Marble Solitaire

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About: I am an incoming freshman at ASU studying robotics. I love to make things and perform music. I am always working on several projects at a given time.

Marble Solitaire is a puzzle involving a board with 45 holes for 45 balls. The goal of the puzzle is to remove all balls from the board leaving just one in the center hole. Making this is a really fun, relatively simple weekend project. At least it's simple until you try and solve it.

How to Play:

  1. Place all 45 marbles on the board, one in each hole.
  2. Remove the center marble.
  3. You can remove marbles by hopping over another marble to an empty spot, similar to checkers. You can only move horizontally and vertically, not diagonally. After hopping over a marble remove that one that was jumped over.
  4. Continue until there are no more possible moves left. The goal is to get one left in the center.

Step 1: Material and Tools

Materials:

  • 2 feet of 3/4" walnut board (~6 inches wide)
  • 45 x 1" marbles (I recommend ordering fancy boulder marbles from MoonMarble.com)
  • A drawstring bag or box to hold all of the marbles

Tools:

  • Miter Saw
  • Drill Press
  • Random Orbital Sander or Mouse Sander
  • 1/2" Drill Bit
  • Assorted Sandpaper - from 120 grit to 400 grit
  • Wood Glue
  • Long Clamps
  • Table Saw
  • Danish Oil
  • Spray Adhesive

Step 2: Prepping the Wood

Using the miter saw cut the 6" wide plank into 2 12" pieces. Make sure that the long edges are nice and square. If they aren't take them to the table saw and trim off just the tiniest amount so that they are.

Put glue on one of the long edges of each piece and clamp them together, making one 12" x 12" board. This will be the base to your puzzle board. Wipe off any excess glue and let it sit for a few hours to dry.

When the board dries scrape off the excess glue and then sand both sides flat with rough sandpaper (120 grit or lower). You can do this by hand but I recommend using an orbital sander. You don't need to finish sand yet, this is just to make sure the board is flat.

Step 3: Drill the Indents

Put the 1/2" drill in the drill press and get it set up. Glue the template onto the block of wood using spay adhesive. The template is the pdf (I split it up into pieces since the template is bigger than a sheet of printer paper) and the dxf is the full image if you have a printer capable of printing a 12" x 12" image. At the center of each of the 45 holes drill in just enough to get the indent of the drill bit. For my particular drill bit this happened to be around .225" deep. If your drill press has a stop set it, so that each of the holes will be the same depth.

Since this is such a huge drill bit make sure that you are using a sharp bit and to go very slowly so as to not destroy the wood.

When you are done drilling the holes peel off the template, if the template is stuck on too well you'll have to either scrape it off with a knife or sand it off.

Step 4: Finish the Wood

Round the edges, creating a rounded rectangle using a belt sander or by hand. Using a router table, round over both the top and bottom edges of the board. I used a .25" fillet.

Using the sander start with a grit around 120 and work your way up to 400. Once finished with the sander use a piece of sandpaper to get the curves and the divots for the marbles, again starting around 120 grit and working up to 400.

After this is done put on a coat of danish oil and then wipe off the excess. Repeat this step two or three times, leaving 5 to 10 minutes between each application.

After this the board is finished and ready to use.

Step 5: The Solution (A.K.A. How to Cheat)

To be truthfully honest this is a really difficult puzzle. It seems fairly simple, and it sort of is, but there is only one correct way (that I know of to do it). I have never managed to solve it on my own without help or cheating. My current record is leaving 3 marbles left on the board. Good luck.

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2 Discussions

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Alex in NZ

6 months ago

This is a really nice version of the puzzle, and well done for including the solution as well. I remember my grandfather keeping a yellowed piece of paper which recorded his moves from the first time he solved it.
To stick the template to the base, double-sided tape is pretty good in terms of holding it tight but peeling off afterwards. I used contact cement in this 'Ible and that was a mistake.
Thank you for sharing your work :-)

1 reply
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Zachary GoodeAlex in NZ

Reply 6 months ago

Thank you. My inspiration for making this was a similar board that my AP Econ teacher has in his room. I spent all of this semester trying to solve it but never managed to, so I decided to make one to have at home and continue solving it.

Double sided tape should work, but I believe spray on adhesive would be optimal (because the template needs to stay on while drilling). Any gummy glue will not work because it will just gum up the sandpaper and make it impossible to remove. Or you could just tape it on, use a punch to mark the location of the holes, take off the template, and drill where the indents are.