Need for New Hobby Leads to Stone Marbles

[Tom Lange] said he was looking for a new hobby when he saw a marble made out of stone and wondered what goes into making one for himself. Fast forward three years and he set up shop at the Madison Mini Maker Faire to show off the tools he built and the fascinating glossy orbs he’s produced. Read on to see the awesome process he uses to turn a hunk of stone into a perfect marble.

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How to Play the Bass With Marbles

Stringed instruments make noise from the vibrations of tuned strings, using acoustic or electronic means to amplify those vibrations to the point where they’re loud enough to hear. The strings are triggered in a variety of ways – piano strings are hit with hammers, guitar strings are plucked, while violin strings are bowed. Meanwhile, [Martin] from the band [Wintergatan] is using marbles to play a bass guitar.

[Martin] starts out with a basic setup. The bass guitar is placed on the workbench, while a piece of wood is taped to a tripod. The wood has a hole drilled through it, and marbles are dropped through the aperture in an attempt to get them to land on the string. Plastic containers are used to easily alter the angle the bass guitar sits at, relative to the bench, while an acrylic guide sits around the string to try to guide the marbles in the desired direction. These guides are important to make sure the marbles hit the top of the string, and bounce cleanly in the desired direction afterwards.

The initial setup is too inconsistent, so [Martin] places a notch in the wood and builds a lever system to hold the marbles and then release them in a controlled manner. [Martin] then checks that the system works by analysing footage of the marble drop with slow motion video.

The video covers the CAD design of an eight-slot guide so the four strings of the bass can be played more rapidly than in their previous build. Two guides per string allow each string to play two notes in quick succession without having to worry about marble collisions from playing too quickly.

It’s a great build, and we’ve seen [Wintergatan]’s work before – namely, the incredible build that was the original Marble Machine.

Thanks to [Tim Trzepacz] for the tip!

Your Marble Machine Doesn’t Need to Change the World

It’s easy to get sucked into the increasing the complexity when sometimes the craftsmanship can be what makes the project. [Alex Weber] proves the point with his minimalist marble machine. There are no death-defying twists and turns, no convoluted path forks or overly-complex lifting mechanisms. This is about a clean and simple design that looks amazing whether running or stationary.

For the uninitiated, marble machines route marbles (or quite often steel ball bearings) through a set of paths usually guided by gravity for the delight of onlookers. Traditionally, making them complicated is the point. Take this offering which highlights years worth of marble machine builds all exercising different concepts. Sometimes they occupy entire rooms. We’ve seen them make a clock tick. And who can forget marble-based flip-flops that combine to form things like binary adders?

Have we scared you off from building these yourself yet? No, that’s the entire point of this one… it can be excruciatingly simple, while elegantly crafted. Check out the video demo below to see how one oval, one battery, and one motor have no problem bringing a smile to your face.

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Designing a marble track from scratch

Woodworker extraordinaire [Matthais] was approached by a toy company to create a ‘marble run’ toy. [Matthais]’ jig-building skills are beyond reproach, so whipping up a prototype for this toy was pretty easy for him.

The basic unit of construction for this marble run is a simple ramp block with inputs and outputs at either end. These were crafted from blocks of wood, with the ramp carved out with a slot mortising machine. To make the side cuts on each block, [Matthais] used his pantograph router and a jig that cuts the wood for marble inputs on either side.

After taking his creation to a hackerspace for some very large kids to play with, [Matthais] found a few problems with his initial design. The blocks didn’t want to stay aligned when marbles were moving down the ramps, so a small mortise and tenon – looking very much like a piece of Lego – were added in several locations on the underside of each block.

Making one of something is relatively easy, but [Matthais] is making hundreds of pieces for his marble run prototype, each interchangeable with another. That’s impressive for something crafted by hand, but when you’re a master at making jigs like [Matthais], everything goes by pretty easily.

Rube-Goldberg provides liquid refreshment

rube-goldberg-soda-machine

The image to the left doesn’t make this look like much, but inside of the cardboard vending machine lives a clever Rube-Goldberg device. The video after the break gives a look at the inner workings to show how a quarter manages to dispense a full can of Coke. But that’s about all the detail we get on the project.

There are two sets of counterweights used in the design. Some marbles, and what look like giant pinballs. The coin chute, located on the left side of the venting machine, funnels the money into the waiting marble. When the marble rolls off it lands on a spoon. The weight rotates the spoon-filled disk and causes one of the waiting pinballs to drop from their rack. As that metal ball falls it operates a ratcheting system to dispense just one can. It looks like the capacity of the machine is limited to two refreshing cans of sugary liquid, but that could be scaled up if more room were made for cans and counterweights alike.

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Multiple Marble Machine Mayhem

If you like marble machines, or if you simply like alliteration, prepare to be amazed. [Denha] apparently has had a lot of time to spare over the years, as the marble machine collection he’s amassed is quite incredible. Dating back to 2009, the collection includes relatively simple machines, like the one pictured at the beginning, to one that includes physical logic gates around 5:30.

Interestingly enough, even the “simple” one that consists of two mechanisms to lift the marbles and a slide has a trick up it’s sleeve. The slide is actually modular, so that you can use the same “pumping” mechanism with different slide designs. Not that this is the only “pump” design, the last machine featured a marble lifting mechanism with an ingenious linkage assembly that translates the motion of a motor into a sort of lifting hand.

If this wasn’t enough Maddness, there is another marble-lifting surprise awaiting you in the video after the break around 4:35! Continue reading “Multiple Marble Machine Mayhem”

Cellphone microscope for about $20

Medical-grade microscope photography for $20 might be a game changer in areas where medical services are unavailable. This particular hack uses an iPhone’s 2 megapixel camera, as well as a tiny glass marble, to magnify a sample to about 350 times its actual size. The two images seen on the left are red blood cells photographed with the improvised microscope. The main issue with this magnification method is a very thin plane of focus that is overcome with processing in software.

This makes us think of the microscope hack that shined a laser through a droplet of water, to project the image on a wall. The concept was later refined to work with samples on glass slides. There are a couple of distinct advantages to using this cellphone-based method. First, the sample can be seen with its true colors. Second, you not only magnify the sample, but you have a digitized image already on a device that connects to the Internet. If you’re trying to make a medical diagnosis this can easily be sent to a qualified professional for analysis.

The team that came up with this technique also figured out how to build a cellphone-based spectrometer for just a few bucks. The image in the upper right is the result of that hack. Both have a step-by-step build guide on the page linked at the top. The microscope is just a glass bead in a piece of rubber, as seen here. The spectrometer is a bit more involved.

[Thanks Fabien]