Woodworking in the great white north.

Archive for September, 2010

Marble Tower – the short and winding road

If you watched the video at the end of the last update, you already got the preview of what the short and winding road looks like.
Going back to the plans, they wanted a board that had a routed zigzag, but once again I didn’t like it, so I took my own path.
I did toy with the idea and even went so far as to try to fit a board in place that could do this, but I found it was rather heavy – it took up a lot of visual space and blocked the view of the mechanism at the bottom of the tower too much.
While working on some finishing touches to the mechanisms higher in the tower, I came upon the idea of reusing the technique I used for making the ‘loading ramp’ for the funnel.
Essentially I took a long strip of the rail material and cut little wedges at a variety of angles and played with taping them together to make a ‘snake’.
A few attempts and I’d found what I wanted, something that was light and delicate looking that completed the path from the bell down to the last stage of the tower.

Attaching the snake was a simple task, a couple of glued straps between the rail from the funnel to the bell and the top end was secure. The bottom end took a bit of milling to get a block to join the snake to the last mechanism.
The block I chose to have a curved side to it to contrast with the generally angular nature of the tower while still imparting a bit of a mechanical feel to the joint. To me at least, the curve imparts movement, as if the snake rail somehow is hinged onto the other piece.

The curved block is not that visible in these pictures…alas, I’ll make sure it’s more visible in the video recap in a couple of more posts.
One intriguing ‘benefit’ (a rare moment of optimism on my part, calling it a benefit) of the snake rail that I did not expect is that the marble or ball does not have a smooth path, due to the angled joints. The result of this seemingly poor design is that the marble does not race down the snake with great speed, in reality it tends to wobble its way down the track.
When I first saw this, I was taken aback, it was not slick and smooth like the rest. After watching it a couple of times, I realized that I was really drawn to this part of the tower because it behaved in a unique and unusual way.
It isn’t the easiest thing to see in the video, maybe I’ll have to play with trying to get a slow-mo video of it to show it off well. but to me it achieves a bit of an inside joke that only I will really appreciate.
Not to get all Taoist on you, but far from being an uncarved block, my path as a woodworker is much like this wobbly snake…it’s not straight or smooth, but it is still a means to and end!

Marble Tower – NEXT!!!

Man, where does the time go?  I’ve got a couple of these updates to crank out to wrap up this project before I can get rolling on the next one, which is calling to me.

With the funnel in place and working nicely, I went back to the plans and calculated the space I was supposed to have left below the funnel for the remaining parts.  Ooops….not quite the same number.  I now had to deal with less space than was allocated for the remaining parts.

According to the plans, I was supposed to have a rail from the bottom of the funnel run over to one side, then meet up with a plank that had a routed zigzag down to a bell where it falls into the last stage – a mechanism that alternates marbles between two tracks before rolling across some wheels to rest in the bottom.

After a bunch of procrastinating and a bit of guessing, I figured out that the bell was going to have to come next and the best way to do this was with a little ramp from the bottom of the funnel.

The track from the funnel to the bell is attached directly to the underside of the funnel while the bell is sitting on a dowel coming out of a small strip installed between two of the side rails.  The bell actually has a threaded tube inside that could go onto a bolt, but I was entirely too lazy to go looking for the right one at the big box stores.  The dowel it sits on is tight enough that it’s not coming off by accident.

One more view

And here’s what it sounds like….NEXT!!!!