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.

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jross20022 hours ago

I would like to make this. Can we know your secret for the circuit operating the stairs? How does it start? How does it stop? What does the circuit look like behind the gear? I'm scratching my head. ...and, yes what an amazing project!

OMG This is amazing!!
I have to agree. How long did it take to make.
Me too
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!
jwolski4 years ago
sweeeeet! :)
papop4 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 digger4 years ago
If you can,
Can you make an instructable for making this marble machine on this page?
(the smaller one)
stevemoseley (author)  dog digger4 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_jerm4 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_jerm4 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.
laxap4 years ago
Genius!
5 stars, favorite, and you'll have my vote!
the poodleo4 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.
greg05944 years ago
Beautiful!!!!, Well Done, You will absolutely get the Laser and you deserve it!
BalintRules4 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*? :)
shinycarguy4 years ago
Wow That is very cool....Well Done
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