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.

21 thoughts on “Your Marble Machine Doesn’t Need to Change the World

        1. Where the fuck is the Arduino? Clearly a fake without one. Just kidding, amazing craftsmanship. I would love to see more projects on HAD showing how to build things with pretty wood and shiny brass. My latest project was built in a cigarette pack reinforced with duct tape, great til it gets wet from the moisture in my hands etc.

    1. But, nine times out of ten, that’s also true of a gps-enabled livetweeting cycle rack or whatever, though. I think the point of this is to point out that sometimes, the joy of making something is the point of the projects, and that nothing else is strictly necessary for it to be worthwhile.

      1. I think the majority of the time it’s the joy of making the thing. This is the biggest reason I never take on some projects… what am I going to do with the thing once it’s finished? But executing the idea t a high level… that’s where the real fun comes in.

    2. 150 hours of quality time. Read Frank R. Wilson’s book on the co-evolution of hand and brain. If you use your hands to build something you are doing something very positive to your brain. People who use their hands to build actual objects are (on average) mentally healthier and happier people.

  1. That’s quite hypnotic to watch. I wouldn’t mind having that on my desk at work. It’d make long conference calls go by quickly. (c:

    Would it have worked with 2 marbles? While keeping the same rhythm I mean?

  2. Europeans of a certain age may have visited the old Evoluon science & technology museum in Eindhoven. They had a huge marble machine that was really fascinating and a huge crowd pleaser. One of those things that really impressed me as a kid and a memory i cherish.

  3. Perhaps this could be tuned slightly so that the time taken for the ball to run round the track is equal to the rotational period of the motor, so the ball is never at rest. Then if you add another ball you can just increase the motor speed and the ball bearings will never queue up in a row, they will always all be moving.

  4. it seems like maybe the weight of the balls are ever so slightly different or the battery doesn’t drive the motor evenly as there seems to be a slight disturbance in the timing even in the short length of the clip.
    That really hard single shot bounce back it achieves once in a while is hypnotic (I think). This is the type of project that if you ask 10 people you will get 15 approaches on how to make it better. Really like the simplicity of the mechanical action and the style of the piece. Great job.

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