The Solar Marble Machine

Introduction: The Solar Marble Machine

Each kit includes:

This is the Solar cousin of the Battery pack Marble Machine, both originally designed by Martin Raynsford. No batteries, no springs, just marble motion from the ambient light! The Solarengine™ circuit turns normally unusable room light into pulses of power that moves metal marbles to the top of a rolling spiral.

This kit requires basic soldering tools (soldering iron, solder), a Philips #1 screwdriver, and a small amount of white glue.
Easy to build, with engraved building notes
Solar-powered or hand-crank operation
Operates in indoor light!
3/8" steel balls


1 x Set of laser-cut wooden parts - all the parts are marked with the numbers representing the order of
assembly and/or part names, so we'll be referring to those. Take the parts out as you go otherwise you might lose some labelling that we refer to in the following steps.

1 x GM9 motor
2 x #4x½" screws
7 x 3/8" steel Balls
1 x 4700µF capacitor
1 x SCC3733 Solar Cell
1 x PN2222A transistor
1 x 381S trigger
1 x Double-sided sticky tape
1 x 0.47µF capacitor
2 x 2-conductor wire
1 x Diode 1 x Solar Engine circuit board


Soldering equipment (soldering iron, solder)
Wire cutters Wire strippers (22 gauge)
Philips #1 screwdriver
Wood or white glue
Tweezers (optional)

Step 1: Solar Engine Circuitry

Find the transistor (g), trigger (h), small 0.47μF capacitor (j) and diode (l) and trim all the paper off the end of the leads.

Step 2:

Solder these parts to the Solar Engine circuit board (m) as shown in the picture. You will need to gently squeeze the trigger’s and transistor’s leads to make them slide into the holes. This is done to keep them in place while soldering. No need to hold them and burn your fingers!
Make sure to match the orientation - these components do not work backwards.

Step 3:

Prepare the large 4700uF capacitor (e) by gripping it with the stripe facing you. Bend the leads 90° over to the left:

Step 4:

Then solder it to the Solar Engine like shown. When finished, clip any leads sticking through the bottom of the circuit board.

Step 5:

Separate the ends of the wire (k) by about 15mm and strip them by 5mm. Solder one end of the wire to the motor (b), and the other end to the Solar Engine (marked with an “M”). Polarity is not important so do not worry which connection is positive or negative.

Step 6:

Strip the second conductor wire (k) on both ends by 5mm (3/16”). Solder one end of the wire to the solar panel’s positive and negative leads, and the other end to the Solar Engine. Make sure that positive is soldered to positive and negative to negative. Polarity is very important in this step!

Test the Solar Engine before further assembly. Expose the solar cell to sunlight for 10 seconds while checking for pulses of motor movement. No? Check your soldering!

Step 7: Motor & Solar Mounting

Use the #4 screws to attach the motor to the wooden holder.

Step 8:

Cut the double-sided sticky tape in half. Peel and stick one piece to the solar cell...

Step 9:

...and attach it to the motor as shown.

Step 10:

Take the remaining half of the double-sided tape and stick it to the bottom of the Solar Engine circuit board.

Step 11:

Mount the assembly into the slot on the base plate of the Marble Machine. Peel the tape and stick the Solar Engine to the base plate, making sure to align it like shown. Arc the motor wire (see photo), so it stays clear of the bottom rail when assembled.

Step 12: Gluing the Rails

Glue takes time to cure, so let’s start with the spiral assembly. Glue the diamond to it’s shadow marked on the spiral. For the bottom rail assembly, glue the narrow “U” to the larger “U”. Finally, for the top rail assembly, glue the thin sliver to the thicker one.

Step 13: Drive Gear Assembly

Pop out the drive gear pieces from the wooden carrier board and assemble them in the order shown. Glue is not necessary (but optional).

Step 14: Gear Wheel Assembly

Follow the diagram and stack the pieces together onto the axle. Again, gluing them together is optional for this step.

Step 15:

To put it all together follow these steps:
1. Push the inner wheel frame into the base plate. The motor should fit snugly against the frame, with the motor shaft in the centre of crank shaft hole.

2. Slide the gear wheel assembly into the inner wheel frame. The text on the wheel assembly should face outwards, away from the frame.

3. Push the gear assembly onto the motor shaft, so that it sits flush against the inner wheel frame. The wheel assembly gears and motor gear should mesh nicely.

4. Push the outer wheel frame into the base plate. Both the gear and wheel assemblies should sit inside their respective holes. Make sure that the wheel frame is flush against the wheel assembly. 5. Slide the crank handle spacer and caps onto the shaft of the gear assembly. Glue is optional.

6. Attach the spiral frame by pushing it into the base plate. Glue is optional.

7. Secure the spiral rail to the frame. Start at the top, then push the spiral downwards. While pushing, slide the spiral back & forth to lock the rail under each notch. Glue the top end of the spiral rail to the inner frame.

8. Install the return ramp between the spiral holder and inner wheel frame. Make sure the motor wires are not obstructing the return path of the marbles! Glue is optional but recommended.

9. Wedge the top rail into the inner wheel frame. Glue it to the diamond support on the top spiral arm and the ball exit notch. Load the marbles and manually crank them in, while watching for any sticky motion. Make sure all frame pieces are well seated on the base for proper alignment. In sunlight, the motor pulses every few seconds, and a ball will drop about every minute. In indoor light, the motor slows to a pulse every few minutes (be patient)!

Step 16: Useful Links

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