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Blog entry by Stevinmarin posted 06-10-2011 09:05 PM 5381 reads 3 times favorited 37 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A couple weeks ago I set out to make a really fun and simple wooden toy.

I fussed with it for the better part of two days before finally admitting defeat.

My apologies for this lame video, but here’s how far I got. If you feel up to a challenge, shoot a video making this and getting it to work. I’ll send out a Mere Mortals t-shirt to the first person who posts a video response on YouTube.

-- Entertainment for mere mortal woodworkers.

37 comments so far

View Will Stokes's profile

Will Stokes

267 posts in 3743 days

#1 posted 06-10-2011 09:25 PM

This is very reminiscent of a time long ago when I was building a rube Goldberg with a couple friends. We ran into similar problems where things wouldn’t work quite right. No matter how many times you tried to improve the machine some of the time it would gum up and not complete as expected. That sure can be frustrating! I’m curious if round dowels for the rungs in the latter might have worked better. I like the idea of adding weights, but obviously tape didn’t help so much. I’d recess them in with a forstner bit and glue them on with epoxy. I wonder if there is a clever way you could use a magnet and metal runs to have the piece stick as long as possible until it’s actually time for it to slide down.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9238 posts in 3309 days

#2 posted 06-10-2011 09:37 PM

Hi, Steve:
I am thinking that when you are weighting only one side of each end, it may be causing it to over-rotate and miss the next rung down. Try weighting each side of each end and see if this helps balance it out. I hope I am clear on what I am saying. I think you are close and you got me thinking, but I don’t know if I will have time to try it myself. Try that and let me know.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dan M's profile

Dan M

121 posts in 4333 days

#3 posted 06-10-2011 09:45 PM

Steve -

You might try easing the point where the circle (in the block) transitions to a channel.. it seems to me that, given the shape of the rungs, it might be getting caught in much the same was as say liquid would on a counter-top with a ‘spill proof’ edge

Just a thought

-- Dan M, SW Suburbs, Chicago IL

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

707 posts in 3169 days

#4 posted 06-10-2011 09:47 PM

Hi Steve,

I suppose this doesn’t qualify ??? :-)

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3974 days

#5 posted 06-10-2011 09:50 PM

Steve Buddy I think you have made the blocks alittle too long cut of a mm or two and you’ll be there it’s catching because of length problems try it beieve me it’l work fine. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10609 posts in 4441 days

#6 posted 06-10-2011 10:05 PM

@Don: Is that some other video you found on the net?
Did you make the ladder, etc.?
We need to know HOW you did it… don’t we?

@Scotsman: When I first saw the problem, that was the first thing that jumped into my brain…
They were too long… that’s why they were hitting the next rung…

An interesting problem…

Steve, were there plans & instructions in that book?
Were you just flying by the seat of your pants making it?

It obviously can work…!! LOL

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

707 posts in 3169 days

#7 posted 06-10-2011 10:35 PM

Sorry Joe – it was just something I found – hence the supposition that it WOULDN’T qualify for a shirt!

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10609 posts in 4441 days

#8 posted 06-10-2011 10:48 PM

Dog gone it… Looked so good… too… LOL

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Stevinmarin's profile


838 posts in 3464 days

#9 posted 06-11-2011 12:57 AM

Don, yeah, I’d like to see a video of someone actually making one. But that’s exactly how it should work! It would be great to see pointers: things to look out for, possible pitfalls.

As for the block being too long or too short, I think that is my puzzle. One block I made was too short and it continued its spin past the next rung. Too long and it gets caught on the next rung. I couldn’t seem to find a sweet spot.

I am trying to examine the video link you posted. If you pause it just before the block reaches the bottom rung, you can see that it actually overshoots the rung a bit (a problem I experienced), but then straightens itself out before dropping onto the last rung. It certainly has something to do with the chamfered edges that guide it.

I wish I had one I could physically examine.

-- Entertainment for mere mortal woodworkers.

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3773 days

#10 posted 06-11-2011 01:25 AM

So you had so much fun that you want us to try it now. I guess it’s true that misery loves company. I don’t think the chance of getting a free t-shirt would get me to waste a weekend trying to make one of these after watching your frustration. Nice try though. It looks like you tried about everything that I could think of. I found myself watching your video as sort of an armchair woodworker. I was thinking “you just need to chamfer the edges and it will work”, then you did it and it didn’t work. Then I thought “you need to round off the rungs and it will work”, etc. So you see, if I did this, I foresee nothing but frustration and failure, a video that I would have to edit to remove all the cursing, and no t-shirt in my future. I do appreciate you showing this though to prove that you are in fact a “mere mortal”.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 3684 days

#11 posted 06-11-2011 02:10 AM

Very interesting toy. I found a 3D sketch up model for download here-

If you download it you can get all the dimensions you need to build it.
Not sure if this will help with your dimension dilemma.
Try it again, I would like to see if you can get it to work.
I would, but lack time right now.
Best wishes,


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3549 days

#12 posted 06-11-2011 02:31 AM

@Dale – We are ALL Mere Mortals. Steve is just one humbe dude that is willing to admit it.

@Will – The rungs must be rectangle, that helps align it before it drops. The edges of the rungs can(and probably should be) eased, but they must be flat on the faces.

Dan M is right, that’s where you need to ease the edge. You have the tips right.

Also, don’t drill the holes in the block too close to the center. The closer you make them to the center, the more stable the block becomes after it drops to the next rung, and that is the opposite of what you want. You want it top-heavy. I believe the tips of the block fall too close to the next rung. They need more room than what you have. The inner flat slot in the block will align it better than what you think. Unfortunately that means building another ladder rather than shortening the block. Shortening the block to fix this problem just makes it more stable, which you don’t want. Cutting a groove down the rail of the ladder(like in the SU) might be much quicker than drilling holes.

Steve, I’m video-challenged so you won’t see a video coming any time soon. I have some time scheduled in the shop Sat/Sun so I may work on this. The most you will get though is just pictures. Don’t feel to bad about the Fail. I tried quickly building one of those Ramp Walker toys and have not gotten all the kinks worked out yet either. Keep tinkering with it and let us know WHEN you get it going. And thanks for sharing.

This may help:

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

22675 posts in 3494 days

#13 posted 06-11-2011 06:42 AM

I was watching that thing work and where it stopped and I think you need a lead away from the hole similar to the one above so it can get started easier on the drop to the next rung. It needs to be smooth so it does not hang up. I’ll try one when I get back in the shop. We have company for the weekend so it will have to be Monday!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3549 days

#14 posted 06-11-2011 10:23 PM

Well Steve, I built one, and got it to work. I did manage to get a video of it but can’t upload it until tonight. It was not as easy as I thought. I understand your frustration. :(

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10609 posts in 4441 days

#15 posted 06-11-2011 10:37 PM

I can hardly wait to SEE it!!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

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