Introduction: Marble Machine 1.2

This time last year I created a little marble machine toy, I recently revamped it to make a greatly improved version.
I blogged about both kits, I shared the files on Thingiverse and I started selling the kits through my shop and through my Etsy. I wrote the instructions in a simple pdf but ever since I've been plagued with repetitive questions and comments about it so I thought I would return to the site that kicked off my hobby kit career and use this place to it's full advantage.

This instructable will take you through the complete process of assembling this little marble machine. Any comments, questions, clarifications and improvements will then be shared with the world and hopefully save myself a lot of effort in the future. If this works I'll add my other marble machines too.

Step 1: Preparing the Pieces

The kit comes as a series of separate panels, most of these are fairly obvious in function. 3 form the lifting wheel, 2 are the frame for the wheel, 1 is the base panel, 1 is the spiral and 1 is the spiral holder. The final panels contain the little gears spacers and axles.

Start by removing all the excess pieces from the 8 loose panels. Cutting on these low power lasers (40W) can be a slightly temperamental process that is affected greatly by blemishes in the material it's cutting. Every effort is made to ensure that the parts cut cleanly but you may occasionally need to run a scalpel around the edges of the cuts.

The fixings panels are a little different because they are designed to hold all the small parts together. Press out all the excess and you will be left with a dozen parts that are still fixed into the panel. These need to be cut free from the panel and retained for future use.

Step 2: Gluing Parts Together

It helps to glue a number of the pieces together first thing. The glue can dry on these parts while the rest of the machine is being assembled.

Glue the small diamond onto the spiral piece, there is a diamond outline to show you exactly where to put it.

Glue the thin U Shape on top of the thicker U shape. This forms a rail which helps stop the ball bearing from falling off the track

Glue the thin S shape on top of the thicker S shape, this is another rail. There is another diamond on the track, this should be the underside of the piece as shown in the image.

Glue the two oval sections together, these make up the handle for the machine but are not required again until near the end.

Step 3: The Big Gear

Glue the three large wheels together to form the lifting wheel. The wheel with the gear teeth goes in the middle and the wheel with the outermost holes goes on the bottom. Place the small axle through the middle of the wheels and put a spacer on either side of the wheel. Apply glue between each layer at the points where they overlap.

The wheel is made up of 3 panels with holes that get progressively closer to the middle. The idea is that each hole actually forms a slope in the wheel. When the hole is at the bottom the slope allows the ball bearings to roll into the wheel but when the hole is at the top the slope points in the other direction helping the ball to roll out of the wheel. The laser beam actually cuts a \/ shaped groove in the wood. Putting this smoke stained up aligns the / side of the groove towards the outside of the wheel increasing the effectiveness of the slope.

Step 4: The Small Gear

The small gear wheel is constructed using the combination of spacers and gears as shown. Make sure to use the right diameter spacer in the right place on the axle. Make sure that the notch of the axle sits flush with the first spacer. Each gear and space should be glued to the central axle. 

The handle and the small gear will be united once the gear is mounted into the frame.

Step 5: Fixing the Frame Together

Place the large gear and the small gears into the mounting frame. Make sure that the small gear has the handle pointing out and that the big gear has the side with the outer most holes pointing out too. The two gears should now mesh. With the base panel on your work surface align the tabs for the side panels into the holes on the base panel. This should be a snug fit, press down firmly until the tabs are all the way into the slots. 

Marbles placed in the bottom hole should stay in the wheel, when the wheel is turned 180 degrees the ball should roll out of the top hole.

Step 6: Optional Motor Upgrade

The marble machine can be bought with an optional motor upgrade. If you have just a manual machine then skip this step and move onto the next one.

The motor upgrade provides a geared motor, a battery pack with switch and 2 screws. The battery pack connects directly to the motor and can be soldered in place. The machine works in either direction so it doesn't matter which way round the motor is connected.

The inside of the small gear shaft has a specially a constructed slot to mate with the output shaft of the motor. Align the two shafts and push them together. Rotate the motor round to the correct angle.

Slot the laser cut motor mount into the base of the machine and use the two screws to hold the motor in place. At the same time slot the small battery  'fence' into the base. This will hold the battery pack in place.

Step 7: Fitting the Spiral

Place the spiral mount vertically in the base parallel to the big wheel mounts. The U shaped trough made in step two should be glued into the bottom of the spiral mount.

The spiral sits on the top of the spiral mount and locks in using the cut outs on either side of it. Each loop of the spiral should be drawn down into the mount and clipped under the notches to hold it in place. This can be a little tight so try pulling the spiral to one side out of the mount and sliding it back in under each notch rather than pushing it past the notches.

Once the spiral is held in place then connect the top of the spiral into the wheel frame and glue it in position. Take the secondary rail section and glue that into place on the wheel frame.

Finally add the handle onto the small gear, there will be a gap between the last spacer and the handle.

Step 8: Completed Machine

The marble machine is now complete. Drop one of the marbles into the spiral and watch it roll down. Turn the lifting wheel and the marble should be lifted from the bottom up to the top and then out of the hole. You'll find that the marble will only do a complete run of the spiral when it is released from the lifting wheel (This gives it some extra momentum).
The marble should consistently run the entire length of the spiral. If it doesn't then find the ledge where the marble jumps off and shift the spiral forwards of backwards slightly to make that section of ledge a bit larger.

So that's it. I'll be checking the comments regularly if anyone has any questions and don't forget, if you don't have access to your own laser cutter I do actually sell the full kit of parts cheaper than you could get them cut at one of the online cutting services.