How To: Hack a Magic 8-Ball

Fun & Games
How To: Hack a Magic 8-Ball

Craig Smith sent us this project on how to take apart a Magic 8-Ball to customize it with your own answers. Thanks, Craig! – Gareth

Magic 8-Ball Hack

By Craig Smith

As a spa/hot tub service tech, I was convinced that one of my dingbat co-workers must be using Magic 8-Ball to arrive at his spa troubleshooting diagnosis. So, I thought it might be funny to actually make one customized for hot tub problems.

I used a Plexiglas cutter to remove the glue at the seam of the ball, about 1/8″ deep. From there, I could pry it apart with a screwdriver. Inside is the clear plastic blue dye container. Three Phillips screws hold the “cork” in. Remove and carefully pour out the blue dye water and save it. CAREFUL, IT WILL STAIN. I was able to remove the entire top by prying bit-by-bit all around the edge until the lid popped off. Then I could remove the “bubble trap” and the 20-sided “ball.”

I used a razor to slice off the letters, then medium sandpaper in a sander, then fine, then wet sand with superfine emery cloth. The smoother the surface, the less the marker will bleed. Then, with an ultra-fine sharpie marker, I carefully hand-lettered 20 common problems found in hot tub service calls. I then re-assembled the unit using Mr. Sticky glue on the cap. (A common pool/spa repair adhesive) The dye was put back in using a turkey baster with an injector tip. An eye-dropper got the last of it in. With the cork back in place and the entire unit re-assembled with some glue, I’m ready to use this diagnostic tool ONLY when eights years of experience fails me on a tricky malfunction.

16 thoughts on “How To: Hack a Magic 8-Ball

  1. David says:

    Great idea, I have similar dingbats in my profession (Database Admin), started working on a list of 20 phrases already!

  2. Emily says:

    You could also make the 20 sided “ball” into a D20 for RPG, talk about nerdy.

  3. Eric Moorehead says:

    Claim the Magic 8-Ball ‘knows” which card you took from the deck and put in your pocket! And, it then comes up with the right answer. Subsequent looks into the 8 ball come up with many other cards instead.

    The icosahedron in the common 8-ball has 20 triangular faces.
    Consider 5 pockets, 4 cards per pocket 2 vertical 2 horizontal
    (20 card locations in all)

    use Black-odd and Red-even for Left pockets (BORE)
    use Red-odd and Black-even for Right pockets (ROBE)
    use the four suits for location-within-pocket
    use low(2345), high(AKQJ10), mid(6789)
    for which type pocket (pant, shirt, hip)

    By using these “rules” and practicing, you will not have to memorize the cards but can still quickly pull out any one of the 20 cards in your pockets.

    choose 20 cards in accordance with each of the 20 pocket placements
    with blacks vertical, reds horizontal, pointy suits (S,D) away from your body. Cards should be backs outwards for dramatic revelation.

    I would choose, say, as follows:
    Left pants pocket: 5S, 2D, 4H, 3C
    Right pants pocket: 4S, 5D, 3H, 2C
    Left shirt pocket: AS,10D, QH, JC
    Right shirt pocket: QS, KD, AH,10C
    Right hip pocket: 8S, 7C, 9H, 6C

    Prepare the 20 triangular faces of the icosahedron to indicate these 20 cards As described by Craig Smith here:

    Use the 32 remaining cards plus a same-backed deck to build a deck of 51 cards none of which match the pocket cards.

    Performance summary:
    Quickly count face up the 51 cards saying you have removed one card. “Ask” the Magic Ball to name it. Retrieve the “removed” card. If anyone looks at the deck or looks at the ball there is nothing suspicious.

    Have fun,

  4. gobblefunk says:

    well this is cool

  5. ed says:

    If you drink the blue liquid you can see the into future.

  6. sam says:

    where did you purchase the magic 8 ball from? im doing an art project on secrets and i recently bought two balls but they are welded together inside and impossible to get into. The pentagon is metal also so cannot be changed, if you could please let me know where u bought urs from would be much appreciated.

    1. Craig says:

      Sam, I found mine at a goodwill store for a few bucks. I wasn’t aware they recently beefed up the toy and made it impenetrable. Odd that a more expensive metal ball is now used when everything is getting cheaper and cheaper in construction. Metal plate on plastic maybe?
      No Ed, you cannot see into the future drinking the blue dye. But if you eat all of Mr. Potatohead’s pieces, the next day you’ll make a Mr. Sh%#head.

  7. terrefirma says:

    Now this is the kind of hack I love!. A practical joke instead of strangling the guy, and explains it thoroughly- How long it took is irrrelevant….

  8. terrefirma says:

    I see them at garage sales all the time in the toy area. I am going to now corner the market for my new Toy/hackerspace!

  9. Mickipedia says:

    You make it sound so easy to remove the lid from the liquid container. I’m finding it impossible :(

  10. Lori says:

    I found it impossible, also, and finally had to give up last night. :(
    It took 3hours and three of us to get into the ball. The next night we tackled the blue dye container (got the blue dye out, but couldn’t pry the “cork” off, no matter WHAT we tried.

    Too bad…it was to be a birthday gift for a guy who can never decide where to go for lunch.
    I gave up and ordered a blank 12-sided die to do sort of the same thing.

  11. Luke Hebert says:

    How did you manage to pry off the lid of the blue-dye chamber? 45 minutes and multiple knives/clamps/monkey-wrenches later I still can’t get that sucker off.

    1. KB says:

      I’m not a genius but I’d try submerging the lid in boiling water quickly

    2. goodsam says:

      It took me a long time and I mangled the outside rim, but got it off with a screwdriver. I would imagine that the thinner and longer the wedge tool you have, the better the results would be. It’s definitely on there very tightly!

      Also I had to dremel the black shell apart — I can’t even imagine how someone ever got through it with a plexi cutter — the thing is at least a full 1/4″ thick plastic.

      1. Luke Hebert says:

        I actually had to get creative to get through the dye chamber. I used the metal tip of a hot-glue gun to poke a hole in the plastic and then poured the dye out of the hole. After refilling the chamber with dye, I hot-glued the hole shut. This isn’t a flawless method, because I did have to combat the leakiness of a hot-glued hole afterwards…

        And yeah, I definitely took a dremel tool to the black sphere-shell. I would have sliced a finger off trying to do so with any kind of knife.

  12. swampwiz0 says:

    I am waiting for the geek gods (pun semi-intended) to come up with a Magic 8-Ball having some isohedral shape other than an icosahedron.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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