Venice, California resident James Durand is a Disney “imagineer” and an inveterate tinkerer. And like a lot of makers I know, he is absolutely obsessed with the 60s-era Mold-A-Rama novelty vending machines manufactured by Philadelphia company Automatic Retailers of America (now Aramark) from 1962 to 1969.
If you’ve never seen a Mold-A-Rama machine, check out the video, embedded above, that YouTuber ehisforadam shot at The Henry Ford Museum in 2010. It captures the experience better than any other video I’ve seen online. (Except the smell, of course — almost everyone with a childhood Mold-A-Rama story mentions the distinctive scent of the freshly-molded toys.)
Back in August, 2010, Durand undertook to build his own machine on the same principle, but without the original styling elements. Instead of the retro cabinet, Durand’s “Mini Molder” sports an extruded aluminum frame and clear body construction so that users can see how the whole thing works.
Mold-A-Rama machines are very hard to find, cost $10-20K (if you can even find one for sale), are the size of a vending machine, and are horribly unreliable due to the crude equipment under the hood. My goal was to build an updated machine that was the size of a coffee table, so I could keep it at my house. This project has been a long time in the making. Several years (and countless design iterations) later I am ready to show it off to the world.
You can check out Durand’s online build log at ashermade.com.