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04/07/2012 / thriftomancer

Breaking things for fun and profit

Random announcement: I’ve managed to fill an entire composition notebook with the drafts of posts for this blog. (That’s right, I still work in hardcopy.) This post is the first working out of my shiny new notebook. (Black this time, instead of gray.)

Now the bit you’re actually interested in: I recently acquired a bag of bouncy balls for a quarter at a rummage sale. My aim was mayhem of a bouncy sort for general fun. What I didn’t notice was that in among the other pool ball-motif bouncy balls were three mini Magic 8-Balls.

Stars of the show

The only problem with them is their size. They may be convenient and portable, but the balls are too small for the answer-bearing component inside to float properly. This means that reading your result/answer/fortune isn’t possible at most times. (I had to work hard to get that picture where the answer’s legible.) They’re clearly malfunctioning, though I don’t know why. In any case, since I clearly can’t use them as intended, I’m going to repurpose them.

How, you ask? Take a closer look inside.

Look inside

The white plastic piece that’s supposed to float about freely in there is an icosahedron, a solid with 20 faces that’s more commonly known as a d20.

Now it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Let’s begin.

The liquid inside the Magic 8-Ball is an alcohol mixed with a strong blue dye. Since I didn’t fancy cleaning that up, I prepared a smashing rig consisting of a cutting board, several nested plastic food storage bags, and a hammer. Elegant, but useless. I went from tapping gently on it to an all-out hammer assault, all of which did absolutely nothing.

In some ways, this is actually reassuring. The thing was designed to be played with by destructive little kids, so my inability to destroy it with a hammer is a sign of good engineering. Engineering that I was about to ruin. The hammer didn’t work, so it was time to bring out the big guns.

The right tool

In hindsight, I should have done this to begin with.

I positioned the 8-Ball so the line where the shell’s two hemispheres meet was touching the jaws of the vise. That line is a structural weak point. Closing the vise on it let me exert less force and pop the two halves apart instead of trying to shatter the domed sides, which are stronger.

This is what the inside of a Magic 8-Ball looks like, if you ever wondered. All the liquid is sealed up inside that reservoir.

An 8-Ball's guts

I put it back in the bags, then back in the vise and cracked the reservoir open to claim my prize.


It was pretty easy once I had the right tool (not a hammer) and an idea of what should go where, so the other two took no time at all. There was a slight problem with them, though.

In order to make them float at the top of the reservoir, the answer dice are hollow. Unfortunately, the last two dice had flaws in them that allowed the blue alcohol to seep inside. Not a huge problem, but I didn’t want any of that stuff leaking out and staining my dice bag so I had to fix it by soaking them in water to let the dye seep back out.

Dice soaking

After a night to soak and dry, I have three new oracular d20’s.

The finished dice

My plan for them so far is to use them while playing Pathfinder. In this campaign we have several clerics who can call on their respective deities for advice. These dice will provide the answers. We’ll see how it works out.


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