$1 DIY Marble Dispenser (kinda)

As an undergraduate psych student, I remember sitting in Dr. Paul Robinson’s class. The man had a full head of dark black wavy hair with streaks of gray and gesticulated wildly with his hands when he spoke, pushing his thick-rimmed glasses higher on his nose while concentrating on the floor before him. I loved the guy. In his career, had written about seventy thousand parenting books (okay…that’s an exaggeration), and had fostered over 350 children! (That’s not an exaggeration…like, seriously. He really did that.). And that jolly old man was quite a story-teller and had an anecdote for every principal in behaviorism. (He even taught a fish to read once…seriously).


The man insisted that raising obedient children was easy–all that was required was a little know-how about how to manipulate rewards and punishments–reward the good, punish the bad, simple as that!

Ten years later…ha! I couldn’t get my kids to eat ice cream if I commanded it! One day, after a seventy-seven hour whine-athon, I decided I’d had it. A spark of memory came from the time I’d listened to “Doc” (as we called him)–a clever way to implement rewards and punishments–a token economy.

So here was my idea–we’d have marbles that the kids could cash in for TV, games, desert, costume time, whatever. They’d earn marbles for chores (and other good behavior), but they’d “lose their marbles” (ha!) if they whined about it.

The only problem…how to dispense the marbles? I wanted a system that was easy and would require little maintenance on my part (I’m kinda lazy, ya know). So here’s what I built.

Box joint for marble dispenserI started with my first ever box joint. Aren’t your proud of me?! 100% solid walnut with a tung oil finish that’d make yer grandfather proud.

Marble dispenserI made four slots (future expandability, you see). The idea is that when the kids earn a marble, they push a spring-loaded button in the front and out comes the marble.

Ejecting the marbleThe problem–they get stuck!

If you look at the pic below, you see the problem. Like my two boys, this pair of marbles is fighting! They’s trying to get inta the same slot at the same time!
Marbles get stuck!So, I thought I might try building a funnel. (And since I don’t have a lathe, that required a bit of voodoo with the router table).

Even with a funnel, they get stuckNope! Same problem–stuck marble. I even posted a question on diy.stackexchange.com.

Smaller beads also get stuckAfter some experimentation, I thought that a smaller “marble” would fix it. So I bought a bunch of beads at the dollar store. Alas! They didn’t have enough weight to work consistently (though they did better than the bigger marbles).

But, I found a solution! The perfect solution. One that rarely fails!





Are you excited yet?




(putting blank space so you can’t peek)








Here it goes!


Yeah. Lame. While searching the dollar store for heavier beads, I found this. So, my 15+ hours of labor, with my sophisticated joinery, expensive hardwood, and checking/rechecking of squareness resulted in a $1 bubblegum dispenser.

Now what in the world will I use that old one for? Any ideas?

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