Astro Orbitor

And Dumbo



As you can tell from the videos, Motorizing the Olszewski pieces truly brings them to life.  They’re already fantastic, but in motion they are simply mesmerizing.  The motorization process is complex and difficult because it requires high precision and we’re working up from underneath the pieces to make most of the cuts.  Please feel free to try it yourself if you like – I’ve given you a set of detailed DIY instructions later on this web page (they’re written for the Orbitor but Dumbo is done exactly the same).


If you’re not skilled with power tools then I’m happy to motorize your Dumbo and/or your Astro Orbitor for you.  Please send me an email and I’ll give you the latest prices and schedules.  I do them in batches to maintain my productivity (and sanity) so scheduling is important.  Please realize that I’m modifying pieces that you already own and you send to me to be modified – I don’t have extra Olszewski pieces that I sell.    


Also, I’m not currently motorizing the Mad Tea Party because the current process is far too complex and expensive for me to repeat.  I’m working on a simplified design for the ‘Cups and when I have one that's reasonable I’ll let everyone know.



Here are videos of the Motorized pieces in action:



Click for Video    Dumbo Video


  Click for Video     Astro Orbitor


Click for Video     Mad Tea Party



Motorizing Instructions:   


Click to Enlarge

Ever dreamed of having your Astro Orbitor spinning around on your Platform just like it does in the Park?  I know that I have – and I finally got around of making it happen.  The Motorized Astro Orbitor adds much more to the entire Main Street Collection and Platform Display than I had imagined.  It adds a sense of motion and life that didn’t exist before. 



The trains circling the Park, the modified twinkling MSEP floats on Main Street, the spinning Orbitor, the special lighting, and the Main Street music all work together to produce the life, motion, sights, and sounds like we experience in the “real” park.  Altogether it’s quite breathtaking – a real tribute to Olszewski’s genius.


   Click for Video



Here's a Video of the Motorized Astro Orbitor in motion:





NOTE:  This modification is only practical for Astro Orbitor’s that are installed in the Main Street Platform.  The motor that drives the unit extends downward below the Orbitor nearly two inches and that will make it very difficult to display the piece stand-alone.   Here’s how to modify yours:  


WARNING:  This modification is not for the faint of heart.   


Buy the Motor Parts:


1)     Search Ebay and buy a motor with a description like thisDC 6V 20 RPM Gear Motor”.  You’ll probably find it in an Ebay Store from someone like “victorstudio”.  This motor is a bit noisy when operated outside of my coffee table, but in the table, with the cover on, it is completely silent.  That motor has a 4mm shaft, so you’ll need to buy a 4mm Mount Hub like this one .  Buy a 500 ohm ½ watt potentiometer from Radio Shack. All together they’ll cost you about $35.  You’ll also need a small 12”x12” piece of ¼” Masonite and various screws described later. 


Cut Out the Orbitor Center Piece:


2)     Create a paper template that precisely locates the center of the Orbitor “Mast” (that’s the part that sticks up and holds the cars).  Take a piece of paper, punch a quarter inch or so hole in the center.  Turn the Orbitor over so it’s pointing Mast down.  Place the paper on the bottom of the Orbitor so that the hole is over the center of the Mast (you’ll see it sticking through the bottom of the molding).  Cut out the area where the electronics are located (to get the paper to lie flat).  Put the hole back over the Mast and center it PRECISELY.  Without moving the paper, with a pen or other thin sharp object, carefully punch out the four screw holes that used to hold the Orbitor to the old base unit.  


3)     Transfer the paper Template markings to a ¼” thick piece of Masonite or other denseClick to Enlarge particle board.  Mark the four screw holes and the Mast hole PRECISELY.  Drill the four screw holes slightly smaller than the four screws that used to hold the Orbitor to it’s old base.  Cut the Mast Hole out with a 2 1/8” Hole Saw attached to a Drill.  Keep the center round cut-out part left in the Hole Saw, we’ll use it in the base later.  Attach the Masonite template to the Orbitor.  Check the alignment of all five holes.  If ANY of them are off then repeat steps 1 and 2.


Click to Enlarge4)     Wrap the sides of the 2 1/8” hole saw with a strong tape so that it fits snugly in the Mast Hole while still allowing rotation.  The Hole Saw creates a hole slightly wider than the sides of the saw and the tape is necessary to keep it precisely positioned.  Relocate the Hole Saw’s centering bit so that it does NOT extend into the cutter.  We only want the round part of the Saw touching the Orbitor.  If the centering bit hits the Orbitor it will damage the Mast – and that’s not good.


5)     Carefully position the 2 1/8” Hole Saw through the Mast Hole and press it against the bottom of the Orbitor.  Make sure it’s hitting the base perfectly perpendicular – we don’t want it tilted at all.  Recheck the alignments.  Recheck again.  Say a long prayer.  Take a deep breath.  Start Cutting.  This part of the process takes several years off your life – it’s that stressful.  At least it was for me.


6)     Click to EnlargeYou’ll need to stop cutting frequently to remove dust, to fix the tape (which tends to come off), and to let the cutter cool off.  Keep checking that you’re going in straight.  This is very nerve wracking because you can’t see where the saw is going.  You must have faith that your measurements were accurate and that the saw is going in straight.  It’s still one of the longest 10 minutes of your life.


7)     When you’re getting close to the top surface of the Orbitor be careful to ease up on the pressure you’re putting on the Saw and slow down the rotations to very slow speed.  You’ll know you’re through when the Center part of the Orbitor pops out.  My first one went flying, rolling across my workbench, and I caught it just as it was about to hit the floor (that’s why I say to slow down when you get close to the top!).  The hard part of the job is now done!


Clean Up and Finish the Cut Out:


8)     The resins soften as the blade heats up.  As a result, we don’t actually “Cut” all the way through the piece.  As we near the top the last millimeter or so will break away rather than the saw cutting all the way through the piece.  That’s a good thing because it leaves a much smaller gap (albeit more ragged) than if the saw had gone all the way through.  That’s the good news.


Click to Enlarge9)     The bad news is that it is very likely that a portion of the lip of the Orbitor base will break away, too.  The more you’re out of alignment with the cut the more of the lip will break away.  My first cut was less than 1mm off and about 20mm of lip broke.  My second cut was only 1.5mm off and about a third of the lip (about 60mm) broke away (see photo).  Even if you hit the center perfectly I think that Click to Enlargesome lip damage will occur.  Find the Lip pieces that broke away (sometimes they’re still stuck to the center piece) and reattach them to the base.  You’ll need some filler (I used Vinyl Spackle) to fill in the gaps.  The photo to the left shows how it looks when it's filled and painted.


10) To attach the Motor Mount Hub to the Orbitor Center, first cut a small piece of Masonite to fit into the indentation below the mast.  Make sure it fits into the indentation flat – as precisely flat as possible.  Epoxy it in place. 


11) Attach the Motor Mount Hub to the Motor, place the motor vertically (shaft up) in a vice or something else to hold it totally still, make sure the Hub surface is perfectly level so that when you place the Orbitor center piece on it the mast goes straight up.  Attach the motor in series with the 500 ohm pot to an Olszewski 4.5VDC AC Adaptor (doesn’t matter which part number).  Adjust the speed with the pot so you can examine the Orbitor center as it spins on the Motor/Hub.  Place the Orbitor center on the Hub/Motor (don’t glue it yet) and watch it spin around. 


Click to Enlarge12) You want to end up with the pointy star elements of the Orbitor center revolving in a perfect circle.  But, the cut probably didn’t come out exactly right so you need to watch the thing rotate and see how to position it with the stars going around in a perfect circle.  We’ll cut off the parts of the center piece that extend beyond the star elements in the next step.  Watch it for awhile and you’ll see what to do.  Once it’s going around in a good circle (still NOT glued down yet) then watch for how level the Orbitor Center base is traveling.  Click to EnlargeYou want that base with the pointy stars to be as level as possible as it spins.  One side shouldn’t go up or down more than .5mm than the other.  At this point it’s more important that the Orbitor center base with the pointy stars is traveling in a level perfect circle than it is for the mast to be straight.  Epoxy the Center Base to the Hub when you’re ready.


Click to Enlarge13) Get out a Dremel with a sharp cutting bit.  Turn on the motor and spin the Orbitor center around at a good speed.  Hold the Dremel very still and carefully cut back the edge of the center base until you are right up to the pointy stars.  It’s like building a poor man’s lathe to make something round.  This will make the center base unit round and true.  In this photo you can see that my cut was shifted off to the left about 1.5mm.  Notice that we're making the piece round by the pointy stars and not by the hole we cut - which we know was off a bit.


14) If you had parts of the center base that were broken out inside of the radius of the pointy stars then fill those areas.



Click to Enlarge15) Clean up the lip area of the base unit with the Dremel.  You’ll notice a circular line engraved on the Orbitor base in about 2mm in from the edge of the lip.  Cut up to that line.  Fill areas that are missing.  If you cut the center to the pointy stars and cut the lip area to the engraved line then you’ll have just the right clearance for the Orbitor to spin freely and have a minimum gap.



Click to Enlarge16) Check the fit of the pieces.  You want about 1mm of clearance on all sides of the hole.  If you performed steps 13 and 15 properly they should fit well.  This is the best time to fix things if something doesn’t look right.



17) Paint the Center Base and Lip areas.   (Note:  The Olszewski Touch Up Paint Kit does not have the right Gray color for this step – you’ll need to mix your own.  Use his Gray with Black mixed in to get the right shade).


  Create the Motor Mount Assembly:    



18) With another piece of paper, trace the layout of the large part of motor mounting base along the lines of the photograph.  Be sure to leave holes in the large piece to access the LEDs if they need replacement.  As with the previous template, make a mark where the Orbitor Click to EnlargeMast goes (doesn’t have to be as accurate as last time).  Transfer the paper trace to Masonite and cut out the piece.  Drill out a 1” hole under the Mast center.


19) Drill a 1” hole in the 2 1/8” Masonite center round cut out created in Step 3.  You’ll end up with a piece that looks like a flat bagel.  Cut a 60 degree or so wedge out of the piece to provide access to the Motor Hub hex screw.  Epoxy that to the large part of the motor mounting base.  Be careful to make sure you’re attaching it to the right side of the base!


Click to Enlarge20) Dismount the Orbitor Center piece hub from the motor by loosening the hex screw.  Use the 2 1/8” Hole Saw to create another ¼” Masonite round cut out (the part of the Masonite left in the Saw when you’ve finished the cut).  Drill out a 17/32” hole in the center of the bagel to make space for the Motor Hub.  Drill out two holes for the motor mounting screws and counter sink them flush with the top of the bagel.  Drill out three 3/8” holes in the perimeter of the bagel to mount the motor assembly to the base (they’re big holes to provide for adjustments).  Attach the bagel to the motor.


Click to Enlarge21) Place the motor/bagel assemble on the motor mount base as shown.  Center the two bagels together and drill three pilot holes in the motor mount base that align with the holes in the motor bagel made in step 19.  Install three screws w/large washers in the holes, center the pieces, and tighten the screws slightly.


22) Place the motor mount assembly under the Orbitor Base, align it per the template you created in step 18, and center the motor shaft in the base opening.  Carefully insert the Orbitor center down onto the motor Click to Enlargeshaft.  Allow the motor assembly to shift around so that the Orbitor Center is centered in the opening.  Mark the Motor assembly where it hits the base so we can epoxy it.  Remove the Orbitor center, apply Epoxy to the motor base, and attach the base using the marks you made a few seconds ago.


Assemble the Motorized Astro Orbitor:


23) After the Epoxy cures, connect the motor wiring to the Orbitor electronics by splicing the motor wires (in series with the pot) into the Orbitor power inputs – the Red and Green wires.  In the case of the motor I used, I connected a wire from the Orbitor power input “Green” wire to the motor black terminal.  Then I connected a wire from the Orbitor power input “Red” wire to the Pot center lead and another wire from the Pot outer lead (either one) to the Motor Red terminal.  Insulate the connections with electrical tape.  This wiring keeps the Orbitor spinning even after the 10 minute timer turns off the LEDs.


Click to Enlarge24) Loosen the three alignment screws, install the Orbitor center on the motor, set the proper height of the center in the base, and tighten the Motor Hub hex screw.  You might need to “bump” the motor with power a few times to get the flat mounting cutout on the motor to align with the access wedge cut into the base bagel.  Try to center the Orbitor center in the opening as best you can.  Turn on the motor but be careful – the motor has a lot of torque and can damage the pieces if they’re far out of alignment.  Fine tune the position of the center in the opening gradually tightening the three alignment screws.  If you look at the enlarged view of this photo you can see a small white paper shim I needed to install to get the alignment right.


   Install the New Orbitor in the Platform:   


Click to Enlarge 

25) Place the completed Motorized Astro Orbitor on the platform and carefully mark the center of where the hole for the motor must be cut.  Use a 2.5” Hole Saw to make the cutout in the Platform for the motor.  Install the Orbitor, connect the power, and enjoy!




Design Notes:   


Some collectors have suggested simply drilling out the Mast rather than making the (admittedly stressful) 2 1/8” cutout around the base.  I chose the large cutout mainly because that’s the way it looks in the Park.  Just having the mast alone spinning didn’t look quite right.  And, drilling out the mast has other problems to deal with, such as how to get the drill to track straight and how to mount it securely to the motor – so that approach wasn’t all that easy, either.  So, I chose the way that best presented Olszewski’s wonderful art even if it might have been a little harder to build.


Bruce Richards