Significantly Improved Egg Timer Makes Pictionary Better

The traditional sand timer, known colloquially as an egg timer, served its purpose well over the centuries since its development. However, [MakerPaul] realised it had some significant flaws that were ruining Pictionary, and set out to fix the problem.

If you’re not looking directly at an egg timer, it’s easy to miss the moment when the timer runs out. Resetting the timer before it runs out also requires waiting for the sand to filter to one side. Clearly the world needs a better mousetrap.

The tipping timer from [MakerPaul] solves both those issues. In this design, sand flows down into an offset area, which tips the device over when reaching a certain time limit. Additionally, turning the device upside down and then rotating it instantly reloads the sand, meaning the timer can be reused immediately.

[MakerPaul] first came up with the idea about 20 years ago, refining it during the recent lockdowns. The design files are freely available for anyone that wishes to build one. [MakerPaul] isn’t commercializing the idea, but mentions that it would be great if anyone using it makes a donation to the Mind mental health charity.

Most timers we feature are electronic and digital, but it’s easy to appreciate the elegance of what [MakerPaul] has achieved here. As a bonus, he documented the entire project and its application in under 90 seconds. How good is that? Video after the break.

24 thoughts on “Significantly Improved Egg Timer Makes Pictionary Better

  1. All hourglasses are not egg timers.
    All egg timers are not hourglasses.
    There is no mention of “egg timer” on any relvant English dictionary article for “hourglass”. (OED, Merriam Webster, Dictionary. Com, Wiktionary)
    And this design has no problem scaling to any size hourglasses that you might want to make.
    Additionally, in many parts of the world, an “egg timer” is a standard white plastic wind-up kitchen timer.

    So why insist on using the term “egg timer”?

    1. I am presuming it is just a familial linguistic quirk. I noticed everyone in my family calls a few common items names that nobody else does. I try not to thrust our familial idiosyncrasies on others. However, when I accidentally do, I end up having to explain how my great grandfather, mom or uncle says some such thing and it just clicked with us. Obviously I agree but I that’s just a guess that’s why they misnamed this object.

    2. A quick internet search for “egg timer” turned up a number of pictures, drawings, icons, etc. of hourglasses with a caption including the words “egg timer”.

      Not the majority for sure, but certainly more than one, and not buried down in the 100th page of images. So, it’s seemingly not as idiosyncratic as one might be inclined to imagine. (I sortakindamaybe think that could be what we called it when I was a kid, using them in games. Can’t really remember though.)

      “Sand timer” seems to be a more common name for them, if image search results are any indication.

      1. In Dutch it’s called a ‘Zandloper’, literally ‘Sand walker’, but more like ‘Sand streamer’.

        In Dutch, fluids can walk. :) But meaning more that the fluid streams. And the sand looks as if it’s a stream of fluid.

  2. Very elegant solution but how long the timer runs has me wondering if there’s not a way to make one if these which is “programmable” from 5-60 seconds. Initial thoughts are a lever which redirected the remaining sand into a compartment and when the lever is returned to the operational position that extra sand remains trapped. Now the uncaptured/timed sand is what operates the timer. It still tips the timer over because the stored sand is in a balanced location.

    1. I agree a very elegant solution.
      It’s nice to see there are still improvements to be made, even on the simplest of devices.
      I can see this gadget selling quite well, at least in the first year, given proper marketing.
      Although granted it looks pretty easy to 3D print or even make out of wood.

    2. Perhaps the upper part could be formed as a some kind of series of buckets, so that you can measure accurate amount of sand by tilting into different angles. Then when you turn it right side up, rest of the sand would fall into the bottom bucket directly.

    3. Presumably, as it’s all a matter of having enough sand fall to move the center-of-mass past the tipping axis, you could just have a mass on a screw on the left exterior side and then just calibrate the important time settings. (Assuming there is enough total sand inside to overcome those larger center-of-mass changes.)

      1. I like that option for its simplicity but it will mean lots of trial-error to get the time adjustment set correctly.
        If the threads are sufficiently fine then maybe calibrated marks could indicate 5 sec intervals.
        Definitely easy enough to experiment with since it only requires modification to get it to work with 60 seconds worth of sand and a very small donut shaped addition to one side of the pour orifice.

    4. Rather than altering the quantity of sand, one solution would be changing the flow-rate – either directly altering a single orifice (some sort of selection dial or variable aperture) or having multiple openings that can be opened or closed to decrease or increase the time it takes for the fixed quantity of sand to drain (if one hole is 5 minutes, two would be 2.5 minutes, five would be 1 minute, etc)

      1. Changing/controlling the flow through one orifice could be the answer and the simplest to implement. The multi-orifice option would be more difficult as you can’t trap any sand since it’ll prevent hitting the tipping point/weight.

  3. It looks like the timer could be made in the shape of a chicken with tall tail feathers to fall on it’s beak when its time. This should settle the chicken or egg situation. Chicken timer!

  4. Who in their right mind would flip a almost empty sand timer to “rewind it” bettter just to let it flow through and then flip it the next time something should be timed.

    That is why they are designed in the way they are…

    1. The current hourglass timers require you “to poll them”. This hourglass design “generates an interrupt”, so you can do other things while the timer is running.
      Moreover, this design has the advantage that it can be used by visually impaired people.

  5. The epitome of “doing something perfectly that didn’t have to be done at all”.

    The design is genius and the inventor should admit that it’s really about that (and that’s totally fine).

    His reasoning why this thing would be useful in a real-life scenario (-wanting to avoid digital devices) is esoteric nonsense.

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