Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tree Part Balancers

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.

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Play for Life said...

I'm really keen to see that wire balancing on the end of your nose Tom ... hee hee! But seriously this is awesome ... you've done it again!
Donna :) :)

momma rae said...

i love this!

Scott said...

Now these are really cool! I can imagine the kids engaging in all kinds of fun and experimentation.

Maura said...

wow this is such a great idea!!!

Unknown said...

Wow. Must show this to the boys. What a fun afternoon project this would be : ) Thank you for giving me ideas!

SquiggleMum said...

Tom, I don't even know what to say about this one. You are utterly crazy, infinitely creative and completely inspiring.

stephanieleah said...

BRAVO! Wonderfully creative and aesthetic and awe inspiring. Liked the bottles, but like this more.

Michele @ The Hills are Alive said...

have seen the balancing butterflies made with paper and 'pennies' doing the rounds of blogworld but these take the cake well done Teacher Tom cant wait to see what the children do with them and how they go making them

Let the Children Play said...

Yep Tom, you definately will end up as that mad old man in his shed!