- Battery drill/screwdriver (ours is the cannibalised motor from an old one)
- Small drill bits (that match the diameter of the wire you will be using)
- Mains wire (we ended up getting a big roll but you can use the grey sort, often easy to get from skips or lying around. You'll want the stuff that is quite stiff, we found 2.5mm squared core to be best)
- Pliers / wire cutters
- Soldering iron + solder (we ended up modifying our soldering iron tip for best soldering)
- Small motor (ours is from and old zoom lens, you could maybe take apart an old CD drive to get the tray motor or similar - post up what you use)
- Spirit level/s
- Chipboard / ply board (for jig and for mounting the rollercoaster)
- Matches (for jig)
- Glue (we used hot melt glue gun and some wood glue)
To ensure you can make consistently spaced track, a jig must be made.
To start, place a ball bearing on a piece of your board and cut two lengths (~10cm) of straightened wire.
Bring these pieces of wire together until they lift the ball bearing from the surface of the board. You might need to experiment a little here to get a good gauge (track spacing).
Next you will need to find something to stick on to the board to make your jig. We found match sticks to be a perfect size for the spacing of track so we got 3 match sticks and glued them to the board. You will need to ensure that the space between them is snug on the wire but not so tight that you can't move the wire up and down in the jig.
We started with standard length match sticks but soon found that we came across difficulties when trying to make more complex parts of track, like corners. We ended up chopping match sticks in half lengthways, this seemed to give us a workable solution.
This is where track making can get a little tricky and requires yet more trial, error and more trial.
Start off by having a think about track layout - remember you are relying on gravity to get the ball travelling around the track. You can get away with very slight gradients to get the ball moving slowly. You can include sharper drops for loops and jumps but bear in mind that this will get your ball to the bottom of your track much more quickly.
Increased ball speed also means that some corners may need to include side barriers to keep the ball on the track. These are the things that you will find whilst building your own track.
Start off by trying to make a corner piece. Make a section of straight track with a few sleepers, then take the track out of the jig and convince round into as smooth a curve as possible with your hands. Do one track rail at a time.
Once you have something that looks pretty much right, put the straight at the other end back into the jig and solder on your sleepers. You can then add sleepers to the corner section too, making sure that you keep the gauge of the track as consistent as possible.
Test your corner out and see if the ball bearing runs smoothly around it. Once you have done this, start thinking about other sections of track to make.
Remember that you can make your track modular to a certain extent: make corners, straights, loops and so on individually. You can then start to assemble the pieces into a rollercoaster.
Experiment with different track pieces and peculiarities - loops and screws are fun. We also made a small jump with a cage to catch the ball bearing, and a swinging bridge in an earlier prototype.
Scott wanted to make a roller coaster that didn't end. Once the ball bearing reaches the bottom of your track (the board) he worked out a way of lifting them back up. By doing this you can add in more track or send the ball bearings back to the start of your existing track.
Use multiple ball lifters for increased track length.
Making the ball lifters took many many prototypes - and slightly different styles may work better for your ball bearings / making technique. See the picture of all of Scott's different attempts.
The idea here is to make a screw thread from wire wrapped around a central piece of wire, then put this 'threaded' assembly inside a cage that allows the thread to push the ball bearing upwards.
You will have to work out some way of holding the rotating centre - Scott wanted to make as much of the track as possible out of the copper wire but you could try using other bearings/parts if you wish.
We found that an angle of ~35-60 degrees works ok, vertical lifting is quite hard and puts more pressure on the thread and cage.
Experiment with different thicknesses of wire for the thread. It will take a few attempts to get a nice smooth thread.
Attaching the motor: start by making a copper sleeve/adapter out of a tightly coiled length. Once wrapped around the motor shaft it will allow for a good solder connection point to the rotating shaft of the ball lifter.