Friday, February 19, 2010

Motorized kinetic sculpture with 4 ball catapults

I have a feeling this video of a crafty piece of kinetic sculpture by Brad Litwin has made the blog rounds before. Even if you've seen it before, it is worth another look. Clever, playful...and precise!

See more kinetic sculptures by the multi-talented Brad Litwin on is web site.

[ Thanks Tom! ]

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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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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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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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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Muse Descending A Staircase - kinetic sculpture

Here's a fun piece of kinetic sculpture by featuring wooden gears, steps, an electric motor and several ping pong balls.

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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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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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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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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Three spherical 3D ball maze puzzles

Check this assemblage of 3D puzzles. With all three puzzles the idea is to rotate the sphere such that gravity pulls the small enclosed ball through loops, tracks, corners, walls, and around the various pitfalls of the 3 dimension maze. They look pretty challenging/fun to me.

Perplexus Maze Game

Perplexus Maze Game

Magicel Intenect Ball - 3D Maze Game

Magicel Intenect Ball - 3D Maze Game

Superplexus 3D Game of Skill

Superplexus 3D Game of Skill

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wooden music box + ball track + automaton

Check out Osamu Kanda's excellent hand-cranked mechanical metallophone with integrated rolling ball track and animated marionette figure. This man has some wildly creative ideas and the skills to bring them to life!

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Video interview with kinetic artist Stan Bennett

While vacationing in Northern California, artist Aaron Kramer happened into a museum that featured the work of a man named Stan Bennett -- whose studio was on site. After "talking shop" for a while, Aaron recorded this impromptu video interview with Bennett who has been making wire-based kinetic sculptures and rolling-ball tracks for 40 years.

See more kinetic sculptures by Stan Bennett on his web site.

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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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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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bowling automaton with free & semi-free objects

My friend and colleague, Falk Keuten, over at the excellent Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog has discovered an innovative -- if somewhat mysterious -- automata artist via some YouTube videos.

Check out the use of a ball-lifting mechanism, an articulated figure, a free object (the ball), and some semi-free objects (the bowling pins). This is a impressive combination of techniques. I admire the all wood construction and the fact there is no need for the user to 'reset' the piece.

Here is the original post (in German) from Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Elephant tin toy with somewhat mysterious game

Elephant tin toy with ball game
I'm not entirely sure how the game part of this nifty tin toy works, but I sure love all the stuff going on here.

From the product description:
This busy elephant sits atop a colorful panorama of circus animals. The propeller on his nose spins. Tin balls are lifted by an elevator to the top where they roll down a chute that drops them through a spinning drum that the elephant holds between his hands. This is a very colorful tin toy with great action.

Here is a link to the tin elephant with ball game.

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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 12, 2008

Magnetic Accelerator Kit -- ZING!

How about a simple, fun, and unexpected mechanical toy that uses strong magnets in a novel way? Yes, I say. Yes.

This simple kit allows you to put together a small magnetic accelerator.

From the product description:
Set the metal ball at the end of the track and watch as the energy transfers and multiplies down the track of magnets and metal balls until finally the last ball zooms off. The Magnetic Accelerator Kit is a great study for science fairs, but is just at home on your desk (just be careful what it sits near - these magnets are STRONG).

Here the link for the Magnetic Accelerator Kit.ZING!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Paul Boyer Automata and Kinetic Creations Video

I had seen video of some of Paul Boyer's automata, but I had no idea of this man's creative diversity! He has created plenty of motorized automata, graceful wire creations, a wind calliope, kinetic sculptures, and even a drum playing marble-track machine.

Here is a nice long video taking you on a virtual tour of The Paul Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings in Belleville Kansas.

A remarkable body of work.

[ Thanks Osmyn! ]

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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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Friday, September 05, 2008

New Blog: "Play and Art with Mechanics"

Spiel und Kunst mit MechanikI am please to inform you that Hanns-Martin Wagner and Falk Keuten -- both experts on mechanical sculpture -- have started a new blog entitled "Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik" which translates roughly as "Play and Art with Mechanics".

They plan to feature content about all things related to mechanical toys and Kinetic Art including: automata, machine art, outsider art with mechanical actions, whirligigs, rolling ball sculptures, nonsense machines (like Rube Goldberg machines), chain reactions, the history of machines, sound sculptures, mechanical music, coin operated machines, vending machines, and paper engineering.

Sounds delightful!

Here is a link to Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik (Play and Art with Mechanics).

[ Congratulations Hanns-Martin and Falk! ]

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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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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Marble Track Toys from in

Marble Track Toys store
Another new section in The Automata / Automaton Store is yours for the viewing. The new section features every kind of marble-track rolling ball toy that sells. I couldn't believe how much they had...especially the specialty wooden track components.

Check out the new Marble-Track Toy section of The Automata / Automaton Store.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Diverse Marble-Rolling & Lifting Machines

This video shows a half dozen or more marble rolling machines, labyrinths, and games. There are a couple of very novel mechanisms for raising the marbles back to the top of machines. One such device (toward the end of the clip) uses a pair of side-by-side serpentine ladders to pass the marble back and forth until it reaches the top. Another (in the middle of the video) uses a huge auger-style drill bit to raise the marbles! Ingenious.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ball Lifting Machine Using Wooden Offset Cams

Here's a neat mechanism that lift balls up an incline. Offset cams lift the balls in sequence as they advance up the steps. When it reaches the top, the ball shoots down a slide so it can start again.

The same technique is used by this dragon automaton and a similar kinetic sculpture. It's nice to see just the mechanism in detail in this video.

Found via the always cool MAKE Blog.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Spacewarp 5000 DIY Roller Coaster Building Toy

This steel ball roller coaster recreates the classic 1980s toy. With over 125 parts, it includes everything needed to build the configuration shown or to create your own track layouts.

The toy is imported from Japan, so the assembly instructions are in Japanese. There are plenty of pictures, so you don't need to do any reading to figure things out.

The coaster is about 2.25 feet wide when fully constructed as shown and requires 1 C size battery (not included).

Here's more info (including a video) on the Spacewarp 5000 DIY Roller Coaster at

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Extra-Universal Movement, Wild Gear Contraption

I posted a recently about Brad Litwin's clever Atom Smacker Device. Here is a piece of Brad's dating back to 1979 called Extra-Universal Movement. The hand-cranked kinetic sculpture is a wild assortment of gears, tracks, belts, cups, balls, a governor, and even an animated dragon's head! I'm blown away.

The sculpture is mostly wood, measuring approximately 20" x 16" x 22" high. The artist informs me that the piece is made of pine, Honduras mahogany, bubinga, ebony, maple, cocobolo, lignum vitae, padouk, Indian and Brazilian rosewoods, teak, cherry, walnut, birch, and satinwood -- and maybe a couple of others! Extra, indeed.

Check out the work of this multi-talented artist at

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