Woodworking in the great white north.

Marble Tower – initial steps

The marble tower, originally meant to be a homemade toy for my daughter (now ten), was rapidly becoming the butt of several jokes. Most of which involved it becoming a very odd wedding present due primarily to the length of time it was taking to be built. This pales in comparison to the glider chair that remains a sad looking glider footstool on a shelf in my workshop…meant as a gift for my then pregnant wife (11 years ago)…now looking more like a retirement gift. But, I digress…I will revel in the fact that I have made the marble tower a priority to finish before my daughter enters those fearful teenage years.

I reviewed the plans that I bought for this toy here.

The plans, and the Lee Valley errata sheet, suggest milling up most of the lumber first in oversized pieces and cut them down to size as needed. I’m an impatient person when it comes to this, but I’m learning the value of doing this step once. I took their advice and did most of the leg work up front.

The majority of the tower is made up from 4/4 ash. I chose ash for a couple of basic reasons. First, I already had it and had no specific plans for it. Second, I had never worked with ash before and wanted to expand my experience with more hardwoods, having spent most of my time working with softwoods, maple and oak. Lastly, from a practical point of view, this was a toy that would likely get some abuse, so the stronger the wood, the better.

The entire milling process was not that complex, mostly running the rough stock through the jointer and planer to get it to the nominal size called for in the plans. The one exception to this was the need for something in the neighbourhood of 18′ of marble track rails. These needed to be 7/8″ wide by 3/4″ thick strips with a cove routed out of them to allow the marble to run smoothly along the rails.

With the pile of lumber and rails ready to go, I set about building the basic frame. This consists of a hexagonal base with six uprights held together at the top with 6 stretchers, all held together with pocket holes. Getting the hexagonal plywood base correct was easier than I thought, but did require a bit of test cutting to get the angle right and some very conservative creeping up on the cut line. The uprights are straightforward, but do have a slight angle to tilt them inwards (roughly 5 degrees). The stretchers introduced compound angles into the equation…not something I recommend to anyone! Unless of course, you own a compound miter saw…which I do not. These turned out to be less challenging than first appearance.

I did not think at the time that I would be blogging about this, so I did not take pictures. So, bear with me as I show more progress in the pictures than is covered in the text.

The one additional piece added at this stage was the handle spanning the top.

The tower sat in the state of having the basic framing done until I had figured out how to get the marble feed mechanism to work. I could not fully grasp how it worked from reading the plans, so I had to go on faith and built it to see what makes it work. More on that in the next post.

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One response

  1. I tore the page out of the Lee Valley magazine years ago, hoping that my husband would make the tower when we had a grandchild. It took 14 years, but we finally do! But now I can’t find the plans. Any idea of where to get them?

    June 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

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