles for each block is plenty enough to keep it from moving.
A lot of the marbles are tight in the holes. This makes it sometimes a pain getting the marbles out of the holes. Also, this requires you sometimes to press down firmly to get the pieces to lock together correctly. This is fine. All the pieces are new. Over time and use, the holes will naturally enlarge a tiny bit and things will fit better. The only issue I’ve had with this is sometimes I may accidentally drop a marble and it’ll get into the base plate and not want to come out. It’s not big deal. I just leave it there. I get it out when I change designs by flipping the plate upside down and tapping the bottom side of it. It can stay put and I may use it later to hold another block in place.
If you do choose to use all available holes for every block instead of the two per block (unless otherwise needed) to hold pieces in place, there is a chance you’ll run out of marbles and not have enough to feed the tracks fast enough to keep things moving satisfactorily. If this starts to happen, you’ll have to use less marbles to stabilize the pieces, or you’ll have to get extra marbles. That is up to you as the individual user.


I guess that’s it. The only thing left to say is have fun. I hope you enjoy it very much.
I will include a note when I ship it with my phone number in case you have any questions that can’t wait. Also you know you can reach me through private message here on Lumberjocks if you don’t mind waiting for an answer. It isn’t difficult though. I only included as much info here as I did because I wanted to be absolutely sure that you’d have no issues with the machine.

And a special thanks to any and all who followed this blog. I hope you enjoyed seeing what went into it. It’s a lot of work, but it is a fun project. If you’d like to build this design, don’t forget, go to here to get the plans.
Or if you’d rather have on with a fixed track, you can see the other marble machine I built from the same man’s plans here. It was a fun one to do as well.


13 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18309 posts in 3727 days

#1 posted 04-28-2013 06:03 AM

Nice build! Turned out great.

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

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2908 days

#2 posted 04-28-2013 09:54 AM

William it has come out really well.

-- 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 stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3385 days

#3 posted 04-28-2013 11:22 AM

Congrats on finishing this wonderful project William.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View JL7's profile


8672 posts in 3016 days

#4 posted 04-28-2013 12:09 PM

Be honest…..who talks more, you or your wife?

Good luck on the shipping…’s not going to be cheap…..

Great blog by the way…..

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2894 days

#5 posted 04-28-2013 12:17 PM

Thank you all.

Jeff, why do you ask?


View JL7's profile


8672 posts in 3016 days

#6 posted 04-28-2013 12:27 PM

Well… least with this segment, you gave us the option to skip the bottom part…....but of course, you probably know I have to read then…....:^)

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2894 days

#7 posted 04-28-2013 01:14 PM

I don’t talk a lot.
I do sometimes type a lot though.
Who are we fooling?
I talk a lot.

To answer the question though, I am a wise man.
I may talk a lot,
But when the wife talks, I listen a lot.


View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2726 days

#8 posted 04-28-2013 01:29 PM

To think…..
All the time & effort you put into this machine….
Going to an LJer to play with! Mighty nice of you!!!

I hope you play with it A LOT….
before you ship it out!!!

Thanks for detailing the build so well. I enjoyed following along!

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

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1920 days

#9 posted 04-28-2013 01:33 PM

Need video of marble machine in action.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2894 days

#10 posted 04-28-2013 06:06 PM

Thanks Randy.
Buckethead, you can see video here.
Part two and three are videos of two different tracks.


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2855 days

#11 posted 04-28-2013 11:50 PM

That may cost you a little bit

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2741 days

#12 posted 04-29-2013 12:58 AM

Holy cow William. Tool comapnies need to hire you to write their assembly instructions! Not only did you do them in English, but the were clear and understandable!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2894 days

#13 posted 04-29-2013 01:48 AM

I’ll let ya’ll know what the costs are when I find out Roger.

Andy, I hadn’t noticed until you said something that it does sound better than any instructions I’ve had with anything I’ve purchased in the last twenty years.
Or maybe I just talk too much.


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