How to Build a Simple Marble Machine

By Faith Chandler
Marble machines rely on common marbles to operate them.
Marble machines rely on common marbles to operate them.

Marble machines are as much sculptures as they are toys. They rely on gravity and simple machines like wedges, levers and pulleys to work. Some are single use and need reloading, while others are autonomous and reloading. They provide hours of entertainment for children and adults simply by watching the toys work. You can make your own marble machine at home or for the classroom with everyday items and some pegboard.

Gather a bunch of interesting tubes, funnels, wooden dowels and ramp-like items. Look for whatever you think will move a marble on its path in a fun and interesting manner. The items can be wood, plastic or metal. You'll also need to find something to which to mount the machine parts; wooden peg board works well.

Arrange the items in front of you by type. Look at them and begin thinking of ideas for your simple marble machine layout.

Sketch out a plan for your simple marble machine. It will work via gravity so each item will need to angle towards the ground to move the marble. The "machine" part of the marble machine involves simple levers, pulleys and wedges. Incorporate these into your design.

Pick out the items which will best fit your sketch ideas. Lay them out on the peg board to make sure you have enough room for your complete machine.

Attach the items to the peg board from top to bottom. You can attach these pieces with metal wire, twisting it through the holes in the peg board. Test the machine as you go along to ensure the marble machine works.

When the machine is completed, run the marble through it to test it. Have a catch bucket at the bottom to catch the marble.

Things You Will Need

  • Pegboard
  • Metal wire
  • Plastic tubes, funnels, containers
  • Wooden strips, wedges, squares
  • Metal ramps and coils
  • Sketch paper
  • Pencil