Marble Tree

Introduction: Marble Tree

These instructions are about making a marble tree using a table saw and a scroll saw.

A. Introduction

1. A few years ago, I searched the internet for instructions on making a marble tree with a table saw and a scroll saw. I found an excellent design and write-up by Vance Morrison for making a marble tree with a laser cutter. See this URL:

/archive/blogs/vancem/just-for-fun-instructions-for-building-a-marble-tree-using-a-laser-cutter

At the end of that web page, there is a link named LaserCutInstructions.docx. You can download the instructions.

2. More recently, I found a plan on instructables.com, named Rainbow Sound Tree by Oliver13580. It is a very good plan. Well worth downloading.


B. Safety FIRST

Please read and understand these instructions before making any cuts. The most important thing is SAFETY. These instructions are for entertainment. If you decide to build a marble tree, do so safely. If you do not perform your work safely, you can hurt yourself very badly. No final product is worth an injury. If you cannot build your marble tree safely, do not build it at all.

Another aspect of safety concerns the child who will use the marble tree. Do not give a marble tree of any kind to a child who might put marbles in the mouth. Make sure that young children are adequately supervised when using the tree.


C. Prepare Trunk.

See photos

***** preparing the trunk in steps 1 - 4

**** preparing the base in step 5

**** preparing leaves in step 6

These instructions are written for using a table saw where the blade slants to the left. If your table saw blade slants to the right, you will have to modify these instructions.

Material used for trunk

**** Square dowel -- 1 3/8” or 1 1/4”

**** I usually start with a 24” long piece of square dowel.

Angle of leaves from trunk

The leaves are at a compound angle.

**** First angle is approximately 25 degrees off horizontal. This may be adjusted somewhat as you like.

**** Second angle is more important. That should be 2 or 3 degrees, no larger. If you make it too large, marbles will gain speed and fly off the tree before reaching the bottom tray.

**** I made my first marble tree with leaves slanting 5 degrees. Marbles gained too much speed and flew off the tree before reaching the bottom. I had to discard that tree.

Matching slot width to thickness of leaves

****It is essential to cut slots in the trunk the same width as the thickness of plywood you use for leaves. Matching blade thickness to plywood thickness may be a challenge.

You can experiment with different blades and different kinds of plywood. Make sure that all your experimentation with different blades is done SAFELY.

**** I used 1/4” plywood and a 1/4” dado blade. The only stacked dado I could find has a minimum thickness of 1/4”.

**** It was difficult to find birch plywood exactly 1/4” thickness. Sometimes birch plywood is labeled as 1/4” thick but is more like 3/16” thick. You can get MDF exactly 1/4” thick but in my opinion MDF does not look as good as birch plywood.

Technique for cutting slots in the trunk. See photos in steps below.

These instructions are written for a table saw where the blade slants to the LEFT. If your blade slants to the right, these instructions must be modified. Cutting the slots requires careful attention. Otherwise you will ruin the trunk and have to start again.

1. SET UP BLADE

Stacked dado (1/4" thick) angled to left.

2. SET ANGLES

Set blade to the angle you choose. In this tree I used 20 degrees.

Set miter gauge to 2 or 3 degrees, no more.

3. FIRST CUT

You will be cutting the top slot first and moving toward the bottom of the trunk.

Allow approximately 2” space on the trunk above the first cut.

You can always cut off some of that 2” later if you choose.

NOTE: Very important, ensure that your piece is long enough to allow sufficient space on the trunk below the last (lowest) cut so that you have plenty of room to attach the trunk to the base. If you choose a piece for the trunk that gives too much space at the bottom of the trunk, no problem, you can always cut it shorter.

Set your fence marker on a mark that you can easily see, such as 2” or perhaps 3”. This is important because after every cut you must move the fence exactly 1/2” to the right.78. Make the first cut.

4. Prepare for Additional Cuts

Actions a and b, below, must be done correctly before you make the next cut.

a. Rotate the top of the trunk one-quarter turn AWAY FROM yourself. As a reference, if you rotate the trunk correctly, you should be able to easily see the cut you just made.

b. Move the fence 1/2” to the right.

c. Make the next cut.

Continue cutting, always remembering to follow the three-step sequence (rotate trunk, move fence, cut) until you have 9 slots on each side, making a total of 36 slots.

5. Prepare Base

6. Cut Leaves

7. Final Steps

Step 1: Set Up Blade

For this tree, I used a stacked dado, set to 1/4" thick. My table saw blade slants to the left.

Step 2: Set Angles.

Angle set at 20 degrees. This angle can be adjusted, as you prefer.

Miter gauge set to 2 or 3 degrees, no more.

Step 3: First Cut

For first cut, set fence at a clear mark. In this case I used 2".

Make first cut.

Note: Photo shows a penciled line on the trunk. That is for my reference only. Please ignore.

Step 4: Prepare for Additional Cuts

Actions a and b, below, must be done correctly before you make the next cut and all subsequent cuts.

a. Rotate the top of the trunk one-quarter turn AWAY FROM yourself. Please note, if you rotate the trunk correctly, you should be able to easily see the cut you just made.

b. Move the fence 1/2” to the right.

c. Make the next cut.

Continue cutting, always remembering to follow the three-step sequence (rotate trunk, move fence, cut) until you have 9 slots on each side, making a total of 36 slots.

(Please ignore the penciled reference lines on the trunk in the photo.)

Step 5: Prepare Base

For the base, I usually use 3/4” plywood.

Size does not matter very much -- 8” x 8” works well.

Carefully mark base for trunk. Using a scroll saw, cut a square hole for the trunk.

Cut trunk to proper length and glue trunk into base. After the glue dries, you may put a spline along the bottom of the base, going through the bottom of the trunk. I usually do this to make the joint strong.

Prepare wood that will be glued as a fence around base.

Recommended dimensions of the wooden fence: Thickness – 3/8”; Height – 1 3/4”

Step 6: Cut Leaves

Cut 36 leaves, 4 of each size.

Use plywood which matches the thickness of the grooves you cut in trunk. Each leaf can vary in size, depending on your preference. Dimension of leaves does not matter very much. I used these dimensions.

---- Height---- Width

1 --- 2.5" -------- 2"

2 --- 3.25" ------- 2.25"

3 --- 3.75" ------- 2.5"

4 --- 4.25" ------- 2.75"

5 --- 4.5" ------- 3.0"

6 --- 4.75" ------- 3.1"

7 --- 5.25" ------- 3.3"

8 --- 5.75" ------- 3.5"

9 --- 6.5" ------- 3.75"

Height -- base to point

Width -- side to side

Step 7: Final Steps

*** Remove pencil marks.

*** Glue leaves to trunk. Depending on thickness of the leaves and the grooves, it may be necessary to lightly sand the base of the leaves, so they fit into the grooves.

*** Glue sides onto base.

*** Apply stain or paint.

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