Giant Wave Model!

Introduction: Giant Wave Model!

About: Hi there! Hopefully these guides can help inspire you to tinker, be curious, play, contribute, and learn. If you're here for pandemic-related PPE and want more, check out our Something Labs website at somethin…

Why hello there, I didn't see you waving! With your new gargantuan wave model, you'll never have to miss a wave again. Transverse, interference, standing waves, nodes, this lovely science giant has got it all. Put it up in a classroom, at a homemade science museum, or to wow your auntie at the next family reunion. Let's model!

  • What: Giant Wave Model
  • Concepts: waves, transverse waves, interference, nodes, periods, amplitude, particle motion
  • Time to make: ~2 hours
  • Cost: $15 not using wooden balls, another 40 with
  • Fun: forever
  • Materials:
    • Cord (about 40 ft)
    • Big straws (40 or so)
    • Wooden dowels (we started with 5 x 4' sections of 3/4" dowels)
    • Weights for ends (we used 1.5" craft wood balls)
    • 2 Carabiners (optional, good for mounting)
  • Tools:
    • Drill
    • Scissors
    • Some needle tool (to help push string through holes)


Thank you to noahw and Robb for being excellent wave model models. :)

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

Gather up those supplies! You can find dowels, cord, and carabiners at your local hardware store, straws at a restaurant supply place, and craft balls either at a craft store or online here.

You can make your wave model as long as you like it works really well over a long distance. For ours, we made it with 20 "craft dumbbells," which includes one short dowel, two wood craft balls, and two straws for spacing. Go however far you'd like!

Step 2: Cut the Dowels

First up, cut those dowels! We measured ours out at 12" and cranked out 20 of them.

Step 3: Measure and Drill Thru-holes

Measure in and mark 3" or so from each side to make your holes. You can make a jig too to make it go quicker. For the drill bit, you want to make sure the string can go through, so pick a bit size that's big enough for the spring, but doesn't split your dowel. We chose a 3/8" bit for ours. Happy drilling!

Step 4: Drill Wood Balls

Craft balls! Now looking like overly plump olives. Choose a drill bit that will allow you to insert the dowels afterward. For ours, we used a 5/8" drill bit so we could press in the dowels for a snug fit with no glue. Drill about halfway into these guys.

Step 5: Make Some Wooden Dumbbells

If you want to feel great about yourself, try lifting these! They're light, they're great, and easier to make than giant metal dumbbells. Press fit two craft balls on either side of the dowel. If you need wood glue, go for it!

Step 6: Assembly Time!

Time to put them all together! Start with two lengths of string (for us about 20' each) and start threading them through. Use a needle tool to help you push the string through. Put on a dumbbell, then a straw on both strings for spacing, then other dumbbell. Not too shabby! And pretty fun to do in a group.

Step 7: Cut and Tie Off Both Ends

At the end, tie a not in the strings on both sides to keep everything in place. You can tie the strings together which will make for a nice handle or place for the carabiner to mount your wave model! So exciting, you're almost there!

Step 8: Ride the Waves!

Oh snap! You're ready for the big waves. Wave with a friend, wave solo, any way you go, it's going to be good. There are lots of things you can gather from wave models, some just visual and some with more timing involved. Here are a couple of neat things you can try out:

  • Time a wave and it's reflection as it propagates
  • Make standing waves, and see where the nodes related to how quickly you twist the end back and forth
  • Tap the sticks on one end, and see and compare the motion of the wave on the way down vs. back
  • Make wave interference with a friend by both wiggling the ends at the same time
  • Experiment with different amplitudes. Does it affect travel time?

For online resources, I like this website for giving an intro to waves.

Have the most wonderful waves, and don't forget to wave hello below!

1 Person Made This Project!


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2 Discussions


4 years ago

This will work, sort of, but if you want really good results you will have to use something like spring steel as a central spine. I have a commercial unit built that way, and it was relatively expensive (compared to this). But no reason this can't be "home brew" with something like a band saw blade serving as the spine.


4 years ago

That takes care of my science classes this week!