The scourge of planned obsolescence, in Magic 8-Balls

Before and after photos of a miniature, keychain-sized Magic 8-Ball that needed to have its blue-ink-water reservoir topped up.

There are innumerable how-to videos and static, step-by-step online guides to replenishing the water inside the fluid reservoir of a Magic 8-Ball, but a cursory Google search didn’t turn up any explanation of the process by which the water manages to evaporate out of its little plastic prison. My first guess would be that there’s an ever-so-slight degree of permeability to the yellow gunk used to seal the blue-inky water and fortune-telling die inside their film-canister-shaped container. The stuff was the same yellow-brown shade as a fortune cookie and had a similar surface consistency, cratered with tiny popped air bubbles.

Foreground: two of the die-and-fluid containers, plug end facing up to show the fortune-cookie-like original sealant.

Why isn’t a better sealant used? Are divination toys churned out intentionally doomed to slowly dehydrate, to pave the way for sales of replacements? Or, and this does sound a bit far-fetched, were all of the Magic 8-Balls currently in existence manufactured over a relatively short period many years ago and production ceased before the slow-evaporation issue reared its head? In that scenario, the M8Bs currently on sale would be new old stock, like the Purple Hearts produced in such large numbers in anticipation of an unprecedented volume of casualties from a fortunately unnecessary invasion of Japan that NOS Purple Hearts are still being awarded to servicemen and women.

Getting the two halves of the yellow shell apart was the tough part of the process. Working on the seam between the two haves with a paper-thin, star-shaped springy stainless steel opening tool (similar to iFlex Opening Tool didn’t get me anywhere. A gentle squeeze with a pair of vice grips to flex the shell did the trick. After it popped open, I saw four equidistant pegs on the inside of one shell half and matching holes on the inside of the other, possibly glued at the time of assembly.

Waiting for the epoxy to set. In the background, chuck end facing down, are my three hand drills, replacements for the janky hand drill I used to add a latch to a plastic drawer (described in my previous post).

Then, I drilled two small holes through the sealant-encrusted plug on the back of the cylinder containing the die and fluid: one for refilling and the other to allow the air to escape. After adding distilled water, I pulled the excess moisture off with a Kimwipe, mixed up some 2-part epoxy, and slathered it onto the plug end of the die-and-fluid container, covering the holes as well as the original sealant. Once it had set, I used a little bit of hot glue to seat the die viewport end of the thing in the half of the shell with the hole and laid another thin bead of hot glue around the lip of the other side of the shell before pressing the halves back together.

We’d bought three yellow mini Magic 8-Balls, all running low on fluid, and the first top-up went smoothly enough that I decided to knock out the other two. With the third, I hit a slight slag. The epoxy hadn’t set sufficiently or I hadn’t applied it properly to the original seal because my epoxy layer sprang a pinhole leak while I was snapping the shell back together. Whoops.

Next-day update: The epoxy isn’t holding and (methinks in retrospect) likely never set properly over the holes I’d drilled in the original seal and plug. Roughly shaking or gently squeezing the toy opens tiny cracks in the epoxy layer through which blue-dyed-water weeps. The air bubbles are back. Maybe I’ll give this another go after preparing a bit better.