Monday, February 23, 2015

Ball Fall Toy

   Calvin has been going to a new school for a couple months now, and I have noticed he really likes playing with this toy they have. It's (inexplicably) called the amazing Ball Tracker:

Track those balls

  The Amazing Ball Tracker is a fairly simple toy relying on gravity to do most of the work. It's about $85 on Amazon. I figured it would be pretty straightforward to make one myself, and maybe a little fun.
   We have a bunch of tennis balls, so I used them as the default ball size. I got some wood from Home Depot for about $15 and then took to some building.

Progress shot

   I wanted it to have a clean construction look, so I was careful to be sure the trays were all the same length. I cut them all down, then clamped them together and trimmed the long ends again. I did the same with the sides so everything fit together snugly.

Trays all together for cut

   The materials were really simple:
  • 1/2" x 4" wood (13' total)
  • 1" x 1/8" (20' total)
  • 1/2" pan head screws
  • 1-1/2" gold screws
   Cutting the holes was a challenge, because I didn't want to buy a 3" hole saw for 4 cuts. I used my 2-1/2" saw, then a jig saw to widen the hole a bit. That left less-than-perfect hole, but functional. I also was careful to pre drill all screw holes to keep the thin wood form splitting. 

   Initially I had a 5" drop for the balls, but that was too far and they kept bouncing out. I shortened it to 4" and it works much better. The bottom tray has no hole so the balls just collect there.

Calvin in action

   Max is pretty intrigued by it, mostly because of the tennis balls. Here's a little video of Calvin working it:

Trying to contain his excitement

   All in all it was a great success. I can see if I were to do it again some simple things I'd do differently, extend the 1" x 1/8" slat to the end of the thing, make it a little cleaner, have the hole a more oval shape to keep the balls from getting jammed up. Maybe in a couple years when Wes is ready for something I'll have another opportunity!

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