Monday, February 15, 2010

The Superplexus - absolutely huge 3D puzzle

The Superplexus - absolutely huge 3D puzzle
If you've got $30,000 and a sweater-vest, you might be the in the target demographic for this giant version of the Perplexus 3D puzzle.

About this monstrous puzzle:
This is the three-dimensional spherical labyrinth that challenges the limits of your manual dexterity and spatial understanding as you maneuver a 5/8" wooden marble through its entire course. The Superplexus is a complex network of chicanes, multi-planar hairpin turns, spirals, and staircases--even a vortex. Hand made from 3- and 6-ply Finnish birch that form the track, over 400 hours are involved in its construction. The labyrinth is set inside a 36" diameter acrylic sphere affixed to a Jatoba base using a stainless steel gimbaled mount that allows you to tilt the sphere in any direction to guide the marble.

You can learn more about the huge Superplexus puzzle over at Hammacher Schlemmer.

If you're short on cash (or the sweater vest) you could consider the regular Perplexus Maze Game for a mere $22.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Elegant spiral ball lifter and spiral ball run

From the video description:
After being ferried to the top by a spiral elevator, a ball ricochets down an octagonal spiral amidst a cacophony of clacking sounds.

See more at mechanical marvels at

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Techno Gears Marble Raceway Mania

Techno Gears Marble Raceway Mania
This is a 420 piece marble track with a competitive twist (sorry for the pun). Two players release one marble each simultaneously with the press of a button. Each marble encounters spinning wheels, dips, a chicane, a corkscrew, a pachinko-like bumper course, a lane switching trigger, and a set of weighted levers. When a marble reaches the finish line, the clock stops and flashes "Winner" on the screen.

Here is a link to the Techno Gears Marble Raceway Mania.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Marvelous wooden ball-stairway machine

Marvelous wooden ball-stairway machine
Our good friend Falk Keuten over at the excellent Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik Blog pointed me to this great ball-lifting device made from wood.

From the creator's site:
Driven by hand crank through a small planetary transmission, the rotating camshaft and roller lifters cause the balls to "roll uphill". The balls then deposit in the "dropper", which directs them to the holding tilt-track (a feature borrowed from the Rolling Ball clock). When the sixth ball arrives, the track unbalances and the balls roll down the coaster track to start their journey again.

Here's a link to more info on this cool wooden ball stairway machine.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Classic marble-lifter mechanism in wood

Here is a nice example of a common marble-lifting device sometimes used in marble track machines. It's cool to see how a few cams, sloped surfaces, and continuous rotary motion can be combined to make marbles climb stairs. This one was made and sent in by reader Richard Thorne.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Destkop #51 - portable rolling ball sculpture

Here is a little something mechanical, brass, and hypnotic to start your, yes...rolling.

See more insanely cool contraptions by Matthew Gaulden on his web site

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine

K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine
Consisting of over 2000 pieces (OK...2,004 to be exact), the K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine is a towering ball run contraption for the ambitious builder. A motorized ball lift continuously carries the 5 balls to the top of the tower, where they are dropped to find their way down 3 different ball runs.

From the product description:
The downward spiral sends balls down a dizzying ride to the bottom. The hammer drop transports the balls off the track and onto 2 swiveling elevators, and the funnel drop sends balls on an express ride straight to the bottom.

Appropriate for builders of 9 years and over, Amazon claims you can still order this with their Standard Shipping to get it by December 24th.

Here's the link to the K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Beautiful all-wood marble run machine

I don't know if this is part of a system, or something that some talented individual came up with, but this much is sure: it is one beautiful and well designed all-wood marble track. Love the wooden gears!

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

5 ft tall wall-mounted rolling ball sculpture - 3 tracks

Check out this large wall-mounted rolling ball track with three distinct courses for the balls to travel. Excellent work!

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ingenious marble manipulating machine

From the clever mind of Osamu Kanda: take a look at this hand cranked marble-moving machine. It looks as though the blocks on top can be reconfigured to cause the marbles to follow different paths.

See more of Osamu Kanda's kinetic creations on his web site.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Techno Gears Marble Mania Genius Set

Techno Gears Marble Mania Genius Construction Set

The new Genius edition of Marble Mania construction set includes 500 pieces of marble track components allowing you to build five independent tracks that all lead back to one of two marble lift systems.

Here's a link with some more photos and bit more info on The Learning Journey Techno Gears Marble Mania Genius Construction Set.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Marble music: Quadrilla Music Melody Composer

Quadrilla is a marble-track building system. The new addition to the line is the Quadrilla Music Melody Composer, which incorporates xylophone-like tone blocks into the marble track. As the marbles roll down the track and hit the xylophone bars, a little tune results. This set includes 50 building pieces, 20 marbles, and an instruction book with 14 construction examples.

Here is where you can get the Quadrilla Music Melody Composer Quadrilla Melody Basic Set.

Here is a variety of Quadrilla mable run setsif you want to incorporate the Music module into a larger marble run.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Motorized Marble Roller Coaster Instructable

Here's a nice Instructable on how to make a rolling ball track out of cardboard, hot glue, some old printer parts, and a few other odds and ends.

Here's a video of the completed marble track in action:

Here's a link to the complete Marble Roller Instructable.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Solar powered rolling ball track kit

Solar powered rolling ball track kit
Here is a simple kit that allows you to make a solar-powered rolling-ball track. Once assembled, provide the little solar panel with some sunlight and the machine will sending the balls cycling around the track.

Here's the link for this kit that is called the Solar Roller Coaster

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Monday, July 06, 2009

How to make your own Rolling Ball Sculpture

Here is one of several nicely made all metal rolling ball track sculptures by Matthew Gaulden.

Check out his site to more of his rolling ball sculptures -- both large and small. Be sure to visit his page dedicated to How to make Rolling Ball Sculpture. It is very informative!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Compact brass and wood motorized ball track

Here's a very compact and mesmerizing rolling ball machine that uses a combination of wood, brass, and a small battery-powered motor to great effect. Enjoy!

[ Thanks Bre! ]

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Time Machine table top rolling marble clock

The Time Machine table top rolling marble clock
The Time Machine is a mechanical tabletop clock that moves a set of chrome balls every sixty seconds. There is a track of accumulated balls to indicate the hour of the day and another to indicate the minutes. There is a even a second hand on top.

It comes with a custom acrylic display case that makes it look really retro-future cool (not shown here). Reports are that this thing is captivating. One note: because of the constant clacking of the chrome balls this isn't a clock you'll want to put in a library.

Here's the link for more info on the Time Machine Tabletop Clock

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Impressive hand-cranked marble run video

Check out this video of Michael Shulteiss's marble machine. This thing is incredible. It has some of the expected ramps, flip-flops, and funnels. It also has much that is quite unexpected like the catapult-style lifting arm, a 'marble pump', a wooden chain elevator, and wood gears with holes in them that receive and lift marbles. It looks wonderfully well-made and makes a satifsying clickity-clack sound as the handle is turned.

See more pictures and a diagram of Michael Shulteiss's marble machine on Matthias Wandel's outstanding website.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Magnext iCoaster with cool magnet-based tricks

Mega Brands Magnext iCoaster for 2008
The new model of the MagNext iCoaster from Mega brands is a 64-piece ball rolling track set that can be configured 10 different ways, as described in the included instruction booklet.

The kit is something of a multimedia experiences since it incorporates lights, motion sound, and the ability to plug your own iPod into the system. (Small pieces make this set inappropriate for small children.)

Magnext iCoaster magnetic slide
The track features some really novel tricks -- like the magnetic slide (above) in which the track ends and the ball is held by magnetic attraction to a metal slide that bridges the gap. Magnetism is also used for the ball elevator.

From the review
It's easy to see why the previous iCoaster was recognized by The National Parenting Center and Parents Magazine as an incredible building toy. This version retains all the great qualities of its predecessor and is bigger, stronger and faster.

The construction oriented iCoaster encourages kids to build with determination, helping enhance their ability to focus and their fine-motor skills. It also promotes understanding of magnetism, inspires creativity and helps kids develop problem-solving skills, adding an innovative dimension to play.

Here is where you can learn even more about the Magnext iCoaster (new Model).

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Steam-powered kinetic sculpture made of glass

Steam-powered kinetic sculpture
Just when I think I've got a handle on the bounds of human ingenuity in the domain of automata, mechanical toys, and mechanical sculpture -- my eyes are opened anew. Consider: a mechanical kinetic sculpture driven by steam...and made of glass!

Shown here is one of several "Glass Engines" built by glass artist Bandhu Scott Dunham. The form of power, the various shapes, the smooth motion, the assorted colors, the levels of translucence, the inherent fragility of the material itself.

I may have used the term "astonishing" on this blog before. I don't think I had a suitable frame of reference for the word until now.

Check out the Salusa Glassworks site for more images and QuickTime movies of Bandhu's Glass Engines and a hand-cranked marble track (and WHAT A MARBLE!)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Coin Factory Bank - money CAN buy happiness

Coin Factory Bank
Found recently on BoingBoing Gadgets: a mechanical coin bank with some marble-track-like functionality. Great idea!

From the description:
Watch 6 different types of movement, like an engaging belt lift, drop slides, spiral chamber and moving arms, as your coin travels from start to finish.

Also features push-to-open coin drawer with lock, and on/off switch. Simple assembly required.

Check out the Coin Factory Bank.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Hand-Crank Marble Climbing machine with Plans!

Hand-Cranked Marble Climber with PDF Plans
It is with great pleasure that I inform you that Steve Good, proprietor of The Scrollsaw Workshop, has created downloadable plans and a three part video series to help you make the hand cranked marble machine shown here. What more could you ask for?

Here is part 1 of the marble climbing machine tutorial:

Here is part 2 of the marble climbing machine tutorial:

Here is part 3 of the marble climbing machine tutorial:
Finally, here's where you an get the free download of the plans for the climbing marble automaton.

Note: The Scrollsaw Workshop is primarily supported by donations. If you enjoy this pattern, please consider giving Steve Good a donation. He has certainly earned it!

[ Thanks to Charles and Travis! ]

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Other Views of The Chaos Tower Marble Run Toy

New Views of The Chaos Tower Marble Run
I posted some time ago about the large marble run toy called The Chaos Tower. At the time I could only find one picture of the device and poked fun at the incongruity between the name of the toy and the mild-mannered fellow next to it.

The set can be assembled in a variety of ways. The photograph above represents one horizontal configuration. The thumbnail at left shows one vertical configuration in which the marble run can be built into a structure over 6 feet tall.

With hundreds of pieces, an included AC-powered motor, and no tools required this seems to me to be one of those toys (like Legos) that can be used, enjoyed, and rediscovered many, many times.

Here is a link to Chaos Tower available via and other toy stores.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Motorized Wood Marble-run & Automaton Figures

Take a look at this great marble run with many interesting features. The project started when the creator made a bicycle chain out of wood. From there, the project grew. And boy, did it grow! The final piece features wooden clapping hands -- not unlike Martin Smith's Applause machine. There is also an excellent carved wooden head mounted to the front. The man's eyes move back and forth and he periodically spits out marbles creating a very entertaining and captivating effect. There is even a Geneva Stop mechanism thrown in just for fun!

This wooden contraption was constructed from various wood species using primarily a scroll saw, router, lathe, and carving tools. Well done!

If you are interested in Marble-run toys, check out the huge selection in Marble Track Toys section of The Automata / Automaton Store.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Chaos Tower: Marble-Run Toy of Doom

The Chaos Tower
Perhaps this construction toy is somewhat misnamed. I mean, just look at that Lord of Anarchy in the sweater-vest and all the havoc and mayhem he is engaged in.

Despite the ambitious name, The Chaos Tower does look like good clean fun. I would wager that the laws of motion are strictly obeyed when you launch the balls into whatever marble-maze you may construct with this kit. It comes with a small outlet-powered motor to set any number of diabolical doomsday devices into motion.

Winner of numerous toy, parenting and teacher awards -- including "Toy of the Year", "Parents' Choice" and "Teachers' Choice" -- their product tag line is...and I'm not making this up...Bring on the chaos and bring on the fun.

So be it, then. Check out the Chaos Tower and bring on the chaos!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania

Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania
Take a look at Imaginarium's 450-piece Mega Marble Mania marble run. I want it just to have it on my desk. The description says that this marble run comes with power lifter, racer model, and sound. That's about all I know about this interesting looking toy.

Here is the product page for the Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Automatic Marble Run Elevators for the CUBORO

Check out these extremely clever wooden marble run creations by Dietmar Wächtler. These elevators are not available for retail, but made specifically for trade show presentations and exhibitions.

[ Thanks Falk and Dietmar! ]

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cological Marble Run Construction Set on Sale

Cological Marble Run Construction Set
The Cological Marble Run Construction Set is on sale at This set allows you to create custom courses for your marbles to run. It includes everything from zig-zag tracks, to a mini rolling car, to whacking mallets, and a pop up the flag with a little song. You get 23 different types of mechanisms for moving marbles with 97 parts total.

Note: This product is imported from Japan and the manual is in Japanese. But the assembly illustrations are very detailed, so no real reading is needed.

Check out the sale price on the Even if you don't want to buy one, the product page has a neat little video of the marble run in action.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Quercetti Super Marble Run Vortex Building Toy

Quercetti Super Marble Run Vortex
This affordable set allows you to build a large marble run. Called the Quercetti Super Marble Run Vortex set, it features 220 pieces including 2 double entrance funnels, 3 spirals, extra long bridges, and a sturdy base. The set is adaptable, so your marble run can be reconfigured based on your own designs.

Check out the Quercetti Super Marble Run Vortex and other fun marble run construction toys at Kazoo Toys.

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