Introduction: Do-nothing Machine

About: Full time Mechanical Engineer
Do you like to do nothing?

Introducing the Do-nothing Machine. As the name suggest it does absolutely positively nothing useful. Sure it may entertain some people for a few minutes, last about an hour on me, but it still does nothing.

This is a fairly easy machine to build. Takes a few hours to cut out the pieces and a few more to glue together and let dry. I have chosen a simple layered design so that those without a router or other means of cutting a T slot could easily complete this project.

I used Pro/Engineer 4.0, a CAD program, to draw up my design and to determine the dimensions. The drawings are provided as a .PDF at this step for download. They will also be provided as pictures in the next step.

Step 1: Cut Everything Out.

  • 1/4 inch plywood. I found some cabinet grade scraps in my shop. Any type will do it just depends on how well you wish the finish to look.
  • 4X 1/8 inch washers
  • 2X 1/8 inch by 3/4 inch long pop rivets
  • 1/2 inch by 1/8 inch steel, brass or other strong material to make a lever.

Cut out all the required pieces any way you find easy. I used a miter saw so that I could keep them a square as possible. You could use any assortment of tools such as a miter saw, table saw, jig saw, hand saw, mill (if you really like things square) and any other type of saw. How they are cut out is not as important as the parts and dimensions themselves. The important thing is that you keep as close the the dimensions as possible, especially the slider parts and lever. See step four before you cut out the slider pieces. Also refer to this step and step six before cutting the lever.

The pictures provided are exactly the same as those in the .PDF

If you find any of the drawings unclear please point that out to me so that I may correct them.

Step 2: Gather Tools and Parts

Aside from the parts you cut out in the last step you will need the following:

  • Wax Paper
  • Glue
  • Clamps, 4 Minimum
  • Paper Towel
  • Wooden Splint
  • Straight Edge
  • Ruler/Dial Caliper
*Optional is a round cabinet handle.

Set up Work Space
Lay the wax paper down so you keep your base clean and also the bench free of loose wood glue.

The more clamps you can find the easier it will be to hold the layers tight so they set nice. Set these aside for a minute

Any type of wood glue is acceptable. I had this stainable stuff laying around from a previous project. Keep this close, you will be using it a lot.

A paper towel is useful if you get to much glue between the layers. You don't want glue seeping into the channel that the sliders will be riding on. A wet and dry towel would be best.

Step 3: Glue Clamp, Repeat.

Now to begin gluing the middle layer.

Set the base out on the wax paper and gather the four middle layer squares so that they are within easy reach.

1) Pick the best corner of the base. Mark this corner with pencil so that you can easily find it again. Pick the best corner of the middle layer and point it towards the middle of the base. Add glue to the under side of the middle layer and align it with the corner of the base. Make sure both edges are flush as possible. Clamp the two pieces together. Two or more clamps may be needed. Check to make sure that no glue has seeped out of the crack towards the middle of the base. If so clean it up with your wet towel or wooden splint.

2) Now take the straight edge and align it to one of the sides of the layer you just clamped on. This will assure that the channel resulting from the layers will be aligned. Using the bottom slider layers as spacers glue and clamp the next layer. Make sure you use the 1 inch dimension of the spacer to make the channel. Again pick the cleanest and sharpest corner and place it so that it is near the center of the base. Clamp with as many as necessary. Again check for glue seeping on the base into the channel we will be making with the layers. You do not want it to dry so that the sliders are caught on them. Assure that the slider is snug between the two squares and that the squares are still aligned with the starting edge you clamped on earlier. Make sure to do this as soon as you have clamped the pieces as sometimes the clamps will twist the middle layer squares. The glue does dry quickly is some cases. Mine is suppose to be set within an hour but I have found that it holds the layers well within minutes. You will want to correct any mistakes quickly.

3) Using the straight edge and the sliders place the third layer similar to the second with the best corner towards the center and keeping glue out of the channel. Check alignment before and after clamping.

4) For the last piece you can ditch the straight edge and just use the two bottom layer sliders. Again place the best corner towards the center. Glue, clamp in place and assure that the sliders are snugly in the channel but still able to slide. Clean up any loose glue and wait for the glue to set.

'*"You may notice that aside form the first corner you glued the rest do not align as well. Do not attempt to correct this. You want to first assure that the inner channel is the correct dimension before you worry about the outside dimension which is less important. We will clean this up later.
*"After the glue is set remove the clamps and check to make sure the sliders fit within the resulting channels. If the sliders are too loose or tight start over again and be careful while gluing and clamping to not hit the clamps so much that the layers are shifted. Remember you want the slider to be snug but no so that movement is inhibited."
*"If any glue has been missed and allowed to dry in the channel remove it with a knife or sand paper now."

Step 4: Assembling the Sliders

Gather the slider layers, washers, rivets, lever and necessary tools.

The sliders are assembled as such.

1) Measure the position of the top layer on the bottom. The edge of the top should be 1/4 in from the edge of the bottom. I used a dial caliper but a steel ruler is acceptable. The way we glue the top layer together will offset any discrepancy in this measurement. Glue the two slider layers together and clamp. I have found that if you make one large slider, about 4 inches, and then cut to length it is easier. Also drilling the holes after they have been glued together helps to keep the holes well aligned. Allow glue to dry. Round the corners as shown in the drawings.

2) The sliders are assembled as follows: The lever is on top with a washer underneath so as to clear the top layer. After that comes the slider with the top layer (narrowest) closest to the lever. Inside the counter boar underneath the slider is another washer so that the rivet does not pull thought the wood. Using a 1/8 inch rivet, steel or aluminum is fine, attach the sliders to the lever.

3) Because I could not find a long enough rivet I had to used one that was over sized. This caused the rivet to stick past the bottom and this interferes with the base as the slider lies in the channel. There are a few ways to fix this:
A. Cut the rivet.
B. Bend the rivet
It may be easier to punch the remaining "stem" out of the rivet. This is the ball end of the steel rod that breaks off and is used to flair the rivet. Using a small punch or the steel rod that broke out tap this out of the flared end. I found bending the rivet easiest. Use a pair of pliers and crush the diameter of the rivet to make it flat. Then bend the material so it goes well below the counter boar.

4) Mark the sliders and have an arrow point to one of the sides. Do the same in each channel so that the sliders can easily be placed in the proper channels in the correct position. Use pencil so that they may be removed after the gluing is done. In the next step the sliders may fall out of the channel during gluing and you want to be able to place them back in correctly.

5) Lay the slider assembly within the channels of the base and begin to prepare to glue the top layer.

Step 5: Glue Top Layer

Gather the four top layer squares.

1) Find the corner on the base that we marked in step three. Again place the best corner towards the center of the base and glue and clamp into place. By placing the slider assembly correctly you will be able to use those as spacers to position this layer correctly. Make sure the sliders and corner have a close fit. Clamp in place. Check the make sure no glue seeps into the channel. Don't let any dry. You will have a difficult time removing it.

2) Now turn the lever so that the sliders move to align the next layer. Glue clamp and wipe extra glue again. Repeat this for all the corners rotating the lever every time. You may have to remove some clamps to spin the lever into the correct place. I waited for the first two corners to dry before moving on.

3) Let everything dry for the recommended about of time, about 24 hours. You do not want to put strain on the joints while they are still drying.

4) Now that everything is dry try to twist the lever, It should move in an elliptical path. There will be resistance but with use this will be reduced. Mine will only spin clockwise as there is some hang up due to the lever bending when I drilled the holes. Try both ways before determining that you need to start over.

Step 6: Finishing Up

1) Now look at the ends. You will see that they are not very well aligned. Some of the layers stick out from the base and others are too short. Finding that corner we marked again you should see that this is the best of all the sides with the layers line up fairly well. Using this side against the fence cut the other sides with a miter or table saw. You will want to cut every side and use each previously cut side against the fence. You may also want to measure so that it remains square. This is not important and is merely aesthetic.

2) Go to a sanding table and round the corners if you like.

3) Now you can either attach the cabinet handle to the lever or make an ellipse. Yes that is right I have found a use for this machine. See the video below. It's fun for about 2 minutes then I went and put the handle on. With a washer the handle fits over the 1/4 inch hole. I would advise against drilling the 1/4 inch hole and just go for the handle, making ellipses is not that fun.

You now posses the Do-nothing Machine. Enabling you to do nothing anytime you wish. This is great to show to family and friends and then explain how much time you spent building it and how it does nothing. Of course you could always show how it makes ellipses but that would be ruining the fun...

Listen to it hum as it does nothing...

Step 7: Last Thoughts

There are a few things I learned while making this that I feel are important to pass along.

1) Do not attempt to align all the corners. This will make all the sides line up nicely and while in theory this should produce the same results as the method describe it does not work in the real world. A table or miter saw is very inaccurate. Don't make the same mistake as I did. (See Pic) Your channel dimensions will be inaccurate and have a taper. Sliders do not fit well then.

2) It is possible to scale this to any dimension. The ones given are just suggestions. But there is one thing that should remain constant. The slider should always be long enough so that when it passes from one end to another it can span the gap. As the slider goes from right to left it must pass into the center opening of the channel and it is here that the slider may become misaligned. In order to prevent this the slider must remain in the channel it is leaving as it enters the other side. Other wise it will continue to make an arc. (See Pics for better explanation) I learned this the hard way after making and photographing my first full machine. That is why you may notice that the machine looks different from picture to picture. Aside from the change in slider the rest was still valid and I found it hard to abandon my pictures.

I hope you enjoy making this.

If you find any of my steps hard to follow, mistakes in my drawings or spelling errors (not much good at engrish) please do speak up. Now go do nothing and have fun!