Remaking a Contemporary Classic: The Mold-a-Rama Machine

CNC & Machining
Remaking a Contemporary Classic: The Mold-a-Rama Machine

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.

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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.)

The first part out of Durand's "Mini Molder" vending machine, from an original Mold-A-Rama mold element.
First cast by Durand’s “Mini Molder” vending machine, from an original Mold-A-Rama mold element.

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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.

He writes:

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.

If you’re going to be in northern California the weekend of the 17th, don’t miss the chance to see the Mini Molder in action at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014.

 

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan

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