Since I can think of a half dozen ways that the bottle cactus won't work out (smashed bottles, smashed heads, awfully boring, etc.), I spent a couple of hours yesterday making these simple balancing toys before putting the tools away.
With the bottles removed, the angled bottle bush
branches make some pretty nifty balancing points.
Most often these are made with wooden clothes pins (the push on kind, not the clip on kind) and large metal washers, but since I'm seeing everything through the filter of tree parts these days I thought I'd give it a go.
I cut several sticks approximately the length of a clothes pin, then drilled tiny holes through them at one end. I then threaded bailing wire through the hole. You'll want it to be a tight fit, so make sure your hole is same diameter as the wire. In my case I needed to use a 5/64" bit. What was nice about the wire I used was that it came coiled so I just took advantage of the nice arc created by this packaging technique, not bending it at all. This smooth, elegant shape will not last once the kids are playing with them because part of learning about them is asking the questions: "Will it still balance if I do this? How about this? Now what do I have to do to get it back the way it was?" They may never look as good again, but they'll still work.
I then drilled 5/64" inch holes in small rounds from sticks, threaded them onto the wire at either end of the arc, then used a pair of needle-nosed pliers to make a small loop in the wire so they don't fall off.
And you don't need a bottle bush on which to balance them. They'll work pretty much anywhere once you get the knack of it: on your finger tip, nose, even the tip of a pencil.
I'm also going to have a go either this week or next at teaching the kids to make their own.
I've discovered that the hole through which the wire is threaded enlarges, which causes the stick to pivot around the wire, making it much more challenging to balance. I tried glue but that didn't work. My "fix" is to bend the wires around the stick into sort of an "S" as seen in the pictures below.
This picture is just here to show off my dirty fingernails
and paint besmirched hand.