Executive toys without magnets

Cool executive toys you can buy (or make)

Please note:  the information at the end of each article refers to the part number of that item at the source indicated.  Arbor is Arbor Scientific, ScientificsOnline is ScientificsOnline, AS&S is American Science and Surplus, EdIn is Educational Innovations.  Today, some of these items are no longer being made and are not available.

Euler's Disk

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This consists of a fairly heavy disk and a concave mirrored surface.   Giving the disk a spin, like a coin, causes it to wobble and rotate for a long time.   Very clever!  (from Tangent Toy Co., Sausalito, CA)   Check out www.eulersdisk.comCost is about $30.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 81-183, AS&S , EdIn

Illusion Kaleidoscope

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This is a new type of kaleidoscope where you don't have to move the objects you are looking at.  It uses a space tube (sealed glass tube with glitter and color in water).  Hold the tube vertically and look through the kaleidoscope while the particles slowly fall past the end of the mirrors.  A nice toy to have around.  (from WildeWood) Cost is about $20.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn


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Once you start the small rings spinning, you can keep them going by rotating the large metal ring.  Something unusual!  Takes a bit to master.   (from Fascinations, Seattle, WA)  Cost is about $10.
Arbor P3-3600, ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn SS-18

Mini Rubik's Cube

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A smaller version of the popular 3x3x3 Rubik's cube.  Not quite as difficult to sort out, but still a challenge.  (from OddzOn, Campbell, CA)  Check these sites out for the solution, realize you only have corner cubes, no edge cubes or face cubes.
Cost is about $6.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Magic Sand Wand

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How can you get the steel ball to go from one end to the other? See Patent # 4506892.   Cost is about $6.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 81-555, AS&S 91214, EdIn SS-19

Slipper or Water Wiggler or Water Weenie

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I'm not sure of the name, but it sure is slippery, weird and fun!   Cost is about $3.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S 91383, EdIn

Soma Cube

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Similar to pentominoes, but not quite as versatile.   You can make your own, or find them in a store.  There are 7 pieces.  One piece is made of 3 blocks, the other six pieces are made of 4 blocks.  Each piece is unique.  The assembly on the right is not cube shaped, but each building block used for this is like a flattened cube, or a 3-D rhombus shape.  This makes it much more difficult to find a solution.  I know of only one solution (not counting rotations and flip-overs).
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Wooden Puzzles


There are several puzzles available to work on.  Some are called Burr Puzzles.  The one in the middle is very tricky to take apart, and even more difficult to put back together.  I would suggest you take a digital photo of each step you take during disassembly.  The plastic one on the right is interesting and uses the same principles as the wooden ones.  
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Tri-Zonal Space Warper

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Very cool!  See immovable things move!  (from Binary Arts)  Cost is about $5.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Twin Tangle

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There are a lot of different twisted metal puzzles out there, but this is a fairly nice one to actually own. (from Binary Arts)   Cost is about $8.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Wire Puzzle (Flexistar-6)


This is a clever puzzle made of bent wire pieces held together by copper springs.  Several different types of shapes are possible!  (I received this as a gift, so I don't know how much it cost or where it came from, but check WonderBrains).  The wire Puzzletts Pocket Puzzle on the right, the Trapeze, is from the Puzzle Shop, 1-800-354-2704.  Very tricky!  Cost about $6.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S 91402, EdIn


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Fun to play with when there's nothing else to do.  (from Chase Toys, Ventura, CA) See Patent # 5172537.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Drinking Bird

Once you start the bird drinking, it will keep on going as long as the water level is kept above a minimum height.  This has been around for many years, but it still works great and is fun to watch.     (from Arbor Scientific, Ann Arbor, MI)  Cost is about $5.
Arbor P3-5001, ScientificsOnline 53-617, AS&S 3808, EdIn DB-100

Rattleback, also known as Celt

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Very unusual device.  Start it spinning in one direction, it will slow down, wobble back and forth for a moment, then start spinning in the opposite direction all by itself!  I first saw this on the Johnny Carson show around 1975.  (Can be obtained from TEDCO, Hagerstown, IN, 1-800-654-6357).  Costs about $3.50. Also available from Arbor Scientific at 2 for $3.95.
Arbor P2-2120, ScientificsOnline 39-089, AS&S 88910, EdIn SS-300

For a rattleback about 12 inches long, contact Charles W. Sherburne, 3409 Patton Avenue, San Pedro,
CA 90731. He calls it an ARK, and it is an art object beautifully molded in black plastic. Price is about $20.
His literature indicates that he has a design patent on the ARK #D.E.S. 210,947.

Jacob's Ladder

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This was a lot easier to make than I thought!  I purchased a used neon sign transformer from a neon sign company.  It is rated at 15,000V out at 30mA.   I cut a coat hanger into two pieces and formed them as shown.  The gap at the bottom is about 1/4", the gap at the top is about 3".  Plug it in, and watch the arc climb!  Be very careful.  This will give you a very bad shock if you touch it while it's on, and a bad burn! 
Cost is about $25.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Moving Spool

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Great fun to fool your friends!  Check out the reference.  You can make this roll either toward you or away from you as you pull the string.  The spool is a roller for boat trailers.  It cost about $3.  That's all there is to it.   I added a bolt for some additional weight.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Pendulum Man

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A new way to investigate simple periodic motion as well as chaotic motion.  The various arms and legs attach to a central rotating connector which can be stuck to a refrigerator door (yes, it is magnetic).  It cost about $10 and is from www.hogwildtoys.com.  See Patent # 5145378.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline (they have this, don't know the number), AS&S , EdIn


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I always enjoy checking out new styles of spinning tops. Here are two which are a little unusual.  The one on the left actually spins on a glass marble embedded in the bottom of the wooden disk.  This provides a hard, smooth, low friction surface for long spins.  The top in the middle is also known as a "tippe top" since it will tip over or invert itself and spin on its stem after it is started.  The real surprise with this top is that it will spin in the opposite direction than you may think after it inverts itself!  For more info, check out the book "Physics Demonstration Experiments" by Harry F. Meiners, published by the Ronald Press Company, NY, 1970, vol 2, pp297-299 (there is even a photo of Professors Pauli and Bohr watching a tippe top spin).  The one on the right is simply a nice top from the Greenfield Village. 
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S 88697, EdIn SS-8A

"Hour Glass"

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There are a lot of different kinds of hour glasses around, including those that provide some spinning motion as a liquid drips from one location to another.   However, this is more like a conventional pair of hour glasses, but where the black sand falls, and the yellow sand rises in their respective liquids.  Cost was about $10.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S 91377, EdIn

Fly Shooter

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This is more than a toy, it is a real fly swatter.  By pressing the white "dart" with the round fly swatting grid onto the gun, a spring is compressed.  You aim the swatter and when the trigger is pulled, it is launched and squashes the pesky insect.  The string prevents the swatter from getting lost or zooming across the office and landing in someone else's cubicle, by accident.  Be the envy of your peers!
Cost was about $5.   
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn


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Now this is a clever tool!  You have, in a card which measures only 3.25" x 2.125" x 0.1875", a knife, scissors, nail file, screwdriver, toothpick, tweezers, ball-point pen, straight pin, mm scale and inch scale!  Cool!   This one was a gift from Rockwell Automation (hence the logo) but they are available in stores that sells Victorinox Swiss Army knives. 
Cost is about $27.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Flashing Ball

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This is a real eye catcher!  Bounce the ball, and it will start to flash a couple of LEDs inside.  After a few seconds, it'll stop.  After the batteries die, there's no way to replace them.  Still, it's fun.  I received this as a prize, but here are a couple of web sites which may help you find your own:  
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S 91304, EdIn

Tangle Puzzle

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An interesting little item to twist and turn.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline , AS&S , EdIn

Roller Ball

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This is a lot cooler than I thought.  You start the yellow ball spinning with a small string, then you hold the green case and rotate your wrist back and forth, causing the yellow ball to speed up.  After a couple of minutes, your wrist actually will start feeling tired due to the workout it's getting.  I got this at American Science & Surplus for only $8, but also found it in a store in a mall for $23!
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 82-416, AS&S 91247, EdIn


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I'm sure you know how this works:  heat creates a lot of molecular activity in front of the dark colored vanes, causing it to spin.  I picked this up from Arbor Scientific.  Cost about $8.50.
Arbor P3-8105, ScientificsOnline 60-082, AS&S 26569, EdIn RAD-100

Hydro Gyro

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Another unusual type of top or gyroscope.  It is filled with water which flings to the outside of the spinning section, creating a vertical wall of water near the center!  Cost about $9.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 82-362, AS&S 91652, EdIn

Marble Twister

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This is a fairly new item on the market.  It is well built and works great!  Interesting idea with the centripetal forces.  Cost about $40.
Arbor , ScientificsOnline 82-423, AS&S, EdIn MAR-100

Atomic Clock

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I'm sure you've seen these around.  I received this as a gift.  It's great to have a clock that's always right on!  Every night, around 2am, it updates itself to the WWVB time signal from Fort Collins, Colorado.  I don't even have to change it for Daylight Savings Time!

Staple-less Stapler


This was a handy item I found in Chicago at the Architecture Store.  It is actually called the Handy Clip.  It fastens up to 5 pieces of paper together without using staples!  Instead, it punches a tab that slips into a slot, all in the motion of pressing down on the button on top.  You will never run out of staples again.  It only cost about $8.  Very neat design job.


Slinky's have been around for a long time.  This one is a miniature one, about 1.375" diameter, making it fun to play with during long, boring meetings (if you have to attend them).  Keep one on your desk for others to play with.  Stack some books like a staircase and watch it step down.  Since they are made of steel, you can use a magnet to hang it from a lamp or a steel shelf.  This cost about $3.

Tetris Cube

We've all played Tetris.  This takes the tetris pieces (plus a few more) and allows you to place them into a 3D cube.  Using 12 pieces, there are 9839 different ways to assemble the pieces into this cube!  Have fun finding one of the solutions.  From www.imaginationgames.com .  This cost about $20.

Oloid from Kuboid

I came across this at Technorama.  A very interesting wooden sculpture that can roll downhill in a wobbly fashion.  These are carved from various different types of wood, and in different sizes.  You can find out more at www.kuboid.ch.   This size oloid (3" long) cost about $48.

Metal Puzzle

This also came from Technorama.  It is similar to Pentominoes, but the shapes are not quite the same.  It comes in a beautifully thin, 3"x3" metal box that opens.  As you can see, there are 48 different starting positions.  Have fun trying each one!  Made by Arco, Item No 201190.  This cost about $20.



This came from Technorama, too.  The individual shapes are combinations of squares of one, two (dominoes), three (triminoes), four (Tetris) and five (Pentominoes).  The goal is to cover as much of the board as possible with your pieces.  Fun for a family.  Made by Froschkonig, (frog prince).  See also www.blokus.com.  This cost about $33.

WanderFly, Fun Flystick


I found this at a shopping mall.  They are available several places, like Edmund Scientific, P/N X31512-82.  They talk about magnetic levitation, but that's not how this works.  It is by electrostatics - like a hand-held Van De Graaff generator..  Very intriguing to make the foil piece float above the stick.  This cost about $30.

Cyclone Puzzle


I received this as a gift.  A very unusual sphere, made up of black and blue shapes, all identical, with small spirals at the four corners where they can clip together.  Costs about $11.  From The Lagoon Group.

Paper PaperClips


I also received this as a gift.  Paper clips made of paper!  From DCI Product.


One of the best sites I've found for unusual toys and puzzles is here at:

Whenever you visit a science museum or a toy store, keep your eyes open for a new kind of toy!