Introduction: Mesmerizing Tether Escapement Toy

About: I like to make things. Art, inventions, tools, ukuleles, etc...

I saw a toy similar to this on Youtube and had to try building it. I went through several iterations to develop this easy and effective one to share with you all.


one ⅜” x 36" dowel

one 3/16” x 36" dowel

one 1” x 36" square dowel or other scrap wood

one ball bearing ⅜”x ⅞ x 9/32”

some thread

a large bead

a round toothpick

rubber bands

shellac, poly varnish or paint (optional)

Step 1: Cut the Square Dowel

Cut into the following lengths: 1 ¾”, 8”, 9½”

Step 2: Cut the ⅜” Dowel

Cut ⅜” dowel into: 1¼”, 2½”, 10”

Step 3: Cut the 3/16” Dowel

Cut 3/16” dowel into: 1¼”, 10”, 12”

Step 4: Sand and Varnish (optional)

Sand all the parts a little to remove splinters and soften the edges.

Varnish or paint all the wood parts (optional) but NOT the short ⅜” dowel. It will be glued in later and should not be varnished.

Step 5: Drill ⅜” Holes in the Square Dowel

Drill ⅜” holes in the square dowel for the base connection. One into the end of the 9½” piece, one in the center of the side of the 8” piece as shown.

Step 6: Glue in the ⅜” X 1 ¼” Dowel

Glue the ⅜” x 1 ¼” dowel into the hole in the 8” square dowel piece as shown.

Step 7: Add the 9 ½” Square Dowel to Form the Base

When dry, add the 9 ½” square dowel piece to form the base. Don't glue this joint if you want to be able disassemble the toy for storage later. You may need to drill the end hole deeper if the 2 pieces don’t come together all the way.

Step 8: Mark and Drill a ⅜” Hole

Mark and drill a ⅜” hole into the base for the ⅜” diameter tower dowel as shown.

Step 9: Mark and Drill a 3/16” Hole

Mark and drill a 3/16” hole in the base for the 3/16" diameter tether pole 9¼” from the tower hole as shown.

Step 10: Drill Hole in Tower Dowel

Mark and drill a 3/16” hole in ⅜” x 10” tower dowel 1” from the end for rubber band holder rod as shown.

Step 11: Add Rubber Band Holder Rod

Press in rubber band holder rod as shown.

Step 12: Add the Tower

Press in ⅜” tower as shown. Rub a little candle wax on the end to make it easier to disassemble for storage.

Step 13: Add the Tether Pole

Press in 3/16” tether pole as shown. Rub a little candle wax on the end to make it easier to disassemble for storage.

Step 14: Mark and Drill Bearing Recess

Use the bearing to mark a spot on the 1¾” square piece to drill a ⅞” recess ¼” deep as shown.

Step 15: Drill Through

Drill the rest of the way through with a ½” drill bit as shown.

Step 16: Drill the Mounting Hole

Drill a ⅜” mounting hole halfway through from the bottom as shown.

Step 17: Mark and Drill Holes in the Rotor

Drill two 3/16” holes through the ⅜” x 2½" rotor dowel ½” from both ends at about 90 degrees offset from each other as shown.

Step 18: Form the Hook

Saw into one of the holes at an angle to form the hook as shown.

Step 19: Add the Bearing

Press the bearing into the ⅞” recess in the bearing head.

Step 20: Add the Rotor

Press the rotor dowel into the bearing hole until the hook comes out the bottom. It will be tight. Rub a little candle wax on it and tap it gently with a hammer if you need to. But be careful not to break the hook.

Step 21: Add the Head

Press the head onto the tower pole and align as shown.

Step 22: Drill Holes in the Arm

Drill a 5/64” hole ¼” from the end of the 3/16" diameter arm for attaching the thread.

Drill another 5/64” hole 4” from the other end of the arm for the winding pin. Holes should be parallel.

Step 23: Add the Arm

Put a little wax on the arm and carefully press it into the rotor dowel hole. Grasp it near the end since the winding pin hole weakens the dowel, and it’s easy to break it. The holes should be aligned vertically as shown.

Step 24: Adjust the Arm Length

Adjust the arm length so it reaches just about ¼” short of the tether pole as shown.

Step 25: Cut 2 Feet of Thread

Heavyish thread is best but anything will do.

Step 26: Tie the Bead to One End

I have had some of these come untied, so tie it securely with a few half hitches or an overhand knot. A dab of glue on the knot will help, too.

Step 27: Thread the Thread

Run the thread up through the hole in the end of the arm and then down through the winding pin hole as shown and secure it by pushing a piece of toothpick into both holes. Adjust the thread length so that the bead hangs about 1” above the base. Don’t cut off the extra thread yet. You may need to fine tune the length later.

Step 28: Install the Rubber Band

Hang a 3” rubber band on the hook as shown, then stretch it down around the rubber band holder rod. Hold onto the base as you do this or it may tip over.

Step 29: Wind It Up

Hang the bead over the winding pin so it dangles below the arm as shown.

Wind the arm about 25 revolutions to start (may need more or less depending on the rubber band).

Step 30: Test Run

Let it run!

If the bead crashes into the tower when it first wraps around the tether pole, it is too long. Shorten it a little and test again.

Step 31: Finalize the Thread Attachment

When the thread length is settled, glue the toothpick into the end hole to secure it, and cut off the extra toothpick with clippers. Wind some of the extra thread around the end hole with some glue to make a good connection, then cut off any extra thread.

Step 32: Glue in the Winding Pin

Glue the winding pin toothpick in place and cut it so that ¼” extends above the arm and none below.

Step 33: Troubleshooting

Trouble shooting:

If the bearing doesn’t turn easily enough, a drop of light oil into the bearing will fix it.

If the bead goes over the arm, it won’t be able to unwind on its own. You will have to help it manually. Usually only happens if wound too tight.

Step 34: Enjoy!

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