In Part Two of our series on Marble Runs with Grimms Standard and Basic Building Block sets, we have a detailed tutorial all about... (For Part 1, pop back)
A Marble Run With The Standard Building Set:
This one is easier than it looks, and really satisfying to watch.
Or this view:
Okay, so what do I need to do?
Starting with the base, grab these pieces, and arrange them about like this (plan to adjust once you put boards in place)
2. Put the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th longest boards like this (and use any shorter one for the other edge). Notice that the board marked 5 is on the blue and yellow supports, but leaves plenty of open space on the blue.
3. Now add the triangles to help the marble turn the corners. For me, they weren’t perfectly lined up with the board, be ready to tweak it once you get the next board in place. In theory, you shouldn’t need the little red one, but I haven’t mastered that yet.
Place the two sets of elbows as shown.
4. Now, building up the support for the next ramp, a square on the end of each blue elbow (should now be the same height as the purple ones):
5. Then a green horizontal piece and a green vertical one:
6. Add the ramp—this is the longest building board, and adjust your pieces so that the board rests on each of the three supports:
7. And two horizontal and two vertical blue blocks (all 8cm long):
8. Two LARGE red triangles to help the ball change directions, and two yellow arches across the long ramp. Note that the two yellow arches should be at the same height:
9. Add the longest remaining building board
Spaced so the ball rolls off the end and is caught by the large red triangles
10. To finish it, add two long green blocks between the yellow arches to act as rails on the top board, and two small red triangles as a ramp for initial momentum
Ready to roll! If the marble is popping off, check the triangles to make sure they’re sending it in the right direction.
When perusing the panoply of options that Grimm’s offers, it’s easy to overlook the classic-looking Standard and Basic sets, and yet—they are still some of the most frequently reached for sets we have. We got the Basic (above, right) set 5 years ago, and the Standard (above, left) just recently. The big pieces are wonderfully stable (really helpful if you’re working on carpet) and the elbows and triangles are always next most popular after the arches, and you can never have too many standard lengths.
We’re lucky to have a sturdy collection of blocks, but recently I’ve been really enjoying the challenge of “build a run with JUST ONE SET”. Have a look! I’ve put together step-by-step instructions for a run with each the Standard and Basic sets, and one using both (I added one set of building boards as well, for each run). All of these are tailored to work with the Grimm’s Marbles (and the Grapat ones probably work just as well), but the ideas could certainly be used with other marbles and balls too!
A Marble Run With The Basic Building Set:
What you need:
What you are building:
We’ll start at the base--almost always, it's easiest to start at the end of the run and build up to the top.
1.Set up the catcher for the end, stack the two blue blocks, and stand the purples on end. Don’t worry too much about exact placement yet, you’ll adjust them in a minute, if needed:
2. Place the longest building board on the stacked blue blocks and the entrance to the catcher, between the purple blocks. The red Triangles are balanced on a point, also leaning on the yellow half-circle.
3. Past the end of the ramp, set two elbows like this, then a mid-length building board on top spanning from the green elbows, and resting on top of the long building board. Place two blue blocks upright, just past the elbows:
4. Stack the two shorted building boards. The smallest should span from the green elbows to the blue blocks, the next smallest right on top of that:
5. Here's how it looks at this point
6. Now add a curve at the top and edges on either side towards the bottom. The curve needs to be set so that it sends the marble on the right path down the ramp. With a lot of finesse, it will make a straight line right down the ramp. Putting on edges makes for longer play-value, so I recommend taking a moment to look at where the marble is hitting, adjust the curve and use the boards to guide it to the finish.
7. We’re starting the support for the last section now. The angle of the purple piece matters in the end—but we’ll adjust it later, for now just put it on, and put the second-longest board on top:
8. Use the half-circle block to guide the marble into the turn. Be sure it starts close to the edge of the board, and ends at the inner edge of the curve
Give it a try! If your marble is falling off the first ramp before it gets to the yellow curve, now is the time to adjust the angle of the purple block
See what a difference it makes? Compare this to the movie at the start (and note, due to the handmade nature of the blocks, the exact angle that works for you may not be the same as the one that worked for me).
Keep on rolling and check back for Part 2 in this awesome Marble Run tutorial series.
There’s little doubt that the Grimms Wooden Toys 1001 nights set is striking and absolutely gorgeous. The kids, the parents, the great-uncles—no one who visits our house can resist it. It makes amazing castles, intriguing towns and generally just has a great variety of shapes.
Have you ever used it for a Ball Run? Bridges and tunnels are popular features in marble runs here, and I couldn’t help but notice the wide arches fully span the Grimms Building Boards, and the small ones are able to balance on top. Take a look at what you can build with just 1001 nights + one set of the Grimms Building Boards. This run is tailored to work with the Grimms Marbles (and the Grapat ones probably work just as well).
Grimms 1001 Nights Building Block Set
Grimms Building Boards
Grimms (or Grapat) Marbles
This one takes a little bit of time, but we loved it and thought it was worth the effort 😊 Here’s how you build it, from the ground up (and check out the cool way these blocks get used along the way!)
1. Start with the longest building board, propped up on one of the longer flat pieces
2. Next add two narrow arches and one wide arch. One narrow arch is flat on its side, on the elevated end of the ramp. The other stands *on* the ramp at the other end. The wide arch straddles the board next to the flat arch, but rests on the ground. The flat small arch will be used to help the ball change direction between levels later on. (I ADORE this feature! The big kid here loves having marbles drop and change directions, but was always getting frustrated when they overshoot—with this they make a satisfying direction change)
3. Add the two blue “L”s as shown. These will be supports for future layers. The wide base of the “L” s make much sturdier supports than straight blocks!
4. Next add the second-longest building board. It should slope in the opposite direction from the bottom ramp. Right now—test how it works so far by running the marble down the ramp a few times. Slide the ramp back and forth a little bit until you have the board adjusted so that the marble consistently lands in the hole.
5. To build the next layer, put a large arch on the small blue “L”s, a cube on top of each of the large blue “L”s, and then a small arch at each end of the board. The low end of the board has the standing arch to create the high end of the next ramp, the high end of the board as a sideways small arch to catch the ball as it comes in from the next higher ramp.
6. Add the next longest building board, again, send a marble though it a few times to get the position just right so the marble lands in the catcher below.
7. Place a large arch so that it stands on the two cubes placed in step 5. Place two small arches as shown.
8. Add one last board on top, and the orange pieces as guides. The expanding V gently drops the marble on the board but also gives it a straight trajectory. Because those two bigger pieces are heavy at the one end, I added the two small on the other to help balance the board. Interestingly, for me, they gave enough friction just putting them on the sides, but you could also set them on top of the board and they would function as bumpers to help guide the marble into the hole.
Time to give it a try!
This run is elegant (I think) in how few pieces it takes to make it work, but if you don’t feel inclined to fidget the angles, don’t hesitate to add guide rails to help keep the marbles on track any place they’re falling off or getting stuck. I’ve left them out of the pictures because each build will need a slightly different set, and it’s easier see the basic structure without them. For my son, adding the guard rails is the most fun part of any build! (sometimes I really have to bite my tongue when I’m wanting to finesse it and he’s anxious to add all the walls!).
As I was putting the marble run away, I tried this out—I think it would be a really cool way to start to the run—if you try it let us know!
This one is less marble run, more game, but still only uses the 1001 nights, one set of building boards and the marbles.
We Flipped the tray from 1001 nights upside down and propped it up on the two larger “L” pieces. The top of the ramp is elevated using a few of the arches. We opted for a long building board for a less-steep ramp so the marbles wouldn’t fly off the set. If you wanted to slow it down, you could also add a piece of felt (this would also be a good way to add friction if your blocks/tray are not grippy enough) - older versions of the trays came with a felt insert, however the versions in the last few years do not come with felt.
This one is an oft-repeated game at our house (each catcher has different points values = math game!)—I’d also love to integrate it into a marble run some day!
If you’re looking at expanding your marble run kit, slopes are a great set of pieces to add. A common go-to for slopes in Grimm’s Ball Runs (for good reason) is the Grimm’s Slopes set:
It's great! But we’ve recently found that the Gluckskafer Sunrays Stacker is a really nifty set for slopes as well. The slopes from the Sunrise stacker set are super compatible with Grimms building boards for marble runs—we love that the rays are the same width as the Grimms building boards (unlike the slopes which are narrower). In the picture below: on the left is a piece from the Sunrays Stacker, and on the right is a piece from the Grimms Slopes set, each on top of a Grimms building board. When the ball comes down the track a bit off-centered, the wider slopes are really helpful for catching the balls instead of letting them fall off the track.
Another notable difference between the Grimms Slopes and the slopes from the Sunray Stacker is that the Grimms set has a range of angles while all of the pieces from the sunray are a similar low angle. For a new (or very young) ball run builder, I’d recommend the Sunray slopes for this very reason. It is beyond tempting to use the steepest slope to get the most speed in a ball run, but before long you have a ball jumping the track or worse, breaking it apart because it has too much momentum. The shallow pitch of the Sunray Slopes is excellent for keeping this in check, and in most cases, the slope of an individual sun ray really is adequate to get/keep the ball rolling.
At first glance, it appears that one could stack a few sunrays to replicate the steeper slopes from the slopes set, but unfortunately this isn’t quite the case. Here, in the foreground is a steep thick slope from the slopes set, and behind it three sun rays, stacked. You can see that the curve of the outer edge of the pieces pulls the top of the slope away from the back edge making it quite difficult to get the ball to the top of the slope as it comes down the run. The curve is slight enough to be inconsequential when using a single ray, but is too much with two or three. The other challenge with stacking rays to get a steep slope is that repeated marbles (and even more so, small ball) strikes will collapse the slope (next picture).
If you know you need steep slopes, the Grimms set is the way to go--but while we’re looking at these pictures, notice the blunt drop at the end of the red Grimms slope, and how all of the sun rays taper to a very short drop? This short drop at the bottom of the slope also helps maintain the ball’s momentum instead of losing a lot of it to the direction change as the ball drops off the end of the slope.
If you are planning to purchase a set of slopes and are debating between the Gluckskafer Sunray stacker and the Grimms Slopes set, one other thing that may affect your choice is storage options. The Sunray stacker has a much smaller footprint, but is more likely to fall and scatter if bumped. The Slopes have a very large footprint, but do come in a tray. Both are shown here, next to the columns from the colors and shapes set:
A couple more factoids, before we get on to some of the most fun features 😊
The outer arch (check out that amazing wood grain!!!!!) of the Sunray stacker is comparable (but not identical) to the light green arch from the Grimm’s Classic Rainbow:
Here is how the arch and “semi-circle” piece from the Sunray Stacker compare to the Grimms 12-piece rainbow (both set on building boards). The curve is not quite the same, and the Sunray Stacker arch is a bit thicker.
And this is how the same two compare length-wise (in this picture, the Sunray stacker is complete, on its green base):
Speaking of the base, here is how it measures up to the building boards:
How does the base of the Sunray Stacker function when used as a ball track? It was one of the first things I wanted to check out when I got it! Have a look!
I absolutely love the sound the ball makes rolling down the wavy board!
And check this out—this is the green base board from the Sunray Stacker set flat—and I love that it works with all three Grimms ball sizes!
One thing I love with the slopes set is making a channel for the ball to roll down. You can make a sort-of-similar channel with the sun rays, but the channel is shorter, and the effect less musical:
It takes a fair bit of momentum to get down the full slopes track, but I love it! The Sunrays track works, and could still be a fun finish after any run:
The other day my 8 year old got out the Sunray stacker and made this nifty run on his own (he also used the Gluckskafer Slats, a lot of pieces from the Grimm’s Large Stepped Pyramid, Grimm’s Semi-circles, and a few other parts. I love the way he used the Sun Ray pieces to make jumps (all his idea! And you definitely couldn’t do this with the Grimm’s Slopes without some careful planning) and I love that wavy board. Under the wavy board he also used sunray pieces to set the slope. We found the higher surface area of the yellow curve (as compared to its Grimm’s Rainbow counterpart) helped it slide around less when marbles bump into it. Check out the second movie for a slo-mo of the jumps!
A really fun first marble run with a Grimm’s Rainbow is the classic setup with all the arches lined up (don’t you love the sound?!)—but it doesn’t take many additional sets to increase the challenge and excitement.
For these Marble Runs you'll need to the following sets:
By adding the Grimms building boards to the same run, you add a vertical drop to the run so that once you get it rolling it keeps the momentum (goes a little faster!), and the sound is more resonant.
To make it easy to use even for a very small child, I put the smallest board in the dark blue arch, and then the next size up in each of the next arches. Nesting the boards inside the rainbows gives an edge for the ball to bump against so you don’t lose the ball off the edges of the run.
To make the run less wobbly, (this is helpful particularly if you have little people), wedge the two left-over longest building boards against one side of the run.
This run can be used with any size Grimm’s ball, but we ran it with the large balls. The small balls ran well too, but the marbles took quite a lot of “oomph” to have enough momentum to get to the end of the run.
If you want to take that same run and make it just a little bit fancier, you still don’t need to add more sets—you can take the same run, remove the blue and purple pieces, re-arrange the boards on the floor, and make a track that returns the ball to the start:
Here’s the top view, both with and without the rainbow arches in place. The two largest boards are now underneath the rainbow at an angle, decreasing the space between them as you get closer to the purple bumpers. This very slightly decreases the speed the ball moves down the boards, but not enough to notice. The ball will bump off the purple arches, but then with the combination of the remaining momentum and the slope created by the building board wedge, the ball should roll all the way back to the start.
This run is a little bit more delicate than the first one, and it runs best with the Grimm’s “small balls”. The bigger balls bumped the purple arches out of the way, and the marbles didn’t have enough momentum to finish the run.
I love the melody this one makes!
If you want to move on to a new level of complication, the semi-circles are a great addition. They can give you a lot of height and are great surfaces for the balls to roll on. This one was easy for my 7-year-old to mimic, and after he built it, he had fun modifying and adding to it.
Any time the marble path changes direction, its important to ensure that the track is lined up, and it isn’t always intuitive.
The first transition happens as the ball comes off the top board into the arch of the red (2nd biggest) rainbow arch. The ball comes in at a gentle angle so that it can pick up the directinon of the curve without loosing too much momentum, but not so slight that it misses the first portion of the arch. Also notice that the red arch overhangs the edge of the semi-circle just a bit to help “catch” the ball.
The next transition is a little trickier to set up and took a couple of adjustments to get right. The trick is to remember that the ball will follow the trajectory of the last part of the rainbow—it doesn’t continue to curve, but will go straight in the direction it leaves. The red arch overhangs the semi-circle on this edge too, to help control the direction.
The last transition follows the same principal: as long as you have your board set up so that the marble follows the straight trajectory of the last part of the rainbow, your ball should stay on the board. Thes red and orange arches are not adjacent in the rainbow, but skip one (the light red) to create a space between them for the ball to roll on)
Here is the whole run from the top:
This one ran best with the “small balls” as well:
This last run is still made with only the rainbow, the semicircles and the building boards.
It used every arch from the rainbow, and the semicircles and boards on the left side of this picture.
The more complex the marble run is, the more it helps to start building at the end, and slowly work your way up (testing as you go) it really helps to manage the speed and momentum, and make sure the ball stays on the track.
All the height in this run is created using the rainbow arches with semi-circles stacked on top.
This is the bottom level. Notice how the yellow arch is slightly offset from its semi-circle, to help catch the ball as it rolls in:
Next add three semi-circles, the biggest and smallest arches as shown:
Then the building boards, two as ramps, one to stop the ball at the end of the run. Notice that where the ends of the ramps are balanced on arches, it always has at least two points of contact to help keep it stable:
And fully assembled, from the top. The top red arch is actually the 2nd biggest arch in the rainbow, but sitting on top of the biggest semi-circle board for extra wiggle room. As you set it up, pay attention to the trajectory established each time the ball leaves an arch!
From this angle you can see how the pieces line up: