Pachinko Crystal Modelling

I saw this video recently, and fell in love with the Atomix toy. Sadly it seems you can’t get them anymore. However, I remembered that in the garage  I had over a thousand Japanese pachinko balls left over from a previous project…

This was a quick one evening build, I just wanted to get it done before I got distracted. Some sawing and cutting later, and here’s what I have:


Can for scale, as with all my projects

I used thick 12mm thick plywood I had laying around the space, and a bandsaw-box like technique to cut out the inside of the frame. The front is lasercut 3mm acrylic, which I was originally worried might not be up to the job of keeping 3kg of agitated steel contained, but after shaking it a few times it seems to be sturdy enough.

You can hold the frame and shake it by hand, but I wanted something to be a bit more play-friendly. I had a lazy-susan bearing kicking around after I did various rebuilds of  a robot several years ago, and I decided that would allow some gentle motion.


4×2 lovingly cut, and expertly screwed together in whatever fashion got it done before bedtime. 

With two wood pieces acting as a tilted base, the whole assembly sits tilted on the table and can be gently rotated with a light touch.

Tilted base.jpg

Finished piece

It’s certainly very  satisfying to play around with, you can see the fault lines, grain boundaries, different orientations, gaps and other nifty crystallographic features. And for a one evening build I’m very happy with it.

Also, words can’t express how noisy the 11mm pachinko balls are compared to the ~1mm ones Steve used in his model. However provided you’re the one using it, it’s relaxing and soothing like a rain machine. (However if someone else is doing the playing, for some reason it doesn’t seem quite so serene…)

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