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Useless Machines

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Posted: July 15, 2020 | | Categories: Miscellaneous

Many years ago (I can't remember how many), I bought a Useless Machine kit from Frivolous Engineering. It's this amazing kit that enables you to build a machine that when you turn it on, it immediately turns itself off; a finger pokes out the lid to flip the power switch back to off again.

Useless Machine Image

I bought it so I could build it with one of my children and was pleasantly surprised when Elizabeth wanted to build it with me. We had an amazing hour or so putting this thing together and big laughs every time we turned it on.

Of course, it only lasted a day or so; no sooner did we finish it that someone dropped it and broke the case. I reached out to the manufacturer and purchased the parts I needed to fix it and quickly put it back together just in time for the cousins to visit.

This time, it lasted less than an hour; all these years later, I still don't know who did it, but someone wanted to see what would happen if they held the lid closed and turned on the power, so they did. You and I are smart enough to figure out without trying that if you hold the lid closed and turn on the power, it will break. Not true for kids, they had to actually try it out. Sigh.

So I reached out to the manufacturer to order more replacement parts - this time he felt bad for me and gave them to me for free. The parts languished in my workshop for years as I just couldn't get Lizzy to work with me to put it back together again.

On the Fourth of July weekend, I had a lot of free time (because we were safe and stayed home), so I worked through a lot of unfinished projects in my shop. I got things done that had been sitting there for years, including the useless machine.

I took it apart, reassembled it, and guffawed as usual every time I turned it on (and it turned itself off). My kids are old enough that I think the experimentation period is over and I can put it out without worrying that someone's going to break it. It's now sitting in my office, right at the top of a bookshelf that sits next to the stairs down to the first floor. I thought I'd put it there for any visitors to play with, but I find that I flip that little switch every time I leave my office. Guffawing every time.

Here's where you can buy one of the current versions of the project: https://www.spikenzielabs.com/Catalog/useless-machine/the-useless-machine-kit-diy-soldering-edition?cPath=1&.

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