I lost my marbles…revisited

I wrote this blog post about 4 years ago on an old service (cough…Myspace…cough) and it was time for me to repost. It’s one of my favorite projects.

For years I would go to  Disney’s Hollywood Studios, fka MGM Studios, and ride the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It’s easily one of the best rides at Disney. While waiting in line there was a certain section that I was obsessed about, an amazing set of doors made of marbles that I LOVED!! Seeeeeee. Anyway, one day I got the nerve to try and make this myself, and I did it… and for not a ridiculous amount of money either, which was exciting. Most of the time invested in this project was planning and the help of my great friend Matt was absolutely necessary, but we kicked this projects butt. The marbles even roll when you run your hands across just like the original. The key to the whole thing was finding the metal.

So let me show you what we did.

It’s a 3’0″x 6’8″ solid core exterior door. It took just over 3,200 marbles (80lbs) and over 100 1/8″ rivets to complete. The total weight of the door is around 150lbs and is supported by 4 barrel hinges. We lucked out on the metal plating that is holding the marbles, the average marble is 5/8″ in diameter and I happen to find a person selling large pieces of 3 gauge perforated metal with 1/2″ round holes. I asked the supplier to cut 2 identical pieces of metal, I then sandwiched the marbles between them, and riveted the pieces together. I’m still in shock that I was able to find the metal. Securing the slab of metal and marbles in place was also a bit of a challenge. This is where Matt came in. We used a table saw, a router, and made a jig to create a wood railing/trim that the slab sat in. Once we framed everything out, we prayed, and then slid everything into place. A few nails later we were golden.

There are a few things that are different from the original.

  • Disney uses square holes for their metal. It looks awesome, but it’s custom which makes it very high dollar. It would of added many hundreds of dollars to my overhead and I figured Disney can have this one detail.
  • Disney also uses a sheet of plexiglass on the back of the door that you’re not able to see because the doors are propped open against a wall. I’m guessing this is for insulation.
  • Disney also does not use a pattern for the marbles. This would of made things easier, but I wanted to have fun with a pattern.  I made a grid using MS Paint (yeah that’s right!) and was able to overlay a pattern. I was then able to count out how the marbles should lay on the metal.

A couple things to keep in mind. If you’re doing a pattern, make sure the grid is backlit. The marble colors are the same when light isn’t openly shining through them. Also, try and find an average door size. I went with a beefy exterior door because of where I was using it, but now I don’t know where to put it. It currently resides in my parents garage which I’m sure they love.

Ok that’s it. Pictures below. Please keep in mind that we had just returned from the beach….so Matt is wet from swimming not sweating. And I was wearing my favorite Millencolin t-shirt…goodbye poor shirt…goodbye 🙁