This amazing machine was used at the Easter kids' club at St James
Muswell Hill in 2014. It was based on an idea from
The week had as its theme
Ephesians 3:17-21. The kids were encouraged to learn a
memory verse: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the Lords holy people, to grasp how
wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." And the Mega Maker
was used to illustrate Paul's words that God can "do immeasurably more than
all we ask or imagine."
There were a series of sketches through the
week at which an inventor called Boffin explained how he had invented the Mega
Maker. We put something small in one side, and it came out mega on the other.
Not only that, but what emerged was exactly what we needed. So one day, a
normal size packet of Jaffa cakes went in, and a mega packet came out. (The
mega packet featured in the
service.) And it was exactly what we needed, because there were then enough
Jaffa cakes for everyone to have one after the service!
The message was
that when we pray, our expectations are often small, but God gives us something
far greater, and what he gives us is exactly what we need.
assisted by three apprentices: Screwloose, played by Gaz Daley our associate
vicar (sounding like Ozzy Osbourne); Nogood, who was secretly trying to destroy
the Mega Maker (played by Chris Pearse our music minister); and someone dressed
as a bear, for reasons that escaped me.
They had various adventures,
making small things big and dealing with Nogood's attempts at sabotage - which
were unknown to the other characters but clear to the children. On the last day
Nogood fed two bits of wood, a hammer and some nails into the Mega Maker and it
was finally destroyed. But its last gasp was to produce an envelope with a
message for Nogood.
The message said "You are loved" and Nogood broke
down in tears because, despite his efforts to destroy the Mega Maker, he was
loved. His name changed to Madegood; he was forgiven. Chris Green, our vicar,
talked about Jesus' forgiveness for the thief who was
crucified with our Lord .
How the Mega Maker was made
This must be the most complicated visual aid I have ever produced.
It took days and days - probably about five or six days in total. It seemed
quite expensive but probably cost about the same as a couple of tanks of
I started with a scale drawing (see right). I also drew the view
from the left and right sides, and plans at various levels. These were useful
because I could work out how much wood to buy, where to drill holes and so on.
It also allowed me to plan things so that the moving parts didn't hit anything
when they rotated or moved up and down.
Essentially the Mega Maker was a
big box with an open back. On the left there was a ramp that could be tilted by
winding a handle, and on the right was a conveyor belt that was worked by the
The box was 2.4m (8ft) high and 1.2m (4ft) wide and deep. I used
the thinnest MDF that PO Joyce, my local woodyard, sold: 3mm thick. This kept
the weight down, but it was a bit bendy - thicker MDF might have been a good
idea. The woodyard cut the sheets into 1.2m x 0.6m bits so I could get them in
The full list of materials was:
- MDF 3 pieces 3mm thick, 2.4m x 1.2m
- MDF 3mm thick, 1.2m x 0.6m.
- MDF 16mm thick, 1.2m x 0.6m.
- 10 bits of timber each 2.1m x 44mm x 20mm (planed size).
- 3 bits of dowel each 2.4m x 18mm diameter.
- A broom handle 1.5m x 25mm diameter.
- 7 cardboard tubes about 500mm long and 50mm diameter. These had
been the middles of rolls of paper, and came from work.
- A bend for drainpipe.
- A flexible duct for an extract fan.
- A set of Christmas lights.
- A bit of rope.
- A roll of bubble wrap and some duct tape.
- Two cheap door knobs.
- Lots of screws.
- Paint. I bought two big tins of blue emulsion and a match pot
of red. Homebase's buy one get one half price offer saved me less than I
thought it would, because the cheapest item (the match pot) was half price and
I only saved 75p.
Making the box was fairly straightforward. The openings were cut
for the various holes, and the bits of MDF were joined with bits of wood in the
corners. The wood came in bits 2.1m long; it would have been better to use
full-height 2.4m pieces. The "maker's plate" on the front was a MDF offcut
stuck to the panel with wood glue. This was one of the very few joints I glued
- I knew I would need to take the Mega Maker apart and put it together several
times so in general I only used screws.
The gears were used to drive the
output conveyor belt and that thing on the top that rocks up and down. Having
remembered for over 30 years since doing my engineering degree that gear teeth
have curved sides, I was keen to incorporate this feature and demonstrate the
usefulness of a general engineering education. I copied the shape of the teeth
from a Wikipedia
article, made up a full gear shape in Corel Draw, printed the drawing full
size and stuck it to the 16mm thick MDF. It was then relatively simple to cut
out the right shape with a jigsaw. This is an example of going into too much
The gears were attached to axles made of dowel. It was
vitally important to make sure the dowel went in straight or the teeth wouldn't
mesh properly. This was a bit of a problem - I didn't have a bench-mounted
drill and it was hard to keep a hand-held drill straight. So I made a gadget -
see photo. It was clamped to the gear and if the drill bit was centred on the
top and bottom holes in the gadget, the hole was straight. It was best to put
an old bit of wood under the gear, to stop the drill causing damage on the way
The gear needed to be fixed rigidly to the axle and I used a small
piece of wood - see diagram.
The conveyor used cardboard tubes running
on dowel axles. Happily the paper rolls came with plastic things in the end,
and the plastic things came with holes that fitted neatly - but not too tightly
- over the dowels. The belt was made of bubble wrap, pulled quite tight and
joined with duct tape. The tube on the same axle as the gear was fixed to the
dowel with screws.
The thing on the top was only needed because the
sketches required a missing part - the flexible duct attached to the drain bend
- to be supplied. Because the drain came with a rubber gasket it could just be
shoved into the hole on the side of the Mega Maker. A crank on the axle of the
other cog (not the one attached to the conveyor) drove a push rod, which in
turn make the thing on top rock up and down. You can see the crank on the back
The ramp was fairly simple. It was made of MDF with a bit
of wood on each side to stiffen it. A bit of rope ran over a pulley at the end
of the arm at top left of the Mega Maker, and then went inside. It wound round
another cardboard tube on a dowel axle, which was turned by a
The top panel at the front was drilled with lots of holes and
little Christmas lights were pushed through. Because they were on a regular
grid, they looked quite unlike Christmas lights, and a number of
easily-impressed people were impressed, easily. Low-voltage lights, suitable
for outdoor use, were used.
There was another hole in the front to allow
the children to be squirted with water as part of one of the sketches. And St
James' has a smoke machine (why?!) which - well, you can imagine what we did
with that. We played machine-like sound effects over the church sound
Despite the huge amount of time I still ran out - and so the
dials were drawn very quickly by hand. If I'd had a bit longer I would have
drawn them on the computer and stuck paper dials to the MDF. And maybe I should
have made pointers that could have been adjusted from the inside. And possibly
there should have been drawn-on bolts or rivets round the edges. And "Mega
Maker" should have been written in big letters on the front. And...
There are some videos of the Mega Maker in action:
ramp being operated
- Output conveyor working, together with the thing that goes
up and down.
You will just have to imagine the smoke and the flashing
If you want to borrow the Mega Maker, most of it is in my loft.
A lot has been recycled into a giant Christmas present so it would take a bit
of work (and some new bits of wood) to turn it back into a Mega Maker again.
But you can send me an email and we can talk about it.
It will fit in a VW Beetle with the back seats folded down. Make sure you have
a Beetle like this:
The Mega Maker