Introduction: Magnetic Marble Run
I was sitting eating breakfast the other day and my daughter (Amelia) kept walking past with various craft supplies; paper, sellotape, scissors and, of course, the staple of any 7 year olds project, toilet rolls!!! My level of interest was raised further as she came in from the shed with a peice of plywood... After leaving to it for a while I went to investigate and found that she had cut the tubes in half lengthwise then taped them to the wood in order to create a simple marble run which was then used solidly for a couple of hours.
The biggest issue was that the sellotape kept coming off the wood, causing a certain level of frustration. We talked about different ways to fix the problem and finally came up with the solution presented here. This was a simple, fun project that allowed Amelia and myself to use various tools and methods to come up with a toy that everybody in the family has played with at one point or another!
- PVC pipe - 45mm diameter
- Magnets - We had a sample pack from Lee Valley, but any smallish magnetic would work
- Paint - optional
- Spray varnish - optional
- Hand saw
- Paint brushes
Step 1: Cut Pipes
We marked out random lengths of pipe (between 150 and 300mm long) and cut them with a hand saw. Be careful when starting the cut as the saw when tend to bounce around a little at the start. I began each cut and then let Amelia finish them off.
The pipe then needs to be cut lengthwise. An easy way to mark the pipe is to put a piece of wood next to it and run a pencil along it. I removed approximately a 1/3 of the pipe. You could cut it in half so as to make more long runs but the marble is a lot more likely to jump out. Due to this being an awkward cut to make, I did this one myself.
Step 2: Attach Magnets
Two magnets are required for each length. If you try to use only one in the center, the pipe will swivel each time a marble drops onto it.
We tried a few different methods of attaching the magnets but the most reliable was as follows:
- rough a small area with sandpaper
- apply gorilla glue
- attach the magnet
- clamp overnight
A magnet was also stuck onto a small plastic jar so that this could be put at the end of the run to catch the marbles.
Step 3: Decorate
Paint doesn't stick the best to PVC pipe so we gave them a light sand and then a base coat of silver. Once this was dry, Amelia then put decorations on each length. As you can see, Baby Yoda is a bit of a hit in our family!!
A coat of spray varnish was applied to make the surface a little more hardy.
Step 4: Play
Stick the pipes to the front of anything metal and start playing!!! The only fridge that we have with a metal front is in the shed and it didn't take long for the marble run to go between the fridge and the washing machine!
The advantage of making this magnetic is that the run can be changed endlessly. Various configurations have been trialed ranging from gentle slops to the DROP OF DEATH.
All the kids (and the adults) in the house have played with this over the last couple of weeks and fun has been had.
- This could be altered to use velcro rather than magnets. A hessian board could then be used as the backboard.
- Flexible tubes could be used to "transport" the marble from one part of the run to another
- Plastic contains with the bottom cut out can be used to catch the marble and then send it back on its way
Runner Up in the
After School Challenge