Tuesday, 21 December 2010


When I was five years old, my dad made a remarkable little wind-up toy for me from odds and ends. I learned while doing research for an article that this gadget is called a spool tank. As environmentally-conscious people want to reuse and recycle materials, I provide these assembly instructions.

You will need the following materials to build the spool tank:

1 taper candle
1 empty thread spool
1 wooden match stick
1 tooth pick
1 elastic (about the same length as the thread spool)
scotch or masking tape

You will need the following tools:

1 knife
1 nail or awl

1. Push the elastic through the centre hole of the thread spool. if the rubber band is too long, fold it double and then push it through.

2. Cut the match stick in half.

3. Place the piece without the match head through the loop of the elastic at one end of the spool and tape it securely.

4. Cut off about a half inch piece from the bottom of the candle.

5. Take the nail or awl and carefully drill a hole in the centre of the slice of candle.

6. Stretch the elastic, at the other end of the spool, and pass it through the hole in the candle wax piece.

7. Slide the tooth pick through the loop of the elastic so that the pick is most of the way through. The rubber band should hold the pick and candle wax snugly against the spool but without being too tight.

Wind the tooth pick, either clockwise or anti-clockwise, until the tension feels sufficiently tight. Overwinding could break the elastic. Place the spool toy on a flat surface and watch it go. Some people carve notches in the rims of the spool to give it traction on carpet and other uneven surfaces.

In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I relate my experiences when I was sent five hundred miles from home for months at a stretch. Click here to read more about this story of my poignant and hilarious experiences.

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