Instructables
This Instructable is for building a marble track around the outside of a room.

This track is built mostly from wood and uses 1-inch glass marbles.  There are two lifting devices used to bring the marbles to the top of the track and keep them moving around the room.  The lifting devices are run with battery packs with AA batteries and small DC gear motors.

This Instructable is meant to give someone the general ideas for building this type of marble run, but will not go into the detail to build this exact layout.

I built this for my youngest son and it runs around his bedroom.  I love building fun things like this for my kids and seeing their excitement as everything comes together.



 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials You May Need

Materials

The materials and tools you need depends on the type of track you decide to build.

The marbles for this project were purchased from MegaGlass.  They are 25mm diameter (about 1-inch) in diameter and were purchased in a bulk bag of 125 count.  The price was around $40 at the time of purchase.

Link to marble supplier MegaGlass.com.

The gear motors I used were purchased cheaply off Ebay.  I was able to get 4 motors for $18.00.  I only used two of the motors for the project.

All of the wood I used for the project was material I already had on hand.  If I had to estimate, I would say the cost of the wood materials was around $70.

The battery packs that both marble lifters use were purchased at Radio Shack for $2.50 each.

Both lifting devices use several 1/4-inch inner diameter x 5/8-inch outer diameter bearings.  These were purchased on Ebay for $10.00.

All wood pieces were finished with MinWax water based Polycrylic in a clear satin finish.  This stuff dries amazingly fast if you haven't used it before.  Most of the track parts were spray finished.  The spray makes it much easier to apply a finish to the odd shaped pieces.

A quart of this in a can cost me $16.57.
I used 4 cans of spray for about $9.00 per can.

The screws used to attached all of the pieces to the walls were #8 by 2-1/2 inch long.  They were purchased at a local home improvement store for $3.50 for the bag.

The spring clamps used to clamp the track pieces were also purchased at a local home improvement store for about $30.


Tools

The tools I used on the project were as follows:
- table saw
- band saw
- oscillating spindle and belt sander
- drill press
- cordless drill
- sanding block
- stud finder
- screwdrivers and wrenches

NOTE: If you plan on using any tool for a project please make sure you are familiar with the tool and all of the dangers associated with it.  If you are not familiar with a tool then you should ask someone who is to show you the proper way to use it.  A lot of communities have classes at local colleges on the proper use of tools and machinery.  There are also local woodworking clubs that offer classes at very reasonable rates for beginners.  I highly recommend using these resources for your safety and for the most efficient use of the tool.

OMG This is amazing!!
I have to agree. How long did it take to make.
kabira1 year ago
Great work Steve! I always wanted to build a kinetic art piece like the one they showed in the movie, "Fracture."

I have a question. If you were to paint the room, would you remove the pieces or work around it?
stevemoseley (author)  kabira1 year ago
Thanks. To paint the room I think I would remove the pieces and put them back up. The wall brackets for the track only have one screw. A lot of the other pieces only have two screws holding them to the wall. I think it would be easier than trying to paint around it.
Wait! In the "tools needed" you forgot to add insanity! This is insanely clever.
tonygperez1 year ago
LOL. This is why I love Instructables. If it were not for this site I would have never experienced this beautiful mix of technical art. Thank you for taking the extra time to document, share and inspire.
spylock1 year ago
Id feel like a crumb if I didnt say how cool this is.Great work!
stevemoseley (author)  spylock1 year ago
Thank you very much. My projects after that one never seem to live up to it.
That sure enough is a hard act to follow,but Im sure you have it in you to top it.
mgauvin88103 years ago
I see nothing mentioned on how the dips and curves are achieved. Is the wood "Cut" or "Bent"? Thanks.
stevemoseley (author)  mgauvin88103 years ago
See "Step 4 - Design your Track Pieces" for information on designing the flat track pieces. The flat center piece of the track can be cut out in whatever shape you like as long as the curves aren't curved too sharp for the side rails.

The dipped track pieces are created by gluing two pieces of 1/8-inch baltic birch plywood in the shape of the dip. Once the glue sets the sides are sanded and then the side rails glued in place like the flat pieces of track..
sorry if this comment seems dumb, but I am a novice woodworker. I understand how you did the bottom of the dip, but how did you shape the side rails? Did you cut them that shape, or can you bend those too?
stevemoseley (author)  Musicman413 years ago
Once the bottom of the dip is dried, glue the side pieces on. The sides are initially over sized. Once the glue is set you trim the edges flush with the bottom piece. Then you draw a line on the sides that is a half inch from the bottom edge. This includes through the dip area. That line should match the top of the rest of your track. Now take that piece and cut/sand the top edge of the sides down to the line you drew. You can use a spindle sander to sand down both sides at the same time. Let me know if you have any other questions or need further explanation.
Sweet. One last thing, how did you do the corner piece that looped around 450 degrees? I can think of several ideas, but I would love to hear how you did it. Wonderful work by the way. I wish I had your knack for building things.
stevemoseley (author)  Musicman413 years ago
I am sure there are several ways to make this piece. The way I did it was to cut out one piece of track that go from a 4 foot long straight section of track into a 225 degree turn. Then cut another one out that has a 225 degree turn with a 4 foot long straight section of track. When you put the two curved sections together you get the 450 degree turn. Keep the two pieces clamped together and add the side rails to the track.

I had trouble keeping the separation between the tracks for the marble to go underneath. I ended up adding a small piece of wood to hold the upper and lower sections of track apart.
thanks, cheers =)
Mankut3 years ago
very cool!
tinker2343 years ago
i love it this is fun might be cute to add a panit job im sure evryone loves it
djsfantasi3 years ago
I get it. The picture in step 9 showed me how the wheel lifter worked. Awesome!
djsfantasi3 years ago
In the wheel lifter, if the marbles are 1" in diameter, but the two sides of the lifting wheels are spaced 3/4" apart, how does the marble fit inside and stay there as the wheel rotates? Thanks.
wobbler3 years ago
Quality!
I have a hunch you have lots of jealous neighbours :D
studleylee3 years ago
This is as cool as it gets!!!!
katilicous3 years ago
you rock and are by far the best dad ever bc you are showing your kids how to enjoy making things while prob teaching them how. that's really cool.
r3nrut3 years ago
Most Impressive!
walter19993 years ago
unreal!
jwolski3 years ago
sweeeeet! :)
papop3 years ago
THIS is TOO cool...I want one for Christmas!!! Really fun instructable....perfect project to build during winter months or when you run out of important things to do...My granddaughters would love this...have to consider building one...Thanks much for sharing, Steve.
dog digger3 years ago
If you can,
Can you make an instructable for making this marble machine on this page?
(the smaller one)
stevemoseley (author)  dog digger3 years ago
I have a few other projects in the works and one more Instructable that I am trying to finish up this week. If I have some time open up I will try to put something together on the smaller marble machine.
Thanks!
tulsa_jerm3 years ago
I know you're probably way busy with life and other instructables, but could you post a close-up of the marbles entering/leaving the wheel? That would help a ton for those of us who still don't completely get it. ;)

Did you use a template for the big circle and other wheel parts? Could you post a few shots of those?

Okay, I'm asking a lot, sorry about that! But this is really neat! I spent way too much money once on ebay buying SpaceWarp kits but never did get around to building the track-around-the-house! This looks good enough that my wife might actually let me do it!

Thanks for the awesome instructable!
stevemoseley (author)  tulsa_jerm3 years ago
I'll see what I can do about getting a couple more picture of the marbles entering and leaving the wheel. With the holidays I am not sure how soon it will be.

I used a piece of wood for a template for one of the spokes of the wheel. I rotated that piece and traced it to the other spoke locations. I then cur both wheels out at the same time so they would match. Unfortunately I don't have the template piece anymore.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you in getting your wife to let you build one of these.

Thanks for the kind words.
laxap3 years ago
Genius!
5 stars, favorite, and you'll have my vote!
the poodleo3 years ago
that is really cool. i especially love the way its not in anybodies way. i mean, its cool to have a contraption like that, but to have it in the perfect place; where there isnt anything else.
greg05943 years ago
Beautiful!!!!, Well Done, You will absolutely get the Laser and you deserve it!
BalintRules3 years ago
that is the most cool, awesome, amzing, flabbergasting, astounding, creative, detailed, ingenious, kinetic and scientific instructable ever to win a contest! what can I say? 5*? :)
shinycarguy3 years ago
Wow That is very cool....Well Done
congratulations with a well deserved win!
LMO3 years ago
Impressive.
9995923 years ago
alright so i have one massive question..... where do you get those marbles?!
stevemoseley (author)  9995923 years ago
The marbles for this project were purchased from MegaGlass. They are 25mm diameter (about 1-inch) in diameter and were purchased in a bulk bag of 125 count. The price was around $40 at the time of purchase.

Link to marble supplier MegaGlass.com:

http://www.megaglass.com/c/toy-playing-marbles.html

rhro3 years ago
This is the coolest invention I've ever seen. You're really talented!!
pbl1363 years ago
What a good dad ! Outstanding and looks beautifully crafted :)
Hunrichse3 years ago
great!
This is so cool! I am sending my kids to your house :)
mjthomas313 years ago
That is seriously COOL! I bet you got extra squeezy hugs for that one!!
jakdedert3 years ago
Absolutely lovely work. You are an inspiration to dads (and moms) everywhere. There must be an award for parents like you. If there's not, somebody should create one.
MadScott3 years ago
Fantastic! Have you ever seen any of David C. Roy's works?

Kinetic Sculpture
stevemoseley (author)  MadScott3 years ago
Yes. He does some great work. I am amazed by the number of sculptures he can produce.
grenadier3 years ago
Holy crap and a half.
effemmeffe3 years ago
Really amazing.
It's still uclear to me how the Weel lifter works.
Can you explain in simple words, please?
I'm thinking to copy your idea.
Thanks in advance.
stevemoseley (author)  effemmeffe3 years ago
Here is a side picture of the wheel lifter at the bottom position with a marble sitting between the two wheels. You can see the small wood block above the marble with the a slope on the face closest to the marble. If you invert this picture you have the condition when the marble gets to the top of the wheel. Now the marble sits on this sloped wood block and it rolls out the back of the wheel on to the track.

One thing to mention is that the holes on the two sides of the wheel lifter are two different sizes. The outside wheel has holes that are 7/8-inch diameter. The inside wheel (the wall side) has 1-1/8-inch diameter holes. The larger hole on the back wheel allows the marble to roll into the wheel easier and accounts for the sloped block between the two wheels.

Let me know if this helped or you need more information.

Cheers!

Wheel Lifter Side View.JPG
Thanks, this picture is really useful.
Searching the web I also found a page with some explanation: Jürgen Kintner's Rolling Ball Sculptures.
sitearm3 years ago
Dittos on the Kudos... sending this to my kids, now grown, but with whom we did marble raceways from the store.

One question on the room model: on the "back and forth" drop, what lets the marble move on AFter it comes to a rest? Can't quite see that from the video.

On the sculpture model (gorgeous, especially the "switch" and the "graceful drop arm" and the wire coil spirals), you also have a "back and forth" section but I can't see what happens to the marbles that go there?

Thanks!
stevemoseley (author)  sitearm3 years ago
The back and forth drop piece is sloped slightly backwards to keep the marble from falling off the front as it goes back and forth. There is a very small groove at the bottom where the marbles come to a rest. The groove is sloped just enough forward to allow the marbles to roll off on to the track. I shaped the small groove using a Dremel rotary tool and a small sanding drum attachment. The groove needs to be wider at the edge of the back and forth piece and narrow at the point where the marble first comes in contact with the groove.
emehollin3 years ago
Absolutely incredible. I want to build one for my grandson. I do have a question, though. I am a little unclear how the wheel lift picks up the marble and then disgorges it later. Any hints will be appreciated. Now, if I can just get my son-in-law to let me put holes in the wall to hang the thing!
stevemoseley (author)  emehollin3 years ago
The track behind the wheel lifter slopes towards the wheel so the marbles drop into the wheel when they find an empty hole. When the marble gets to the top of the wheel it rolls out on to the upper track from a slightly sloped surface inside the wheel. When the marble first enters the wheel from the bottom track the sloped surface is above the marble. As the wheel rotates the sloped surface works its way under the marble so it can roll out. Let me know if you need more information.
This instructable (step 3) has a similar mechanism:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Miniature-USB-powered-Marble-Machine-with-USB-port/step3/The-spinning-wheel/

I've seen the same thing on youtube somewhere, with a pretty good description. Sorry I've lost the link for that one.

Basically, the holes in the wheel aren't perpendicular to the wheel itself, but instead are angled towards the outside of the wheel. This way, marbles drop sideways from the track into each hole at about the lowest point of the wheel's rotation, where due to gravity and the slight angle in the hole, the marbles can't fall out again until near the top - exactly how near the top depends on the angle you've drilled and any 'skew' you've (accidentally?) added. They drop out, the upper track catches them, and they carry on rolling.

A simple motor rotates the wheel continuously (you could use a handcrank instead, or whatever you like really). In the photo above, it looks like the wheel turns anticlockwise (based on the marbles being on the right-hand side in the wheel, and none on the left).
I'm not sure whether there's any suggested preference for wheel rotation direction vs direction of the marble flow. Anyone?

Hope this helps! Good luck!
bertus52x113 years ago
I think this is AWESOME, but my wife wouldn't let me...
How much time did you require to design and build?
stevemoseley (author)  bertus52x113 years ago
With design and build of the track there is probably 80 to 100 hours involved. It was spread out over quite a few months.
zipeater3 years ago
You, sir, YOU! Are the most awesome dad ever!
If your son couldn't say this, let me say this to you.
Ha this is so cool but i had a thought if he gets in trouble do you send him to his room? because now he get something to do.
:)
backlash3 years ago
YOU SIR, ARE AWESOME. you will definately go down as one of the coolest dads ever. but seriously, amazing marble coaster, it looks great and i'm sure your son will remember this for many many years.
Ditto, Ditto..

I woke up my daughter to show her this (sorry, just could not resist).. and yes, she wants to build something like this right now!! :)
Tsjoptov3 years ago
Made it to a Belgian newspapersite !
http://www.nieuwsblad.be/article/detail.aspx?articleid=DMF20101121_059
chello2k93 years ago
Am I mistaken by saying this is not Kinetic, as it runs on batteries?
stevemoseley (author)  chello2k93 years ago
I had to look it up after your question. One of the definitions of kinetic is "pertaining to motion." I was just thinking it needed to have something to do with motion.
Honus3 years ago
Beautiful piece of work! My kids would go bananas for this.
kcls3 years ago
That is insane! Great job, and amazingly presented!
basti133 years ago
this is purely EPIC!
That is epic!
4eva3 years ago
this is possibly the coolest thing on Earth.
GrantLevy3 years ago
Beautiful work, and beautiful to look at, too! You're amazing! I'm sure any kid would love to have this in their room. I'm sure that you've got other maze ideas in the back of your head just waiting for the right place and time to build them. :)
Amazing workmanship. Obviously a lot of work went into this, and it came out beautifully. 5 stars!
hammer98763 years ago
Great! Ridiculously Rube Goldberg like.
player27563 years ago
Very awesome!
Silence3 years ago
Sheer genius !
LostRite3 years ago
SOOOO COOL!!!!!!!!!!
jvpernis3 years ago
How awesome would the recording be if you put a small wireless camera in a marble with fluid (this to prevent the camera from tipping over) amd let it run for a while? ofcourse you would need something to protect the camera from the fluid, but still...
best. marble. track. EVER!!
Lori2163 years ago
I bet your kid loves this. Great job! Something like this might entertain a cat for hours. Love the ramps and gadgets you added.
eulaliaaaa!3 years ago
Incredible!
paleotool3 years ago
This is GREAT! Possibly the coolest project I have seen on Instructables.
makendo3 years ago
Wow! Absolutely wonderful.
stevemoseley (author) 3 years ago
Thanks for the kind words on this Instructable. Please let me know if you have any questions about the project.
Absolutely fantastic. Very well designed, very well implemented. Kudos in bushels.
That is incredible! I want one! :D
Forget the kid. I'd like one in my room.
Steinzel3 years ago
This is awesome. I love it!
rickharris3 years ago
LOVE IT fantastic.
TRANSLTR3 years ago
I feel like I have let my kids down because I havent made this yet! Absolutely brilliant.
darus673 years ago
Will you adopt me? I want to be your kid.
kebmoore3 years ago
Very nice! I have thought about doing something like this ever since my uncle put an HO scale train track around the ceiling of his den. Great job.
VadimS3 years ago
This is really good, reminded me of an old video game. Marble drop. lol
hiflyer3 years ago
wow dude, simply wow!

It rocks you did this for your kid !!!!