The difficulty of this project depends on the materials that you want to use for it. In my case, Intermediate, I wanted to use wood, so it could last longer and it could also be a nice piece to look at while not using it.
Physical toys have a sweet spot for adults who didn't grow up playing video games, If you are a young maker maybe at some point you want to experience the joy of flying through an imaginary space mission to deliver a single astronaut to its destiny as well as making a toy for yourself or someone you love. I believe this is a great project to get started into making your own toys to boost that feeling of expanding the limits of your imagination.
The cool thing about this project is that there are ENDLESS configurations that you could make out of it. You want to have an underwater theme and also a space theme, then you can just change it!
Why you could also make this project:
- Cheap materials ( Total build cost 20euros/ 23dollars)
- Simple Shapes
All right, let's get to it!
If you are going to make this in wood, you are going to need the following:
- Wood Planks that are at least 20 mm/0.80-inch thick to have a width of 35mm / 1.40 inch
- Clamps or in its defect Nails
- Files or some type of sanding tool ( Flat or orbital )
- 1 sheet of PET transparent plastic. 1mm/0.03 inch thick
- 1 A4 sheet of Plywood that's 3mm/0/11 inch thick
- 2 sheets of Plywood that's 3mm/0.11 inch thick
- Fretsaw or some time of saw that can take wood
- Wood glue
- Screwdriver/ Drill
- 2 small pulleys
- Acrylic paint
- Marbles ( at least one )
- Exacto knife
- 1500mm/ 59inch cord
If you want to make the design of the maze precise I suggest you use:
- Adobe Illustrator
- The local maker shop that has a laser cutter
Step 1: Design Your Maze!
One of the most fun parts of the project is designing the maze, First thing brainstorm about what could be the theme, is it space? is it the desert? is it underwater? In any case, draw them on a piece of paper and think how many routes and holes you want to add to your maze.
Once you have decided your theme and your layout try drawing it on an A4 picture to get a sense of the scale, make as many changes as you need to the design until you are satisfied with the concept.
Step 2: Making Your Maze Design Ready to Cut
If you are satisfied with the layout I recommend you go ahead and draw it on Adobe Illustrator, if you don't have the program you can skip this paragraph and go to the next. You can use very easy tools that illustrator provides to make the different shapes for the design of your maze, if you are not familiar with the program, here is a quick tutorial that will walk you through some shapes: https://youtu.be/A_IGk7K5vSY
For this project, I used an A4 page and created 4 different layers to give the maze a feeling of depth. If you would like to do the same effect. I suggest you separate the shapes in different Illustrator layers so that it will be easier to manage later. The design that you make here will come in handy when you want to laser cut it. Make sure that the holes are big enough for the marble to go through!!!
For the laser cut file, we just need the outlines and guides for pieces. I recommend that you mark the pieces that have other pieces glued on top of them with a black fine line ( the laser will mark these areas), this will make it easier to glue them together once they are all cut. For line thickness, your local shop will probably know exactly. In my case, I used 0.035 mm/0.001inch red colour lines.
If you want to do it by hand or do not have illustrator, Use another drawing program to be consistent with the holes. You can also draw it by hand if you do use another programmake sure you have each part printed out and cut them thinking that you will have to glue them on top of each other. Also, mark the holes as precisely as you can.
Step 3: Making Your Frame
The frame is quite simple, you just need to cut the pieces of wood planks to fit an A4 paper sheet. In order to do this, you can either ask someone who has a woodcutter to cut the corner on a 45-degree angle or mark them with pencil yourself and saw them.
Once the pieces are cut, glue the corners with wood glue and clamp them as good as you can, in the pictures you can see a special corner clamp but you can use whatever clamps you have access to, otherwise, you can nail the corners together. Remember that the frame has to be 20mm by 35mm in order for all the layers of the maze to fit inside the frame.
Let it dry for a day to get the best result.
Step 4: Build a Support for the Frame
The support frame I believe is the trickiest part of the build if you don't have the right tools. Take into consideration the following:
Make the stand with a 60-degree angle
Make the stand as thick and wide as possible, this will increase your chances that it can support the frame.
Once you have a design that you like, glue it to a piece of wood and start sawing the excess material, the best way I would suggest to saw it with a machine and later clamp it to a table and fine sand it with files.
Take your time during this one since it will be an important part of the build. My recommendation is that you don't make it difficult on yourself, I will attach the final technical drawing as a reference.
Step 5: Making Your Maze
Once you have the pieces of the maze layout make sure you glue them from top to bottom, it always helps to have the original design in front so that you don't get lost in the process since there are plenty of pieces that have to be glued.
Use the guidelines on the bottom pieces to glue the middle layer and then the top layer. Remember to remove the hole cuts before glueing. If you use average wood glue, it won't take more than 1hr to dry.
Once the board it's dry make sure that it fits inside the frame and if it doesn't sand the edges until it fits tightly, When you have checked that the board fits, its time to prime it and paint it.
Step 6: Finishing the Frame
During this step, we are going to finish the backboard of the frame as well as the front side of the frame.
First, mark with a pencil the centre of the holes that you made in your design on top of the A4 piece of plywood and later on top of the A4 PET transparent sheet. You can do this by using the already glued frame and placing it on top of them.
Once they are marked make small holes with your hand drill for reference, I suggest you do it both at the same time, you can achieve this by taping both sheets together, this will help you make the holes as aligned as possible.
The next step is to drill the holes, In my pictures, I use a drill press. but you can archive the same result with a hand drill with a big head and later sanding it the hole until you achieve the desired diameter. It will be just easier with a drill press, so take your time otherwise, this is a key part of making the game actually work!
Once the holes are drilled check with your board to see if they are aligned, you are ready to attach the pieces of the maze to the backboard. remember that this is not the back of the frame but just a backboard for the maze.
The last steps are to create a slope for the ball to roll, support for the maze and a small exit for the ball to be able to be retrieved. To do the slope cut a piece of would in a triangular shape. take into account that it should not block any hole.
Once the slope is done we are ready to glue it into the back of the frame. The back of the frame consists of a piece of plywood that should be the size of the frame up to the edges you can attach it to the main frame with small nails and a hammer. We glue in the support in the corners of the frame and the slope at the bottom without blocking any hole and the back exit hole.
You can screw in the support with 2 screws on each side of the top lip. Remember to have the support centred, use some tape as a guideline measure each side and centre the piece.
Step 7: Painting Your Maze
Make sure that the surface you are going to work on its covered with something that you won't miss. Since we are going to use a mix of water and glue, the surface you will be working on could suffer.
The priming mixes its 60% water and 40% glue, make sure that with a small brush you cover every surface and gaps. you will have to repeat this process at least two times. Wood tends to suck in paint, this process will help the colours to stay on the surface and to be more vivid. Between layers wait until the surface its dry to the touch. Once the surface it's dry, you can start painting! in the process pictures, you can see that coloured the layers in different tones of blue, trying to achieve the effect that I originally prepared on my design. To have a nice finish, please apply 2 coats of paint and wait until the paint its dry between coats. If you use acrylic paint it should dry in less than 15/20 minutes.
Once the maze is painted you can already fit it inside the frame and screw in the PET sheet on top.
Step 8: Making Your Spaceship
To make the spaceship you can use the technical drawings that I attach here as a reference. The important thing behind the design is that its thick enough to have a hole were the cord can pass through and that the hole in the middle is wide enough to fit a single marble.
I suggest that you drill the hole in the middle of the spaceship before you cut out the excess material and make the hole for the cord. In the process of making it, I took a block of wood, I removed as much excess material with a saw and later with the fret saw I remove the more detailed parts. If you want to avoid this you can cut the pieces individually and glue them together with wood glue.
Something of importance to mention is that since the spaceship is light make sure that you add some weight to it at the bottom so it doesn't wobble while sliding through the maze. In the process pictures, you can see that I added some pieces of metal to the booster to give a bit of extra weight.
To make the hole where the cord will go through, in my case 4.5mm/18inch wide, i used a drill press but a hand drill will achieve the same result. However, make sure that while you are drilling the spaceship is fixed to a table with clamps.
Step 9: Screw in the Pulleys and Start Playing!
The pulleys can be screwed in by hand or you can pre-drill a small hole to make it easier. I recommend that the pulleys face sideways rather than forwards. Once that's done you can fit the cord through them, centre the spaceship in the middle of the board and there you go! A DYI space-maze!
I hope you have enjoyed this Instructables project! If you have tried to make it yourself, please share and comment down below your result!
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