Introduction: Labyrinth - From a Single 2x4

About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics and Aerospace Engineer. I make things out of wood and electronics and spend time outdoors (especially SCUBA diving).

Being fiscally limited and not one to back down from a challenge, one of Seamster's more recent instructable/challenge appeared to be right up my alley.

Being constrained to the use of a single 2x4 (two-by-four), I wanted to make something different, durable, inexpensive, and of personal value to me. Growing up, I had one of these ball labyrinths that I'd play with for hours on end (never could make it to the end).

Wondering if it could be possible, and really not knowing what was actually going on under the hood of these old fashioned toys, I set out to discover a way to make myself a toy.

Step 1: Prepare Prepare Prepare

Knowing that I only had 96 inches to work with, I turned to my trusty CAD software (Solidworks for me) to see what I could do.

True measurements of a 2x4 are really 1 1/2" x 3 1/2".

Cutting your 2x4 into the following sizes will allow you enough wood to fabricate your Labyrinth:

  • 4 - 13" x 3/4" x 3 1/2" - Exterior Box
  • 4 - 11 3/4" x 3/4" x 3/4" - Larger Tilt
  • 4 - 11" x 3/4" x 3/4" - Smaller Tilt
  • 6 - 12 3/4" x 1/2" 3 1/2" - Bottom of Labyrinth
  • 3 - 10 1/4" x 1/2" x 3 1/2" - Labyrinth Tilting Table

I have included screenshots of my drawings and if you have Solidworks 2011 or later, you can download my parts and assemblies if you wish. They are in no way a finished product. Just something to get me pointed in the right direction. Don't judge too harshly.

Step 2: Parts

To get started, you will need the following:

  • 2x4
  • Rods - These were old welding rods I had lying around. I used a hammer to break off the flux coating. If I didn't have these around, I would have just used as straight of a dowel as I could find (somewhere between an 1/8 and 1/4 inch).
  • 2 springs from old bic pens
  • String
  • 4 - #6-32 Machine Screws
  • 4 - #6-32 Nuts
  • 4 - Screw Eyes
  • 1/2" Ball Bearings

I had everything laying around the house except the eyes. Building the whole thing for under $1.50 helped me accomplish one of my biggest goals of keeping it inexpensive. However, if you don't have any of the parts, this is the current price breakdown from Home Depot:

  • 2x4 -------------------------------- $2.15
  • 1/8 Inch Dowel ----------------- $0.39
  • 2 springs from old bic pens - Free
  • String ----------------------------- $2.57
  • 4 - #6-32 Machine Screws -- $1.18
  • 4 - #6-32 Nuts ------------------ $1.18
  • 4 - Screw Eyes ----------------- $1.18
  • 1/2" Ball Bearings ------------- $0.96
  • Total ------------------------------ $9.61 + Tax

Even if you didn't have any parts on hand, you could easily build this for less than 11USD. That makes this the perfect project for those of us on a budget!

Step 3: Make Base

Cut two 13" lengths off the 2x4 and rip those in half lengthwise.

Plane down to 1/2". Cut a 1/4" dado 1/4" from the bottom.

I forgot to take pictures of the 45° cuts. Sorry. Cut and ensure that all sides of the box are the same length.

Step 4: Make Bottom

In order to make the bottom, cut 2 lengths of 12 3/4" from your 2x4 then rip into thirds lengthwise. Regretfully, I didn't glue these together. I would suggest gluing them then planing down to 1/4".

Cut to size.

Step 5: Drill Ball Return Hole

Pick a corner to make the ball return.

Grab your 9/16" bit and drill.

To ensure that the ball bearing is completely unobstructed, chisel away everything around the hole.

Step 6: Glue Base

Not having any corner clamps, I resorted to a very easy technique I learned back my sophomore year of high school. Place some masking tape or painters tape on the outside of each corner. When the entire box is folded together, the tape will hold it tight.

Remember is to check and make sure that the box is completely square while the glue is drying (using tape measure, measure from corner to corner ensuring that they are both the same length).

Step 7: Make Pivots

Two pivots need to be made in order to have control in two directions.

To make the first pivot, cut off 11 3/4" from the 2x4. Rip both directions to end up with 4 boards that are roughly 11 3/4" x 3/4" x 1 3/4". Plane to 1/2". Cut 45° angles. Glue together.

Do the same by cutting off 11" in order to make the interior pivot. Follow the same process as above.

Step 8: Sand

Time to sand everything.

Step 9: Drill Pivot Holes

The interior pivot needs to have a hole in the middle of two of the sides opposite of each other.

The exterior pivot needs to have holes in the middle of all the sides. When measuring the middle of the board vertically, measure from the top. This will ensure that the end result will be level across the top of your labyrinth.

Step 10: Shine Rods

Since these are old welding rods, I needed to clean them up a bit. First I removed the flux coating with a hammer, then chucked it up to clean it with increasingly finer sandpapers. I used 100, 320, 400, 600, then through 3 buffing compounds. They turned out quite shiny! The only downside is that you hardly ever see them.

Step 11: Drill Holes for Rods

It's time to decide where the rods need to be placed. Traditionally they go in the middle. Though, being 6'3" with really long arms, I personally didn't want them so close to the corner where the ball return is. I placed mine a quarter of the way down the side. Drill completely through on the sides where you want your knobs located. Exactly opposite of that (remember to measure to be exact), drill half way through the side.

Since I'm a poor college kid with no drill press, if i ever need to drill a specific depth, I mark the needed depth of the hole with a piece of tape.

***Remember, just like the Pauli Exclusion Principle says that no two fermions can occupy the same state, these two rods can not occupy the same space. When you choose where you want your rods, don't make them the same height like I did (I guess I did learn something from Chemistry)***

Step 12: Cut Slots for Rods

If you followed the instructions thus far, your two tilts will be too deep to accommodate the tilt rods. The easiest way to fix this is to cut away the wood that is in the way. Mark and drill, then cut square.

Test fit the tilts and remove any needed material that doesn't allow for complete movement.

Step 13: Insert Eyelet

The eyelets need to be secured perpendicular to the rod controlling them.

Measure, mark, and pre drill in the middle of each of the boards.

Step 14: String and Tensioner

Because of all my machine design classes over the years, I knew that a tensioner would be needed if I wanted the mechanism to stay taut.

The springs inside old bic pens are perfect for this application. They are likely to be found in abundance around your house. Rip those things apart to harvest them springs.

Bend one end of the spring to make a complete loop to tie the string to. On the other end, bend only one layer of the spring to fashion a hook. This will hook to the eye secured to the tilts.

Tie one end of the string to one eye (closest to the rods), then tie the other end to the spring. When everything is tied how you like, wrap the string around the rod three times and hook the spring to the opposing eye.

For a video of the tilts in action take a look here.

As well, if you want a side project with your leftover parts, there are loads of projects here on Instructables for them.

Step 15: Make Knobs

Rip the remainder of the 2x4 in half. Draw two circles using a compass and cut out.

Use sandpaper to smooth out the edges.

Drill hole through the middle of your knob.

Cut rods to length (remember to polish the end that you will see through your knob).

Glue in place. I used some clear epoxy I had on hand.

Step 16: Glue Labyrinth Table

Cut, glue, and plane the final pieces to make the table of your labyrinth.

Step 17: Make Bracket for Labyrinth Table

I originally was going to use my router to cut an edge for the table, but there isn't enough wood in a single 2x4 to do so. Using what's left of the 2x4, cut 1/4 inch sticks. These will be used for both this ledge and the track for the Labyrinth.

Glue these at whatever depth you desire. I decided that the depth of my final table was going to be 1/4 inch thick and I wanted a 1/2 inch wall all the way around, so I glued mine 3/4" from the top.

Step 18: Countersink and Final Assembly

It's time to bring all the pieces together. If you are wanting to apply a finish such as spray paint or danish oil, I'd do that before assembly. Not quite knowing what I want yet, I finished my assembly first.

Counter sink the nuts into the outside tilt. The bolts will screw into this.

Measure and cut bolts to length. I used the bolt cutter on my wire strippers, but a hack saw would work just as well.

Step 19: Design and Build Labyrinth Table

Using what you have left of the 1/4 inch sticks, design, cut, glue and drill holes for the labyrinth.

I used a fence staple as a way to hold down each stick for cutting (I have no idea why I had a bunch of these hanging around).

Use your creativity here. You can design your labyrinth any way you'd like. I used the same 9/16 inch bit from step 5 in order to drill the holes through my labyrinth .

Step 20: Conclusion

I'm really happy with how this turned out. This will be something I keep around for years, probably till it breaks beyond repair.

I will probably make a catch of some sort, for when the ball bearings fall out the ball return hole. I haven't done it yet because I ran out of 2x4 to use. Also, a rubber plug of some sort would work great as well.

If you happen to still be reading and you like how this turned out, please vote and go and check out Seamster's challenge and make something of your own!

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