Modular Marble Machine #3: The Base

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Blog entry by William posted 04-11-2013 01:16 AM 2338 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The Elevator Column Part 3 of Modular Marble Machine series Part 4: Base Plates »

If you seen the pump and elevator column I’ve spent the last couple of days making, then I’m sure you already know that we now need a base to start building this thing upon. So that’s what I decided to start on today.
I spent quite a bit of time debating this morning on what wood to use. I definitely did not want to use plywood for the sides. I took into consideration weight and strength. Whatever I chose though also had to be something I had in sizes that were wide and long enough to work. I finally decided to stick with my old standby, cottonwood.
Cottonwood is strong, yet light. The only problem I have is, if I looked at the nicest pieces, they are kind of plain, and I wanted to use something with some character.

So I got into my “ugly stack”. Let me explain. I separate my cottonwood as I come to it. In one stack is perfect material for large work such as cabinetry. These are straight grain, plain looking, pretty wood. If I’m working on something smaller though that I want character in, I have an ugly stack. This is a stack I’ve made with pieces that have crooked grain, burl material, off color strips glued in, and other deficiencies that make them unsuitable for larger work. For small work though, these ugly pieces, in my opinion, provide the most interesting looks to them.
A good example is the board in this photo, in front; the one I chose for the front of the base. It has burl type material in it. It is situated on the board so that it would look terrible on something larger, but I think it’ll look very nice for the front of the base once it’s finished.
The next problem I had came when I looked at the plans for the base. The plans call for rabbet joints with splines that will later help hold the plates inside of it. This would work just fine, but I just simply do not like rabbeted joints. In my opinion they are as ugly as butt joints and I use something else when I can get away with it.

So I figured it was time to pull out the Stumpy Nubs Box Joint Machine again.

I love this machine. I makes some beautiful, strong, and accurate joints.

Then, just put some glue in between the fingers, clamp all corners tight, double check just to be sure, and you’ve got an easy to square box.

In order to allow the elevator column to sit flush with the back of the base, you have to inset the pump assembly into the back of the base. The easiest way to do this in my opinion is a spiral bit in a palm router.

Then the center of that inset has to be removed to allow the slider in the pump assembly room to move in and out. It extends out almost flush with the outside of the back of the box. You could drill some holes and use a chisel to remove this material. To me though, it’s easier just to put it on the scroll saw and remove it.
If you look closely you may notice I have removed more material than necessary. It will not harm the function of the machine, and it is on the back, so I’m leaving it. However, I thought I’d tell you the reason there is more removed than I originally intended. This was one of those cases where I should have marked my work before starting. I thought I’d eyeball it. This turned out not to be such a good idea. I cut right past where I needed to over to the far side of the recess area. I was almost completely done cutting when I realized what I’d done.

The recess allows the elevator column to be properly positioned against the back while still having room for a functioning pump.

The cutout allows the slider to come out far enough from the pump to be functional.

The bottom of the base is made of plywood. This allows me to use a solid piece for the bottom. I don’t have anything in solid wood large enough for that. For stability I did not want to use glued up material for the bottom.
The bottom is attached with glue and eighteen gauge brad nails.
The bottom has a thirty degree angled bevel cut on all four sides of it. This makes it easier to pick up the whole unit to move from one place to another.

The pump assembly is screwed to the bottom of the base. If you remember, the elevator column is lined up with pins on top of the pump. Between the pins, the back, and the supports we will later put under the bottom of it, the elevator is assured to be in the proper orientation when the machine is in use.


9 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19848 posts in 3153 days

#1 posted 04-11-2013 01:39 AM

Great progress there!

The “extra” wood removed was an engineering redesign, to lighten the weight. Yeah, that’s it!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View JL7's profile


8750 posts in 3443 days

#2 posted 04-11-2013 01:43 AM

Very cool…..I have an ugly stack too…..I go there first if I can… build!

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3320 days

#3 posted 04-11-2013 01:46 AM

Thanks guys.
Jeff, I thought I was the only one who preferred the ugly stack to the prettier stuff for certain projects. I have wood in my shop that some would consider firewood. I’ll find uses for it all one day. Each saved piece is just waiting it’s turn to be part of a project.


View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2553 days

#4 posted 04-11-2013 01:51 AM

Looks like you got in some productive shop time. It’s taking shape.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3320 days

#5 posted 04-11-2013 01:56 AM

It’s going as good as can be expected lately.
I’ve been having some high pain days, so I haven’t been moving as fast as I’d like to on this project, but it’s coming along.


View Roger's profile


21010 posts in 3282 days

#6 posted 04-11-2013 01:40 PM

Your box joints will truly never come apart.. I hope you get to feelin better. You’ve got plenty more projects to build. :)

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View scrollingmom's profile


1196 posts in 2942 days

#7 posted 04-11-2013 09:30 PM

Very cool. I can’t wait to see it finished.

-- Kelly, Allen,KS

View Doe's profile


1425 posts in 3308 days

#8 posted 04-11-2013 10:16 PM

That looks huge! How big is it? I’m not sure I understand everything exactly, but thanks for the detail and pictures.
Interesting that what you call ugly is what I call pretty. . . the front board in the first picture I call downright beautiful.

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View William's profile


9950 posts in 3320 days

#9 posted 04-12-2013 12:38 AM

Thank you Roger and Kelly.

Doe, it is 15.5cm tall and 42×52cm.
And I don’t think the wood is ugly at all. I call it my ugly stack because it is off of larger pieces that may look ugly as a whole on large work. For smaller stuff though, the character, to me anyhow, is absolutely beautiful.


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