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Ephesians 3:17-21

This amazing machine was used at the Easter kids' club at St James Muswell Hill in 2014. It was based on an idea from Scripture Union.

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 Lord’s 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 2013 harvest 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.

Boffin was 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, then 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 petrol.

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 cogs.

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 car.

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 detail.

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 out.

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 view photos.

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 handle.

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 system.

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... enough!

There are some videos of the Mega Maker in action:

  • Input 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 lights.

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:

VW Beetle

Great car.

Mega Maker
The Mega Maker
 

MM and Nogood
Nogood plots the destruction of the Mega Maker.
 

 

Madegood
The Mega Maker gives Nogood a message: "You are loved" and Nogood changes his name to Madegood.
 

MM drawing
Drawing of the Mega Maker. You can download a pdf copy of a 1:20 scale version. You can also download the side elevations and plans, complete with my workings-out, notes, tea stains, etc
 

Mega Maker under construction
Under construction.
 

Under construction 2
Under construction, almost finished.
 

Under construction, from the back
The Mega Maker from the back.
 

Gadget
Gadget for making straight holes.
 

Gear fixed to axle
Fixing a gear to a dowel axle: a small piece of wood was fixed using a screw through the dowel, and then the gear was fixed to the piece of wood using screws (pointy end in the wood).
 

Mega Maker from the back
The Mega Maker from the back.
 

 

Desert island church by John Parker. Contact me via the about page. Text and images copyright © 2014 John Parker www.desertislandchurch.co.uk.