How to Make Your Own Magnetic Construction Set




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You love Lego? You like Knex? You love Bucky Balls? You like barbecue bamboo sticks? Well put that all together and you get "magnetic construction set" made with sugru! The idea is very simple : add a magnet at both ends of a barbecue bamboo stick, so you have a building block to build pretty much anything you like! Here, I cut all the sticks at the same length and I used quite small magnets (0.5mm ø), but you can use either smaller or larger magnets and sticks. In a matter of seconds you can build large complex structures :) You can invent so many games! The possibilies are endless!

Sugru is good for this hack because : 
  • it bonds well with wood and metal
  • it creates a layer between magnets that makes it easy to do and undo sugru bonds
  • I could color code my sticks :)

This instructables was made for at TechShop San Francisco

Step 1: Cutting the Wood Sticks to Size

First you need to source the parts.
You could use other wooden sticks but barbecue bamboo sticks are great, they are long, light, strong, flexible, and cheap. I bought 150 sticks for one british pound (~1.5 $) at the corner shop.
The magnets are coming from, they were the cheapest one doing next day delivery in the UK.
For USA delivery, you can get them here really fast :
I use sugru : 8 coloured mini-packs in a lovely large pouch, each mini pack allowing me to coat at least 4 single heads. 
  • £ 16.66 (~$ 25) : SuperCool GunMetal Magnet X­treme Neodymium Puzzle ­ 1 Premium N42 Official 5mm Size Spheres
  • £ 12 (~$ 18) : Sugru Multi-color 20g x3 and had 2/3 of sugru extra for other fun projects!
  • £ 1 (~$ 1.55): bamboo sticks
Total  : £ 29.66 (~$ 46.10) for a set of 28 sugru magnetic construction set sticks, but I could have made 3 times more sticks than that. I believe it shoudn't be too hard to make it cheaper than that.It took 2 of us about 2 hours to make, dried over night and was ready to play with. I think it is also possible to work faster.

First you want to cut the wood sticks to size. Because we are cutting many small things, I highly recommend using a metal saw (small teeth) to have a rather clean cut and avoiding cutting yourself. Wear gloves - not like me :)

Step 2: Assemble Sticks + Magnet + Sugru

And now what you want to do is to assemble: 
  • the barbecue bamboo sticks
  • the magnets
  • with sugru
it goes like this :
  1. First position the magnet at the end of the stick
  2. apply a generous amount of sugru on top of the magnet sphere. 
  3. form sugru with your fingers so it covers completely the sphere and starts to cover the stick
  4. go down the stick, pushing sugru delicately.
  5. make a nice finish of sugru so it does not rip off. 
You could also proceed differently and first form a ball of sugru around the magnet and attach the sugru + magnet ball at the end of a stick - whichever works best for you :)

When working with sugru, I recommend you clean your hands with a disposable paper towel when sugru is still fresh on your fingers. I say "disposable paper towel" because sugru is really good to make a protective layer on fabric. Typically you have 30 minutes to work with sugru before it starts to harden : prepare little batches you can do in that amount of time. 

Step 3: Let It Cure

Magnets are often very strong and they will destroy your project if your sugru is still fresh and start sticking together. I recommend to let sugru cure overnight before you try to manipulate it.
For this instructables, I took a long beam and installed curing sugru magnetic sticks at distance so they would not attract each other and cure "in peace". 

Step 4: Play !

Now you can play with your sugru magnetic construction set!
The possibilities are endless! Play! 

Special thanks to Jane, James, Deborah, Ben, Sal and Jamie for their help and advices.

This instructables was made for
This Instructables was made at TechShop San Francisco.



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    25 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder if you need magnets on all the ends? you could have ball bearings on one end of each stick and a magnet on the other, and I suspect that having one magnet at each junction would be enough to hold them together. Of course this depends on the magnet's strength.

    1 reply

    Yes, awesome comment! I've been researching a bit and that's what I found :
    That's so good! So, I guess I need to work on improving this system to make it even better than Bornimago! Next instructables!


    3 years ago

    Very exciting design! Somebody suggested sqrt2 strut proportions- good idea. I would also suggest cutting the sticks to golden ratio proportions. And of course one could color code them accordingly. In fact, one could look to the Zometool modelling system & copy all of its various strut lengths to maximize generativity. Question: is there a practical limit to how many struts can connect at a single vertex? Can you do 5? 12? Arranging the spherical magnets' poles perpendicular to the length of the struts was a very good suggestion as well- has anybody tried that? Does it really work well to prevent the problem of like poles repelling one another?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great! Great! Great! :D Congratulations for this wonderful idea and thanks for sharing! :)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    If you get some steel ball bearings- steel ball bearings will stick to magnets even if two stick magnets are both the same poles (although it will be slightly reluctant). But it's probably better if you orient the magnet's poles at 90 degree angle to the stick

    Also you could try cutting the sticks to a mix of 3:4:5 ratio lengths. That way you can build square-based triangles as well as equilateral; makes it a lot more flexible.

    2 replies

    Sooo awesome! I posted you instructable on my website, you can see it here:

    2 replies
    Thanks marie Eve !
    je suis a Paris et je m'apprete a en refaire une plus grande serie pour un spot de pub, quand c'est edite, je le posterai ici :) a bientot ! Cesar


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done Instructable!!

    I love the creativity that comes from this type of "toy"  My daughter has a set of Straws and Connectors and long after she is bored, I find myself rebuilding and creating new structures and creatures....

    As to the legality of Bucky balls, it is simple, DO NOT GIVE THEM TO YOUR KIDS!!!!! Oh and DO NOT EAT THEM!!!!! Why is it that the American Government gives their citizens so little credit for common sense?????? 

    Anything that will fit through a toilet paper tube is a choking hazard!! Yes,  Magnets are hazardous if two of them are in the intestines at the same time, but come on people, Stand up for your right to exercise your common sense. 



    6 years ago on Introduction

    It looks like fun.
    It may be cheaper and also avoid any issues with polarity to just use ball bearings on each stick. Then all you need is a single spherical magnet at each junction to hole things together. This would greatly reduce the number of magnets needed. Perhaps the magnet could have it's own sugru coating in a contrasting colour to the sticks. This would be less elegant than what you have done though.

    4 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Magnets are a swallowing hazard - they can screw up your insides badly, especially if two attract through the intestine.

    Sounds stupid I know, but our puppy would quite happily eat a sugru-covered magnet. He's already disposed of a hard plastic hair clip.

    Babies would chew the sticks too, so I'd suggest attaching things very well.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I totally agree about magnets being a choking hazard. The method I described would only be good for a pet and child free home. I have three little kids here and would hate them to get magnetised to each other ("Dad, he's touching me").
    It is definitely best to keep all the magnets attached to the long sticks. That way if they do get swallowed all you have to do is pull on the stick to get your magnet back ;-)

    cesar haradacriggie

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks Criggle for the pro-safety advice, I concur. Please keep use this toy only with +5 kids and under surveillance. Do not let animals play with these.

    You are totally right !
    But... I really like to be able to do that with only sticks - and no balls at the junction... hhummmm dilemna. Maybe i'll build one set like that and see how it feels - thanks for the suggestion !

    cesar haradaSkymeat

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    OH !!! NO !!! I didn't know that! Thanks for letting me know!
    I just researched a bit - it is still totally legal in the UK. Seems like British babies are not too much into eating magnets... that's smart :)