Introduction: How to Make a Ball Machine!

Have you ever wondered about how I make my Ginormous and Wondrous Ball machines? Now you can design and build your own!

This instructable does not give steps on any particular ball machine, but rather how to build one in general.

Ball machines are the luxurious side to k'nex; these use thousands of pieces. If you do not have thousands of pieces, but rather have somewhere around 400, this is not for you. Sorry. You could always try, though.

These steps are essentially what I do when making my machines.

So, onwards!

Step 1: Preliminary Issues

First of all, if you're reading this, hopefully you have a very large reserve of K'nex. Depending on your size and Concept, you will need varying amounts. on AVERAGE, 2 feet or less is about 1,000 pieces, 3 feet or less 2,200, 4 feet is about 3,000 5 feet is about 4,000, 6 feet is 5,000, and 7 feet, like the -xXxXx-, would be about 8,000. After that, your ball machine will get skinner and there will be less and less pieces, up to a point.

Second is possibly the most important step, as it will save you countless hours. It will be painful, but, SORT THY PIECES! Yes, take apart ALL your models and get many, many bags (or Boxes). Sort them all!

What you Need to build a Ball Machine:
Leather Fingers
Thousands of pieces
Bags or Boxes
Lots of Spare Time
This Instructable!

And next, the building? Hecks no! You still have much to learn, young Skywalker! do NOT start building your first ball machine yet, or you might make a FATAL ERROR! (Like I did when building Project DESTINY)!!!

You should be done with your painful sorting after a few days, so then, again, onward ho!

Step 2: The Golden CONCEPT!

This is another very important step, especially if you want to build an interesting Ball Machine! If you do not care about building a good looking ball machine and want to build a pile of steaming poo, or if you are a k'nex Ball Machine guru looking to build a general machine, then you may skip this step!

Anyways, the concept is the idea that your machine will be built upon. This concept is basically a recurring element in the ball machine.

Examples of Concepts are:
-A Very TALL machine! (Vendetta and Reaper)
-A Very SMALL machine! (Nano and Deux)
(those two are among the simplest concepts)
-A machine with multiple separate Towers! (Quadrivium)
-A machine with multiple lifts! (Destiny)
-A Machine supported by its own Elements
(These are more structurally based concepts)
-A machine utilizing a NEW lift method!
-A Machine centered around a Roller Coaster Drop! (Not really the -xXxXx-)
-A machine with an ORANGE drop!
-A machine with mostly paths!
-A Ball machine with an infused FERRIS WHEEL! (maybe the ferris wheel can even be part of the machine!)
-A machine with OBSTACLES! (Across the Nightmare. A very icky machine)
-A machine of SPIRALS! ( A vamped up Archimedes?)
-A machine with multiple synchronized paths(An idea I had, it would be incredibly difficult.)
-A machine of staircases
-A machine of Choice Separators (A machine of choices?)
-A Machine infused with a Roller Coaster!
-A Machine For MARBLES! (Not very fun)
-A Machine that goes around an area! (Not a ball tower, but rather a giant area)
-A machine linking separate rooms!
-A mail delivering machine!
-A Sheer Drop

If YOU have any other good Concepts, PM me and i shall put them up!

So, now you can choose one of these concepts (though many of them are Guru concepts), or make up your own, and now, BUILDING! (Just kidding, back to work young Skywalker)

Step 3: Tips on Concepts: Tall Towers (Optional)

Now, many of you may want to build a huge tower. it sounds simple enough, and it looks like fun. But be warned, this one an easily get out of hand at 10+ feet.

At heights of 11+ feet, you will surely want to use Red Rods, unless you can afford to splurge a lot.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, use gray rods to secure the tower. That is why Reaper failed.

And at heights of 14+ feet, you surely want a ginormous foot and support towers. Just the weight of the tower is enough to send it crashing down at 15+ feet if it is not perfectly balanced.

When you finally get to building elements, obviously you will not want to climb up to put on individual pieces and parts.

What you SHOULD do is instead to take off section of the tower, build on them at regular level, then place them back.

Step 4: Design (Optional But Recommended)

This is step you may want to use if your towers are important in your concept. This is easy. Get graph paper, a pencil and a ruler.
You should use one unit as either red, blue, or yellow rods, depending on what size you're doing.

Draw it from the top, bottom and all sides.

Then building the tower will be far easier!

And now, young Jedi, it is finally time to BUILD!!!

Step 5: The Foot and Lift System

Well, now you finally get to build!

First, I'm going to presume that you are going to be using a chain lift. in this case, you may want to use the classic 1x2 method - each section of the tower being one one unit wide and two units long.

The picture below portrays what I consider the best loading system. HOWEVER, you can extend the Area for larger machines. The one below is intended for tiny machines.

Step 6: The Tower

Depending on the size of your ball machine, this could well be the most dull part of the building process.
You will be building anywhere between 9(2') and 30(7') individual 2x1 pieces. This will take a while. You will need (Per piece, on average):
8 Purple Connectors
2 Blue Connectors (But white connectors would work as well)
12 Blue/Yellow/Red Rods
6 Yellow/Red/Gray Rods

So then you stack these to make a wave-like pattern, like
Until you reach your desired height. But don't use too many pieces, you'll need more for the ELEMENTS (Gasp!)

Onwards to the next step!

Step 7: The Top

Now that you have your tower, it is time to build the top. This part also has a basic template, used in most of my designs.

There is little freedom in the top. You can change around parts a bit but in general, it stays pretty constant.

Step 8: Support Towers

If your ball tower is less than 4 feet, you can skip this if you wish. But at any greater height, a support tower is greatly recommended. With a support tower, you can make your machine look more interesting and more stable. At heights greater than 10 feet, four towers are recommended.

To add a support tower, build a tower of lesser statue next to your original tower, and connect the two, best in two ways.

Step 9: The Chain

The chain is not overly difficult. First, just make a chain of approximately twice the length of the height, then attach it and adjust it. You want a snug fit, so put gears to put tension on the chain as shown below. Place it in any place that needs it.

Step 10: The Choice Seperators!

Okay - Now it's time for your ball machine to start splitting. If you've built the Top already, then you have two paths. If you only WANT two, skip this step. If you want more, then right where the ball leaves the separator, build another separator. From these will stem your elements.

If you want more than four, wait now and put another Separator further down the line, like in -xXxXx-

Step 11: The ELEMENTS!

Really, there is no one word to describe the importance of elements. No one step can contain this massive beast. Elements? Elements are the various ways that balls descend. This is by far the longest, most difficult, and funnest part of the entire Machine building Process.

How should you arrange the elements? I like making them from the top up. If you work down, if you make an error you can quickly change it.


The best way to make elements is to either,
A: make up your own (Not easy)
B:Take a previously made idea and modify it a little bit. This is what i do MOST of the time, I don't directly plagiarize it but i change it's build or size.

The elements, hmm. I'll make a whole 'nother Instructable on them...
But for NOW, just look at some of my videos for inspiration.

ALSO, to connect, use pathing.

Step 12: The END!

Add the Balls, and Yes, it IS true - you are done. It is, however, necessary to test your elements to make sure that they actually work. This might take a while. So yes, as simple as it seems on paper, you have finished building your ball machine.