Archive for August, 2009

Back in March I put together a small chaos machine to use as a test-bed for the work I was doing on the Chaos Controller. At one point I made a short video and uploaded it to YouTube; here it is:

The chain lift carries balls up to the top of the machine, after which they hit a pendulum switch and go either right or left. If they go right, they hit a xylophone key, then go down a steep slope to the loop-de-loop. If they go left, they get dropped onto a trampoline, and then bounced into a catch basket. Either way, they end up on the catch track at the bottom, and return to the chain lift.

You’ll notice that during the video, several of the balls leave the track. That’s because the loop-de-loop in my set was warped — it’s pinched together at the top of the loop, causing balls to either stick, drop, or fly off the track. Now that I have several sets, this won’t be a problem.

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I just won another eBay auction for a used Tower set; $43.25 + $19.10 shipping — not a bad deal compared to $120 + $23.26 for a new one. Hopefully it will arrive in time for TCEP so that I can have multiple chain lifts. (Only the Tower sets use the chain elevator — all of the older sets use a screw elevator.)

All told, eBay has been very good to me when shopping for used Chaos Toy sets. Most of the sets have been in good condition (though not necessarily complete). Some of the sets have had extra pieces (which means that originally there were multiple sets that got combined and munged). The Intermediate set cost me $6.50 plus shipping — an excellent price compared to its original price of $100; each of the Master sets cost me about $30 (plus shipping) which compares well with the original $135 price tag.

Most of the sellers have (IMO) been underpricing their sets, but there’s one seller who has been overpricing: he’s got a single Starter Set (original price: $60) that he listed for $89.99 OBO, then $69.99 OBO, and now it’s listed at $39.99 OBO. In the meantime, larger sets have been listed and sold for much better prices.

[Edit: Now the price has dropped to $29.99 OBO; still not worth it for me, but maybe someone else will find it useful.  In the meantime, my new Tower Set has arrived and is in good condition.]

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At this point my collection of Chaos Toy sets is fairly large:  I have a Tower Set, a Starter Set, an Intermediate Set, and two Master sets, plus some miscellaneous parts picked up along the way.  That’s more than 1700 parts, and it fills 3 storage tubs, and then some.  After working with Steve Jackson’s machine and the Penguicon machine, I really appreciate the merits of organization, so I set out to organize my machine (or at least the parts).
more information and pictures after the break

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One of the challenges of building a large chaos machine is that each of the elevators (either the old screw-style or the new chain-style) requires a separate power brick. If you’ve got 4 or 5 elevators, then you’re going to need a lot of power strips and/or squids. Until now.

Today my wife and I went shopping at the local Micro Center, and while I was checking out, she went next door to Michaels.  When I went in after her, I noticed an interesting widget in the seasonal decoration area:  a 1A, 4.5V power brick that had three (3) separate output jacks.  Just the thing to drive three elevators at once.  The manufacturer is Lemax, and they have them in black (Halloween) and white (Christmas).  (Wait until AFTER the holiday if you want the bargain prices.)


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